Staying healthy sometimes can be a challenge. Aside from taking common sense precautions, there is a lot we can do to keep ourselves healthy with food–colorful foods, that is.
The darker and more colorful fruits and vegetables are healthier with more anti-oxidants and immune building micro-nutrients. For example: red and yellow beets, carrots, radishes and red peppers–which all happen to be in my Harvest Vegetable Salad recipe. Local farmers markets should have plenty of these vegetables in stock!
Harvest Vegetable Salad Recipe
1 ½ cups golden beets, peeled and grated
2 cups carrots, peeled and grated
2 cups parsnips, peeled and grated
½ cup red radishes, sliced into 1 inch long matchsticks
½ cup celery, finely diced
¼ cup sweet red pepper, finely diced
½ cup green onions, angle sliced thin
In a large bowl, mix all ingredients.
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
¼ cup dried currants
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ cup brown rice vinegar
1 teaspoon ume plum vinegar
¼ cup lemon juice
In a medium bowl, whisk together all dressing ingredients and fold into the vegetable mix at least 30 minutes before serving.
Tip: Use a food processor with a grating blade to grate beets, carrots and parsnips.
The last segment of our San Diego to Detroit veg restaurant tour took us to the town of Downers Grove, a southern suburb of Chicago, where our destination,The Borrowed Earth Cafe, awaited. This turned out to be a little gem–an oasis of delicious raw cuisine, with all the food prepared on-site and served with an efficiency that rivals fast food restaurants.
Owners Danny and Kathy Living’s passion for the raw cuisine they serve is evident through beautiful presentations, a magical environment and great humor–Danny had Sara in stitches the entire two hours we were there.
We began our meal with a wonderful creamy coconut and corn soup,
followed with a colorful sweet potato quesadilla exploding with vibrant flavors–each morsel felt like an indulgence.
Kathy recommended the special walnut-crusted green beans, her version of “fried” green beans–raw and unfried. She explained that she loves to experiment with comfort foods from her childhood to create raw, living versions which are then served at the cafe. The dish was very satisfying and provocative with a nutty flavor and delicate crunch.
The finale was Out of this World Cheesecake and has made it to the top of our raw dessert list–Sara and I were practically fighting over the crumbs!
At the Borrowed Earth Cafe, we discovered the passion, talent and presentation we had been yearning for in our veg restaurant tour. We left Downer’s Grove feeling great about the state of the veg union–not to mention, fully satiated and thoroughly entertained.
The last stop was our home turf of Detroit–a city in the budding stages of a veg renaissance with pockets of culinary passion and a surprisingly large collection of veg cafes and farmers markets.
As we stuck our forks into the incomparable Inn Season Cafe salad, piled high with fresh, organic produce, nuts seeds, avocados and marinated onions, we couldn’t help but feel that there’s no place like home!
Day three of our veg restaurant tour from San Diego to Detroit began in beautiful Santa Fe, New Mexico, the oldest capital in the United States. It was Memorial Day and this unique city of all adobe-style buildings was full of tourists, musicians and artists enjoying the cloudless day. Not far from the festive atmosphere of the old town center, was our destination, Body–a one-stop-shop with an organic restaurant, spa, yoga studio and clothing boutique.
Body’s calming atmosphere and enchanting decor set our expectations high. After exploring the various rooms, the popular yoga studio and the spa, we took our seats in the large, yet surprising empty, dining room. Although there are numerous items for omnivores, there is a substantial vegan and raw offering. We ordered all raw and the food began to arrive shortly thereafter.
The coconut lemongrass soup, fresh and beautiful in color, was light and flavorful; unfortunately, the rest of our meal was not as exciting. The wrap lacked flavor and was mushy, the pizza was too salty and had far too much tomato sauce and the dessert was simply passionless. We were a bit surprised, considering the care the owners had taken to provide such a comprehensive facility to the residents of Santa Fe.
To be fair, our visit was a snapshot, only a glimpse at what was obviously a well-thought-out concept. It may be that they over-extended themselves to the point of having gaps in the details of the food. It certainly deserves another try the next time I’m driving through Santa Fe.
We continued north to Taos, another remarkable old Spanish town and artist colony. Entering this city made us feel as though we had stepped back in time. It is located in a tributary valley off the Rio Grande and on its north side is the famous Taos Pueblo, said to have been built between 1000 and 1450 A.D.. Nearly 1900 people occupy the pueblo community today.
Surprisingly, as far as vegetarian offerings, Taos is a one horse town and that horse is called El Gamal--a very casual and artistic vegetarian cafe serving traditional Middle Eastern fare. We ordered babaganoush, tabouli, falafels, salad and hummus–unfortunately, they had run out of chick peas and couldn’t prepare the hummus. The food was fresh and flavorful and we were grateful for their effort.
Our meals in Santa Fe and Taos did not come close to our amazing experiences in Sedona and Scottsdale, but still were a marked improvement from our last trip a few years ago and good enough to get us through the Cimarron pass and north to Colorado.
Our next destination was in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in one of the most liberal cities in Colorado–Boulder. Known for its stunning setting and “hippie” appeal, it constantly acquires top rankings in health and quality of life. Leaf Vegetarian Restaurant is a small, upscale, jewel of a place located in the charming downtown area. As we walked in, we were immediately taken with its beautiful decor, cleanliness and organization.
We began with a raw beet ravioli–a really stunning presentation, but, rather flavorless, relying entirely on the taste of the raw beets. Sara chose a delicious looking Mizuna salad with sea vegetables and I ordered Jamaican Jerk, tempeh over black rice with plantain chips, which was truly a work of art.
Although we appreciated the freshness and quality of the ingredients, the salad lacked pizazz. The Jamaican Jerk was heavy on tempeh, but was nicely balanced with black rice and good flavors. We finished the meal with a peanut butter and chocolate vegan cheesecake, presented with impressive artistic flair, but it didn’t knock our socks off.
Leaf deserves another shot. They have worked hard to earn their wonderful reputation and are extremely conscientious about presentation, as well as providing a positive restaurant experience. It would require several more visits for a proper review. Still, when a restaurant strives to achieve levels of gastronomic perfection, any misstep is unfortunate. Consistent culinary home-runs are a difficult thing to achieve, but a chef or owner’s personal attention increases the odds tremendously.
It was becoming apparent that veg restaurants in this country become great through vision and passion. With the heartland of the Midwest ahead of us, we continued to search for restaurants which define culinary perceptions in their local communities with dedication to quality of food and life through good ingredients, working with local farmers and using high quality organic products. This is especially true for plant-based restaurants where customers expect healing and life-enhancing characteristics on their plates. This attention-to-detail enables an everyday dining experience to be life changing.
Next time, we visit the heartland of America in Nebraska and Iowa to continue the discovery of the State of the Veg Union!
Inspired by our journey through the ancient desert lands of cliff-dwellers, pueblos and conquistadors, I created this Anasazi Bean Enchilada recipe to honor the rich traditions and sun-drenched history of the American Southwest.
I planned my current book tour in Michigan to span most of the summer, so my wife, Sara, and I made the decision to drive from San Diego to Detroit–stopping in veg restaurants the entire distance. Every chef fantasizes about doing this, but most of us don’t get the opportunity because we’re so busy. Because of time limitations, we had to pick and choose restaurant destinations, sacrificing key veg cities, such as Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle and New York–but this was not to be a contest. It was also a chance to experience how veg awareness has been developing outside of the big cities… Read entire intro
First Leg in Arizona
The departure day arrived and, with the SUV packed to the brim with everything needed for a book tour and food demonstrations, we headed east on US 8. Our first stop was Natures Express in Yuma, Arizona. This is vegan fast food in a Mexican border town, an area full of desert ranches and meat eaters. While their focus is fast food variations on meat dishes, it was a positive experience. We ordered two sandwiches, first the lentil burger with mushrooms, which had good texture, but a plain flavor–it could benefit from some Mediterranean or Middle Eastern spicing. Second was the “South of the Border” burger with their Chick-un patty. This sandwich had all the flavor and spiciness one would expect from a town near the border and we really enjoyed it. We were very grateful for this vegan sustenance in the middle of vegetarian nowhere, which propelled us all the way to Phoenix.
The next day we headed to Fresh Mint in Scottsdale, an unassuming cafe in a tidy little strip mall. Knowing we were to eat at two restaurants in Scottsdale, we ordered lightly and shared both dishes. We ordered the Cucumber Rolls filled with tofu, raw matchstick vegetables and fresh mint leaves. This was presented with a flavorful peanut dipping sauce. The beautiful presentation and bright flavors of the raw vegetables and mint were perfectly complimented by the peanut sauce.
We followed it with Kung Pao Soy Chicken, a traditionally flavored dish nicely supported by brown rice and assorted steamed vegetables. According to owner Mai Ly, the beautiful presentations and delicious flavors were inspired by Buddhist vegetarian traditions. The entire experience was wonderful and Mai Ly and her husband Michael Beck, impressed us with their charm and wit.
As soon as we entered, the smell of herbs enveloped us and the serene and healing atmosphere immediately put us at ease–I half expected a shoulder massage as I perused the menu. We started the meal with their refreshing herbal iced tea of the day, followed by a Raw-vacado plate–a delicious nut-based avocado guacamole served with raw marinated crudite vegetables.
Next came the Veggie-Dilla, a vegan vegetable quesadilla with fresh vegetables, pinto beans and raw underpinnings of sun dried tomato-nut cheese. This was accompanied by a Chipotle salsa and a green salad–our favorite dish of the journey so far. The fresh-local-organic connection was obvious and the vitality of the dishes exploded on the palate in waves of delicious flavors. To top it off, we ordered a slice of Chocolate Ganache Pie for the road. Sara was so taken with its rich flavor and creamy texture, I barely had a chance to start the car before it was gone. The food at Chakra4 was provocative and satiated all the senses. If I were within a hundred miles, this would be a worthy detour. We breathed a sigh of relief, knowing we had several hours to muster up an appetite for our next culinary stop in Sedona.
This first leg of the tour was inspiring. We were beginning to see that a shift had occurred in public perceptions and awareness. On a small scale, vegan restaurants are gaining mainstream acceptance and adding new dimensions of flavor and health to local restaurant scenes.
Amber Poupore was one the most exceptional employees I had at Inn Season Cafe, wanting to learn everything about the restaurant business. She started as a dishwasher and viewed it as the beginning of a learning process. She was a natural and soon had mastered every possible job in the restaurant, never shying away from the tough ones like washing dishes, scrubbing odd surfaces and taking care of customers. Even after I sold the restaurant, she assisted me with classes I taught at Whole Foods while she continued to work part time at the cafe. Eventually she became a certified Rudolph Steiner Waldorf teacher at the Detroit Waldorf School.
Since then, in addition to managing the dining room of Inn Season Cafe, she also studied the benefits of raw foods with David Wolfe, Regeneration Raw with Andrea McNinch and numerous other raw food related programs. When I received the call that she had purchased the former Tasi Juice Bar in Royal Oak, I sensed the same confidence and spirit of working with the community she always had.
Within a few short weeks, the Cacao Tree Cafe took shape and blossomed under her direction. Like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon, the beautiful, delicious and healing food has become the talk of the town. The Cacao Tree, with their offerings of vegan, raw and living food, complements the nearby Inn Season Cafe’s cuisine.
Chefs Hitoko and Zack create beautiful and delicious confections, savory snacks and life-enhancing entrees. The raw falafels, burritos, tacos and stir fries are full of flavor, vital nutritional energy and also very fulfilling.
This is the beginning of something special. A New Year is here and the place to celebrate is the Cacao Tree Cafe!
The first week of December was another whirlwind trip to Michigan for events, book signings and talks. It has been three years since my feet felt the cold pavement of a Detroit winter. I bit my lip and braced for the cold as I dashed into the Cacao Tree Cafe where I found warmth, refuge and good energy.
Former employee and friend, Amber Poupore, has recently begun her adventure as a restaurateur. Her emphasis is raw and vegan; the food was delicious and energizing.
My initial book-signing appearance was at the Birmingham Winter Markt, their first annual German-style holiday festival.
Cousin Don Hobson, farmer and market-master for the Birmingham Farmers Market, invited me to share a booth with him. His homemade jams and kettle corn were on one side and my books on the other.
When I suggested space heaters, he said he was country and wouldn’t need them. The morning following an evening of selling in the 19 degree cold, Cousin Don arrived with two space heaters under his arms. The Markt turned out to be a charming event in spite of the colder than usual weather. Stalwart and hardy Michiganders, inspired with Holiday spirit, flocked to the outdoor Markt. As twilight approached, the park became magical with the beautiful lights, music and good cheer.
The next day I left signed books with my son, Spyros, and headed to a book-signing at the warm and cozy Borders Bookstore, just a few blocks away. At both events, I saw many old friends and met new ones.
Monday morning started with an interview on the Craig Fahle show on the local NPR station, WDET. As I drove to the studio in Detroit, I marveled at the renewed energy in the area. I had a strong sense that people were not lying down and accepting their fate in these tough economic times. Nowhere was this more visible (and audible) than when I entered the studio of WDET. The positive energy they all seemed to have about Detroit was contagious–it felt as if I was participating in a grand experiment of urban renewal.
My next stop was Whole Foods Market in Troy. They sponsored my events, providing me with the food I needed to teach my classes and gave me brochures for the inspiring healthy-food program created by Dr. Joel Furhman.
Tuesday was lunch with Halim and Lamia of Oasis Mart in Royal Oak. We have been business associates and friends since Inn Season Cafe opened in 1981. Lamia is a fantastic cook–a real neighborhood treasure. She served a delicious crushed lentil soup, biryani rice, majdara, hummus, babaghanoush, lentil salad and baklava. They invited friends and customers to come by for a meet and greet. It was a joyous affair with great food and company.
I taught the enthusiastic crowd how to make Quinoa-Corn Arepas and Cranberry Chocolate Salsa with Toasted Pepita and Fire-Roasted Poblano Chile Pesto.
Inn Season Cafe provided Cashew Vegetable Chili and their house bread. The food and book were big hits and we discussed a repeat in the Spring.
The next afternoon was spent in Grosse Pointe at the TV5 studio in the War Memorial, a grand old estate built by Russell Alger Jr. Robert Taylor and his wife, Pamela Hill Taylor, hosted me on their show Out of the Ordinary and into the Extraordinary. It gave me a chance to talk about the hard-working farmers and bountiful farmers markets in Michigan, as well as the impact they have on the community. We discussed how to enjoy the holidays while making healthy food choices and where to start with those New Years resolutions. The fun and informative show is now available in eight Michigan counties in the public access area of ATT and Comcast cable services.
We took turns discussing how food is not only the key to nourishing the body, but also one of the key factors for reducing stress in life.
In addition to demonstrating the same dishes from WCCC, I also prepared the Shiitake Mushroom Saute recipe from my book. Inn Season Cafe provided Budapest Mushroom Soup and their house bread as well as a delicious Bengali Rice Salad.
This post was originally published in November, 2009. The video is new.
At the Hillcrest Market, Barry Koral shares his booth with a seasoned organic farmer named Dennis Stowell of Tom King Farms. He is dedicated, understated and the salt of the earth–the kind of guy you can trust your food to. As I walked up to his side of the stand, he was in the process of showing one of his fans how to cut and eat a pomegranate, potentially one of the messier jobs in the kitchen. Here is what he showed…(the only additional recommendation to add is that I would cut the pomegranate on a cutting board, or table to avoid any accidents in the hand).
First, you hold the pomegranate in one hand and core the stem out of each side.
Then, you cut the skin on four sides (in quarters)
Next, placing the pomegranate in a bowl of water peel the skin off and the juicy red arils will be released, floating to the top of the water. Like a cranberry bog, “harvest” them from the water and enjoy. The mess stays in the water.
He picked up a Persian-style melon next to him and cut a generous wedge for me and the infatuated bystander. Dennis said the best melons in the world come from Uzbekistan and Tajikastan and the seeds from this melon came directly from there. It was slightly underipe, but still had a candy-like melt in the mouth experience with a perfect flavor. Can’t wait for the ripe ones!
In 1981, I visited a 300 acre organic farm in Southern Michigan which housed the Creative Health Institute. It was there that I was exposed to the early years of Live Foods as directed by the late matriarch of the movement, Ann Wigmore. The farm grew the grains which became the sprouts in the food; full of life-enhancing enzymes, it was both energizing and healing. The Creative Health Institute was, and continues to be, a remarkable healing center where life-giving practices are embraced.
Raw or live foods are rooted in traditions which date back to our human origins. Before refrigeration, fermentation and enzymatic growth in food was widespread in the cuisines of world, including Roman garum sauce, Chinese soy products, Japanese pickles, Korean kimtchie, Indian dosas, Thai fish sauces and Indonesian tempeh. Sometimes cooked, sometimes raw, these foods contributed significantly to the diets of the cultures they came from. The modern raw food diet originally drew inspiration from the proto-Christian Essenes most commonly known as the sect of John the Baptist, a desert-dwelling Judaic group who used the sun to dry their sprouted manna bread.
Raw living foods help stimulate the immune system and facilitate the flow of chi energy throughout the body. There are countless people who claim it clears the mind, balances the body and heals many illnesses.
The most common endorsement I hear is that the raw foods increases energy in daily living. Whether one embraces the diet entirely or includes a percentage of raw food, the benefits are real.
There are probably more raw-foodies per capita in Southern California than any other part of the country. No doubt the weather and year round availability of local fresh foods plays a significant roll. The sensual pleasures of the palate are plentiful with thoughtfully prepared raw cuisine. I have seen many raw food chefs to be very good with presentation and flavor.
The farmer’s markets in San Diego feature a number of live food vendors.
Macadamia-Sunflower Hummus is a versatile recipe suitable to serve with any cuisine. Serve it as a dip or use it as a spread in a sandwich or on a cracker. The Basil Leaf Rolls are just one of many dishes I have used the hummus with.
1 cup raw macadamia nuts
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
2 cups water for soaking
1 teaspoon fresh garlic, minced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 cup water
Place the nuts, seeds and soaking water in a container for 2 to 8 hours. Puree all ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Serve cold or room temperature.
Basil Leaf Rolls
10 large lettuce-leaf basil leaves
5 tablespoons Macadamia-Sunflower Hummus
1 San Marzano Roma tomato sliced into thin 1/4 inch wide strips
Rinse basil leaves and spin-dry in a salad spinner or pat dry with a clean cloth. Spread 1/2 tablespoon hummus evenly on each leaf. Place a tomato slice on one end of the leaf and roll it “roulade-style.” Repeat with each leaf. Slice into 1/2 inch wide rolls. Serve right away.
My home is in Mission Hills, a gorgeous area of San Diego founded by early 20th Century visionaries in the Arts and Crafts tradition with charming historic homes, parks full of spectacular foliage and a strong community presence. I was thrilled when a farmers market sprang up in the middle of the tiny downtown several Fridays ago. There are a number of good vendors in the one city block which comprises the market. This Friday market kicks off my weekends with fresh, organic ingredients.
I have been buying sweet and plump blueberries at Smit Orchards stall for the last few weeks. Their radiant blues and purples have been a colorful addition to morning oatmeal, smoothies, cobblers and pies.
Pepper season heated up in the last month. The Padron Peppers from Suzie’s Farm have been an exciting side dish when I saute them a skillet with a little olive oil and coarse sea salt. Robin, the owner, described how the peppers start off mild and become hotter as the vines get older. He plants them at intervals to make sure he’s able to harvest the sweet young peppers at their prime.
When Suzies Farm has the historic Italian Jimmy Nardello peppers, buy them! I prepared them the same way as the Padrones. They have a sweet flavor and melt-in-your-mouth texture.
Tender baby-beet greens from Maggie’s Farm went into my summer squash with coconut curry dish. They also had a variety of heirloom potatoes which I used for a roasted potato chole and baby romaine heads which I cut in half, browned in a skillet and served as an antipasti plate garnish.
Saturday at the Little Italy Mercato
Saturday mornings are in full swing at the Mercato in the heart of Little Italy. Each market is defined by the neighborhood it is in and this three block market has an Old World Italian flavor with modern urban chic.
Justin Noble of Sage Mountain Farm grows starship zucchini, a type of patti pan squash which I steamed and served with a lemon-dijon sauce. He also grows Armenian cucumbers which are not really cucumbers, but a member of the melon family. They are a refreshing and crunchy addition to salads along with heirloom tomatoes, which are starting to flood the markets.
The founder of La Milpa Organica, Oasis Benson, moved north and entered the organic olive business. Good Faith Farm sells two kinds of raw, organic olives– Sevillanos and Kalamata–along with their delicious olive oil, which is so fresh it must be refrigerated. These delicious olives are cured with first quality ingredients (brown rice vinegar) and are probably the healthiest olives one will ever encounter.
There are several musicians throughout the market. Santiago Orozco and his band Todo Mundo often play in the amphitheater at the top, east end of the market. The upbeat Latin rhythms and positive message of his music enhance the festive atmosphere.
Sunday at Hillcrest Farmers Market
Mariella Balbi of Guanni Chocolates is located in the center of the Hillcrest Market and always greets me with her beautiful smile. Her vegan Wari Bars made from 100% Peruvian Criollo cacao are a chocolate lover’s delight.
La Milpa Organica is the gold standard of market stalls in San Diego. This week I purchased amaranth, Swiss chard and magenta spreen lamb’s quarters to make tarts, pies, tortes and simple seared greens with garlic, hot red pepper and coarse sea salt.
Karen at Archis Acres picked out a giant head of red leaf lettuce for me. I made lettuce wraps filled with Haas avocados, Cherokee red tomatoes and pepita, cilantro and lime pesto.
Phil of Sage Mountain Farm had Italian torpedo onions, cherry tomatoes, hard-neck garlic and fresh basil with the root–the perfect ingredients for a fresh heirloom tomato, basil, red onion and rubbed garlic crostini.
Matt of Lone Oak Ranch supplied me with some of his very best white and yellow nectarines, white and yellow peaches and candy-like pluots which I am using for grilled fruit salsas this week.
If you have been keeping up with my blog, you will have noticed me waxing poetic about red walnuts from Terra Bella Ranch. The season is over, but Jeff and Nicolina’s excellent Chandler walnuts are still available, as well as their beautiful dried apricots, raw almonds and sun-dried tomatoes, all of which I use regularly. I toast the walnuts and almonds for approximately 12 minutes at 325 F degrees and keep them available for snacks, salads and garnish. Because of the healthy volatile oils in nuts, they can become rancid. I store untoasted nuts in the freezer.
The small Poblano chiles from Sage Mountain Farm are delightful. I cut off the tops, scoop out the seeds and fill them with a corn tamal-style filling or a thick and creamy walnut filling, reminiscent of an Oaxacan walnut sauce which Frida Kahlo used to make at her Blue House. Next I put them onto a chili roasting rack which goes directly on the grill. I can never make enough of these!
I found Palestinian sweet limes, sweet cocktail grapefruit and Reed avocados at the Rancho Mexico Lindo Farm booth. She also had red, pink and green prickley pear fruit, which are considered a health tonic.
San Diego farmer’s markets are a treasure trove of exciting, fresh and organic ingredients. Markets like this can be found across the country in every community.
Fallbrook, a charming and historic town nestled among avocado orchards, is in the heart of North County San Diego. In a small storefront off the beaten path is Guanni Chocolates, a chocolate store full of confections which defy modern commercial definitions.
Mariella Balbi is not just a chocolatier, but a talented chef and visionary. She gives us a tour, beginning with the story of Peruvian Criollo chocolate and the connections she has with the cooperative which produces what is considered the best chocolate in South America. In addition to supplying pure high grade cacao and cacao butter to Guanni chocolates, the cooperative uses Mariella as a consultant to help bring Peruvian goods to the forefront of the world market.
Mariella has woven together her expertise with the native ingredients from her home country of Peru to create super-food infused confections which actually enhance one’s health. Her Wari bar has become my favorite chocolate snack, a rare gem to be savored.
Each bar is 100% vegan and free of any filler additives, such as soy lecithin. She also makes a delicious raw food energy bar and sells Yacon Syrup and Maca, a root powder; both are reported to have rejuvenating qualities.
Mariella’s chocolates and her approach to business stand out in the urban bustle of San Diego. She is adamant about maintaining the highest quality ingredients and does not cut corners as competitors so often do. Her kind and generous persona shines through in everything she sets out to accomplish. Like Vianne in the movie “Chocolat,” she inspires her clients with her chocolate creations, stopping just short of prescribing the chocolate for various afflictions as Vianne does.