During the summer I seem to instinctively switch to eating more raw foods. The notion of turning on my stove or oven when the mercury rises seems dreadful; meanwhile, my body craves the flavors and crispness of summer produce. Below is a fairly typical lunch: soup from Common Ground (the orzo florentine, one of Miette’s favorites), a simple salad comprised of organic lettuces from Blue Moon Farms, tomatoes, and I think those radishes may have come from Tiny Greens, served with balsamic dressing, a side of kalamata olives and Mediterranean flax crackers from Practically Raw, a new cookbook that has stolen my heart.

I’ve got a wealth of cookbooks. Seriously, before going veg, I had maybe 30 to 50 different cookbooks? Those have all been passed on to others, and somehow I’ve managed to accumulate nearly as many in the past year or two, but of the vegan persuasion. I have a gift for magically creating bookish clutter. (As a side note, I took the time to drop a couple of boxes of books off at Jane Addams this past week, as part of the pre-baby purge, and can’t wait until I have a few spare hours to linger and spend my store credit!) Before I lose my point entirely: I am well-acquainted with what does (and does not) make a good cookbook, and the “Almost Vegan” Amber Shea  knows her stuff. I would also like to state her background in linguistics has in no way served to influence my opinion completely endeared her to me. Her book is well-written, avoids all snootiness, and even has some cooked options for when you are short on time or lacking in the specialized equipment that the raw foods diet generally requires.

So far, I’ve tried the above mentioned crackers and they turned out delicious! Miette adores them, and has taken to referring to them as “pizza crackers,” which is a fairly apt description of what these addictive and healthy snacks taste like. Additionally, I gave the espresso reduction recipe a go (not raw) and the vanilla bean cashew creme, with the intention of serving both on top of berries. The reduction made my kitchen smell like how I imagine the Double R Diner in Twin Peaks smells: a warm and savory coffee scent mixing with the sweetness of maple syrup. Just dreamy! The cashew cream took as much time to make as a smoothie (not counting time spent soaking the cashews), and I’ll likely take to making a batch each week to have on hand, it really is that good. Did my berry parfait work out in the end? The answer is OH MY GOD YES!

So, yeah, don’t miss this lovely chef’s book. It boasts clear instructions, pictures galore, and no complicated equipment or culinary skills are required (unlike many of my other raw books, which have often left me with lackluster results and a wounded ego). And seeing as how the hottest months are nearly upon us, this is the perfect time to incorporate more raw foods, for, you know, practical reasons (so sorry, I couldn’t resist).