What a total blast. The My New Roots Potluck Picnic in the Park was a major success, thanks to my beautiful (new) friends in Toronto!
First of all, who knew that there were so many amazingly talented whole-food cooks in this city? Lucky for me, I think they ALL showed up last Friday with their very best dishes. Secondly, who knew that all of those awesome people were also really, really nice, fun to hang out with and full of passion for all things healthy? I felt like I was truly reuniting with my tribe, y’know?
For the potluck picnic I wanted to make something very different for me, and introduce some special ingredients to the people I was going to be feeding. I chose a raw pad thai, because I love the cooked version so much but knew that a version was possible that made my body super happy. My thoughts immediately fell upon kelp noodles – the crunchy, refreshing, relatively neutral-tasting sea veggie ‘pasta’ that raw foodies love. I played around with them a bit at my old raw food restaurant, and I really appreciated their versatility.
Oodles of Noodles
Kelp noodles are a food made from kelp (a sea vegetable), sodium alginate (seaweed-derived salt), and water. They are gluten-free, fat-free, cholesterol-free, protein-free, sugar-free, very low in carbohydrates and calories, and raw (check the label to be sure). What why would anyone want to eat them then? Well, they are a really nice way to enjoy the texture of noodles without much of anything else. If you are looking for a noodle that will fill you up without filling you out, these are a great option. I like to combine them with tasty sauces and dressings because they act as a superb vehicle for big flavours.
The health benefits of kelp noodles have not been thoroughly studied, but we do know that because kelp is a good source of iodine, kelp noodles would contain this essential trace mineral. Iodine plays a key role in metabolism and is necessary for proper function of the thyroid. Other rich sources of iodine include sea vegetables such as wakame, arame, and hijiki.
The base for this salad is very simple, all it takes is a little time to slice and chop all the veggies. The best part is, once you have the vegetables prepared, the salad itself will keep for days if left undressed. If you know that you will have leftovers, serve just what you will be eating and dress the salad on individual plates.
The sauce is the real star of the show here. I soaked cashews overnight to soften them up, to improve their nutrition, and to increase their digestibility (you can read more about that here.) This creates the most luscious, creamy, rich-tasting base, which you can make any dressing from, without any dairy or eggs. I then added the traditional ginger, garlic, chili, lime juice and coriander seeds along with the not-so-traditional maple syrup and olive oil, for a spicy-sweet pad thai sauce sent straight from heaven. You could pour this over steamed rice and vegetables in the winter months, or thin it out to make a warm or cold soup. Whatever you decide to use the dressing for, you are in for a fabulous treat.
Raw Pad Thai-inspired Salad
1 package kelp noodles (12 oz./340 g)
½ head purple cabbage
1 bunch green onions
1 each red and yellow bell pepper
1 serving marinated mushrooms (see below)
a few handfuls mung bean sprouts
1 bunch cilantro (reserve a little for garnish)
Raw Pad Thai Sauce with a Twist (see below)
black sesame seeds (or almonds, pumpkin seeds, cashews etc.)
lime wedges for serving
1. Remove kelp noodles from package and rinse very well under cold running water. Set aside and let drain.
2. Prepare all the vegetables. Slice the cabbage as thinly as possible (a mandoline is helpful). Using a vegetable peeler, slice the carrots into ribbons. Julienne the zucchini, or use a mandoline or spiralizer to obtain long, noodle-like strips. Slice the bell peppers, green onions, and chop the cilantro, including the stems. Add the mung bean sprouts if desired. Add marinated mushrooms. Toss all together in a very large bowl.
3. Just before serving, pour the dressing over and fold to coat. Garnish with sesame seeds (or any nut/seed you like), extra cilantro and lime wedges.
1 lb/450g mushrooms of your choice (I used shiitake)
¼ cup/60ml tamari
2 Tbsp. maple syrup
2 Tbsp. cold-pressed olive oil
1. Whisk all liquid ingredients together in a large bowl.
1. Roughly chop mushrooms and add them to the marinade. Fold to coat. Let marinate for at least 4 hours, overnight is best. Stir occasionally while marinating.
Raw Pad Thai Sauce with a Twist
1 ½ cup cashews, soaked
1 inch ginger root, peeled
1 clove garlic
½ red chili pepper, seeds removed
1 Tbsp. maple syrup
1 ½ Tbsp. tamari
juice of 2 limes
1 tsp. ground turmeric
10 coriander seeds
1 Tbsp. cold-pressed olive oil
2 cups/500ml water (or as needed)
1. Soak cashews for at least 4 hours, overnight is best.
2. Drain and rinse cashews well. Place in a blender (Vitamix is best if you have one). Add all other ingredients and only 1 cup water. Add the remaining cup of water as needed until desired consistency is reached. The sauce should be thin enough to pour, but thick enough to coat the vegetables and kelp noodles. Season to taste. Store leftovers in the fridge.
As I was feasting on so many incredible delights at the picnic, I had a brainwave: what if everyone who attended sent me the recipe for the dish they brought, which I could compile into a little e-book for everyone to enjoy? Not a bad idea, eh?
So, if you joined us for the potluck picnic, please send me an email with your name and recipe, and I will publish them all in a format you can download from the blog. Hooray!
I really loved meeting you all and shooting the breeze over some very tasty treats. The power of community and shared passion really amazes me and I felt like I was sitting with a high-vibe army of totally tapped-in, tuned-in, turned-on friends that I had just met. Sheesh, life is so sweet.
Thanks to everyone who made the effort to come out and share your gorgeous food and gorgeous selves. My heart is bursting. And so is my belly.