April in the Raw: Shaved Asparagus Salad and Lemon Poppyseed Bars
[Raw Frosted Lemon-Poppyseed Bars--heavenly!]
Whew–where has the last week gone? Between end-of-term marking and a long holiday weekend, it’s been pretty busy here in the DDD household. I hope you all enjoyed a stellar Passover and/or Easter holiday! This year, the HH and I celebrated both holidays, first with friends (we were invited to two seders this year) and then on our own (a holiday Easter dinner for just the two of us).
As in other areas, when it comes to celebrating holidays, the HH is, shall we say, rather laissez-faire. In other words, if not for me, we would probably have eaten cereal for dinner on Sunday instead of the fantastic repast we did have (nutroast and céléri remoulade, about which I’ll post in a day or two). To top off our weekend, we went to see Water for Elephants with my friend Nutritionista and her hubby last night. Since I had no preconceived notions about Robert Pattinson (having never seen any of the Twilight films) and since I love Reese Witherspoon, I really enjoyed the movie (though, is it just me, or is there something vaguely simian about his looks?).
Well, after all the heavy, rich foods of the past long weekend, I am so ready for something fresh, light, crisp–and raw!
I was delighted a while back when Brittany of Real Sustenance asked if I’d like to participate in her month-long tribute to raw foods, April in the Raw. You see, raw foods (fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and a few others), consumed in the same state as we’d find them in nature (technically, nothing heated above 115F46 C), are considered to provide optimum nutritional value while retaining the natural enzymes that may help us to digest those same foods (when foods are cooked, your pancreas must take on this monumental task on its own–not too much fun for the l’il pancreas).
With spring in the air (okay, maybe not literally–what is it with the never ending winter this year?–but it’s coming, I just know it), this is as good a time as any to try out some raw recipes. Besides, raw foods are ideal for those of us who plan to detox around this time of year–and I’ve decided that I really need to detox. How much do I need a cleanse right now? In a show of hands, I’d have to throw in not just my hand, but probably the whole deck. Yep, a cleanse is definitely in order for this gal.
(“Mum, you don’t think we need a cleanse, do you? Because, you know, we go swimming at least once a week in the pond, so that keeps us cleansed, doesn’t it?. On the other hand, if you want to throw a little raw food our way, we’re all for it!’)
[Raw Asparagus, Romaine and Grapefruit Salad--who knew?]
Most days, I aim for something raw at each meal, but that wasn’t always the case. In fact, I didn’t discover the joy of raw foods until I was in nutrition school, during the “Alternative Diets” course. The entire class was inspired by our prof, Miss Serenity (in opposition to my friends and me, collectively Misses Anxiety, Dissatisfaction, Self-Doubt, Insecurity, Impatience, Grumpy and Sleepy). Miss Serenity was, herself, a raw foodist, and we all wanted to be like her.
Miss Serenity was the image of radiant health, with a strong, toned physicque, luxurious hair the color of milk chocolate and the whitest smile I’ve ever seen; she was also the polar opposite of the stereotypical “vegan.” Her skin shone with the pink glow of iron and oxygen-rich blood, she guffawed with great glee and was the last person one would consider “stuffy” or “preachy.” Yet she also taught yoga and meditated every day, she grew her own wheat grass and she owned a house painted in bold colors of the seven chakras. As soon as she announced that she was teaching a “Raw Foods Fundamentals” course in her home, I signed up.
Because of Miss Serenity, I decided to “go raw” for a month. As a full-time student, I had the luxury to prepare all my food from scratch and could spend hours chopping, grating, puréeing, blending, processing, soaking, and juicing as I made recipe after recipe from Miss Serenity’s cookbook. The food was delicious, but ultimately I abandoned the idea–I just didn’t have 2-3 extra hours a day to devote to food prep.
Since then, I’ve discovered that “uncooking” need not take exorbitant amounts of time. The “original” raw foods–fruits and vegetables, raw nuts and seeds–can be eaten out of hand, exactly as they are the instant you pick them or shell them. Somewhere between fresh-picked and three-hour prep is a happy medium: a bit of chopping, perhaps some peeling or prepping, along with fewer ingredients or foods eaten fresh and whole. (Even Miss Serenity occasionally brought a “mono-meal” for her lunch: we’d watch, mesmerized, as she peeled and ate 4-5 mangoes at a sitting–and nothing else for that meal).
Today’s offering is meant to show you that raw food can be both simple and delicious. First up, I’m including the quintessential raw dish: salad (but with a new twist). Then, once you’ve eaten your greens, I think you deserve a fantastic dessert: these raw Frosted Lemon-Poppyseed Bars! Even the HH loved them.
The salad does a bit of double-duty, as it also contains this month’s SOS Kitchen Challenge ingredient, asparagus. I had no idea one could eat raw asparagus until I came across a recipe for “Shaved Asparagus Salad with Orange-Tarragon Vinaigrette” in the May/June 2009 issue of Vegetarian Times. Well, that was all the incentive I needed to start playing with the recipe and come up with my own adaptation. The ACD doesn’t allow oranges but does allow grapefruit for some bizarre reason, so that was the substitution I used.
The resulting salad was crisp, fresh, and juicy, the slightly sweet shards of asparagus lending a decidedly springlike air (something we sorely need these rainy days!). Fragrant with tarragon and grapefruit zest, the salad was a lively start to our meal. I didn’t tell the HH it contained raw asparagus until he’d already dug in and proclaimed the dish “fantastic.” I’d suggest you do the same when you serve this.
Shaved Asparagus Salad with Grapefruit-Tarragon Vinaigrette (adapted from Vegetarian Times, May/June 2009)
suitable for the ACD Stage 3 and beyond
about 3/4 pound (12 oz or 375 g) fresh asparagus, washed and woody ends broken off
1 small head romaine lettuce, washed, trimmed, and torn into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup (120 ml) toasted hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
1 large grapefruit, peeled and cut into segments, membrane removed if desired (grate the zest before cutting the fruit)
1 tsp (5 ml) freshly grated grapefruit zest
1 Tbsp (15 ml) minced onion
1 tsp (5 ml) dried tarragon or 1 Tbsp (15 ml) fresh, chopped fine
1/4 cup (60 ml) extra virgin olive oil, preferably organic
1 Tbsp (15 ml) apple cider vinegar
3 Tbsp (45 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1/2 large lemon)
1 tsp (5 ml) Dijon mustard
6-8 drops plain stevia liquid, to your taste
Shave the asparagus by using a vegetable peeler and peeling into long strands. Alternately, grate the asparagus in a food processor with the grating blade (this is what I did). Place the asparagus, lettuce, grapefruit segments and hazelnuts in a large salad bowl.
In a small bowl or glass measuring cup, whisk together the grapefruit zest, onion, tarragon, oil, vinegar, lemon juice, mustard and stevia. Pour the dressing over the salad ingredients and toss well to coat. Serve immediately. Makes 4-6 servings.
To cap off your meal, how about these dazzling Lemon-Poppyseed Bars with Lemon Frosting? All raw, of course! Lemon and Poppyseed is one of the HH’s favorite combinations, so I decided to create a raw dessert that he’d love even more than the salad. These little confections are firm and chewy with a sparkling crunch of poppyseeds in every bite. The frosting firms up in the fridge, but left at room temperature softens to a creamy, smooth, entirely alluring topping. Because they’re so rich, you can cut these into small cubes of one or two bites a piece, and you’ll still be satisfied.
Raw Frosted Lemon Poppyseed Bars
Suitable for ACD Stage 1 and beyond
These bars are adapted from a recipe in my Desserts without Compromise Ebook for Raw Lemon-Coconut Bars. When I was hosting a friend’s birthday party in our house a while back, I made these so that I’d have something to eat while everyone else feasted on the conventional (white flour and white sugar) cake that my friend’s husband had bought. When I brought out my plate of lemon bars, someone asked to taste them–and within minutes the plate was empty! This is definitely tasty and impressive enough to serve to anyone, ACD or not.
For the Base:
1 Tbsp (15 ml) whole chia seeds or 2 heaping Tbsp (35 ml) pre-ground chia seeds
1 cup (165 g) raw almonds, dry
3/4 cup ( g) raw cashews, dry
Zest of 1 lemon, divided
Pinch fine sea salt
Juice of 1 lemon (about 1/4 cup/60 ml), divided in half (2 Tbsp/30 ml each)
2 Tbsp (30 ml) vegetable glycerin, yacon syrup or agave syrup (for ACD Stage 1, don’t use agave)
15-20 drops plain or vanilla stevia liquid, to taste
1 tsp (5 ml) pure vanilla extract
2 Tbsp (30 ml) raw poppy seeds
For the Frosting:
2 Tbsp (30 ml) whole chia seeds, or heaping 1/4 cup (70 ml) pre-ground
1/3 cup (80 ml) coconut oil, preferably organic
1 Tbsp (15 ml) raw cashew or macadamia nut butter (or use regular if you’re not concerned about it being raw)
Remainder of lemon zest and juice from making the base, above
15-20 drops plain or vanilla stevia liquid, to taste
extra lemon zest and poppy seeds for garnish, if desired
Make the base: Line a regular loaf pan with plastic wrap. Set aside.
If using whole chia seeds, grind them to a powder in a coffee grinder. Combine the ground chia, almonds, cashews and salt in the bowl of a food processor and process until the mixture looks like a fairly fine meal (no pieces of almond should be visible).
In a small bowl, mix together half the lemon zest, half the lemon juice (about 2 Tbsp/30 ml), vegetable glycerin, stevia and vanilla until everything is well combined. Pour the mixture over the dry ingredients in the processor and blend until it comes together in what looks like a sticky dough (if it’s too dry, add up to 1 Tbsp/15 ml water). Sprinkle with the poppy seeds and pulse just until they are incorporated.
Turn the base into the prepared loaf pan and, using wet hands or a silicon spatula, press it down firmly and evenly. Place in fridge while you prepare the frosting.
Make the frosting: In the bowl of a food processor or using a hand blender, blend all ingredients until perfectly smooth. The mixture may liquefy as the coconut oil melts; this is fine.
Pour the frosting over the base in the pan and swirl the top. Refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours. (Note: if the frosting is too liquid to hold a shape when you first pour it over the base, refrigerate about 15 minutes until it firms up a bit, and then add any swirls that you like).
Once the top is firm, fold the plastic wrap over it to cover. To unmold, peel back the plastic on top and invert the bars onto a cutting board; turn right-side up and cut into 12 or more pieces (they should be relatively small). Serve immediately; store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Makes about 12 servings.
Thanks again to Brittany for allowing me to play along with April in the Raw this year! It’s been so much fun focusing more on the raw foods in my diet. In fact, I plan to keep up with more raw over the next few months.
To see the lineup of all the April in the Raw posts as well as links to readers’ recipes (or to link up your own), check out the April in the Raw main page!
I’m also submitting these bars to Amy’s Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays , Diane’s Real Food Weekly, Gluten-Free Homemaker’s Gluten-Free Wednesdays, Brittany’s Seasonal Sundays and the Simple Lives Thursday events.(whew!) :)
Last Year at this Time: SOS Kitchen Roundup: Beets! (24 recipes using the Ruby Root)
Two Years Ago: Flash in the Pan: Almond Crusted Root Vegetable “Fries” (one of the all-time most popular recipes on the blog)
Three Years Ago: Peanut Butter Biscuits (not gluten free; not ACD friendly)