The Oakland summer is much to chilly then for the likes of my skinny frame. Things do seem to be heating up, however not enough for me to experience any overheating in my 20 degree sleeping bag at night. California, you tricked me (San Diego, you spoiled me, more like).
Started my first day in the Caracao Chocolate Company’s kitchen last friday. I can now refer to myself as a ‘chocolatier’ a privilege I am still debating taking advantage of. The company founders are a couple of great people who got their start as dessert chefs at the now infamous Cafe Gratitude. A wonderful and philanthropic raw dining chain that has struggled to develop loving kindness as a viable business model. Coracao’s Mathew and Daniel have since moved on to tackle the high end chocolate market. I am in charge of the vegan chocolate milk arm of this operation. A decadent elixir that has farmer’s market samplers moaning, “So that’s why a bottle is 6 bucks, so… what else are you sampling” No hard feelings, it is pricey stuff.
I’ll post the recipe for the above milk in the days to come but since summer is in full swing I thought I’d feature a fresh and easy summer salad.
Mellow Melon Salad:
– 1 cucumber diced into cubes
– 2 large Heirlooms diced into cubes
– 1 Melon balled or diced into cubes (cantaloupe, honeydew, watermelon, or a mix)
– Kernels of 2 ears sweet corn
– 1 Avocado pitted and cubed
– 2 tablespoon chopped parsley
– 2 tablespoon chopped mint
– 1 Teaspoon honey or agave syrup
– 1 Teaspoon lime juice
– 2 Teaspoon Apple cider vinegar
Dice cucumber, tomato, and melon and set aside in a colander to drain for about 30 minutes. While that is happening whisk together dressing in a small bowl.
Next cut the kernel off the corn and toss them with the mint and parsley in a big bowl (this will be the bowl you will pour the rest of your salad fixing in). Mix the cucumber, melon, and tomato with corn and herbs and set the bowl until fridge until ready to serve.
Right before it is time to eat this bad boy, toss with the dressing and a freshly diced avocado. The aroma will will your BBQ guests to drop bratwursts, burgers, and tofu dogs to indulge a more honest deep seated primal urge to feast on some raw fruits.
As long as dwellin’ on the swellness of a local market melon, I’ll mention some good news. The Oakland Children’s Hospital has agreed to let People’s Grocery continue its farmers market on the premises though out the duration of the summer. This is a substantial foot in the door for pursuing more ambitious efforts aimed at integrating locally sourced produce into the hospital cafeteria (an effort still viewed by hospital higher-ups as a liability dew to irregularity of the availability of the produce in question). Sadly it is much easier for untrained cooks to call up Cisco Foods and get a bulk order of 300 tomato’s of uniform size and color then deal with a box of deliciously irregular heirlooms. Our solution… TRAIN THE CHEFS!!! We are currently in talks with the hospital to do just that.
Little up date: Last week I had four first days at four separate jobs four days in a row. I have had some time to weigh my options and ultimately I think I am going with the line cook position Liba’s Vegetarian Falafal Food Truck, along with the farmers market and kitchens assistant job Coracao Raw Chocolate Confections. The pay to fun ratio is the highest with these two. I am quite happy to have found some chef work that did not compromise my goals of serving up healthy foods. It’s exciting.
Speaking of healthy foods, the other day I attended a raw cooking demo hosted by Chef Billy of Divine Raw Foods. Chef Billy (pictured below) is working closely with both Phatbeats and (People’s Grocery, two Oakland organizations hell bent on opening channels to healthy food up too every Oakland citizen above and below the poverty line.
Some of the thing they are doing, (and that I am attempting to become affiliated with):
– Pushing for an emphasis on nutritious foods with in children’s hospitals cafeterias. This is known as the Wellness Project. I am currently in talks to help with menu planning!
– Establishing urban farms to provide some of the above mentioned foods.
– Beginning Farmers markets as a means of creating community hubs for continuing food security. (These farmers markets accept food stamps! And provide free meals!!)
– Combating the obesity epidemic is an overarching by product of the above projects
Phatbeats and People’s Grocery are two large organizations with many projects; these are the ones which I am aspiring to assist.
Back to Chef Billy. The humble lesson was a 101 in the collard leaf burrito. A true raw vegan standard that has saved my savory palette more times than one. The key a collard wrap’s success, a solid nut pate. Enter the MAC.
The MAC Whip:
– 1 cup Raw Cashews (Raw Sunflower seeds work as well)
– 3 glove Garlic
– Juice of on Lemon
– 2 table spoons Miso Paste (fermented soybean paste readily available at any grocery these days)
– ¼ cup Water (cleaner sourced the better)
– ½ Red Onion
– (optional) ¼ Red Bell Pepper
– Collard Green Leafs (about the size of a lunch plate is ideal)
Fixins’ and Stuffins’:
– Sprouts (I like sunflower sprouts)
– Red bell Pepper (diced)
– Carrots (match stick chopped)
– Shredded Lettuce or Purple Cabbage
– (optional) Avocado
– Food Processor
– Rubber Spatula
– Reamer (to juice lemon, otherwise just squeeze it)
Chef Billy threw this taste sensation together on a wind swept lot in a rough part of north Oakland with an old hospital gurney as a counter. The audience was comprised of equal parts, hipsters, neighbours and homeless. So… don’t be intimidated. You can do a fine job on your roofed, warm, and wired kitchen granite, free from the critical gaze of the O town’s hungry. Here is the story on this collard cashew glory.
Toss your cashews into the processor and grind em’ down to a coarse powder. They should feel and look like a gritty sand, a little coarser than your typical coffee grounds. At this point throw in the garlic, lemon, Miso paste, and onion. Process again until you have a pate like constancy that is both moist and spreadable (similar to humus). This stuff is sooo dam good, so be careful with it, a little health fat is amazing; moderation. Spoon it into a bowl and set aside… then lick the processor and spoon clean.
To make you wrap first cut of the excess stem off an inch after the leaf begins. Smear 2-3 tablespoons of the pate on the collard along the side of the stem closest to you, then top with sprouts, avo, bell pepper, etc. I like to but the lettuce or cabbage last as it makes for easier wrapping. Wrap it sushi style, burrito style, or taco style if your lazy and the leaf is tiny, and mac that mac wrap with passion. Boom.
Disclaimer to skinny vegans and weight watchers: It is important to note that this recipe contains very little carbohydrates, while still being quite filling. This makes it ideal for weight loss. However, if you’re trying to gain some weight (like me) or are about to run a few miles, eat a couple bananas for dessert.
Billy’s demo was fun but the recipe (when aimed at Oakland’s lower income brackets) is wholesomely unrealistic. These ingredients are pricey, the prep is time consuming, and a food processor is necessary. BUT, from a different perspective these pitfalls are beside the point. It was positive to see a group of unlikely table mates enjoying one nutritious meal together. People meeting people, trade some food knowledge, aspiring to eat a little bit better tomorrow. If that week one attendee goes to the store and shuns ‘2 for 1’ special on onion chips in search of an onion, the day was a success. It’s about baby steps. It’s about planting seeds. It’s about building community ties.
It has been a year, a bustlin’ one at that; this blogging project was rapidly neglected. NOW, life changes are in full swing and I’d like a chance to show the experiences I am having to any whom might be interested, as well as organize them for my own benefit. So what has changed?
I have a years raw chef experience under my belt
I have fallen in love with cooking.
I was rejected from five graduate schools
I have moved to Oakland
I have decided to pursue a masters in public health and nutrition
My grandfather died
These are the things that have dominated my mental landscape and sort of paint an image of my current. At that I’ll start.
First, a belated 4th of July recipe: “Fried” Onions
What you’ll need:
Dehydrator (or oven set very low)
Dehydrator teflex sheets or parchment paper
Knife and Cutting board
Big wooden spoon
3 Onions (red, white, sweet, pungent… what eva)
½ cup Almond flour or Milled Flax (you could grind some almonds in a coffee grinder lickiddy split)
1/8 cup Olive Oil
2 table spoons Nama Shoyu (Bragg’s Liquid Aminos or regular Soy also do the trick, but nothing beats Shoyu for tasty flavor)
½ teaspoon Paprika, Chilli Powder, Cumin, or Coriander (and your favorite savory spice)
A little Sea salt to taste
Skin and chop your onions ring style and cry. Put the rings in a bowl and toss in the rest of the ingredients. Mix it up good and proper, adding more olive oil if mixture is too dry (the batter should be sticking to the onions, but those rebel crumbles are gonna be tasty as well).
Transfer mixture (onion free crumbles and all) on to sheeted dehydrator trays, and let it ride at 105 degrees for roughly 12-16 hours. Don’t stress it, you can’t really over do them in a dehydrator.
Do stress it if using an oven. Throw the mix on a baking sheet for an hour at you oven’s lowest setting.
The Fruits of your Labor:
Enjoy these crispy sensations on salads, in sandwiches, wraps, or just munch them Funion style. They are a much lighter and friendlier then there oil bathed facsimile, so chomp chomp chomp to your hearty hearts content.
I opted to enjoy them on a my 1st attempt of the elusive raw vegan hot-dog. The onions were amazing… the rest of the dog was just good. There will be round 2 improvements. I wish it were a little more attractive for starters
I would like to mention:
Through a series of experience and positions since the end of high school Food security has grow to be a very important cause to me. Nutritious food is a right not a luxury, I firmly believe that; it has in many ways become a sort of mantra. Many adults suffering as a result of the food landscape in which they are immersed and many children following rapidly in their wake. I won’t dive into the nature of this here; the statistics on life expectancy, obesity, heart disease, and Type 2 Diabetes are repeated discussed on loop via every major media outlet.
Things can change, slowly and arduously they can change. Because this is a consumer economy and we choose how we want to be treated by both government agencies monitoring the American food landscape, and the producers creating it we have the power to change it. Unfortunately we all face persuasive influences to such a degree that we as American’s with families, careers, and lives to lead and enjoy cannot be expected to sort the fact from farse, the sinister motives from the selfless advice, and the healthy diet from the early grave.
The current generation is projected to possess a shorter life expectancy that the former. In America.
I want to tackle these issues, and I wanna cook some food while I do it. Let’s eat well, I know you’re worth it.