As I started to research this week about mushrooms for the 38 Power Foods blog group, I was blown away when I read, “Of all the earth’s natural substances, mushrooms are among the most medicinal.” That shouldn’t have been such a surprise. The Chinese have been using mushrooms for culinary and medicinal purposes for thousands of years. They’re low in fat and are a good source of B vitamins, and according to mushroominfo.com, “they’re the only source of vitamin D in the produce aisle”. There are two especially notable disease fighting substances in mushrooms: terpenoids, and polyaccharides. Terpenoids fight inflammation and viruses and they have powerful antibiotic agents. Polyaccharides empower the immune system and seem to aid the body against cancer growths. On a 2010 Dr. Oz show, alternative medicine Dr. Andrew Weil stated that Asian mushrooms like shitake, maitake, oyster, and enoki are the best to increase the body’s immunity to fight against cancer and viruses. He says it’s the number one anti-inflammatory food and mushrooms should be cooked to get the benefit from the nutrients. This is one food I’m going to start eating more of!
Mushrooms are delectable. Why was it such a challenge to come up with a good recipe this week? I suppose it’s because so many mushroom recipes involve the use of sour cream, whipping cream, or butter, and I prefer to go dairy-free with most dishes. I’ve already posted my favorite recipes champiñones al ajillo (garlic mushrooms), and shitaki mushroom bruschetta, so I resorted to looking around at what other people do with mushrooms. My friend Sue made a lovely leek with mushroom and gorgonzola tart, Claudia made a dish of pasta with morels, and Barbara made mushroom ragout with polenta, which reminded me that I used to make a great dairy-free mushroom ragout served over polenta when I was the Chef at Mum’s restaurant in Sacramento, California, a long time ago. Here it’s updated to include greens.
Servings: 6 Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook time: 20 minutes
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ medium onion, chopped
3 to 3-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon salt
1 cup chicken stock
3 tomatoes; or, use just ½ cup chicken stock with 1-1/2 cups tomato sauce
2 large leaves Swiss chard, roughly chopped
1 pound mixed mushrooms, chopped ( I used oyster, portabello and field mushrooms)
1 – 4 oz. tempeh (1/2 of an 8 ounce package)
1-1/2 cups corn meal ( I use Alber’s)
¾ cup cashews (optional)
*Note – the cashews are for extra protein
1. Get out a stock pot and fill it with 6 cups water and begin to heat the water. Also get out a large pan and set it on the stove, but don’t turn on the heat yet.
2. Wash the vegetables and then chop them and set them in individual piles: the onions should be finely chopped, the mushrooms roughly chopped, the garlic minced, the chard roughly chopped and the stems should be reserved for another occasion, and if you are using fresh tomatoes they should be finely chopped. Chop the tempeh into ½-inch cubes.
3. When the water comes to a boil, add 1 teaspoon salt and slowly whisk in the cornmeal so it doesn’t clump up. Stir often for the next 15 to 20 minutes, or until it is smooth and no longer feels hard like sand. Cover the pot until you are ready to eat.
4. While the polenta is cooking you can start the ragout. Sauté the onion and garlic in 2 tablespoons olive oil. When they turn translucent add the chopped mushrooms and sauté for 5 minutes, adding more oil if necessary.
5. Add the chopped tomatoes, or the tomato sauce along with the chicken stock, salt, and the thyme. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes and then add the chopped Swiss chard, cover and continue cooking over a medium-low flame. Cook until the mushrooms and chard are tender.
6. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small pan and then add the cubed tempeh and cook until it is lightly browned. Add it to the ragout and check the seasonings. Add more salt if necessary.
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