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5 Ways to Eat Raw This Summer

Raw foods aren't as foreign as you might think.
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Vegan lunches can -- and should -- be a lot more interesting than bare salads or carrot sticks and hummus. New Veganism columnist Gena Hamshaw will be sharing inspiration for midday meals that stave off both hunger and boredom.

Today on Food52: Raw foods aren't as foreign as you might think -- here are five familiar techniques that will help incorporate raw food into your diet, plus a recipe from Gena's new book.

For many of us, the words “raw food” conjure up images of odd and exotic dishes, most of them doused in sprouts and seeds. While raw food (food that’s prepared without heating past 115° F) can be delightfully offbeat, it doesn’t have to be.

If you eat salads, slaws, gazpacho, or smoothies, then you're eating raw food already, and you know how delicious and refreshing it can be. Summer happens to be an ideal time to expand upon this familiar repertoire, and to get creative with raw produce.

I often say that I think about raw food more in terms of “techniques” than recipes. A few key approaches to preparing raw produce can yield a huge variety of meals -- here are five of the techniques that I can’t live without, all of which are perfect for lunch.

1. Slaws

Who doesn’t love a good slaw at a cookout or summer potluck? I like to use red or green cabbage as a base, but I’ve also used thinly shaved apple, carrots, and kale. For a creamy dressing, I like to use blended cashews or tahini. I also make slaws with a simple apple cider vinaigrette with a little maple syrup for sweetness.

More: Throw together a delicious slaw, without a recipe.

2. Chilled Soups

Gazpacho may be the most celebrated of summer soups, but my love affair with chilled soup doesn’t end there. Cucumber avocado soup (a simple mix of cucumber, avocado, scallions, and seasoning) is a favorite, as is a raw bisque made with carrot juice, avocado, and ginger. If you have your heart set on gazpacho, get creative by using different fruits (strawberry, watermelon, or even grape) and vegetables.

3. Salads

Salads are, of course, the quintessential raw food dish, and there’s no better time of year to liven up your salad routine than during these balmy summer months. To me, the keys to a good salad are 1) a stellar dressing, and 2) texture. I add all sorts of nuts and seeds to my salads for crunch, and I experiment constantly with new dressing ideas. A few of my recent favorites are a spicy cilantro vinaigrette, an almond butter and sun-dried tomato dressing, and a creamy maple-chipotle dressing.

More: Toss your greens in a Sesame Tahini Dressing.

4. Vegetable Noodles

As it turns out, it’s incredibly easy to slice certain vegetables (especially zucchini, beets, and carrots) into long, thin strands that resemble pasta -- pasta with just a little crunch. There are special tools that can do this for you, but you can also create vegetable noodles by using a vegetable peeler or a julienne peeler. I like to dress vegetable noodles as I would regular noodles: with some marinara sauce, or vegan pesto.

5. Vegetable Rice

Vegetable rice is made by chopping vegetables into pieces so small that they resemble grains of rice. You’ve probably seen it done with cauliflower or jicama; I also love to do it with carrots, parsnips, and broccoli. Vegetable rice is a fun, light alternative to a standard grain salad, and the possibilities for presentation are endless: You can mix it with vinaigrette and chopped vegetables, smother it in a rich sauce, or even stuff it into raw sheets of nori for a quick raw “sushi” roll.

Here’s an example of one of my favorite vegetable “rice” dishes, made with cauliflower. It’s a little sweet and a little savory, and it’s infused with Mediterranean flavors.

Serves 4

For the rice:

1 1⁄2 pounds (4 scant cups) cauliflower florets

1⁄2 cup pine nuts

1⁄4 teaspoon sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1⁄2 teaspoon ground cumin

1⁄4 cup chopped fresh dill (plus more for garnish)

1⁄4 cup dried currants

For the sauce:

1 large red bell pepper, cut into pieces

1⁄2 cup tahini

1⁄2 cup water

1⁄2 teaspoon sea salt

1⁄2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 pitted date

Photos by James Ransom

Gena's new book Choosing Raw: Making Raw Foods Part of the Way You Eat is a thorough, relatable guide to incorporating raw and vegan foods into any diet. It's full of no-fuss recipes for every meal, ranging from fully raw to mostly cooked, plus plenty of snacks and desserts to keep everyone happy.

This article originally appeared on 5 Ways to Eat Raw Food This Summer

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