Raw Wednesday!! And a Cinco de Mayo Feast
May 6, 2009

Good morning, everyone! Welcome to day one of the Raw Wednesday Challenge!!

I am so excited to hear about your experiments in the kitchen today! I want lots of feedback: email me jpegs of meals, say hello, tell me how great your lunchtime salad was–whatever! I hope you’ll find the day as fun and rewarding as I know Jenna and I will.

In the spirit of community, I want everyone to treat the comments section of this post like a forum today. Go ahead and leave comments with your updates, impressions, or recipes, and feel free to respond to each other and start conversations! I’ll do my best to check in frequently and see how everyone is doing. And I’ll be back tonight with a raw dinner recipe.

Switching gears, I have a really fun event to re-cap for you all!

By now you’ve heard me talk about Beam Green and its wonderful founder, Ms. Mary Boehmer. Last night, members of Beam Green were given the chance to attend a very special cooking class at the Natural Gourmet Institute in the Flatiron district. To all you New Yorkers who aren’t familiar with the Institute, I encourage you to check out the website! It’s a wonderful local resource. The Institute host cooking classes with famous natural chefs, from flexitarians (Myra Kornfield) to raw foodists (Jennifer Cornbleet). The classes include hands on work in the kitchen with the chefs, followed by a four course sit-down dinner and wine. Some of the classes are pricey (Melissa and I have lusted and resisted in the past), but it’s really a slim price to pay for the experience of learning from master chefs, not to mention the pleasure of a gourmet meal.

Last night, as a member of Team Green Beam (more on that soon!) I was invited to join in the fun. The menu? A Cinco de Mayo celebration, naturally! Our guest chef was the energetic Myra Kornfield, author of The Voluptuous Vegan (a favorite of mine!) and The Healthy Hedonist: More Than 200 Delectable Recipes for Relaxed Daily Feasts. Myra used to be a chef at one of my favorite New York restaurants, Angelica Kitchen, and I’ve been an admirer of her work for a long time. Her emphasis is on global flavors, bold spices, and robust flavors. Who better to walk us through making a Mexican feast?

On the menu last night:


Yucca cakes with mango mojo


Romaine and Watercress Salad with radishes, jicama, and strawberries.
Avocado-cumin-lime Dressing

Main Course:

Coconut-Cornmeal Crusted Tilapia with Tomatillo-Pumpkin Seed Mole
Sweet and spicy polenta
Sautéed spinach with red chile salsa paste
Roasted asparagus with ramps
Cider braised sweet plantains


Coconut sorbet with Mexican chocolate banana sauce and pecan lace tuilles

Pretty incredible, no? Of course, this meal was not all raw (or even mostly raw), nor was it vegan. But I think it’s important for all of us raw foodists to keep our cooking skills as sharp as our un-cooking skills: I like to know that I can prepare cooked meals for family and friends who aren’t comfortable with raw foods, and I frequently do: my favorites are grain dishes, risottos, and soups.

This said, when we had a chance to choose the dish we would participate in (fish, dessert, sides, etc), I made a beeline for the predictable station: the salad! I was delighted to find that Myra’s dressing closely resembled the one I made for my Spicy Thai Salad, and that the dish was almost 100% raw. Always thrilled to handle a giant bowl of greens, my friend Cassie and I got to work:

Here’s Cassie, manning the salad station:


First, we made the dressing: a blend of avocados, olive oil, freshly toasted and ground cumin (this made all the difference!), lime juice, salt, pepper, and garlic. I reserved a non-garlicky portion of the dressing for myself (fun fact about Gena #1: I don’t like garlic!). It was totally delicious! I can’t wait to make this at home–the cumin gave the whole thing and incredible kick.

Then we tossed together our giant salad: watercress, romaine, radishes, jicama, and strawberries. Here’s our finished creation, pre-tossing:


And the proud chefs:


Sadly, I was on editorial deadline last night, so I had to duck out before all the food was finished and plated. I wish I could have observed how all of the dishes were made: I could smell them in various stages of prep, and I was very impressed! I was particularly intrigued by the polenta, which used carrot juice as its liquid.

Of course I also wish that I had gotten photos of all the intricate cookery. Here’s what I did get:

The Institute’s well-equipped kitchen:


Mary, taking charge of pan-seared plantains!


A close up of her work:


Here’s the polenta, in its orange splendor:


Ladies of Beam Green, wilting spinach:


More happy chefs:


And a group shot of Myra (in green) and the dinner team! I’m crouching in the first row:


Myra was kind enough to bring a handout with the evening’s recipes for all of her guests. Naturally, I have to share the amazing salad recipe with you:

Creamy Avocado Dressing (makes 1 cup; recipe (c) Myra Kornfield)

1 tsp whole cumin seeds
3 Tbsp fresh lime juice
3 Tbsp EVOO
1 ripe avocado
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ to ½ cup water (depends how thick you like it)
Black pepper

To make the dressing, dry toast the cumin seeds in a heavy bottomed skillet until fragrant. Grind into a powder using a spice grinder. Add the cumin, lime juice, oil, avocado, salt, mustard, garlic, and water and blend in a blender until very smooth. Sprinkle with pepper and season to taste.

Simple! Throw this over any salad, use as a dip, or serve it on the same salad we made, which was:

1 head romaine, chopped
1 head watercress, thick stems removed
3-4 radishes, sliced thin
1 cup jicama, cut into ½ thick cubes
1 cup strawberries, sliced thin

Enjoy it!

I was also so impressed by the polenta that I couldn’t help but share that recipe with you all, too. This would make for a wonderful weekend dinner alongside a fresh salad and another side dish.

Sweet and Spicy Polenta (serves 4-6; recipe (c) Myra Kornfield)


Chile Paste:

2 dried chipotle chilis
2 Tbsp EVOO
Pinch salt


2 cups carrot juice
2 ½ cups water
1 ½ cups polenta
2 Tbsp EVOO
1 tsp salt


Chile paste:

1)      Remove stems and seeds from chiles. Place in a small pot, cover with water, and bring liquid to boil. Turn of head and let chilis sit in the hot liquid for about 15 minutes until softened. Drain, reserving liquid.
2)      Place chilis in a blender along with ¼ cup soak liquid, olive oil, and salt. Puree till smooth.

Spicy Polenta:

1) Oil a 9×11 baking pan.
2) Whisk the carrot juice and water with the salt, cornmeal, and olive oil in a medium metal bowl. Take a 4 qt. saucepan and fill it two thirds with water; bring to a simmer. Cover the bowl with foil, set it over the water, and cook 30-40 minutes until the polenta is thick and stiff. (Alternatively, use a double boiler insert on top of a medium saucepan). Stir 3 or 4 times wihile the polenta cooks and add water as needed.
3) Pour polenta into the baking pan and smooth with a spatula. You have to do this quickly: polenta sets fast. Immediately spread a thin layer of the chili paste over it. Let sit at room temperature until cool, or refrigerate for ½ hour.
4) Cut polenta into desired shapes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and cook polenta until heated through. Sprinkle with parsley and enjoy!

Phew!! All of that typing reminds me of how complicated real cooking used to be! I’m always amused by the fact that people presume raw food is more time consuming than cooked; that has definitely not been my experience. I used to spend so much more time in the kitchen than I do now with uber-simple raw dinners.

But I realize, of course, that the labors of a cooked feast offer their own rewards: togetherness (if you’re cooking with family and friends), pride in one’s effort, and the joy of seeing a hot meal come together from scratch. All of the Beam Green ladies had a wonderful time last night in the kitchen with Myra, and I’m sure that the feast after was great. I’m so glad I had a chance to participate! A big thanks to Mary for organizing the event, and for seeing the tremendous value in helping women learn to prepare healthy food at home.

On that note, it’s un-cooking time! Have a wonderful raw Wednesday, friends. I’ve got to get working, but I’ll be checking in. See you later!!


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  1. Fun! I was looking at the pictures thinking, WOW that kitchen looks like school! Then I scrolled up and lo and behold! Im in the full time program at NGI right now, what a fun class! Love the blog. Glad I came across your site! 🙂 Take care!

  2. So! Yesterday I started off poorly, forgetting to eat breakfast and then only having time to gnash on some baby carrots for lunch (not nearly enough! not on purpose!)

    Then I thought, “Well, there goes my raw Wednesday,” because that night, I had to go to the League of Conservation Voters annual dinner. I thought there was no hope for having a raw or even mostly raw dinner at such an event, but what a welcome surprise it turned out to be!

    First they served plenty of fresh fruit (along with cheese and crackers, which I wouldn’t have eaten anyway). Then, they served fresh raw spinach soup, and a Portobello mushroom “steak.” It was lovely. The risotto served with the main course wasn’t raw, but the portobello was fabulous. Best of all, everything was organic and came from family farms using sustainable forms of energy. Yay!

  3. Breakfast: frozen bananas, spinach, soaked chia seeds, eggs, and cinnamon in the blender. Sooooooooo good!

  4. I almost forgot to post my raw adventures from yesterday!

    For lunch I had a locally grown spring mix salad with grated and sliced carrots, red bell pepper, tomatoes and a sliced apple on the side. I used a little homemade mix of EVOO and balsamic vinegar for dressing.

    Now that I think about it, the vinegar isn’t really raw, right?

    Snack: Raw Revolution bar in Coconut/Agave Nectar flavor

    It was a muggy day here in Little Rock, so these foods were so nice and refreshing!

    Pictures on my post here: http://www.cabinfeverfeast.com/cabin_fever_feast/2009/05/and-the-rain-keeps-falling.html

  5. 1st Raw Wednesday was awesome! I had a green smoothie to start out and fruit throughout the morning. I ate a few raw & cooked foods midday and had a lighter raw dinner: massaged kale salad with shredded carrot and daikon radish and 2 oz. raw goat feta. Simple and yummy!

  6. O.k. I know I mentioned this to you in my email, but today’s raw meal was a massaged kale salad from one of Kristen’s cookbooks. I was nervous about eating the kale raw, I thought it would be bitter and taste like grass….BUT I was pleasantly surprised! The avocado and lemon juice that I massaged into it softened it and the kale taste was mild, which I loved. I ended up eating almost the whole salad (a whole head of kale) throughout the day and loved how I felt.

    For my raw snack I adapted a recipe from the Thrive Guide to make Raw Mango Coconut Energy Bars. I substituted sprouted quinoa for the cooked quinoa and used raw macadamia nuts that I had ordered. They turned out delicious!

    I am loving this raw challenge and how it is keeping me motivated to try new recipes!!!

    • Abbie!!

      Isn’t it amazing how good raw kale can be?! And once you get used to the basic taste of it, you can eat it with less avocado and dressing: you’ll come to enjoy the slightly bitter flavor. But don’t feel pressure to, of course: kale + avos = bliss!

      Glad you’re having fun 🙂

  7. I was raw all day today and feel great!! No pictures I guess I should take some pics next Wednesday, or any day I go raw all day =)
    I had
    Raw smoothies (I need a juicer!!)
    mango, strawberry, banana, spinach and green powder I forget the brand i use

    Snack: apple and cutie

    salad: baby kale, tomato, avocado, carrots

    Snack: carrot sticks

    Dinner: zucchini pasta and tomato, and basil blended sauce

    my breakfast, snack and lunch tomorrow will be raw as well, dinner is not planned yet. LOVE RAW Wednesdays!

    • Amber,

      Holy moly, what an awesome raw day! I am extremely proud of you, and it all sounds totally delicious! Thanks for sharing your eats.


  8. I chose dinner as my raw meal today – it was 75% raw (and only because I was trying motivate my lovely fiance) I made raw tacos basically using Ani Phyo’s recipe, but only using walnuts (no almonds) They turned out great!! I need a food processor or a Vita Mix, so the consistency wasn’t as ground up as I would have liked, but the flavor was amazing. I made up some guac with a lovely ripe avocado, cilantro, lime juice & zest and a bit of onion and wrapped everything up in a great big organic lettuce leaf. I served the tacos with a spinach salad (with more yummy guac) and a bit of brown rice.

    I blogged and posted some pictures here: http://maintenancewithashley.blogspot.com/2009/05/amazing-motivation-and-raw-taco.html

    Thanks for the challenge – looking forward to more raw goodness in the weeks to come! And I’m looking forward to making your avocado dressing – sounds delightful!

    • These couldn’t look more delicious, dear Ashley: that’s a recipe I’ve wanted to try for a long time myself. Glad you enjoyed it!

  9. Hi Gena – I actually counted myself “in” for the raw challenge on Jenna’s blog – but I thought I’d post here, too, I really enjoy your blog. Today I had a raw breakfast smoothie with a mix of greens, pineapple, flax, and water, which was very refreshing. I also made a “trail mix” of two tbsp raw cashew pieces, one tbsp goji berries, and one tbsp coconut flakes for a snack. I don’t have any photos, but it was all satisfying and delicious.

    • Thank you SO much for visiting, Kristin! That sounds like a great day of eats. I’m about to break it to everyone that I left my camera connector chord at work, so I can’t post dinner, but I’ll have a recipe up first thing tomorrow! xo

  10. Hi lovely Gena!
    Look at all the fun foods people have been trying!
    Well I’ve had a busy day, so nothing too special from me, but I did whip up a new raw smoothie (check my blog, posted the recipe cuz it was so tasty!) so that still counts! Also snacked on raw veggies and fruit. This past summer I totally loved getting creative in the kitchen with recipes. Ani Pyho and Kristen Suzanne are 2 of my favorites but I like making up my own the most. It all started with a little raw spaghetti! But that’s the best part about raw foods isn’t it? It can be as easy as a smoothie or as complicated as raw lasangna!

  11. That looked like an awesome cooking class, Gena! I wish I was there!

    For my raw Wed. challenge I’m having a persian cucumber salad for dinner with fresh lemon juice, olive oil, mint, and dill (can’t wait!) and had a snack of carrots midday, but that doesn’t feel like a raw challenge food because I’d be eating it anyway 🙂

    I’m with RunToFInish on still trying to figure raw out. I really wanted to add quinoa to my cucumber salad but I don’t really know what sprouting is yet — that’ll be my homework for next Wednesday’s challenge.

    And I definitely think I have to go out and buy a handheld mixer or something. Any recommendations out there?

    • Hey Sharon,

      Sprouting quinoa is really easy. Soak it in a big mason jar or heavy duty container overnight. The next day, rinse it. Keep it in the jar, covered with cheesecloth. Rinse again in about 6 hours. Keep repeating until it’s growing little tails!

      Cooked quinoa, while not raw, is totally digestible, so it’s on my list of “go foods.”

      I don’t have a handheld recommendation! Sorry! I always use the big appliances.


  12. Gena, I live in NY, too (I’m in Dutchess County). I’ll have to check out the Institute. I’ve taken classes at the CIA, but this is more up my alley, especially these days. So, today’s raw eats – Started the day off with a pre-gym homemade Lara bar – dried dates and cherries with raw almonds and a healthy dose of cinnamon. Snack consisted of hummus made with sprouted chickpeas and raw peanut butter, instead of tahini. Love that! Dinner was a huge salad – not so much of a stretch for me. I used the sprouted hummus and raw cauliflower puree as part of my dressing. It also included baby greens, asparagus, mushrooms, tomatos, fennel, alfalfa sprouts (sprouted myself), some beet chips that I had going on the dehydrator all day today, and some other things scattered about my fridge. I think this evening’s snack with be some chia pudding or a green monster. Oh, and throughout day, my staple of carrots, carrots, and more carrots. Did I mention carrots? 🙂 – Nancy

  13. P.S. My 1st Raw Wednesday was pretty wimpy. I’ll post about it tomorrow. I’ll just leave it at I’m visiting my in-laws and didn’t have a lot to work with. I tried. Next week will be much better when I’m back at home in my own kitchen with my beloved Vita-Mix. 🙂

    • Hey darlin!

      The class was so fun! I wish I had been there the whole time!!

      Yes, I confess, I can’t do garlic or onions. Hate ’em! But I’m in the minority there.

      Don’t worry about a wimpy raw day. It ain’t easy to do without one’s home turf kitchen. But even if you’re just doing salads and fruit, that’s still great! Truth be told, that is my favorite way to go 🙂


  14. Gena,
    Just catching up…look how cute you are. Love seeing pictures of ya. 🙂

    What a fun night of cooking – so glad you got to participate. Your salad dressing sounded delicious, and what…no garlic?!? That’s okay, my husband doesn’t like it either. Unfortunately I eat it so much, that I sometimes sweat garlic. Not a good morning at hot yoga after going to town on roasted garlic cloves. Oops. 🙂

    I’m intrigued the polenta with carrot juice as well…so pretty. Thanks for including the recipe.

    Oh, and thanks for the shout out in your last post…I want a bowl of that avocado coconut soup. So green and creamy looking!

    Hope you’re having a good week.

  15. Ok Gina, I am trying to figure out this whole Raw thing still 🙂 I had a bowl of oats with nuts and dried fruit does that count as raw? I also had some veggies and hummus is that raw? Thanks!

    • Hi Bobbi,

      The oats are, of course, cooked (unless you soaked whole oat groats for several days and ground them). But the dried fruit and nuts (presuming you bought raw nuts) are raw!


  16. When I saw the creamy avocado dressing on your post this morning…I had to try it! I love avocado! So my raw meal today was a huge mixed greens salad w/turnips, sliced carrots, sliced strawberries, cucumbers, and creamy avocado dressing. I also had two organic carrots and a kiwi on the side! It was delicious! I loved the dressing…it tasted just as good as it looked. My raw snack today was frozen grapes – not too exciting, but I love ’em!

    Yea for raw Wednesday!

  17. Hey Gena, I had a smoothie topped with raw granola as my first raw meal of the challenge, and I made the holiday chia pudding I’ve seen featured on several blogs for my snack.
    I have another question for you. I was wondering if there is any advantage to eating the raw meal and snack together earlier in the day, and then having cooked foods later on. I know you’ve mentioned going from light to heavy throughout the day, and I was wondering if you recommend the same for going from raw to cooked throughout the day. Just curious. 🙂 Thanks!

    • Hey Laura,

      Definitely. Raw to cooked is the way to go, even within a meal (ie, salad before baked potato). Way to go on the raw day!!


  18. lunch: arugula salad with tomatoes, cucumbers, bell peppers, avocado, orange slices, carrots, walnuts and snap peas – very yummy and very filling since it was huge.

    snack: fruit salad with strawberries, pineapple, kiwi and mango.

    next week i’m hoping to be a bit more adventurous with my raw meal:)

    • That all sounds amazing! And don’t get stressed about being adventurous. As you can see, all of my fave eats are simple ones!

  19. snack: banana

    lunch: massaged kale (w/ green onions, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, radish, carrots, tomato, avocado and dried cranberries), mango

    the massaged kale tasted awesome! i loved the massaging…i couldn’t stop! it was a really interesting way to get hands-on and connect with the process of making food.

  20. What a fab event! All the fun is in NYC.

    I want me some Mango Mojo! 😀

    Raw, living foods – the fountain of youth. You and Cassie look like two 14-year-old girls.

  21. My raw meal today is spiced shredded beet & carrot salad for lunch but haven’t tried it yet. It’s marinating in the refrigerator 🙂 Love this challenge!

  22. I made a kale and spinach salad with lemon-garlic dressing and pine nuts for lunch. It was amazing! My best raw meal ever 🙂

  23. Thanks for sharing the recipes! That dressing sounds amazing. Any idea on how long it would keep in the fridge?

    I have my raw meals planned out for later today. 🙂

  24. That avocado dressing looks great – I’ll have to make that for my next raw Wednesday! I think tonihgt the boyfriend and I will be having big salads as our main raw meal, maybe with some mango and then an olive oil/lemon juice dressing.

    I look forward to whipping up some new raw food recipes, this weekend I’m going to plan in advance what I’ll have on Wednesday and am also thinking I’ll start incorporating smoothies into my diet. That Cinco de Mayo feast looks great!

  25. I started out the day, like I always do–with a raw green smoothie. Only it was orange today because I was out of greens. It had wheat grass, carrot, strawberry, and a few almonds.

    I’m going to have my raw zucchini salad that you showed in a previous post for lunch and my snacks will be fruits, veg, and possibly a piece of my sprouted dehydrator bread with raw almond butter.

    Have a great day!

  26. Hey Gena, what is EVOO on the ingredients list for the salad dressing? Just curious! Looks yummy, and I plan on trying it.


  27. Looks like you had a great time! 🙂 That food sounds amazing. I’m doing 100% raw today in honor of you, thanks for the inspiration!
    P.S. I am doing a small giveaway on my blog. Winner gets some vegan and raw goodies..check it out!

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