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April 2005
A Journey of Food
Cookbook Review by Chef Matteo


Recipe from Living Cuisine
by Renée Loux Underkoffler

Fresh coconut meat makes this flan more creamy, though dried coconut can be used if fresh is unavailable. Sweetened simply with dried mango. Serve solo or with sliced fresh mango or kiwi.

Mango Coconut Flan
1 C. Mango, dried, unsulphured
1 Vanilla Bean
1 1/2 C. Dried Coconut
1 C. Fresh Young Coconut Meat (if unavailable, use 1/2 C. additional dried mango, cut and soaked and 1/2 C. additional dried coconut)
1 T. non-alcohol Vanilla Extract

1. With a pair of kitchen scissors, cut the dried mango into pieces. Soak in one C. fresh water until soft (about 5-15 minutes). Retain the soak water.

2. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise with a small paring knife. With the edge of a knife or spoon, scrape out all of the tiny seeds. Set aside.

3. In a food processor or blender, grind dried coconut into a powder. Set aside.

4. Blend fresh coconut meat as smooth as possible and set aside.

5. Blend softened mango and soak water until smooth. Add ground fresh and dried coconut, vanilla extract, and vanilla bean and blend until smooth.

6. Divide into 2-4 parfait or wine glasses.

Yields 2-4 servings.

Living Cuisine: The Art and Spirit of Raw Foods by Renée Loux Underkoffler (New York: Avery, 2003). Forward by Woody Harrelson. $21.95 paperback. 497 pages.

With raw and living foods making their way into the mainstream, education seems more pertinent than ever. Only through educating yourself can you make the transition to a raw diet, healthy and delicious. It is difficult giving up those textures, tastes, and aromas that bring us back to our most memorable food experiences. How does one recreate the bold and subtle flavors in the kitchen with little or no heat? Fortunately, Renée Loux Underkoffler published her new book titled, Living Cuisine: The Art and Spirit of Raw Foods Cuisine. In this guide to eating and living a raw lifestyle, Renée lays the framework in an easy-to-follow fashion.

Renée believes in educating too. The first few chapters are devoted to just this. She provides a brief history of agriculture and the destructiveness of commercial farming upon our fertile lands. For making the healthy switch to this lifestyle, she makes 11 strong points. But what should be highlighted is Renée’s urging of a gradual transition, allowing yourself to adjust slowly and not shock your system. She suggests you start by adding more raw foods to your diet each day and become more involved with the preparation or even growing of your own food. Gradually, by adding more raw foods, you’ll achieve your personal goal. Some people cannot sustain themselves on a 100 percent raw diet and that is perfectly fine. Listening to our body and its needs is important too.

In the chapters preceding the recipes, Renée goes into detail about most fruits, vegetables, spices, herbs, sweeteners, oils, and condiments that you would find in your health food and gourmet markets. These explanations are priceless, especially for those with a limited food background. She even provides a list of essential equipment and preparation techniques to boot.

In some of her recipes, Renée uses low-heat cooking methods. A good example is the Golden Butternut Soup with Provencal Pesto. Renée calls for simmering the squash under a very low flame until it can be pierced with a fork. The final outcome of this soup is divine, especially with the herby and nutty pesto. Some purists might frown upon this soup, but the flavors are well developed and a good recipe for someone making their transition.

Everyone will love the rich, gorgeous Macadamia Nut Ricotta, which Renée suggests using as a creamy dip or layered in a terrine. And Renée’s Pizza Fresca with Red and White Sauce will bring back those comforting pizza memories from your childhood.

With spring and summer in the air, the Indonesian Vegetable Pad Thai in Coconut Sauce is the perfect dish. The fresh flavors of the noodles and vegetables are balanced with the silky texture of the tangy, ginger spiked coconut sauce. For those who like heat, feel free to add minced jalapeños or serrano chilies. Do not let the long list of ingredients fool you, this recipe is easy and you will be happy to have learned to prepare it.

For dessert, Renée offers numerous choices. One of the standouts is a Traditional Layered Carrot Cake with Lemon Cream Frosting. This cake is relatively easy to prepare and the results are not to be missed. The creamy lemon frosting has a sweet, citrusy zing that cuts through the richness of the cake. She combines two of my favorite flavors in another easy to prepare recipe. The Mango Coconut Flan is creamy and sweetened only with dried mango. It has a rich coconut taste with an underlying mango flavor that drives your taste buds wild. Try adding just a pinch of sea salt.

All in all, Living Cuisine is an indispensable reference tool that will assist you in your travels toward a healthy and holistic lifestyle. Choosing this way of life will not only benefit you, but also all of the planet’s creatures and the earth itself.

Chef Matteo is a long-time vegan who has worked in the health food and restaurant business for over a decade. Matteo currently works as a private chef, caterer, and hosts 4 Course Vegan, a weekly gourmet dinner party in NYC (see



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