Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Raw Winter Crunch-Crunch Salad

I like to think outside the lettuce when I make salads. Every once in a while I crave a particular vegetable raw and so I make a new salad combination from it.

This time, I was craving cauliflower, which I don't particularly like. I don't like a lot of things about cauliflower. It's got that stinky sulfurous smell and taste. It also has a lack of color that I don't particularly care for. Being a pretty colorful person myself, I tend to be drawn to colorful foods, and I have a notion that more colorful foods have more nutrients. In nature, however, more colorful does not always mean more nutritious. Sometimes, in fact, it means poisonous, which is quite the opposite of nutritious! Before I move on to some of the benefits of cauliflower, what else is there not to like about it? Oh yeah, it's lumpy. The lumpy texture is actually called "white curd", gross. There you have it. Oh cauliflower, you tried so hard, but you could not please me... until, wait, what's this?... Cauliflower is a wonderful veggie to supplement any diet, but particularly the vegan diet. Why? It contains abundant levels of B vitamins and vitamin K, which typically need to be consumed at higher levels by vegans. Also, while low in carbs cauliflower is surprisingly high in dietary fiber, unlike most sources of dietary fiber that are pretty carbohydrate-heavy. There is also quite a bit of vitamin C and folate in a cup of raw cauliflower. So plug that nose and gobble gobble.

I made the following salad for the first time on a whim for the fam about a month ago and it was a sleeper hit.  Soon after, I sent some to a small catering event after learning at the last-minute we had two vegans who could not partake of the giant salad replete with eggs that I'd made for the rest of the crew. What's a quick-thinking caterer to do? I fortunately had this salad on-hand and sent some along much to the happiness of the vegans! I've named this salad "crunch crunch" because crunchiness is one of its pleasant characteristics. In the dead of winter it can be so good to get a little raw crunchy veg in your diet. It's deeply satisfying to the physical body in a near-mystical way.

You will need:
- 1 head cauliflower
- 1 bag frozen peas
- 2 cups sliced purple/red cabbage
- 1/2 to 1 cup vegenaise
- salt to taste

A quick note before we begin: if vegenaise is not your thing or if you're new or shy to the vegenaise experience, there are alternatives, some of which I'll share below the main recipe.

Cut the "curd" part of the cauliflower into bit-size pieces, save the stems and stalk and even leaves for a pot of stew (I'll be sharing my own recipe in a week or so!)...

...I often feel perfectly nutritious and delicious produce is discarded, like stems of cilantro or the leaves and stems on carrots and beets. Did you know you can even save the eggshells off your organic free-range eggs, they are an extraordinary source of calcium and magnesium, put the eggshells in boiling water for 1-2 minutes to cleanse, then place on a clean cloth to dry. When dry, grind to powder with mortar and pestle and then you can take the powder in gel tabs, or you can sprinkle the powder on your dog's food, it's very good for their joints and bones. Especially if you're taking the trouble to buy organic, you should really think twice before discarding these nutritional powerhouses. When in doubt to the edibility of commonly discarded parts of a fruit or veggie, I suggest giving it a quick google and see what turns up. You may be surprised. Back to the recipe...

Thaw the frozen peas in a strainer or colander under tap water. Put the cauliflower, peas, and cabbage together in a bowl, add the vegenaise and a dash of salt and toss until the veggies are evenly coated. I suggest just a 1/2 cup of vegenaise to start and then add up to 1/2 cup more if desired. You may want to taste the salad now and add another dash of salt if needed. People have different salt sensitivity levels, so it may be best to simply place a shaker of salt at the table and encourage people to salt their own salads to their personal liking. I've noticed that when this salad sits at least 1 day in the fridge the flavor is greatly enhanced, it almost has a smokey flavor. I think it may be some kind of reaction between the cabbage and cauliflower with the vinegar in the mayo. Or vego, sorry. That's my theory anyhoo. Now for the alternatives to vegenaise...

Alternatives to Vegenaise
Make your own! You will need:

- 1/2 cup oil of choice (olive or safflower is good if you don't have another you prefer)
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
- 2 TBSP lecithin (this is available at most natural food groceries)
- 1 TBSP lemon juice
- 1 tsp salt

Put all ingredients in blender and blend 2 minutes until thickened. The lecithin is an emulsifying agent that will cause your concoction to thicken in a very noticeable way.

I also use plain yogurt instead of mayo or vego at times. If a recipe calls for 1 cup of mayo I might take 3/4 cup plain yogurt and blend into it a tablespoon or so of dijon mustard and a little salt.

Enjoy your life, enjoy your food!

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