Get energized with easy-does-it wrap and smoothie recipes from raw food restaurant, Leaf Cusine.
I love sushi, salads and, my guilty pleasure, steak tartare. So when I heard about the raw-food movement, my first thought was, “That’s for me!” But my enthusiasm was dampened when I was informed that not only did raw enthusiasts not eat fish, meat or poultry, they also did not eat dairy, eggs or any processed foods, including sugar. That left only fruits, veggies, seeds and nuts ¾ with everything organic, uncooked or heated to less than 118 degrees, the point when temperature begins to destroy food’s digestive enzymes, vitamins and minerals.
I tried to imagine how one could keep up interest in a diet with such restricted ingredients and requirements. For me, the touted promise of increased energy and vitality, and potential for weight loss, fighting cancer or holding off aging still couldn’t persuade me to give up taste, creativity and variety in my diet. But that was before I was introduced to the new wave of raw cuisine, which, with its delicious, imaginative and varied preparation, elevates humble ingredients to succulent heights.
Experts say you don’t need to go all raw to reap the benefits, but a diet of 70 percent to 80 percent raw food is probably ideal. World-renowned chefs such as Charlie Trotter have jumped on the raw caravan, as have celebrities Donna Karan, Demi Moore and Woody Harrelson.
One favorite spot of local raw fans is Rod Rotondi’s Leaf Cuisine, which has three local outlets — West L.A., West Hollywood and the San Fernando Valley. Offering a unique fast-food and take-out menu with affordable prices, Rotondi still manages to entice the imagination as well as the taste buds with an impressive array of appetizers, wraps, salads, croquettes, desserts and smoothies.
Mock salmon nori rolls; Pad Thai with kelp and squash “noodles” in a spicy peanut sauce; an “un-turkey” patty on mango bread with pesto sauce; sprouted grain Pizza Margherita with sundried tomatoes, olives and avocado; and sprouted chickpea falafel are favorites in new clothing. Desserts are decadent and guilt-free: carrot cake with walnut cream, gooey Oraweo pudding with coconut cream and chocolate. You’ll have to keep reminding yourself that nothing is cooked.
Leaf Cuisine’s Blueberry Smoothie and Collard-Green Wrap for One
1 1/2 cups raw, shelled almonds
1 cup blueberries (or favorite fruit)
1 frozen banana
1/4 cup dates or raisins
Agave sweetener (or other unprocessed sweetener) to tasteSoak almonds in 5-7 cups water overnight (almonds will swell). Pour off water and rinse. Place almonds in blender; blend with enough water to create a milky consistency. To remove solids, strain with sieve or cheesecloth. Blend 2 cups of nut “milk” with other ingredients and serve.
2 large organic collard-green leaves, stems and ribs removed
2 Tbsp. tahini (sesame-seed paste)
1/4 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/2 avocado, ripe and thinly sliced
1 small tomato, sliced
1 cup mixed salad greens
Optional:sliced olives, onions, kimchi, sauerkraut or other vegetable
Place leaves on flat counter, overlapping and rib side down. Spread middle of leaves with tahini. Place avocado and peppers on tahini. Add tomato and other ingredients. Squeeze lemon juice, sprinkle with salt. Roll up like a burrito. Cut in half and enjoy!