Sweet and simple
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The Book: Ani’s Raw Food Desserts by Ani Phyo (DaCapo Press, 2009)
Review by A-K Thordin
Overall feeling: Ani Phyo has made a name for herself both in and out of the raw food world by offering simple, uncomplicated recipes that often require little more than a knife or food processor. Being a fan of her first book, Ani’s Raw Food Kitchen, I was excited to see her approach translated to my own personal raw food weakness: dessert! Her latest book is a slim, portable volume that nevertheless holds 85 recipes for “Easy, Delectable Sweets and Treats” as well as tips on green living, health and beauty. With everything from raw takes on traditional favorites like Tiramisu to more “adventurous” fare like the Hemp Goji Acai Bowl, almost entirely without the need for a dehydrator or high-speed blender, this is the busy or new-to-raw person’s raw dessert book. Included in the introductory sections are ingredient descriptions and benefits, and a basic kitchen equipment overview with recommendations. There are lots of photographs (and for those of you who have her first book, they’re almost entirely of ingredients or dishes rather than the author) in an easy-to-read, though rather feminine, design approach. Divided into categories like frozen treats, cakes, chocolate, crisps, puddings, cookies, sauces, and wine/champagne desserts, you’re sure to find a lot of tempting choices in this book.
Best bits: Like the cover promises, the recipes are simple and easy to make; some taking little more than a few minutes. Each recipe has icons under the title which refer to the equipment required or recommended for particular recipes, so you don’t have to read through the whole recipe in order to find out if you can make it in your own kitchen. The book does a great job of making readers feel good about the food we’re about to indulge in by discussing nutrients, minerals, and other benefits in the ingredients, most of them with an enticing introduction on the yummy factor as well. And while most of the recipes do require little more than a knife and/or food processor, there are still a few recipes that make use of dehydrators or high-speed blenders for those who have them. The recipes are flexible and can be tweaked easily to suit personal tastes as you work, an added bonus of their simplicity being that you can usually know almost immediately what the final product will taste like before you start shaping cookies or plating a carob avocado pudding. Some of my personal favorites include the Peach and Pistachio Cobbler, Carob Walnut Cookies, Breakfast Toast (turned into raw PB & J - photo above), and Lemon Fig Cookies, though I’m also excited to try the Raspberry Ganache Fudge Cake, Pineapple Icebox Dessert, and the Mayan Crunch Truffle Balls.
Less-wonderful bits: One thing you will notice right from the start, if you have a copy of Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, is that both books have the same size and page design layout, right down to color and arch of the recipe titles, and differ primarily by the background patterns and cover design. The photographs, while useful, are overall rather mediocre considering the author’s stature and the extreme potential for drool-factor with these recipes – most of them end up a bit flat, with less-than-ideal lighting, and even messy displays of the food. As with many raw food books, nuts and superfoods or exotic ingredients like goji berries or yacon syrup may be cost-prohibitive or difficult to find locally for many, although Ani suggests using dehydrated vegetable pulp in place of nuts for those with nut allergies (and perhaps those with less-full wallets). The emphasis on anti-aging/anti-wrinkles may not be useful for many readers, and occasionally succumbs to the often-seen raw food preoccupation with youth, and beauty. Lastly, although simplicity is usually a great selling point, a few of the recipes are so simple that they almost don’t qualify as recipes: the Fleur de Sel Kissed Watermelon, for example, is simply watermelon with sea salt. Still, these kinds of recipes may be nice inspiration for times when you’re out of other ingredients or short on cash.
Whole foods focus?: Definitely.
Web presence?: Indeed.