Monday, May 19, 2008

raw lasagna stacks

About three years ago, I became intrigued by the raw food movement when I found Raw Food Real World, the companion cookbook to the Gramercy Park restaurant here in New York, Pure Food and Wine. In addition to being a manifesto on how to live raw, the book was also the culinary love story of the restaurant's proprietors and former lovers, Sarma Melngailis and Matthew Kenney. Much like the ephemerality of the raw food movement (which retained popularity for about a year or two, due in large part to Sex and the City), Sarma and Matthew's romance came to a violent and turbulent end, leaving Sarma with the restaurant and a raw food empire to manage on her own.

The recipes in the cookbook are extremely complicated and expensive, but the one to which I have remained faithful is the recipe for Raw Lasagna. There is nothing as delicious as a slice of this raw lasagna on a hot summer evening with a glass of cold, mineral, white wine. Last night I found my roommate's copy of Raw Food Real World, which inspired me to re-create a fast, easy version of Pure Food and Wine's raw lasagna, which I will call a "Raw Lasagna Stack". For the original recipe, take a look at the cookbook, or better yet, go to the restaurant (or takeaway bar around the corner).

What makes this recipe so delicious is the pesto. There are two pestos in my recipe, based off of RFRW's pestos. The basil pesto is a traditional pesto, and the sundried tomato pesto-caponata is simply divine. The pestos are extremely versatile, which make the extra expense for specialty ingredients worth every penny. Be sure to make lots of both pestos and eat them with anything, even just a spoon.


Serves 2 as an appetizer or main course

1 large beefsteak (or heirloom) tomato
1 yellow pepper
1 green zucchini

For the Sundried Tomato Pesto-Caponata:

2 cups Sundried Tomatoes
3/4 cup Fresh tomato
1/2 cup Olive Oil
Juice of 1 small Lemon
1 Tbsp Honey or Agave Syrup*
Salt and Pepper

For the Basil Pesto:

1 cup packed fresh Basil, rinsed and dried
1/4 cup pignoli (pine) nuts*
1/2 cup Olive Oil
Splash of White Wine
Salt and Pepper

*Walnuts can work too if you prefer a creamier pesto

Sundried Tomato Pesto-Caponata: Bring three cups of water to a boil. Place sundried tomatoes in large bowl, pour water over, and let soak while you prepare the other components of the meal, about 20-30mins. Combine all ingredients in a small food processor until mixture is chunky, adding additional oil or lemon juice as necessary.

Basil Pesto: Combine all ingredients in a small food processor until smooth. Add additional oil as necessary for desired consistency.

Cut tomato in 1/2cm- 1cm slices horizontally across the tomato to create large, round pieces. Set aside. Cut large, thin "shavings" from the pepper, from top to bottom. Try to make shavings as flat as possible. Set aside. Cut the zucchini on the bias (on an angle) to make thin, oval slices that are about the same length as the tomato circumference. Set aside.

To assemble layers, place one tomato slice on a plate, spread pesto on top. Arrange zucchini in a layer on top of pesto. Spread a layer of sundried tomato pesto-caponota. Arrange pepper in a layer on top of sundried tomatoes, and spread a layer of pesto. Repeat, keeping or changing order as desired.

Serve with unorthodox, un-raw shavings of parmesan cheese, as well as basil leaves for garnish. Stacks can be kept overnight or for a few days in refrigerator. Enjoy all summer long.