I came to the realization many years ago that the most effective way I can help others is to do whatever it takes in order to become a better person. So far, so good. Of course, the internet has provided an ideal means for me to reach out and share what I've been learning, in particular in terms of the raw diet.
When this catering opportunity arose, something had mysteriously changed, and we accepted the challenge with barely a blink. Perhaps one of the main reasons being that it would be supporting a good cause, as the event was a 6 day walking pilgrimage inspired by the famous Camino de Santiago in Spain.
We found out about the pilgrimage through my sister Josee who first participated 3 years ago. She couldn't join the others on their departure on the morning of August 4th, but Don later drove her to the community hall where the pilgrims spent their first evening.
Saying Goodbye to Ti-Nours.
The 15 some people who took part in the event walked on average 20 to 25 kms a day, for a total of 138 kms, hauling their various supplies and sleeping gear on their backs. Wow, what a feat! It felt really good to know that we'd be providing sustenance to these fellow pilgrims on this adventure, which challenged them deeply both at the physical and psychological levels.
Thursday's Asian Menu
Our food preparations went amazingly smooth, and we even found ourselves enjoying the process. With the help of my good friends on Raw Freedom Community, I came up with 2 menus which I felt would fit the bill. We arrived on location at Remigny about 1 1/2 hours ahead of time in order to finish assembling that evening's meal.
We started off with an exotic Creamy Thai Coconut Soup.
This recipe was developed by our friend, Manu, who was trained as a SAD chef in Germany. The preparation requires that you separate the pulp from the broth with the help of a sieve or a nut milk bag; no small task when done for a large crowd. We had to blend/strain the soup in 7 batches! Phfew! Although it turned out really delicious and went over well, Don and I agree that it is too labor intensive for catering purposes.
The main course: Spring Rolls with Ginger Marinade, served with a spinach and mung bean sprout salad.
I got the idea for the rolls when I recently visited a raw restaurant in Montreal, Crudessence, whose menu offered something similar. Rice paper not being raw, it had never occurred to me to use it, but since the crowd wasn't focused on raw foods per se, I thought it would be a nice transitional yet light dish. I filled the rolls with lettuce, daikon, carrot, cucumber, red and yellow pepper, green onion, snow peas, red cabbage, cilantro and home grown sprouts. I had never worked with rice paper before and was a bit clumsy at first, but by the time I finished rolling #16, I was getting the hang of it. lol
As the location was more than an hour's drive away, I had thought best to assemble the Spring Rolls on the spot, concerned that the rice paper might dry out. Due to the lack of working space and my unfamiliarity with the technique, it was a bit of a stressful process, but the end result was yummy, fresh and colorful. The Ginger Dipping Sauce with its spicy bite complemented the rolls perfectly.
Ginger Dipping Sauce or Marinade
Yields about 1/3 cup
1/4 cup sesame or cold pressed olive oil
2 tbs lemon or lime juice
2 tbs tamari
2 tbs grated ginger
1 soft date
1 garlic clove
3/4-1 tsp red pepper flakes (depending on how hot you like your food)
Blend all ingredients in a high-speed blender.
The marinated Asian Spinach Salad came from my mom's repertoire. Although Don and I have been enjoying it without rice, we decided to stick to the original recipe for the catering menu. Since it is recommended to assemble the salad an hour before serving, I decided to toss the marinade in once we arrived in Remigny. As we were driving towards the location, it occurred to me that I had forgotten to take cashews along! Ooopsie! Thankfully, the salad turned out to be a success regardless.
Dessert was Mango Parfait with Raspberry Sauce and Whipped Cream.
I love LOVE the warm hues of this parfait and think it fit right in with the theme! The Mango Pudding was a recipe from my first ebook, the Raspberry Sauce was actually more like a jam; fresh raspberries briefly blended with lime juice and agave nectar (no straining), and the Whipped Cream was this all time favorite. Although everyone seemed to enjoy the meal, the dessert particularly impressed them. We even got a toast and a round of applause. *blushing*
The following day was to be the most challenging for the pilgrims with some 32 kms through the woods. Amazingly, everyone made it in record time and were surprisingly in good shape afterward. A nice young lady told me that she suspected our meal had a lot to do with it. (Yay raw!)
On the drive back, we were blessed with the most beautiful and vivid rainbow! What a magical sight and a fit ending to such an energizing and successful day!
Saturday's Italian Menu
After we got back, we didn't really have time to rest much as we were catering again at Laverlochere on Saturday evening. We spent a good chunk of Friday and Saturday afternoon finalizing the food prep. This time, we had a real kitchen at our disposal at the location and it made a huge difference. The dinner schedule ended up being delayed by an hour or so which allowed us to relax and take our time.
Dinner started with a Tomato & Herb Soup made with freshly picked basil and oregano from my little garden. The veggies were all chopped and we had brought the Vitamix along so all we had to do was blend the soup and gently warm it up on the stove.
The entree was Zucchini Pasta with a slightly modified variation of Cherie Soria's tasty Arugula-Basil Pesto, Tuscan Pizza and a side mixed green salad with my House Dressing.
Basil Arugula Pesto
Yield: 1 cup sauce (Serves 4)
1 1/2 cups fresh basil leaves, tightly packed
1/2 cup arugula leaves, tightly packed
1/4 cup olive oil
2 teaspoons light miso
2 cloves (1 teaspoon, pureed) garlic
1/2 teaspoon nutritional yeast
1/2 teaspoon Himalayan crystal salt, or salt to taste
2 tbs almonds, ground
2 tsp lemon juice
2 tbs pine nuts
Combine all of the ingredients, except the pine nuts, in a food processor outfitted with the “S” blade, and pulse a few times to begin chopping the basil and arugula leaves. Add the pine nuts and process until the desired consistency is achieved. Do not over process the mixture, or the oil from the pine nuts will separate, and the mixture will become too oily. The texture should be creamy with tiny specks of pine nuts throughout.
Store the pesto in a sealed glass jar in the refrigerator for up to four days, or freeze for up to three months.
For the pizza, we opted for a simple but very tasty combination of ingredients. We spread a thick layer of fermented cashew cheeze on a sunflower buckwheat crust, followed by cherry tomatoes, black olives, thinly sliced red onion and nut parmesan.
Between the two of us, the process of assembling the pizzas went really well.
One challenge was to find enough room to fit everything on those relatively small plates...
I had dehydrated these delicious new crusts a few days earlier. It's a sort of a cross between the Pizza Crust featured in Cafe Gratitude's I Am Grateful and my usual favorite Veggie Herb Crust. A winner and definite new favorite!
Herb Pizza Crusts
Yields about 33 square crusts
4 cups soaked buckwheat
2 2/3 cups sunflower seeds, soaked
4 cups zucchini, peeled and roughly chopped
3/4 - 1 cup ground flax
1 1/4 cups water
1/4 cup + 1 tbs olive oil
1 tbs + 2 tsp Italian herbs
1 tbs + 1 tsp crushed garlic
1 tbs sea salt
Blend all ingredients in a food processor until smooth.
Spread batter about 1/4 " thick on 3 3/4 dehydrator trays covered with teflex sheets. Score into 9 squares per tray.
Dehydrate at 125 for 2-3 hours, then flip onto mesh and turn the temperature down to 110.
Dehydrate until dry.
Carmella's Note: Alternatively, you could also form the batter into small or large round crusts.
I was considering topping the pizzas with thinly sliced fresh basil, but opted for a basil flavored cheeze instead. Have I told you how I'm in love with fermented cheeze? It all started here!
Basil & Garlic Cheeze
1 cup basic Cashew Cheeze (See recipe below)
1 generous teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced chives
1 teaspoon nutritional yeast flakes
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 tablespoon packed fresh basil, chopped
Combine Cashew Cheeze, garlic, chives, nutritional yeast, lemon juice and salt in a bowl. Stir until well mixed. Add basil and stir until well distributed. Taste and adjust salt, if desired.
Press firmly into a small container or bowl lined with plastic film. Sprinkle mixture of dried basil and garlic powder on top. Allow to chill for at least 12 hours or until it firms up.
When firm, de-mold, turn over and transfer onto a plate. Sprinkle more dried herbs on top and sides.
Variation: If you prefer, you can enjoy this Cheeze 'cream cheese style' by simply transferring the mixture into a container and using it as a spread. This is the texture I aimed for in the above cheeze.
Store in fridge in airtight container for up to 3 or 4 days.
Basic Cashew Cheeze
3 cups Cashews, soaked 12-14 hours
3 capsules probiotics
2/3 cup fresh rejuvelac (see instructions in this post)
In high speed blender, blend the soaked cashews with probiotics and rejuvelac until smooth.
Line a sieve with a double thickness of cheesecloth and place over a bowl. Transfer the mixture to the sieve, drape the cheesecloth over the top, cover with a towel and leave in a warm place to ripen for anywhere from 14 to 24 hours, depending on how warm your house is.
Season according to one of the following recipes (or come up with your own variation!)
Alternatively, shape the mixture into a round, place in a covered container, and refrigerate for at least 24 hours, or until it firms up.
Store in fridge in airtight container for up to 3 or 4 days.
~ I've been using rejuvelac made with quinoa and it works beautifully. I soak 1/4 cup quinoa in about 1 1/2 cups water overnight, drain and rinse well the next morning. Then I add 1 cup fresh water to the mason jar, cover it with cheese cloth, followed by a clean towel, and let it sit in a warm place for 2 days. Then I decant the liquid; this is your rejuvelac!
~ I once forgot to soak the cashews ahead of time and did a little experiment; I ground them up finely in the Vitamix first and added a little more water. The mixture didn't blend as easily as with soaked cashews so I ended up using more liquid than in the original recipe. The texture of the resulting Cheeze was a touch softer and had more the consistency of Boursin. Out of this world!
All together now...
On a piece of Herb Pizza Crusts, spread a generous layer of Basil & Garlic Cheeze.
Top with sliced cherry tomatoes, slivers of kalamata olives and finely sliced red onion.
Finish with a sprinkle of Nut Parmesan*.
*I used a parmesan recipe from Cafe Gratitude's book made with Brazil nuts, garlic and salt, but I bet my Pine Nut Parmesan would have also worked nicely.
And last but not least, dessert was an avocado based Chocolate Mousse layered with fresh berries and topped with a dollop of Whipped Cream. I tried to find a piping bag but to no avail, so I used a Ziploc bag which I cut a small piece off the bottom corner. Not as pretty, but it did the trick.
Yields 2 cups
3 small avocados (or 2 medium)
3 tbs raw cacao powder
1/4 cup + 2 tbs raw carob powder
1/2 cup + 2 tbs raw honey or agave nectar
3/4 cup water, or until desired consistency is reached
2 tsp pure vanilla extract
Generous pinch sea salt
Blend all ingredients in high-speed blender until smooth.
Pour mixture into small serving cups.
Chill for a couple of hours.
If desired, serve with fresh berries and Whipped Cream.
I was inspired to prepare various raw treats that people could purchase after the meal.
Here's a close-up of the dehydrated yummies: Heathy's wonderful Chocolate Chip Granola Bars, and two kinds of cookies.
The cookies came as an afterthought as I found myself with more soaked buckwheat than I needed. I decided to make the Raw Buckwheat Granola from Cafe Gratitude's outstanding Sweet Gratitude book which I slightly modified and shaped into cookies (shown on the left) as well as a more sturdy variation using oat flakes and oat groats.
I had wrapped them in packages of two for ease of travel.
Buckwheat Apple Cinnamon Cookies
1 1/2 cups soaked almonds
1 1 /2 cups soaked buckwheat
2 cups apples, peeled and roughly chopped
1 cup dates, soaked
3/4 cup dried coconut
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup agave nectar (or to taste)
1/4 cup liquid vanilla
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup ground oats
1/4 cup ground flax
1 tbs cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup oat flakes
Mix all ingredients except oat flakes in a food processor until well incorporated. (You may need to do this in more than one batch!)
Transfer batter to a large bowl and mix in the oat flakes by hand.
Drop by the spoonful directly onto a dehydrator mesh and flatten with a spatula or a glass. (Mine were about 1/3" thick.)
Dehydrate overnight at 110.
We had also made 3 varieties of raw chocolate: Super Cacao Balls and Almond Coconut Joy from Sweet Gratitude, as well as a simple dark chocolate made with cacao paste, agave, almond extract and almond chunks.
We came back with lots of choccies, dehydrated bars and cookies, but that's totally fine by us; we always appreciate a snack to take along when going to town or a last minute dessert.
All and all, we both feel that it was a really positive and growth-full experience.
On that note, I'll leave you with an excellent recipe contributed by Shannsu that would have been perfect for our Asian theme. Unfortunately, with only one day to go, it was too late to incorporate it into the menu. It did provide us, though, with a delicious way to use up all those snow peas and julienned carrots we had left over.
Szechuan Snow Peas
Posted by Shannsu on Raw Freedom Community
Makes 2-4 servings.
This spicy dish featuring sweet snow peas can also be made with sugar snap peas.
4 cups fresh snow peas
1 cup thinly julienned carrots
3 green onions, sliced diagonally
1 small clove garlic, crushed
2 tbsp raw sesame oil (or olive oil)
1 1/2 tbsp umeboshi plum vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
2 tbsp nama shoyu
2 tsp raw honey (or agave nectar)
1 tsp coarsely ground Szechuan pepper (or some black pepper)
Cayenne pepper, to taste
Snap off the ends of the peas, stringing them as you pull the ends off. Cut them into matchsticks, as thinly as possible.
In a large bowl, mix crushed garlic, raw sesame oil, umeboshi vinegar, raw honey, Szechuan pepper and cayenne. Add snow peas, carrots and green onions and mix well, (but gently) coating all the vegetables completely with the marinade.
Allow to stand at least 20 minutes to develop flavor and soften the snow peas, mixing occasionally (the longer the soak, the softer and more flavorful the snow peas). If you like, you can set the bowl in the dehydrator for an hour: this will both soften and warm the snow peas.
Serve on a generous bed of various greens, if you wish. Add a sprinkling of fresh sprouts, as garnish, if you feel so inclined.
Carmella's Note: The only mods I made to this recipe was to go with the apple cider vinegar, as suggested, and add a couple of tbs of sesame seeds. Delish!
P.S. I guess I should mention that the play on words in the title refers to how the pilgrims set the tables in a great big circle for the dinners. ;-)