Hot summer days don’t exactly make me want to turn on the stove — which makes July a great month to pick up a raw cookbook. And "Ani’s Raw Food Essentials" has it all, from international fare to comfort food to cake. That’s right — you can have your cake and eat it raw too!

Pancakes, biscuits, pizzas and crackers are just some of the comfort food faves you can make with Ani Phyo‘s latest cookbook — all without turning on the oven. There is one catch, however. While the delicious photos of Lemon Kream-Filled Crepes with Raspberry Sauce, Fried Onion and Mushroom Pizza, and Korean Dumplings got me seriously craving comfort food, flipping to the recipe pages led me to a sad discovery: For most raw comfort food dishes, dehydrators are de rigueur.

Now I eat about 50 percent raw most days, simply because I love fresh fruit, often enjoy a big green salad for lunch, and suffer from a minor addiction to Lara bars. But I’m not quite ready to invest in a dehydrator just yet, which really seems more for the hardcore, 80 to 100 percent raw foodies. If you, like me, are just dipping your toes into raw cooking and aren’t ready to invest in yet another single-function kitchen appliance right now, know that you won’t be able to make most of the bread-y recipes in "Ani’s Raw Food Essentials".

That said, this cookbook still has a lot to offer the non dehydrator. I think "Ani’s Raw Food Essentials"especially appeals to me because Ani and I have a couple things in common: We’re both Korean-Americans, and we both live in Los Angeles. That means Ani’s cookbook focuses on cuisines I already love! There are recipes for all sorts of Korean fermented foods I never learned to make — as well as recipes for raw versions of Mexican dishes like Tortilla Soup with Jalapeno-Lime Kream and Huevo-Less Rancheros with Red Enchilada Sauce and Pico de Gallo.

And unlike some raw foodies, Ani’s not about evangelizing an all raw diet. In fact, she emphasizes moderation and gratitude, writes that she sometimes enjoys a hot soup on cold days, and even puts a cooked-food icon on some recipes that could be easily incorporate some cooked ingredients (i.e. using a whole-grain tortilla instead of a dehydrated raw one).

"Ani’s Raw Food Essentials" is less about preaching a raw diet and more about seeking wellness and happiness, with encouragements to adopt a simpler, greener lifestyle. The introduction of course pushes organic, local produce — but also includes tips on green beauty products, notes on getting physically active, and even recipes for nontoxic cleaners.

raw quinoa tabbouleh

So after rather mournfully flipping away from the raw pancake recipes in my dehydrator-less kitchen, I tried my hand at making the Quinoa Tabbouleh for lunch yesterday — using organic red quinoa, which happened to be on sale at my local co-op. The verdict: I loved the dressing and fresh veggies, but I gotta say cooked quinoa tastes a lot better to me than the too-chewy sprouted quinoa — though I was pretty impressed with how quickly quinoa sprouted (about 8 hours).

Today I decided to cook the red quinoa instead, even though that recipe wasn’t marked with a cooked food icon. The result (below): A delicious and healthy lunch for a suddenly overcast day in Southern California. If you can’t see the difference between the two versions in the photos, you’re not alone — the main difference was in the taste.

quinoa tabbouleh

Next, I plan to try my hand at making kimchi — so I can finally avoid the icky-sounding “shrimp extract” always found in the kimchi sold at the Korean market. But before that, I’m going to tackle the Basic Flourless Cake — which doesn’t require a dehydrator and basically looks like a gigantic Lara bar…. "Ani’s Raw Food Essentials" is available in hardcover for $27.95.

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