The Youngstown man is committed to spreading the word about the benefits of a raw-food diet.
By SARAH A. CART
Howard Fisher of Youngstown, this week's Good Cook, believes passionately in the way he prepares food. The results have as much -- if not more -- flavor, texture and ability to satisfy one's palate as anything prepared traditionally.
The catch? Fisher works with only raw ingredients, none of which is subjected to more than 105 degrees heat, because he believes it is easier for the body to metabolize and therefore more healthful.
He hasn't always lived this way. Born and reared in Brooklyn, N.Y., Fisher learned to cook at his mother's knee. "She and my grandmother would be working in the kitchen and wouldn't tell me anything, and if I asked any questions, they'd tell me, 'Just watch and you'll learn!' And so I did."
Fisher explained that he cooked gourmet meals throughout his adult life, "taking hours to make sure sauces were correct and the timing of a meat dish was to the second," and at one time even worked as a short-order cook.
Then in the late 1990s, having been diagnosed with adult onset diabetes and noticing that he could no longer tolerate the way eating meat was affecting him physically, he began to make some lifestyle changes and engaged in soul-searching conversations with friends.
Recommendation: One friend, whom Fisher respected deeply, advocated a radical transformation of Fisher's diet.
By December 1999, Fisher, who used to "drop by the Good Food Co-op on Pyatt Street for a healthy snack in the midst of all the fast-food meals" he was eating on a regular basis, determined that he was going to "go raw."
"That means I eat nothing that's been put together using heat [over 105 degrees] because heat kills things, and then there's no enzymatic action and you're feeding a living organism dead food," he explained, going on to point out that "No other species on earth chooses to eat that way" when left to its own devices.
Asked how he made the transition, he said simply, "I had always worked with foods, so all I had to do now was adjust and adapt dishes so that they provided the same sensory delights as cooked foods."
He read a lot, talked to friends and experimented; Nuts became a substitute for meats; sprouted nuts or sunflower seeds served as "cheese"; mushrooms soaked in soy sauce, honey and olive oil wilted and looked and tasted like they'd been saut & eacute;ed.
"I'm a very resourceful kind of guy," he stated as he explained how he developed a slew of "raw" dishes. He went on to note that when he moved to Youngstown six years ago in response to a long-standing invitation from his younger brother, he "arrived with only a pair of pants, a shirt, a jacket and a couple of bucks."
Now he works in advertising, using his paycheck to fund his efforts to spread the word about raw foods.
Nomination: Fisher's nomination as a Good Cook came from Bill and Marianne Whitehouse of Youngstown, who have known him for about a year and marvel at his passion for "eating raw." They commented in particular on the way he makes raw foods taste like gourmet fare.
Within six months of "going raw," Fisher's blood-sugar levels had returned to the healthy range. Also of note is the fact that Fisher now weighs 175 pounds; when he first "went raw," he weighed 315.
He is adamant as he notes, however, "I did not start eating raw foods to lose weight. That was a by-product! I was looking for a new way to consume food because I didn't like the way I felt after eating a meat meal."
And he is very careful to caution that those who decide to follow his example must do so at their own risk, advising only that "you do your homework and make sure that what you're eating isn't doing you harm. Staying raw isn't always easy."
But perhaps with the following recipes, one or two Vindicator readers will be willing to give it a taste test:
PROVERBIAL CUCUMBER (COOL)
1 English/gourmet cucumber
3 tablespoons chopped sweet onion
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
Juice of half a lime
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup cashew butter (available at health food stores)
2 teaspoons white miso (available at health food stores)
Cut the cucumber in half and scoop out the seeds. Save the seeds and the surrounding goo for the sauce. Slice the seeded cucumber into 1/4" slices. Place in a mixing bowl with the onion, dill, lime juice and salt. Mix and let sit a moment.
In the meantime, place the reserved seeds and goo in a food processor along with the cashew butter and miso. Process for about a minute, until seeds are liquefied. Pour this sauce over the slices of cucumber and refrigerate for at least an hour.
1/2 pound sun-dried tomatoes
3 teaspoons chopped garlic
3 teaspoons dried onion flakes
1 tablespoon dried basil
Salt to taste
At least a day ahead, place sun-dried tomatoes in a glass bowl and cover with water (preferably bottled pure water) at room temperature. Soak for approximately two hours, or until the tomatoes get soft.
Pour off the water completely. Add the garlic, onion, basil and salt and wait for a few minutes until the onion and basil reconstitute from the remaining moisture on the tomatoes. Toss, cover with olive oil, and let sit for at least a day. Refrigerate after first day of marinating.
HALIBUT SALAD (A MOCK SEAFOODCONCOCTION)
1 cup pine nuts
1 cup macadamia nuts
Water, preferably bottled pure water
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1/2 cup chopped purple onion
1 cup chopped celery
1/2 cup fresh parsley
2 tablespoons dulse flakes (available at the Good Food Co-op)
Sea salt to taste
Soak the pine and macadamia nuts in pure water for four to six hours. Drain the nuts and place in the bowl of a food processor fitted with its metal "S" blade. Process the nuts until they become pasty (stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl). Empty contents of processor bowl into another dish.
Cut the onions and celery into workable pieces for the processor and process until the pieces are small. By hand, blend the processed vegetables with the nut mixture and chill for an hour.
Serve with leaf wraps or chips.
'I CAN'T BELIEVE IT'S NOT COOKED' REDSAUCE
2 cups cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, reconstituted
6 medjool dates, pitted
1/4 ripe mango
1/4 cup cherries or strawberries
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon minced jalape & ntilde;o pepper
1 teaspoon minced ginger
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh basil leaves
Thyme, to taste
Rosemary, to taste
3 pitted black olives
In a blender, combine cherry tomatoes, reconstituted sun-dried tomatoes, dates, mango, cherries, onion, garlic, jalape & ntilde;o, ginger, olive oil, basil, thyme, rosemary and black olives, and process until smooth.
Use as you would any red sauce (but keep in mind that for Mr. Fisher, zucchini "pasta" provides the perfect canvas for this sauce).
2 cups macadamia nuts
1 cup oat flour
4 to 5 tablespoons maple syrup
Cinnamon to taste
11/2 cups dried cherries
Juice of 1 orange
1/8 teaspoon minced orange rind
1/2 cup organic medjool dates, pitted
3 tablespoons water, preferably bottled pure water
Reconstitute dried cherries by soaking them in orange juice with the minced orange rind. Soak the dates in three tablespoons pure water.
Chop nuts in food processor fitted with "S" blade until mealy. Add oat flour and incorporate with the nuts. Add cinnamon. While processing, slowly add the maple syrup to mixture until it holds together (you may not need to use all the syrup, so don't add it all at once).
When mixture holds together, take it out of the processor and shape into 1" rounds. Press your finger into each ball of dough to flatten it out and place it on a dehydrator sheet (or a regular baking sheet if you do not have a dehydrator).
Process soaked cherries and dates until smooth, adding some of the soaking liquid if necessary. Take this puree and place some of it into each fingerprinted cookie. Place sheets into dehydrator set at 105 degrees. Leave cookies in for several hours; serve warm from the dehydrator as a special treat.
No dehydrator? Put your oven on its lowest setting and leave the oven door ajar. The cookies will dry in approximately 15 to 20 minutes.
THE REAL DEAL HOMEMADE APPLE PIE
1 cup raw almonds
1 cup medjool dates, pitted
2 to 3 dehydrated apples (about 11/2 cups)
4 or 5 fresh apples for sauce, skinned and cored
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
3 medjool dates, pitted
To prepare crust, chop almonds fine in a food processor outfitted with a metal "S" blade. Add one cup of dates to process nuts and continue to process until mix is crumbly. Take out of processor and press evenly into glass pie shell; refrigerate.
To make filling, cut fresh apples into workable pieces for the food processor. Place them in the processor with three dates, cinnamon, vanilla, lemon juice and maple syrup. Process into a sauce, transfer to another glass plate and dehydrate for two hours at 105 degrees.
To assemble the pie, put a thin layer of sauce on the prepared crust, top with dehydrated apples, and add raisins, if desired. Spread remaining sauce on top of dehydrated fruit and place whole pie in dehydrator for up to eight hours.
No dehydrator? Put your oven on its lowest setting, leave the oven door ajar and place the pie inside it for several hours.