Smile Politely

Going raw for Thanksgiving

I want to like raw food, but as with many trends originating from California, I find myself suspicious. If cooking food was bad for us, wouldn’t we have died out as a species long ago? There’s also research to show that the nutrients in some foods are more available to the body if the foods are cooked. Certainly carrots don’t pose as big a kick to the pancreas if they are lightly steamed. Then there’s the simple fact that, after spending hours outside in the cold and damp, I want nothing more than to wrap my hands around a cup or bowl of something hot, not a merely a warm 115 degrees.

However, I am rarely willing to write anything off completely. So over the weekend, when I found myself in the newest location of my old coop in St. Paul, Minn. I couldn’t help but order the raw squash dish from the deli.

For decades, Mississippi Market has produced some of the healthiest and tastiest food in the Twin Cities, as well as some of the most decadent. My colleague and I frequently celebrated closing issues of our magazine with the deli’s hazelnut torte in the early 1990s. Given this and the fact that the members of the Mississippi Market coop experience more cold than most people in the U.S., I figured if some place could produce a raw food dish that wouldn’t leave one cold, this would be the place.

The key to this dish is to use very fresh butternut squash. Older squash will be tougher and hard to shred. A mandolin is one of the best tools for accomplishing this. You can get an inexpensive Benriner mandolin at AM-KO or Green Onion for $15 to $18. Like many raw dishes, this one features nuts prominently, since grains like rice aren’t found in a raw food diet. If you are looking for something interesting to serve to your vegetarian and vegan friends at Thanksgiving, this dish is both easy and tasty. It also goes well with turkey for the omnivores at the table.

Raw Squash with Pecan “Rice” and Cranberries

Per person

  • 1/3 c butternut squash, peeled, seeded, julienned or shredded into 1/8″ x 2″ strips
  • ¼ c chopped pecans
  • 1 T minced onion
  • 1 T dried cranberries, reconstituted
  • 1 t minced cilantro
  • Dash of ground coriander
  • Dash of ground cumin
  • Dash of Kosher salt

Soak cranberries in room temperature water for three hours or overnight. Chop pecans if not already chopped. Peel squash with a large chef knife, a vegetable peeler is underpowered for this job. Mince onion and cilantro. Drain cranberries. Combine all nuts and produce. Add spice and salt to taste.

Note: If the onions you have are strong, you may want to soak them in some room temperature water for a few hours, as well, to tame them.

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