One of the hardest parts of being a new vegan (or even an old seasoned vegan) is trying to keep up with all the new products out there. I must have spent over $50 looking for the "right" vegan cheese my first year being a vegan and I have over 50 vegan/vegetarian cookbooks in my arsenal but not all the recipes are the greatest. I’m the first born so I’m used to being a Guinea Pig and now I’m your Vegan Guinea Pig. So here are my recommendations and critiques. Let me know what you think!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Cookbook Review: Raw Food Real World by Matthew Kenney and Sarma Melngailis

I’ve been working my way through Raw Food Real World by Matthew Kenney and Sarma Melngailis for 3 years now and I have to say, although it’s a beautiful book it has led me to more frustration than any other book I own. Not because the recipes are ultra-difficult but because the authors LOVE to use fresh Thai coconut. This is very expensive, and took me weeks to learn how to open. After finally mastering the art of opening a Thai coconut, and buying a big fancy new clever to do so, the amount of meat than each coconut yielded was hardly enough to make ¼ of most recipes – hence this was a very expensive option. A lot of the most scrumptious looking recipes involve the use of the now dreaded Thai coconut. But I’ve been able to make some adjustments here and there by using canned coconut milk (I know it’s not raw but it’s better than spending hours cutting open coconuts).

I hate to be cliché by making a salad one of my favorite raw recipes from this book but I’m in love with their Greenmarket Salad with macadamia nuts and creamy citrus dressing. This is hands down the best salad I have ever had! With just greens, sprouts, nuts and radishes I found myself miserably full (in a good way) within minutes. Pages 173 through 175 of my copy of Raw Food Real World are stained with remnants of flax oil, fresh herbs and tomato seeds. These are, without a doubt, the most used pages in this book for me. The recipe within these pages is for Zucchini and Green Zebra Tomato Lasagne with basil-pistachio pesto, tomato sauce, and pignoli ricotta. This recipe takes days to put together (when you count the soaking time) and lots of man power but it is well worth it. Zucchini and Green Zebra Tomato Lasagne is as expensive to make as it is good. Just the 2 cups of pine nuts required to make the pignoli ricotta will break the bank. Still I love it, and have substituted cashews in the place of pine nuts when necessary to make the dish more economical. The Soft Corn Tortillas with spicy “beans”, avocado-corn guacamole and tomato-lime salsa looks amazing but unfortunately I’ve never had the pleasure of eating it in its entirety. It requires a dehydrator (another expensive gadget I do not possess) so I haven’t been able to make the soft corn tortillas yet. Instead I use red cabbage leaves or large collard green leaves as my taco shell and stuff it with the spicy beans made from soaked sunflower seeds, tomato sauce, tomato-lime salsa and avocado-corn guacamole.

Sarma makes the chocolate pudding look too good to pass up but unfortunately it requires 2 cups of the dreaded Thai coconut meat. So instead I made a few substitutions and ended up with a less raw but equally tasty version of the pudding that doesn’t require hours of back-breaking work. You can find the recipe here.

Lastly, I had to give props to the entire cocktails section of this book. I am not one to shy away from an adult beverage and every single one of the cocktails in Raw Food Real World is phenomenal (and I say this from experience with each and every one of them). Some honorable mentions are the Pure Mojito, Pink Spice Martini, and Pineapple Lemongrass-Tini. All in all my Top 5 recipes are:

Greenmarket Salad with macadamia nuts and creamy citrus dressing
Zucchini and Green Zebra Tomato Lasagne with basil-pistachio pesto, tomato sauce & pignoli ricotta
Soft Corn Tortillas with spicy “beans”, avocado-corn guacamole and tomato-lime salsa
The Entire Cocktails Section

Raw Food Real World is one of the most visually stunning cookbooks you will come across with pictures of nearly every recipe but, the price of beauty is steep at $37.50. It is an incredibly thorough introduction to the world of raw foods but for the price tag and the amount of money that you will have to spend on the food I’m not quite sure if it’s worth the price, no matter how great the food. If you happen to have a coupon to your favorite bookstore, or catch it on sale then I highly recommend picking it up. Otherwise, check your local public library.


  1. Yes, I have had the pleasure of viewing this raw cookbook. The food looks so delicious - I just wish more restaurants would prepare these types of foods.

  2. Hey have you tried using the strips of coconut flesh in the freezer section at the asian supermarket instead of the drama of opening a (yes delicious and amazing too) fresh one? I thought it a better option than the canned stuff.

  3. Thanks Queenmartine! I've never seen those before, I will definitely have to look for them. They would make life so much easier and make this book so much more enjoyable.

  4. lol, I got this book too and yes amazing food but Thai coconuts are rare as rare as 4 leaf clovers here in the UK. Im so glad you worked out a replacement for the pudding.

  5. Oh, Queenmartine - You are too wonderful for sharing that idea. Wow, thanks! Every single good raw cookbook uses so many infuriating thai coconuts, as if we all have a tree in the yard, and hours of free time to wrestle with them (Ani Phyo, for example, must be making some sort of commission on them).
    Love your fun review, vegan guinea.


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