Knowing my aversion to restos but Rob’s appreciation of them, Rob and I have been slowly visiting vegan-friendly restaurants in Toronto. Our favourite raw restaurant has now been usurped. Raw Aura serves delicious food, but we seem to leave the resto filled to capacity with their rich meals. It is probably our fault – there is no need to order a starter and a main, here. Let alone a juice or dessert*, delicious as they all are. The dishes are heavily based on nuts, seeds and oils, which is why we always are stuffed afterwards.
*desserts are not Raw Aura’s forte
Our new favourite raw resto is Belmonte Raw. Closer to home, to boot; although their hours are terrible, only open for lunch. They’ve only recently opened up shop as an eat-in eatery and we couldn’t have been more pleased with our meals. The cozy place is a bit confusing, though. You pick your meal from the refrigerator case from stacks of take-away containers. You bring it to the cash and they will literally transform it into a beautiful meal. I honestly marveled at how much food came out of such a small container.
In any case, I really enjoyed my raw burrito (and Rob, likewise, enjoyed his sunflower burger). My burrito was a huge collard wrap stuffed with jicama fries, sprouts with their nut meat (it may have been sunflower seed based but I forgot to ask). When I say stuffed, though, this was a great veggie-heavy wrap which is what I loved! The nut meat was a highlight, not the main part of the dish. Along with the wrap, there were dehydrated corn chips with salsa, guacamole and chipotle nut cheese. The nut cheese is uber smooth and scarily reminded me of cheeze whiz! Taste and colour.
After eating the burrito, more jicama fries and a smoothie, we were both positively stuffed but in a good way, knowing that we ate primarily veggies and not heavier nuts/seeds/fats. Somehow we still managed to eat their delightful raw chocolate desserts. So smooth, with either a raspberry or peanut butter filling.
Of course, I was itching to duplicate the meal at home. One of the main drawbacks of Belmonte Raw are the prices, which goes with a visit to most restos. I figured that if I spent the same amount of money on grocery produce, I could whip up quite a few burritos. This gave me enough incentive to close my eyes at the price when I bought some sprouts at Whole Foods. Thankfully the rest of the ingredients were much cheaper: my weekly raid through Sunny’s was where I picked up the bunch of collards ($1.59), lemon (4/$1), and jicama ($1.49/lb) – all at their regular prices. I have yet to see sprouts at Sunny’s and should really learn how to grow my own.
Other than fresh veggies, my creativity lied with the cashew nacho cheese. I spiced it with red pepper paste, miso, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, sweet smoked paprika, garlic and onion for maximum flavour. (Chipotles in adobo sauce still scare me). It does not disappoint. Use it as a fabulous dip, or spread into a “raw burrito” such as this one filled with julienned lemon-spiked jicama slices and mounds of sprouts (I used alfalfa and sunflower sprouts). My burrito was not as big as the one at Belmonte Raw. They needed a string to keep everything in place! I made smaller ones and used a sliver from the collard stem to keep them together for the photo. I would skip that entirely if eating right away – it was quite a tricky thing to tie!
Toronto has a lot of burrito restaurants. I have been to a few places, but my favourite sandwich remains the yam burrito at Big Fat Burrito. I used to gush about them at work, where our Monday lunches were burritos from Big Fat Burrito. It turned out to be a bad idea, because we started to run out of the yam burritos.
I haven’t eaten a burrito in a while, especially after I found out that the steak burrito at Burrito Boyz is over a pound of food, and over 1000 calories. Chipotle fares no better, clocking in at over 1200 calories if you include guacamole.
However, when I spotted this (since adapted) recipe in Bob’s Red Mill Cookbook for yam, black bean and amaranth burritos, I knew I had to give burritos a second chance. Making them at home meant I could make them healthier! Including a touch of sour cream, these burritos are around 550 calories, but it all depends on the tortilla, salsa and added fixins you use. Next time I make burritos, I will try to search out freshly made tortillas from La Tortilleria. Sometimes, though, I ate this more like a stew, sans wrap.
Amaranth is an optional ingredient, but if you have it, this is a great way to incorporate it into your meal. Amaranth is one of those up-and-coming superfoods. It is an ancient South American seed loaded with protein, fiber and minerals, akin to quinoa. It has a slightly nutty taste and can be quite sticky. It works well as a binder in these burritos.
Amaranth has an interesting history, as it was believed to have superpowers and was given to the army for increased energy. Furthermore, it was used during religious ceremonies as effigies, and thus was banished when the Spaniards invaded Mexico. It has only been rejuvenated within the past few decades and still remains relegated to health food stores (I found mine in bulk at Essence of Life but have also seen it at the St Lawrence Market at Lively Life Fine Food).
Here are some other recipes with amaranth seed:
Emeril Lagasse’s Five Grain Salad on The Kitchn
Banana Apple Coconut Curry at Oh She Glows
Jewelled Amaranth at Cook (almost) Everything At Least Once
Heidi Swanson’s Savory Amaranth Soufflé at Pink Stripes
Ottolenghi’s Potato and Amaranth Cakes at The Guardian
Crunchy Stalks and Branches Snacks at Diet, Dessert N Dogs