Sunday, January 11, 2009

Recipes from "Cooking with Tea"

During the last Life Chef class, “What’s Cooking: Cooking with Tea” at Sevananda Natural Foods Co-Op, we experienced the sometimes subtle, sometimes bold flavor that tea and herbal infusions can lend to your dishes. The health benefits of tea are transferred as well, so daily meals can be infused with added antioxidants, polyphenols and other phytochemicals that many modern studies have shown benefit the cardiovascular system and may help battle diseases like cancer. Of course ancient healing practices have lauded tea and herbal infusion for centuries as a key component to a long and healthy life. Hopefully the following simple recipes will inspire you to incorporate both the leaves of tea as well as the beverage in your daily cooking. Have fun playing with your food!

Next month’s class is “What’s Cooking: Whole Grains for Heart Health.” In that class You will hear the testimony of one local resident’s battle against cholesterol and how she lowered her total cholesterol from 238 to 194 in just two months by increasing her whole grain consumption and exercising. She also happens to be my mom. Recipes in this class will broaden your whole grain repertoire by introducing whole grains from the Bulk Foods Department at Sevananda (there’s an entire world beyond brown rice). We will also define what whole grains really are in order to make you a savvy shopper in a world of deceitful marketing and misleading food packaging.

The “What’s Cooking?” classes with Life Chef Asata Reid is part of the Journey to Wellness Series presented by the School of Common Health at Sevananda Natural Foods Co-op. “What’s Cooking?” classes will take place the second Saturday of each month, from 10 a.m. to noon in the Education Room at Sevananda. For more information on this series, the Co-Op itself and other events at Sevananda visit

Cucumber-Mint Tea Spread
Simple ingredients allow the subtle mint and white tea flavors to emerge. photo:
1 8 oz container non-dairy Tofutti cream cheese (or regular cream cheese)
1/2 to 2/3 cup steeped White Tea with Peppermint, chilled
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
Salt/pepper to taste

Combine cream cheese and ½ cup of the tea in a bowl and whisk to combine. Use additional tea if the mixture is still too thick. Season with salt and pepper, add cucumber and stir. Refrigerate mixture for 20 minutes to overnight to allow the flavor of the tea to permeate the spread. Stir prior to serving.


Chai Tea Infused Mushrooms
This basic recipe can be greatly expanded upon. If you like the flavor of these mushrooms, you will easily translate this process into a stuffed mushroom dish, or stuffed zucchini, or a flavorful steam-bath for dumplings. The sky is the limit. The warm-spiced essence of Chai tea will permeate whatever you choose to steam. And of course you can change the tea and get different results. I’m looking forward to trying this tea-steam method with a lemongrass green tea and a lemon-ginger tea!
2 cups water
4 Chai Tea bag
2-3 cabbage leaves
1 pint of mushrooms, halved or quartered if large

Fill a steamer with 2 cups of water and add the tea bags. Bring to a boil at around 200-212 degrees.
Meanwhile line the steamer basket with the cabbage leaves. Top with mushrooms. Place the basket in the steamer and cover with the lid. Steam for 10-15 minutes or until mushrooms are tender.
Remove mushrooms from the steamer and arrange in serving bowl.


Oolong Tea Seared Tofu Steaks
This approach will work on just about any protein source: steak, fish, chicken and of course tofu. This method is so simple that the quality of your protein is important because there won’t be any place for sub-par flavor to hide. photo:
1 Oolong Tea bag, tea leaf contents only
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp salt
1 lb. firm tofu

Drain water from tofu, press to remove as much moisture as possible or allow it to air dry in the refrigerator over night. Cut into six slabs about ½ inch to 2/3 inch in thickness.
Heat a griddle, grill or skillet over medium high heat.
Combine tea, pepper and salt in a small bowl.
Arrange tofu slabs on a plate and drizzle tofu with a little oil on both sides. Then, sprinkle one side liberally with the tea mixture.
Transfer tofu, seasoned side down, to the griddle and season the up-side of the tofu. Sear for 3-4 minutes or until brown.
Flip the tofu over and sear on the second side for another 3-4 minutes.
Serve immediately or allow to cool for use in other dishes.


Green Tea Noodles
1 8 oz. package dried soba noodles
2 tsp cooking oil
1 green tea bag, tea leaf contents only
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1” piece of ginger, peeled and grated
1 small red bell pepper, cut into strips
1 small yellow bell pepper, cut into strips
1 8 oz. package baked tofu, thinly sliced
1 Tbsp miso tamari or organic soy sauce
1 tsp organic brown rice wine vinegar
1 tsp dark sesame oil

In a pot, cook the soba noodles according to directions until just al dente. Rinse under cold water to stop the cooking and remove any residual starch. Set aside.
Heat cooking oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the tea leaves, garlic and onions and allow to cook until onions start to become translucent. Add the ginger and bell peppers and continue cooking until bell peppers are crisp tender, about two minutes.
Add the tamari, vinegar and sesame oil
Stir in the tofu and noodles and continue cooking until everything is heated through.
Pour out onto a large platter and garnish with cilantro leaves.


Regina said...

Hello Chef Asata!

I just wanted to post this link of my take on your lovely "Cooking with tea" class!

Thank you again for graciously answering endless questions!

Tangled Noodle said...

The green tea noodles look and sound fantastic! A definite must-try.

pixen said...

I wish I can attend your classes. It's difficult to find such event in my little hometown except in the capital city which is 369 km away!

I have packs of Green Tea from several regions but top of my list is Green Tea range from Japan. My other addition is Matcha powder. My japanese friends gave me the best from Ippodo which is mainly use for Chanoyu.

You did a wonderful work to have tea in your menu! People always think tea is only for drinking or make into ice-cream but seldom think of using it in savoury and sweet dishes. You did a very good combination!

Cindy said...

I came via Regina's blog. I am always looking for new uses for tea since its flavonoids are so healthy. I'll definately make the cucumber-mint tea spread! Might try it with fresh mint leaves. Thanks.