Dean and DeLuca
Dean and DeLuca

"Nude" Berry Tartlets and Why I Can't Be a Raw Foodie

by Susan Russo
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fruittartA rawist is a person who consumes primarily raw food, (or all raw food in some cases).

Now a rawist should not to be confused with a nudist. A nudist could be a rawist, but not necessarily so - it really just depends on what they eat. We actually have plenty of both here in California. As it turns out, however, I am neither.

Don't get me wrong, I like raw foods plenty - love peaches, kiwis, cucumbers, and tomatoes. But the thought of eating solely uncooked food seems, well, not fun. I cannot imagine life without grilled eggplant, roasted carrots, or, heaven forbid, stuffed artichokes.

A couple years ago when I was feeling particularly in touch with my natural-girl-self, I attended a talk in LA given by a rawist woman (wearing clothes) who made claims like, "Raw foods will cleanse your system!" "Raw foods make your skin glow!" and "Raw foods will make you healthy and improve your sex life!" I remember during the talk thinking, "Geeze, the only thing raw foods couldn't do is solve the Israeli - Palestinian conflict. Or could it?"

 

The main problem I had though was the stark contrast between what she was saying and the way she looked. She had a wan complexion, wispy hair, and a rail thin frame. As the lecture went on, all I could think was: "God, I wish I could just feed her.... What she needs is a big plate of gnocchi with some sausage and meatballs. You know, something that would stick to her ribs."

Needless to say, I never did hop on the raw food bandwagon. But, that doesn't mean I don't like raw dishes. For example, I was smitten with these raw blueberry tartlets at first sight. After all, honeyed dates, crunchy almonds, and juicy berries are all sublime in their raw, unadorned state.

Though I tweaked the recipe a little by adding mixed berries and more flavoring, I remained true to the raw deliciousness of the original. Plus, this is a no-bake dessert. I repeat, for all of you wilting in sweltering climates, this is a no-bake dessert. So make these on even the hottest, humid summer day, and still look cool and sophisticated when you serve them.

Oh, and I just can't call them "Raw" Berry Tartlets. It brings back too many frightening images. Let's call them "Nude" Berry Tartlets, shall we?

"Nude" Berry Tartlets
Serves 4

3 cups mixed fresh berries such as strawberries, raspberries, blackberries, and marionberries
4 teaspoons fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest plus extra julienned for garnish
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 teaspoons light brown sugar
Cooking spray
2/3 cup raw almonds
3/4 (packed) cup pitted dates, preferably Medjool
2-3 teaspoons water, or as needed

Combine first 6 ingredients in a bowl; cover and refrigerate.

Coat a mixing bowl with cooking spray. Pulse almonds in a food processor until they resemble breadcrumbs. Empty into the prepared bowl. Pulse dates with 2-3 teaspoons water in food processor until well chopped (they will be a little clumpy). Using your hands, mix with almonds to form a paste. (If it's too crumbly, just add a few more drops of water). Divide mixture evenly into 4 golf ball sized rounds. Place each ball between 2 pieces of wax paper and press to form a 4-inch crust. Using your fingertips, turn up edges to form a rim. Refrigerate for 2 hours (they will harden and become much easier to remove from the wax paper).

Allow the berries to come to room temperature before assembling the tartlets and serving. Use a spatula to transfer the date-nuts crusts to serving plates; fill each with 1/4 of the berries and drizzle with some leftover juices from the bowl. Top with julienned orange zest and a sprig of mint. 

 

Susan Russo is a free lance food writer in San Diego, California. She publishes stories, recipes, and photos on her cooking blog, <Food Blogga and is a regular contributor to NPR’s <Kitchen Window. She is also the author of  Recipes Every Man Should Know and The Encyclopedia of Sandwiches.

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