In part one of this series, I discuss the reasons why you might try a raw food diet. I’m not a dietician or medical professional, so please consult with your doctors before considerably changing your eating habits or starting any new diets.
While there is a lot to be said for having a really good set of knives—a good-quality 3-4″ paring knife, a 8-10″ chef’s or santoku knife, and a 10″ serrated knife are three must-haves to get started— there are a few other tools that make raw meal prep an easier, more enjoyable process. You may even have a few of these gadgets in your home already.
Hand-held tools like a mandolin, spiral slicer, and julienne peeler are affordable investments if you’re starting to eat more veggies in your diet—raw or not. You can make zucchini “noodles” for a pasta dish, julienned carrots for lettuce wraps, and sliced vegetables for salads quick and easy with a few swipes. To expedite the process even more, invest in an automated spiral slicer or the food grater and spiral slicer attachments for a Kitchen-Aid stand mixer.
When in doubt, your regular ol’ kitchen peeler also works wonders for raw food prep. For a simple approach to zucchini, cucumber, carrot, or butternut squash “noodles”, start by just peeling the vegetable as you would normally. Don’t stop at removing the skin, though: keep going, peeling the entire vegetable, rotating the vegetable around until the vegetable to small to safely peel or until you reach the core of seeds (in the case of the zucchini or a cucumber.)
A blender and a food processor are two other essentials; your ticket to making creamy-tasting (but creamless) purees, fresh gazpachos, green smoothies, salsas, and more.
A typical kitchen will likely have one (or both) of these already. If that’s the case, start there before making any investments in anything more high-powered. A high-speed blender, like a Blendtec or Vitamix, will pulverize nuts to make raw cashew cheese—not that a regular blender can’t do this, if you really try, but it certainly speeds up the process and makes for a much smoother puree. It is definitely wonderful, but a nice-to-have if you are just starting off on a raw food diet, uncertain yet if it’s even for you in the long run and if you’ll use the blender on a regular basis.
Raw food chefs that have become apt at making foods like crackers good enough that you think they’re the real, baked variety, do so with either a dehydrator or an oven.
A dehydrator can vary in price and functionality, with good ones typically costing in the $200-300 range and cheap ones for as low as $50-100. If the temperature is controlled properly, an oven set at low heat for a short period of time may also work, but you have to be careful that the food doesn’t exceed the temperature for raw foods: 108 degrees Fahrenheit.
An oven with a good thermometer is a good starting point for anyone starting off before other investments in tools are made. There are plenty of tips and tricks to get around not using a dehydrator that are a quick Google search away, too.