Local Cookbooks: Raw Star Recipes, the Post-Oscars Edition
In L.A., there's nothing like the Oscars' Spanx parade to inspire "healthy" raw doughnut diet considerations, if only for a trial breakfast or two. It so happens that Raw STAR Recipes: Organic Meals, Snacks and Desserts in 10 Minutes by local raw chef Bryan Au landed on our doorstep over the weekend. Go figure.
The book's theme is "You can be a Raw Star" ... get it? Raw, organic and eco-friendly, Au is a fan of them all. But is it the perfect post-Oscar party hangover call?
This is a self-published title, which we imagine is why the design and photo quality are not particularly glamorous, to put it politely (creative thinkers and professional photographs are expensive). The writing is a bit grammatically challenged and repetitive: Orange rind is referred to as skin, for instance; "fun" is the preferred recipe header description.
All things we could overlook, if not for the brand name-dropping -- a certain flaxseed company, a brand of dehydrator -- that comes across as pretty blatant sponsorship. Typically cookbook authors list their brand loyalties more subtly, in a pantry/ingredient section, rather than in every recipe where ground flaxseed is used. The raw diet celebrity name-dropping (Demi Moore, Alicia Silverstone) reads like those Oscar gossip headlines we've all flipped past one too many times by now.
Bryan AuAu's All-Fruit Vegan Burger
But if anyone can make a meat-eater go raw for a week, it is Bryan Au. He's the sort of guy who is so excited about that raw banana "cream" pie (p. 172) and other recipes, he appeared to be (literally) jumping up and down when he dropped off the book. It's really hard to dislike the guy.
But we're supposed to be talking about the book. The 10-minute side of the subtitle is the catch here, as it makes multidimensional raw recipes, as so many are, difficult timewise. Au also promises most of the recipes cost less than $10 to make. That means more complicated, farmers market produce-driven dishes like you might find at Juliano's Raw (homemade kelp pasta with mushroom-nut meatballs in marinara sauce) are especially tricky to make under those awfully tight time and ingredient cost parameters (enter more mass-market product promotions in the recipe headers).
Instead, many recipes are based on things like flax seeds quickly pureed with bananas or coconut oil to make a faux cupcake base or crepes. Other menu items include flaxseed "nuggets" using ground flax seed in lieu of chicken, stuffed zucchini blossoms with pineapple salsa and chile oil, and "fried" onion rings (dehydrated onion slices coated in a pureed orange rind/juice and sesame seed "crust"). For dessert, the "baklava" is made of thinly sliced apples cut into rectangles and filled with pureed nuts and coconut nectar.
You get the idea. Fairly simply things you can whip up quickly that, like that fruit burger in the photo above, mimic the "look" of a non-vegan mainstream recipe if not the flavor. Hey, we're just happy to finally have something to serve our vegan friends on burger night.
The best recipes are those that are raw in "real" cooking life, too, like that ginger-mango dressing (p. 123), which we are considering whipping up as a raw start to the week. Or we might just buy a bottle of mango balsamic vinegar from Global Gardens up in Los Olivos, add a little olive oil and call it a wrap. We're not sure if it happens to be raw, but it has the same image problems as the self-publishing/celebrity diet industry (A mango balsamic vinegar? Why?). But this flavored vinegar is surprisingly good. Pretty fantastic, actually, as raw food can also be. (And who knows, those flax "nuggets" might be great, too.) Well, look at that. Now we're the ones who are product name-dropping.
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