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…ARGH…so many choices and where in the hell was the one I needed?  For the totally off the wall, random recipe that inspired me to make a special trip to the grocery store to pick up a few ingredients?? 

I am not a hot tea drinker.  There, I said it.  Quelle horreur, right?  I hear about all the wonderful health benefits from drinking tea, a few co-workers have quit coffee and now only drink green tea and on and on.  It’s just not my thing.  I do enjoy a cup of (black) coffee in the morning but I’m not obsessive about it and I’m not homicidal when I don’t have it.  Yes, I do live at Starbucks Ground Zero but coffee is not a ritual for me.  Now, when it comes to tea, I can drink gallons of plain, unsweetened iced tea.  Homemade in the sun with a lemon wedge or Diet Snapple lemon flavor, I’m callin’ your name.

I’ve been getting re-intrigued with raw food lately.  And not the vegetarian or vegan style either, although there are incredible recipes out there across the spectrum.  I say re-intrigued (yes, I think I just made that word up) as I’m making an effort to keep trying new varieties of foods.  To keep varying my diet.  I experimented with raw food a few years ago – maybe even prior to starting this blog I think…probably around 2007-2008. 

Recently I picked up Carol Alt’s newest book, Easy Sexy Raw.  I have her two earlier books as well and I love how they’re all written with both a no-nonsense style and a little humor too.  Food should be fun, not serious!  And ugh, who wants to read and learn about a food lifestyle where the author is preachy or condescending?  What a turnoff.  Carol’s books are educational and such a pleasure to read.   For those of you who don’t know who Carol is, she was a model on countless magazine covers in the 1980s.  She’s also an actress and is probably the most familiar “face” of the raw food movement.  And if you see pictures of her today in her early 50s…wow, still a knockout.  She says she had a very unhealthy diet growing up and during her modeling years and once she later went raw, her health problems vanished and her energy skyrocketed.  Sounds pretty inspirational to me!  We’re never too old to make changes in our lifestyle to improve our health!

So what’s the deal with tea?  Well, the recipe I wanted to try (which I’ll share at the end of this post) called for a quarter cup of Lapsang Souchong tea.  No offense to tea experts out there, but what the hell is THAT?  I probably have tea stashed deep in the dark corners of my pantry but had no desire to dig around and I knew it certainly wasn’t that kind.  And for some reason, as much as I love grocery shopping (really and truly – today was a one of those rare times I didn’t) I didn’t feel like making a long drive out to one of our nearby specialty stores which I was certain would probably have it.  We’re so blessed here in the Seattle suburbs to have Whole Foods, a PCC (co-op), Metropolitan Market, Trader Joe’s and on and on.  And I am very fortunate to have a grocery store that’s a 2 minute walk from my townhouse.  The good old Safeway. 

Getting to that Safeway, however, is a nightmare and by the time I’m in the store my blood pressure is skyrocketing.  What’s the problem?  Well, whether arriving on foot or by car, the street nearby and the parking lot are very unsafe.  The parking lot is poorly designed.  Between people coming and going with carts, small kids, combine that with a Dairy Queen drive-thru lane dumping out in the opposite direction, a McDonald’s drive-thru on another part of the entrance and a busy 4-lane street that’s dangerous to cross on foot (drivers do NOT yield in the cross walk there – it’s bizarre and scary) you have a mess.  It’s just a weird vortex where common sense goes out the window.  And no, I don’t think it’s just me! 

For some reason I decided going to said Safeway today would be a good idea.  They do have a pretty good selection of specialty, natural foods and organic produce.  So off I went…in search of frozen corn kernels (that was easy) some gourmet mushrooms (I choose a small handful of Shiitake mushrooms), and the elusive Lapsang Souchong tea.  The tea was going to be part of a marinade for the mushrooms.  Sounds interesting, don’t you think? 

And then there it was.  The tea aisle.  I was beyond overwhelmed and probably had my jaw on the floor.  I could not BELIEVE how many kinds of tea there were!  The gatherer/cave woman within me freaked out!  TOO MANY CHOICES that I knew NOTHING about!  And that damn Lapsang Souchong tea was nowhere to be found! GAH!  And I realized, given my near total ignorance about tea, that I had no idea what would be a decent substitute!  So I grabbed some Stash green & black tea blend and said hell with it.  Now I’m truly curious how much different this marinade turned out having used another kind of tea. 

And now for something completely different…this recipe is for Lapsang Souchong wild mushrooms with a fresh corn polenta.  Yes, you can make a raw version of polenta!  In fact, as Carol writes, just about any food out there has a raw ‘twin’ of sorts.  She also shows ways to incorporate raw partially into our diet without needing to go 100% cold turkey.  Again, this is part of the reason I love her books and writing style.  It’s not in-your-face, shoveitdownyourthroat.  It’s informative…and funny!

Serves 4 – requires some marinating and soaking time

  • 3 cups wild, fresh mushrooms such as chanterelles, porcini, oyster or trumpet
  • 1/4 cup brewed Lapsang Souchong tea
  • 1/4 cup cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Nama Shoyu (unpasteurized soy sauce)
  • 1 1/2 cups raw cashews, soaked then dried completely
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 cups fresh corn kernels or thawed frozen kernels
  • Freshly ground black pepper

To make the tea, steep 1 to 2 teaspoons of tea leaves into 1 cup of hot (not boiling water) for about 5 minutes.  Alternatively, steep the tea leaves in room temperature water in the sun for several hours.

Soak the cashews for about 2-3 hours.

To make the mushrooms, use a damp cloth to wipe the caps and stems clean.  If using larger mushrooms, cut them into smaller pieces so they are all uniform in size.  Combine the tea, olive oil and nama shoyu and mushrooms in a large bowl.  Toss and massage with your clean hands to mix well.  Set aside for 15-20 minutes to marinate.  The tea will give the mushrooms a smoky flavor and the oil and nama shoyu will help soften them so they appear to be cooked.

Meanwhile, make the polenta.  Combine the cashews, salt and garlic in a food processor and process into small pieces.  Add the corn kernels and process to mix well.  Season with black pepper.

To serve, scoop the polenta into individual dishes.  Top with the mushrooms and spoon over some of the marinade.

Carol gives a nod to Ani Phyo for creating this recipe.  It’s truly unique!

Now, I admit I blew it somewhat on a few steps, but I’m excited to try again (and not only to see what it tastes like with the rightly intended tea).  The Safeway did not have raw cashews, so I substituted bulk, salted cashews.  I think this was a mistake.  The polenta calls for a little extra sea salt to be added and so that combined with already salty cashews made for too-salty polenta.  Oops. Thankfully I made about 1/4 of the recipe given this was a way off the beaten path experiment for me, so I don’t feel like I wasted a lot of food.   My frozen corn kernels were also not completely thawed, so the polenta texture was not as pudding-like as it was supposed to be.  But boy it tasted GOOD.  And it didn’t take much to fill me up.

I think that’s the idea about eating foods in their natural state…without additional chemicals, fillers or other ways we alter our food, we’re satisfied with less. 

Buon appetito!