California Rolls from Be Raw Food & Juice (Photo by Kelsi Klembara, courtesy of Caviar.)

Eat this Now: Finding Spring in the California Rolls at Be Raw Food & Juice

Hint: it's all about the asparagus.

For a number of years, Be Raw Food and Juice, a tiny place tucked in Preston Center, has quietly been serving a menu of exclusively raw, vegan food.

There’s a Pad thai of spiralized zucchini noodles in almond sauce that’s fresh (though without fish sauce, nowhere near as complex as Pad Thai in flavor); coconut curry soup that’s thick and creamy from blended young coconut; raw lasagna with stacked tomatoes, zucchini, pistachio pesto, and pine-nut cheese; pizzas with crackling, cracker-like seed crusts. These all use tried-and-true techniques of the raw-food lexicon.

One of the more creative transformations appears in the coconut-kale enchiladas, a chiffonade of marinated raw kale enveloped in a paper-thin, crisp, slightly sweet coconut wrapper (that’s the tortilla), with swishes of velvety cashew cream whose lemony tang mimics sour cream. Nutritional yeast provides cheesy nuttiness. Is it like an enchilada? Of course not. It’s a different kind of creative genius. And part of the pleasure is admiring the transformation.

But what I keep thinking of now—right now—is the California rolls, because it’s March, asparagus are on my mind, and they’re the secret ingredient here. (We’re not used to eating asparagus raw, but it’s delicious, shaved into a salad with radishes and Parmesan or feta.)

The rolls come in a double wrapper: first a tender spinach leaf, then the customary nori. Sunflower seeds create a nutty, textured substitute for rice. And inside the roll, raw asparagus spears join cucumber, avocado, red bell pepper, and thin slivers of shiitake mushroom. They add a wonderful, unexpected green note. the whole thing is shot through with the wild, fresh flavor of Spring.

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