Nothing wakes a juice up like a splash of citrus — it’s like drinking liquid sunshine. There are, of course, the old favorites: lemon tastes zesty and clean; lime adds a tart, tropical note; grapefruit adds refreshing acidity; and orange is sweet and bright. But you can branch out from these reliable standards with pomelo, Ugly fruit, kumquat, blood orange, Satsuma, clementine, tangerine, Key lime, Buddha’s hand, yuzu, and iyokan. Check out your local co-op, farmers market, and Asian, Latin, or Middle Eastern grocery stores for citrus fruits that you love but don’t often buy or that you’ve never tried before.
Sometimes we forget about these powerful, medicinal little plants that lend their gorgeous flavor and aroma. Run herbs through your juicer like you would with greens. Mint, chocolate mint, spearmint, and others are beautiful in combination with sweet fruits or greens, and have a cooling effect. I love mint with cucumber, spinach, ruby red grapefruit, and apple. Fennel is another wonderful addition, and whether you’re using the stalks, blub, or fronds (or all three), it will flavor your juice with the sweet and herbal taste of anise. And don’t forget about the savory herbs, basil, thyme, rosemary, sage, oregano, dill, and one and on. These add depth to savory vegetable juices and complexity to sweet and citrusy juices. Look for fresh herbs in your garden, your farmers market, co-op, and grocery store. There’s a lot you can do with a little bit of herbs. One of my favorite summer juices stars lemongrass, which wafts like a bright and sultry perfume through watermelon, Asian pear, and pineapple.
Remember your roots! Ginger is a popular addition to juices because it adds a delicious heat, aids in detoxing, and eases nausea, colds, and other ailments. Turmeric is another that deserves some attention — it’s famous for its anti-cancer properties and its use in Ayurvedic medicine. Turmeric has an earthy taste that pairs especially well with citrus. You can also try some less-commonly juiced root vegetables. You could go sweet with parsnips, yacón, and yams, or you could get spicy with radishes, or land somewhere in between with burdock. All are a delicious way to shake up your routine.
I love whisking spices into my juices, or blending them into smoothies or raw soups (which are really just savory smoothies — more about that later). Some of my go-to spices are cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, star anise, cardamom, garam masala, cumin, cayenne, chili, chipotle, mesquite, and curry. Here’s a smoothie that gets me dreaming of treasure troves of sweetness and spice.
These are the comic book heroes and heroines of the food world — they all have their superpowers and strengths, and they make everything a lot more exciting. Lucuma powder is my very favorite superfood. It’s super healthy, yes, but more importantly it tastes like ice cream and transforms your smoothies into decadent desserts, especially when mixed with vanilla and raw cacao, another superfood. Then there are the fruity do-gooders, acai, goji berries, goldenberries, and the like that add major antioxidants and unique flavors to your smoothies. The super-greens, like spirulina, E3Live, and chlorella, have a mild taste (similar to green tea), pack big nutrition, and color your beverages beautiful, rich greens, blues, and turquoises. And lastly, there are the superfoods that add texture, like chia seeds and Irish Moss. Both need to be soaked before consumed, and both transform into a gel, giving whatever they are blended with a gel-like consistency. Chia seeds, unground and unblended, make a smoothie like tapioca whereas Irish Moss gel makes a light and airy mousse. Sometimes texture alone is enough to spruce up a dish — why not make that chocolate smoothie into a chocolate mousse?
I am the girl who ate red clover flowers by the handful. As a child, I ate rose petals when no one was looking, insisted I was old enough to drink green jasmine tea, and dreamed of sugared violets atop whipped cream. Now that I’m an adult, some of my most prized ingredients are rosewater, dried lavender, saffron, and jasmine water. I’m the kind of person who wants her rose macaron to taste like a rose with a hint of macaron, so feel free to adjust the rosewater to your taste in this next recipe. I strongly believe in paying homage to your favorite dishes in juices and smoothies (but not recreating them, because that breeds comparison and contempt). I’m crazy about pistachio baklava and rosewater Turkish delights from beautiful little restaurant called Sahara, but more often than not, I’m watching my diet and choose not to eat them. So I created this decadent, luxurious smoothie in honor of these two stunning deserts.
Umami is the fifth flavor that our palate can detect: there is sweetness, bitterness, sourness, saltiness, and umami, which is separate from all of those tastes but enhanced by saltiness. Umami is difficult to describe, but it is more or less a meaty, brothy flavor, like from marrow, mushrooms, aged cheeses, meat, spinach, and the like. Sometimes sweet smoothies just aren’t doing it for me and I crave a savory meal. That’s when I hit the raw soups, and what makes raw soups delicious is umami flavor with a touch of salt. Nutritional yeast flakes loaded with B vitamins (which are extra essential for vegans) and fermented bean paste (like miso), are two delicious umami flavor enhancers and I use them in practically every raw soup I make, like this carrot, ginger, and basil miso soup.
While juice, coconut water, and milk alternatives are all great bases for smoothies, one delightful option that is often overlooked is chilled tea. Green teas that work especially well as smoothie bases or components in juices are wulu green jade, green jasmine, genmaicha (with toasted rice), matcha, sencha, and gunpowder. White tea is also delicious, and I’m especially partial to white jasmine. Black teas that work well are the citrusy Earl gray and lady gray, spicy chai, and umami-enhancing lapsang souchong, a smoked Chinese tea that’s great in raw soups, dressings, and marinades. Then there are also the herbal stars like rooibos (especially lovely with vanilla, lavender, and/or spices), chamomile, hibiscus, rosehip, mint, and so on. Brew the tea as usual and then chill in a glass jar in the fridge for a few hours or overnight and enjoy the beautiful, mineral quality of a tea-base smoothie, soup, or juice.
Your own ancestry might be your next big inspiration for our smoothie or juice. I draw on my mixed Romani (“Gypsy”) heritage to fuel my culinary creativity, which is especially rewarding since Gypsy cuisine is so rich, diverse, and yet distinctly Romani. In my savory soups, I’m liberal with the paprika, a popular spice in Romani cooking, I’m passionate about my tea, and I use a lot of baxtale xajmata or “auspicious foods,” which are usually pungent or strongly flavored like garlic, lemon, pickles, and peppers. I also like to use Indian Ayurvedic medicinal herbs and spices. There is overwhelming evidence from DNA, linguistics, anthropology, etc., that the Romani people originated in India, and tracing the similarities between Indians and Roma connects me to my Romani roots and the very ancient roots of my ancestors, and makes preparing and enjoying food and drink something akin to a spiritual experience.
So climb around your family tree if you’re in a smoothie slump. Think about your favorite Persian, Mexican, Croatian, Irish, Vietnamese, or Malaysian spices, fruits, vegetables, and flavors and see what moves you. Turn to your grandparents’ recipes and see which elements you could reclaim for your healthy elixirs. Or, if that isn’t infusing your juice with anything particularly new, take a walk around the globe to some place you’ve never been, always wanted to go, or wish you could visit again, and evoke the flavors of that culture, country, or region. Also, it’s a great opportunity for cultural exchange, which is different from cultural appropriation. For example, the word Gypsy, a racial slur (e.g.: she gypped me!), is misused and appropriated so often that people often don’t realize that Gypsies are an oppressed ethnic group. Some Roma choose to reclaim the word “Gypsy,” but if you are not Romani, using the word to refer to yourself, your brand, your lifestyle, or naming your pets or child “Gypsy,” is cultural appropriation in the same way that wearing a Gypsy costume is appropriation, even if it isn’t meant maliciously. Respectfully exploring Romani food, arts, and culture without exoticizing or claiming it, however, would fall under cultural exchange.
Half of the battle with boredom is state of mind. Whenever I complained of boredom when I was a kid, my mom would say, “Oh my. If you’re bored, then you must not have any imagination. How sad for you.” That was enough to send me spinning toward the crayons and construction paper, feverish to prove that my imagination knew no bounds. I think I complained of boredom three times in my whole life, tops. If you’re bored with your juice or smoothie practice, don’t just look in your fridge. Look in your brain, too. How are you thinking about this cleanse or healthy regimen? Do you see it as an act of deprivation? (Why can’t I make a honey butter waffle smoothie?) Punishment? (I can quit the juices once I lose 10 pounds) Torture? (If I drink one more kale smoothie I will ralph, so help me, I will ralph.) What if you try looking at the experience as a culinary challenge, an adventure in food-as-medicine, an ecstatic celebration of food in its purest form, or a unique opportunity to treat yourself better than ever before? Think about all the reasons you want to drink your fruits and veggies, and all the benefits you will reap. Look up ingredients that are good for what ails you. Choose ingredients for fun, for color, name, shape, or association. Add cacao — make it chocolate. Treat yourself to your favorite fruits and veggies, the ones that make you smile, like lychee, Rainier cherries, Romanesco, or rainbow carrots. Play.