VARIETY FOR VEGANS

BUSHELS of fresh produce and jars of spices lay on a worktable in the open kitchen at Live Island Café here on a recent morning. While one member of the staff ground nuts in a high-speed blender, another turned zucchini into long spaghetti-like strands in a Spirooli, a spiral vegetable slicer. Platters of colorful vegan dishes were available for takeout, but there was not an oven or grill in sight.

Raising her voice above the clatter and whir of the blender, Okima Wilcox-Hitt, 45, of Huntington Station, who owns the store with Jean Weiss, explained that no actual cooking takes place at the eight-month-old shop, which prepares and sells raw vegan foods. In the raw vegan kitchen, nothing is heated beyond a certain point — 108 degrees, heated by a dehydrator, is widely considered the limit.

Raw foods sold at takeout shops like Live Island Café, Rising Tide Natural Market in Glen Cove and Juicy Naam in Sag Harbor and East Hampton are offering a greater variety for vegetarians these days, as well as an introduction to raw foods for novices.

Proponents of raw foods believe that consuming food in its natural, raw state preserves nutritional value that is often lost in the cooking process. So food preparation is limited to cutting, blending, soaking, marinating, fermenting, messaging, sprouting and dehydrating fruits, vegetables, herbs, spices, nuts, and seeds.

“Everybody’s saying we need more fruits and vegetables in our diets. So this is it. Think of us as a glorified salad bar,” Ms. Wilcox-Hitt said, even as she acknowledged that raw food preparation was far more complicated than just “putting out a bowl of crudités with ranch dip.”

Ms. Wilcox-Hitt said it had taken more than three months for Live Island to get approval to open from the Suffolk County Department of Health Services. Extra sinks and an additional refrigerator were installed at the county’s request, she said.

Food preparation rules are especially strict for raw food, Ms. Wilcox-Hitt said, because there is no cooking to kill any bacteria that might be present. (The deadly outbreaks of disease linked to contaminated sprouts in Europe last summer and, more recently, cantaloupe in the United States illustrate the potential dangers.)

“The biggest thing is no bare-hand contact,” Ms. Wilcox-Hitt said. “We also have to be very strict on time and temperature in the dehydrator. And knowing the source of our food is important.”

Giuliana Torre, 37, of East Hampton and Manhattan, opened the Juicy Naam as a seasonal juice bar and organic vegetable market in East Hampton in 2007. (Naam, Ms. Torre said, refers to “the vibration that created the universe.”)

The business has since expanded to include a year-round branch of the Juicy Naam in Sag Harbor (2009) as well as one that opened this year in the Hotel Wales in Manhattan.

The increasing popularity of the organic juice and raw foods at her three shops, Ms. Torre said, is a reflection of a cultural shift in health and dietary awareness.

“Raw definitely has its benefits,” Ms. Torre said. “It’s full of enzymes and nutrients. It resets your metabolism, it resets your taste buds and it cleans out your body of toxins. You notice a difference immediately.”

At the Juicy Naam, fresh-pressed organic juices are named after planets in a nod to Ms. Torre’s kabbalistic beliefs. She recommended the Moon Juice, a blend of kale, cucumber, parsley and pear juice, as well as Green Energy Soup, a blend of many dark, leafy greens, avocado, and herbs that is served cold.

At Rising Tide Natural Market in Glen Cove, Chris Califano, 52, a wellness, fitness and nutritional consultant at theBest Weigh Longevity Center in Glen Cove, supplies the store with raw vegan prepared foods to supplement its own takeout menu of salads and cooked food. “Chris changes his raw specials every week with different dishes and different spices,” said Lillian Potenza, 55, the manager at Rising Tide.

For newcomers to the raw vegan scene, Mr. Califano prepares what he calls “training wheel” foods, which mimic standard comfort foods like burgers and pasta. Referring to his spiralized zucchini “spaghetti,” tossed in a raw sauce of blended pine nuts and onions, he said, “Close your eyes and you think it’s pasta.”

Other transition foods include raw vegetarian patties, composed of shredded carrots, ground sesame seeds, parsley, celery, onion, red bell pepper, scallion and flax seed. The moist patty is then dehydrated in a machine designed for that purpose at 95 degrees for 12 hours, giving it the uniform consistency of a burger. Mr. Califano’s version of Cheddar cheese is a blend of almonds or pine nuts and red bell pepper, spiced in various ways, to achieve a cheeselike flavor and consistency.

Ms. Wilcox-Hitt of Live Island Café soaks and brines almonds, macadamias, cashews, pine nuts and Brazil nuts to make her “cheeses,” adding nutritional yeast, salt, lemon and, occasionally, probiotic powder with healthful bacteria to create a flavor more like that of aged cheese from the fermentation. The “cheese” tops a raw vegan pizza with a crust made of almond meal and flaxseed.

Ms. Wilcox-Hitt earned chef’s certificates from Raw Gourmets International in Chicago and the Living Foods Institute in Atlanta. She is offering classes in preparing raw foods, in the hope that more people will begin to incorporate them into their diets. “I love the whole wellness part of it,” she said. “You really feel like ‘I did something good for myself here.’ ”

A sampling of places that sell raw vegan foods:

LIVE ISLAND CAFé 201 East Main Street, Huntington; (631) 923-1831. Pizza slice, $8; tamales, $8 apiece; gazpacho, $5; macaroon, $2.

THE JUICY NAAM 51 Division Street, Sag Harbor; (631) 725-3030. 27 Race Lane, East Hampton (May through October); (631) 604-5091. thejuicynaam.com.

Fresh juices, $10 for 16 ounces; smoothies, $12 for 16 ounces; seaweed salad, $12.

RISING TIDE NATURAL MARKET 42 Forest Avenue, Glen Cove; (516) 676-7895. risingtidemarket.com.

Chris Califano delivers his raw food specialties on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. Dinner entrees available on Fridays after 3 p.m.

Creamy curried kale, $16.50 a pound; pâté, $13.99 a pound; Friday dinner entrees (like zucchini “pasta”), $14.99.

 

A version of this article appeared in print on October 9, 2011, on page LI11 of the New York edition with the headline: Variety for Vegans, Without the Hot Stove.

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