fresh produce makes me giddy. when my fridge is stocked with flavorful veggies and my counter is overflowing with colorful fruit, i am thrilled. creating delicious meals is so much better with lots of fresh ingredients.
i like to purchase some produce at the ethnic markets around the city for the interesting variety they offer. there is a tiny, but well-known, mediterranean deli in okc that i frequent. the food is delicious and authentic, the owner always happy and helpful, and the small market is somehow stocked with every possible item you might want to put together a wonderful mediterranean meal. between stopping in occasionally for lunch, stocking up on fatayah and lebni for my titu, and general shopping trips for my own kitchen, i visit often enough that they know my “usual” order.
they have exotic produce choices like prickly pears, sweet limes, and unusual varieties of eggplant and cucumbers. recently i noticed some baskets filled with small orbs i couldn’t identify, and the friendly owner of the deli informed me that they are just the very fresh versions of familiar foods. so of course i bought some to try.
my first exploratory sample was these straight-off-the-tree pistachios. once you break through the thick skin, the recognizable clam-shaped shell is revealed, with the green nut inside. the shell and nut are not completely dried like the pistachios i’m used to eating, so they have a softer texture with less crunch. still yummy, but too much extra work to get inside.
these unripe dates were fun, because they tasted good crunchy or soft (but much better fully ripened). the difficult part was waiting for them to get soft and sweet before eating them. and the pit was harder to remove before they fully ripened.
i never would have guessed that this little pod contained a fresh green garbanzo bean! it was a strange to eat a handful of raw beans—they were soft and a little tangy. the flavor was nothing like the dried-then-cooked chickpea that i’m familiar with. i’m not sure exactly how one would use them…as is, cook from this stage, or dry then cook?
i also tried some fresh almonds that were white and kinda juicy beneath the fuzzy exterior. i like that they retain their natural water, because i usually soak my nuts prior to eating, anyway. but the flavor was not “nutty” to me (which i prefer), and some were still a bit jelly-like in the center (which i did not prefer).
in the end my adventure in eating fresh was short-lived, at least when it comes to beans and nuts. it was a fun experiment to share, but i don’t see these foods being in my regular rotation of snacks.
it’s rewarding to see hard work come to fruition. the project i mentioned working on with chef mandy is almost complete! she’s crafted a brilliant set of recipes, and the publisher has designed a breathtaking piece of eye candy with so-vivid-you-could-lick-the-page photos on every spread. The Raw Food Feast: 7 Days Through the Rainbow is in the final stages of production, and i couldn’t be more excited about it’s june release!
the unique thing about this living cuisine cookbook is that it’s devised to help you organize and streamline your preparations so that you can easily put together three raw meals a day (plus a snack) with a real-life schedule. mandy provides a shopping list and menu for seven entire days, with each day’s recipes focusing around a different color of the rainbow. what a fantastic way to appreciate all the colorful produce God has created!
by concentrating on a few main ingredients to be used in several recipes, chef mandy shows you how to cut down on waste. this book makes it so easy to achieve raw food yummy-ness and reap the healthy benefits. there are even detailed step-by-step photos to accompany the instructions. another feature exclusive to this book is the demonstration of how to incorporate therapeutic-grade essential oils into the recipes, which adds a whole other dimension of taste and health advantages.
i can vouch that every single recipe is mouth-watering delicious. it was a ton of fun working with the team, and i feel very honored to be a part of this project. you can view more behind-the-scenes action of our adventures in recipe testing, planning, and final photo shoot here. so sorry – no food photos ’til the book is out! you can pre-order a copy now at the growing healthy homes store for only $16. Let me know if you want a signed copy!
when it comes to food, my taste buds are not finicky. i will try anything once – if for no other reason than sheer curiosity, and i rarely encounter flavors i can’t tolerate. i certainly have my favorites, but even those seasonings i don’t prefer are interesting to me for the variety, discovery, and experience.
much to my dismay, my husband’s taste in food is not nearly as adventurous as mine. much to his annoyance, i insist on labeling him “vanilla.” i suppose he represents the people of the world who want to know what to expect, and want to expect to like what’s on their plate – but i can’t relate. lee is of the “why would i ever want to risk not enjoying my meal when i am certain that i will be happy with what i know i love?” mindset; i tend more toward the “but what if the flavor i love the most i haven’t even tried yet?” mentality. this was amusing while we dated, but is slightly more challenging in marriage. cooking dinner is quite impossible without a compromise or dual preparation.
i like to cook for many of the same reasons that i find joy in my other passions – i get to create, i get to forge into the unknown, i get to learn, and of course, the vast array of options! readily accessible in my kitchen is virtually every culinary herb and spice i can get my hands on – fresh and dried. and although none of the tins are labeled, they are each used frequently enough that i can instantly identify each one. but if i dare add even a pinch of exciting seasoning to one of lee’s favorite dishes, it is automatically not as good simply because “it’s not the same.” sigh.
i could lament the plight of being doomed to a lifetime of “same,” but i think our differing approaches to variety is one way that we’re good together. he’s the vanilla to my chunky monkey, the legal pad to my handmade journals, the plain tee to my layered patterns. without each other we might not find balance between planning and spontaneity. he encourages the consistency i often lack and i motivate the movement needed to avoid stagnation. together we can learn to appreciate “there’s no place like home” as well as “boldly go where no man has gone before.” but fixing dinner is still an issue.