Bathed in a homemade sauce, I scarf down my “raw fajita”. The vegetables are crunchy and fresh, the collard green in place of a tortilla holds the succulent flavor of the red peppers, avocado and portobellos. To think just minutes ago this was a few vegetables sitting on the table, now the are sloshing around in my belly, while my mouth waters for more.
Raw foods are considered a “new age” diet that most would roll their eyes at. Being an open minded aspiring "foodie," I jumped at the chance to learn how this interesting phenomena manifests its self inside the organic filled doors of my neighborhood Whole Foods.
On Chef Sheryn Abalos’ menu today was raw fajitas and raw pear cobbler, with a special treat of cranberry pomegranate salad. All the ingredients are organic and fresh off the produce isle of this store. She reminds her students that using organic is important, especially when doing raw cooking because the pesticides are harmful to our bodies. In case you are unsure if the produce you’re using is organic, check the number on the sticker. If it is five digits long and begins with a nine all systems are go -- it’s organic.
She begins the class promptly at 2 p.m. with the fajitas. Cutting up red peppers, and using pre-sliced portobellos, she mixes them with onion, squash, and tomatoes. Tossing the vegetables in a sauce made of walnut oil and wheat-free tamari, they are coated and left to marinate. While this lays in wait, into the blender goes one cup of cashews, one tablespoon of sea salt, water, lemon juice and ¼ of Organic Blue agave. Blend until creamy. Adjusting the sauce to your personal taste is the key. Once this is done, you should spice up those vegetables using sea salt, pepper, cumin, garlic and red chili flakes, finally top it off with chunks of avocado. The most unique part of this dish is found in the wrapping, instead of a typical tortilla, we filled collard greens with the veggies, and sauce. Results: More delicious, nutritious, and crave-able than any fajita I have ever had! The taste was fresh but still filled with that spiciness you expect.
She delighted us with a simple but delectable salad made of cabbage, celery cut into pieces, cranberries (use dried or fresh), and golden raisins. The smell of the raisins wafted from the chef’s table to my seat, luring me to them with their golden color and brilliant aroma. Apples were added next with an accompaniment of fresh dill! Finally my favorite fruit was mixed in: pomegranate. Using a small spoon is the best way to remove seeds from the stubborn membranes. A simple sauce of blue agave, lemon juice, walnut oil and salt were coated to make the fresh fruit taste like a parade of flavors in a cool crisp salad. Perfect for a side dish to those fall meals filled with provencal vegetables or with sandwiches at a picnic at Bayside.
The final dish was raw pear cobbler. Despite memories of warm cobbler sitting on the window seal while your mom does the dishe -- wait a minute who’s your mom? June Cleaver? This is the 21st century and this raw cobbler will make you the new hot baker on the block, without the oven of course. Starting with the topping; mix two cups pecans, one cup pitted dates, one cup of figs, sea salt and non-alcoholic vanilla extract; pulse in a food processor until it “sticks together.” For the filling use fresh pears sliced into rounds, one to two teaspoons of lemon juice, more blue agave, and golden raisins, season with pumpkin spice and cinnamon. Chop ingredients in the food processor. Finish by layering the topping and filling in an alternating pattern. The flavor and texture of this dish were illuminating and indulgent.
Chef Abalos made raw food look easy, clean and delicious. She reminds you that “recipes are their to guide you, not bind you,” so be creative with your cooking. I am not sure if I could do this diet without the help of a personal chef, and possibly a dehydrator, but that hour at Whole Foods sure made me feel like I could.
If you are adventurous and sick of washing pots and pans check out the Raw Foods Expo this weekend, happening at Vegetarian Restaurant by Hakin (73 NE 167th Street, North Miami Beach). For more information call 305-405-6346. They will be having Miami’s best raw food vendors, classes, a film presentation and best of all free samples!
Have an afternoon or evening free, check out what your local whole foods has to offer. The calendar includes cheese tasting, Healthy Happy Hour, and next week is vegan on Wednesday with the adorable Chef Sheryn Abalos. Visit wholefoods.com for more information. Happy Cooking!
-- Whitney Roux
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