15 Jul 2010

In The News

Published in the Seattle PI Food and Wine Section
Rawkin' out on fruits and veggies 
By MIMI HONEYCUTT - HOUSTON CHRONICLE
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
 



How does a mango cobbler sound for breakfast? Or strawberry shortcake for dessert? Both come out of 41-year-old Ani Phyo's kitchen -- but neither has been heated above 105 degrees.

Based in Los Angeles, Phyo is a raw-food chef and the founder of SmartMonkey Foods; her newest book, Ani's Raw Food Essentials, shows how everyone can whip up uncooked treats that will taste great and deliver a walloping dose of nutrition.

"I wanted to demystify raw foods for everyone," Phyo said. "People have this misconception that to be healthy, it has to be expensive, time-consuming and difficult - but it's really easy."

After a junk-food diet in college left her with dangerously high cholesterol, Phyo returned to more of the foods her Korean parents raised her on. This time, she gave it a gourmet spin.

"Raw food is just enjoying more whole foods in their natural state," Phyo said. "In my raw foods, I use fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds and that's it. It's combining those in new and different ways to create really creative and delicious recipes. Raw food is like salsa, guacamole, gazpacho and salad."

The theory behind raw foods is that many foods lose vitamins and enzymes when cooked. When eaten raw, they are more nutritious and easier to digest. Science does debate the legitimacy of some raw food claims, but everyone agrees we should eat more fruits and vegetables. Phyo also emphasizes local food, for its sustainability and peak nutrition. To feel great and be healthier, Phyo said, people do not have to go totally vegan or disconnect the stove, but can incorporate a few raw dishes into their lives.

"If someone is having a Texas barbecue, they could make my chili and have it as a side. Instead of a boring green salad, you can compose different raw recipes to be much more interesting variations of salad, or even different kinds of soups and gazpachos."

Phyo's chili recipe is a mix of diced and pureed tomatoes, onions, pepper, corn, celery and spices. She tops it with a spicy taco "nut meat" made from chopped walnuts. But her favorite course is dessert. Made largely from fruits, nuts, and coconut, Phyo's desserts include lavender "ice kream" and walnut brownie cookies.

"With raw desserts, everything is made with FDA superfoods," Phyo said. "Nuts and seeds have a lot of beauty vitamins: vitamins A, C and E. Vitamin E builds collagen in our skin - it keeps our skin supple and soft. And all those antioxidants combat free-radical damage, which reduces the signs of aging."

In her book, Phyo breaks down recipes to their most basic elements. Her recipe for cake is just nuts, dates, salt and vanilla. The end result is a cake of blended nuts and fruit, similar to a gourmet Larabar. Other recipes show how to add fruits, sauces and creams to create more complex variations. And with no baking, there is very little cleanup.

"Sometimes we don't notice how good we can feel, and we don't realize that we weren't feeling good before," Phyo said. "I just want to inspire people to eat more healthy, local whole foods. ... The more healthy stuff we add in, the more it elbows out the less healthy stuff."

BASIC FLOUR-LESS CAKE

3 cups nuts, such as walnuts, almonds or Brazil nuts
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup Medjool dates, packed
1 tablespoon alcohol-free vanilla extract
1-2 tablespoons agave syrup (optional)
Nutella Hazelnut Sauce (recipe follows)

Place the nuts and salt in a food processor and break down the nuts into chunks. Add pieces of dates, rather than one large lump, and the vanilla. Process until the nuts and dates bind together to form a cake batter. 
Test the batter by grabbing a handful and squeezing to make sure it holds together. If it's not sticky enough, add a few more dates or 1 to 2 tablespoons of agave syrup, process until it holds together. To form the batter into a cake, line any 4-cup container (such as a bowl or small pan) with plastic wrap. Press in cake dough, then release by turning the container and pulling out the plastic. Top with Nutella Hazelnut Sauce.

Note: If your cake is too crumbly, add a few more dates or a tablespoon or two of agave syrup to the mix.
Makes 8 servings, each 350 calories, 29g fat, 0mg cholesterol, 60mg sodium, 22g carbohydrates, 4g fiber, 7g protein.

NUTELLA HAZELNUT SAUCE

1 cup hazelnuts
2 tablespoons agave syrup
2 tablespoons coconut oil, warmed at room temperature until liquid
1 tablespoon cacao powder (unsweetened cocoa powder also can be used)
2 to 4 tablespoons filtered water, as needed

In a food processor, process the hazelnuts until they form a butter, scraping down the sides and mixing those nuts with the butter that forms at the bottom. Add the agave syrup and coconut oil, and process to mix well. Add the cacao powder and as much water as needed to create desired consistency. Will keep for 4 to 5 days in the fridge. Can also be frozen for a few weeks. Defrost back into a syrup consistency before using.
E-mail comments to mimi.honeycutt@chron.com

2 comments:

Greenearth said...

Those recipes sound so delicious am going to REALLY try this year to eat more raw food.

We have a stall at our local organic markets selling raw sweets and they are the most delicious things I have ever tasted.

Doug Stephens said...

My fiancee is a cheese eating vegetarian, but would probably go vegan if it was easier (i am an unapologetic carnivore). I am going to send her to your site. This recipe sounds good even to me.