Where would vegan cuisine be without nuts? It would be less interesting, I'd say. We wouldn't have cashew cream (and all its uses), we wouldn't have almond and so many other nondairy milks, and we wouldn't have all those tacos, “meatballs” and other dishes made with ground walnuts instead of beef.
It would be a little protein-challenged, too. Vegetarians can get their protein fix from eggs and dairy, while vegans are looking primarily at beans, grains and nuts (all of which I love). Nuts play an even bigger role for raw-food vegans, who use them for no-bake pastry crusts and the like.
I eat much less dairy and fewer eggs than I did when I first became vegetarian four years ago, but I'm still not vegan – and I'm certainly no raw foodist. But I appreciate many of those recipes, especially in stifling summer heat, and one of my favorite sources is the charming Laura Miller, whose YouTube series “Raw. Vegan. Not Gross” frequently makes me laugh out loud.
In her cookbook of the same name (Flatiron Books, 2016), she offers a recipe for Spicy Mango Chile Wraps that represents everything I want to make and eat this time of year. The filling, based on the triple threat of cashews, walnuts and almond butter, gets its punch from a hefty dose of red pepper flakes and a sweet-and-sour seasoning of maple syrup, soy sauce, ginger and lemon. You dollop that into raw cabbage leaves (a new one on me, and one I'm likely to repeat), and in addition to silky mango slices, top it with slivered carrot, bell pepper and jicama for a sheer riot of crunch.
The next time anyone tells you that vegan food is boring, here is your answer.
Spicy Mango Chili Wraps
Adapted from “Raw. Vegan. Not Gross: All Vegan and Mostly Raw Recipes for People Who Love to Eat,” by Laura Miller (Flatiron Books, 2016). This recipe is highly adaptable; keep the filling as it is but add whatever crunchy seasonal vegetables appeal to you, such as snow peas and cucumber. Use apple or pear instead of jicama.
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup almond butter
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons peeled chopped fresh ginger root
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup raw, unsalted walnut halves
1 to 2 tablespoons crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/3 cups raw, unsalted cashews
1/2 head red cabbage, leaves separated
1 medium carrot, cut into thin matchsticks (julienne)
1 medium bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and cut into julienne
1/2 small jicama, peeled and cut into julienne
Flesh of 2 small mangoes, thinly sliced
Handful bean sprouts
Combine the sesame oil, maple syrup, salt, almond butter, soy sauce, ginger, lemon juice, walnuts and crushed red pepper flakes (to taste) in a food processor; puree until smooth. Add the cashews and pulse a few times, but try to keep those pieces chunky. The filling should have the consistency of very chunky nut butter.
Lay out each cabbage leaf on plates or a platter. Spoon a few tablespoons of the filling down the center of each one (more on the bigger ones and less on the smaller ones). Arrange the carrot, bell pepper, jicama, mango and some sprouts on top, and serve.
Per serving (based on 8): 330 calories, 9 g protein, 34 g carbohydrates, 20 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 270 mg sodium, 6 g dietary fiber, 20 g sugar
Yield: 6 to 8 servings