Raw & Cooked: Flexibility and Varied Nutrition

Two of the things I attempted to get across in last Thursday evening’s raw vegan debate were that:

  1. We can eat anything and everything the raw vegan can eat, plus high density nutrition from animal sources.
  2. We can take advantage of the nutritional advantages of raw foods from plants & animals, but also the nutritional advantages of cooked foods, as cooking often increases bioavailability for some nutrients.

So here’s last night’s meal to illustrate. We began with some sushi; a piece each of maguro (tuna), sake (salmon) and hamachi (yellowtail). That went along with a dollop of cooked white rice for each. Click images for the high-res versions.


For the main course I had been thinking of a way to enjoy something along the lines of one of my favorites of all time — a French dip sandwich — without resorting to baking some sort of “bread” with the various things many folks use such as coconut flour and almond meal.

There are a couple of ways to prepare a French dip sandwich in terms of the meat. One way is to have nice, pink, medium rare slices that are then dipped into the beef broth. The other way, my preferred way, is to use as little broth as possible and then simmer the meat in the broth. Yes, this gets the meat well done, but it’s infused with more intense flavor and as well, the broth is concentrated & beefy. I also had some chopped onion in there. When done, I strained the meat and chopped it up with some raw fresh spinach leaves and then used raw & fresh butter lettuce as the delivery device.


Some raw green onions and a snappy Nathan’s dill pickle rounded things out. And of course, you lose some of the beef and the green onions into the broth in the process of dipping, but not to worry: you then have a wonderfully tasting and nutritious chunky soup to drink down when done.

I won’t bother to do a nutritional profile on all the above, but you intuitively know it’s a powerhouse that no strictly raw plant meal can touch, especially in terms of weight and bulk.

Just food for thought.

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  1. Suze on April 20, 2011 at 15:21

    I am just about to start living the paleo lifestyle, it’s so helpful to see meal ideas like this online :) the sushi is a great idea, but I’ve never heard of a French dip sandwich: probably a good thing from your comments, I’d miss it too much! I noticed someone put that we can’t eat brown rice? I thought it contained more nutrients than white? Surely that’s a good thing?

    • Richard Nikoley on April 20, 2011 at 15:41


      Brown rice has high levels of phytic acid and other anti nutrients. Phytic acid in particular inhibits mineral absorption, not only for the rice but for whatever else you’re eating.

  2. Kent Cowgill on April 20, 2011 at 08:13

    Mmmm, delicious.

    Did you prepare the sashimi yourself?

    Did you cook the roast yourself as well, or did you just use deli meat?

    • Richard Nikoley on April 20, 2011 at 10:49


      No, the sushi was takeout from a local place. Sushi or sashimi is one of those things I’ve never tried to do myself, with the exception of ikura (salmon roe). In addition to making it the classic way, I also have this:


      As for roast, I always have that around to work with. Just baked another one last night, in fact. The key to slicing very thin is first, a chilled roast and second, a high end, very sharp Japanese carving knife.

  3. Sean on April 20, 2011 at 08:24

    Richard that sushi shot looks pretty professional. You aren’t going all metrosexual on us are you?

    I could eat sushi every day for the rest of my life. Alas, Central Europe is not exactly the place to get it.

    • Jenn on April 20, 2011 at 08:43

      No way, one of the best things about Nikoley is that he shows that fancy cooking and photography skills can come in a manly package!

      Also, my favorite version of the French dip sandwich is to just pick up chunks of beef on a fork and dunk them in drippings before eating. Wet bread is not delicious.

      • Richard Nikoley on April 20, 2011 at 09:30

        Of course, a properly done FD sandwich always includes grilling the bread with butter, so as to retain a crunch when dipped in the broth.

  4. Alex Good on April 20, 2011 at 10:30

    Hmm. I thought rice was on the list of unhealthy foods.

    • ASmitty on April 20, 2011 at 10:45

      Only in the world of quick and dirty paleo orthodoxy; Richard has mentioned many times that he consumes white rice on occassion. Mark Sisson also made a post on the relatively benign nature of white rice a short while back.

      The reason avoid grains in general is the fact that they are packed with nutrient leeching and gut damaging compounds. In the case of rice, however, the majority of these compounds are present in the bran, which is removed upon refining, while the rest is done away with during boiling. This makes rice a benign, but not particularly nutritious, starch.

      It’s easier to just tell people “don’t eat grains” than to explain why most grains are bad and why white rice avoids those issues. The latter, of course, is more technically correct. The Jaminet’s for example, state flatly that cereal grains should be avoided…except for white rice, which is safe in moderation for people with non-deranged metabolisms.

      Consuming white rice sticks with the spirit of paleo “law” but not the letter.

    • Richard Nikoley on April 20, 2011 at 11:57

      Not in my book, Alex. According to FitDay, I piece of sushi has 7.8g of carbs, and that’s basically starch (glucose), no fructose. And as commenter ASMitty explains, there’s none of the other downsides of grains, just make sure to use white, not brown.

      Of course, a potato is a more nutritious option but for me, I’m very glad I allowed myself to use rice from time to time rather than worry about substitutes — though the grated cauliflower is a great sub in its own right, especially if you stir fry in a bit of coconut oil.

    • rob on April 20, 2011 at 12:53

      Sometimes you have to live a little or you wind up like poor J. Alfred

      “Do I dare to eat a peach?”

  5. james on April 20, 2011 at 10:43

    Not to be too repetitive but man that sushi is great. Avoiding the trappings of “aesthetics=gay”. I learned, thanks to Anthony Bourdain, how important aesthetics are in Japanese culture and philosophy. Half of a sushi dish is presentation, since in terms of the actual cooking it’s quite simple. I’m pretty clumsy with a knife and I’m usually hungry as balls when I make food so my sushi is basically just non-uniform slabs of fish I pile on my plate. Kudos rich! not bad for a westerner.

    Those french dips are missing one key ingredient.. some nice melty provolone.

    • Richard Nikoley on April 20, 2011 at 11:59

      I’m not a fan of cheese on a French dip. On the other hand…a Philly cheesesteak sandwich…hmmm.

    • Leah on April 20, 2011 at 16:31

      I like it w/ gruyere…but I do miss my baguettes. I find that you can’t get a decent baguette in the states, though, so it’s not such a sacrifice ;) When I make it back to France, I think I may risk the gastrointestinal distress for one visit to the patisserie.

      • Richard Nikoley on April 20, 2011 at 16:43

        Only one place around here has a true French baguette and that’s Acme Bakery. WF and some other high end markets carry.

        Every now and then. My favorite is jambon burre.

  6. lauriegillies on April 20, 2011 at 11:02

    I just can’t do it guys…..French Dip without the bread???

    And well done meat at that??? The meat changes flavor to something I just don’t like when it is overdone……

    I could do this Paleo thing though, if I had someone like Richard cooking for me, but as it stands now I can’t stand to eat, eat, and eat the Paleo things I am able to cook…..

    I break down, all the time over bread and sandwiches, not because they taste so great (which they do), but because it’s so easy……


    • Richard Nikoley on April 20, 2011 at 12:05

      “And well done meat at that??? The meat changes flavor to something I just don’t like when it is overdone……”

      It’s quite different when done as I explained. Let me ask you. Do you ever make soup with beef in it?

      Frankly, I have run out of patience with the rare meat police, and that includes my own mom. There are different applications. I eat carpaccio and tartare, and that’s as rare as you can get. But it’s not going to work for something that is essentially intended to dip into the meat’s own juices. It’s the whole point of it. If you want a rare French dip then the tradeoff id that you do not get the meat’s own juices, but basically the equivalent of a bullion cube dissolved in hot water. Yum.

    • james on April 20, 2011 at 19:04

      not even pulled pork or chicken dripping with SBR’s BBQ sauce?

  7. Lute Nikoley on April 20, 2011 at 12:59

    We often have pot roast cooked in the crock pot all day, and it’s always med. well to well done, falling apart when you pick up a chunk. it’s very delicious, done with potatoes, onions, celery and carrots. Plus other secret ingredients.

    French dip? Used to be one of my favorite sandwiches. If i’m going to have one, i’m going to do it on a cheat day and have it with bread.

  8. Asclepius on April 20, 2011 at 14:41

    Two points well made! That whole ‘raw’ deal seems to rub against much of the anthropological evidence. “Catching Fire” would have been a VERY different book if cooking had not been so pivotal in our evolution.

    A paradigm shift for me in going paleo was the ability to ‘fast’. Seriously, I used to get hunger shakes if I went more than four or five hours without food. I’d awaken ravenous. Now I can go in to the gym after a 24hr fast and tear it up. From an evolutionary perspective, that makes me feel very happy about the state of my metabolism and health in general.

    I found a link on Fruit-Douche’s blog to “veganstrength”. Now sure the guys shown on the veganstrength site are big, but in terms of what they endorse we should eat, there looks to be very little that is not highly processed. The site contains this little gem “Getting an available source of B12 is a particular concern because the vitamin is not reliably available from any plant source”.

    You have to ask yourself what would you rather eat, sushi followed by a French dip sandwich, or something from this tasty menu?


    I know which I’d rather eat! Real food wins hands down.

  9. Trish on April 20, 2011 at 16:42

    (dons English major cap)

    Richard, Richard, Richard. You’re one of the last people on the planet from whom I would expect such, but you have fallen into the Internet-guided pitfall of using the word “loose” when you meant “lose.” AUUUUUUUUUUUUGGGH STOP IT STOP IT STOP IT


    The French dip thing looks good though.

    (nods, bows, replaces hat, leaves)

    • Richard Nikoley on April 20, 2011 at 16:45

      That one has plagued me all my life. It’s like an instinct. I usually catch it, but not always.

    • Richard Nikoley on April 20, 2011 at 16:49

      I suppose I should not write in a such a lose fashion, and I need to loose the instinct. :)

      • Trish on April 20, 2011 at 17:49



        My goal in life is to be the One Who Can Always Correctly Spell and Punctuate in the Language of English, and indeed I am getting there slowly but surely.

      • Richard Nikoley on April 20, 2011 at 18:20

        Ok, Trish, I get and accept your criticism. How much do you actually blog? How much writing do you actually produce, day in, day out?

        Just asking.

      • Bill Strahan on April 20, 2011 at 20:27

        You shall henceforth be known as the female version of…



      • james on April 21, 2011 at 22:18

        correct your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of the pragmatists

      • Twatalus Jones on April 20, 2011 at 22:00

        Trish, you left out a few commas in your sentence. Just sayin….

      • TJ on April 21, 2011 at 01:02

        OMFG, there should be a comma after “OMFG.”

      • Richard Nikoley on April 21, 2011 at 01:49

        Belly laugh.

  10. christina_aurelius on April 21, 2011 at 08:50

    I avoid white rice even though, apparently, it isn’t that much of an enemy. I feel sluggish and bloated after rice in general. Anyone else feel that way? Maybe I am eating too much rice at one sitting? I am a bit of a Carb Queen so it’s possible that I’m just overeating it when I have a chance.

    I haven’t mustered the courage to eat sushi. I have had the vegan and vegetarian versions tons of time but I have yet to eat the, *GULP* raw fish. My sister loves it and swears it’s awesome but I just can’t do it….YET. I’m getting pretty bold in my old age. Maybe I will have to try real sushi this weekend!

    • Richard Nikoley on April 21, 2011 at 08:58

      Start with maguro, tuna, then try toro, which is also tuna but the fatty belly meat. Another way is get to where you like seared ahi tuna. The inside part is totally raw. Proceed from there. I’ve rated sushi of all sorts regularly since 1982. When I lived in Japan 84-89, it was a couple of times per week, usually.

      • christina_aurelius on April 21, 2011 at 11:03

        My sister swears by raw tuna, she loves it. In addition, a close friend of mine says raw tuna is the best. I have tried to become more of a fan of seafood in general but so far it isn’t really working. I have been told the flavor of tuna (sashimi style?) is mild and does not taste or smell like cat food (which is what I equate the smell of canned or cooked tuna to.) I will take your advice and try it this weekend. I shall report back after!

      • ASmitty on April 21, 2011 at 11:54

        Raw seafood, in my experience, really tastes nothing like cooked seafood. Personally, I absolutely adore sushi, but don’t care for cooked fish at all.

        Generally speaking, I think cooking fish makes it taste more…fishy. Eating it raw is a whole different texture and flavor profile.

        Also, sushi-grade fish doesn’t have any sort of odor. In fact, no raw fish should have a particularly strong odor.

      • christina_aurelius on April 21, 2011 at 14:37

        This is good to know. I find the “fishy” smell to be a total gross out. After working for years with cats in animal shelters, fish smells like wet cat food to me. BLECH! I am going to try some tuna at a high-end sushi place and see how it goes.

  11. Christ on April 21, 2011 at 09:24

    I eat a good portion of my food raw…eggs,beef,butter,cheese all from the highest quality sources. It amuses me when I tell my SAD eating friends about it and they get a look on their face as if they smell something bad while thinking nothing of eating Chik Fil A and feeding that filthy,tortured MSG ridden flesh to their kids.

    Sigh…such is the affect of Tel-lie-vision and marketing.

  12. sverlyn on April 21, 2011 at 16:52

    Stephan has a procedure for soaking brown rice that inhibits the phytic acid

    • LisaW on April 22, 2011 at 04:16

      That may be, but it won’t remove the fibre.

  13. Suze on April 22, 2011 at 16:48

    Why do you want to remove the fibre? Sorry if I sound a bit ignorant! I’m still in the learning phase!

  14. LisaW on April 22, 2011 at 16:58

    Suze, that may be just my personal take on things. Brown rice fibre is pretty scratchy stuff and for anyone with digestive problems it can be a really literal pain.

  15. Jeromie on April 23, 2011 at 07:58

    Where did you learn all of your skills in the kitchen? The more I cook, the more I find joy in cooking for people, the more I want to learn and have in my “arsenal.”

    Thanks Richard.


    • Richard Nikoley on April 23, 2011 at 08:02

      What I didn’t pick up from family at an early age (cooked my first dinner for the whole family at 9: baked ham and fixings) I just learned along the way from years of living on my own.

      • Jeromie on April 23, 2011 at 08:48

        Thanks again. I guess I will continue to tear up the kitchen and keep improving my skills and continue to please friends and family with food!


  16. Primal Toad on April 26, 2011 at 15:38

    Looks fantastic! I had the opportunity to enjoy a real crab meat sushi roll, piece of sashimi albacore tuna and seaweed salad at a japanese restaurant in Oxnard, CA just over a week ago after Primal Con officially ended. It was a blast spending time with the 9 of us who stayed a little longer.

    It was only the second time that I enjoyed raw seafood. I loved it and can’t wait to try different types of raw fish in the near future. I’ll be doing so in May while in Chicago and hope to try some in New York this year as well.

    I LOVE the benefits of cooked and raw food. We do get the best of both worlds – what an amazing lifestyle!

    • Richard Nikoley on April 26, 2011 at 15:50

      Exactly, PT. Next time you talk with a raw vegan, you can easily one up them with a simple phrase: “but I can eat EVERYTHING you can eat.”

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