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The Joy of Not Cooking

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Raw foods, or living foods as they are also called, mean the preparation of common dishes like lasagna, enchiladas and curry rice without raising the temperature of any ingredient above 118 degrees. Even people who've gone raw before might be unaware that the trend, while on a comeback, actually had its heyday decades ago. Although she's not a raw-foods devotee, Jannequin Bennett, executive chef of the Jefferson Hotel and manager of TJ's, is a vegan who says she's been interested in the cooking (or noncooking) technique since the late '70s. She's just created a menu with many raw-food dishes for a Vegetarian Society vegan dinner Jan. 11 at the Jefferson.

Think for a second about making lasagna without cooking anything. Sounds impossible, but raw-foods people have some tricks and fancy gadgets to help them out, things like high-tech food processors and dehydrators, which transform unlikely ingredients like pine nuts and zucchini into ricotta cheese and noodles.

So why go raw? Bennett says, "There's a sense that when a food is consumed raw, that the enzymes are not broken down by heat ... the other reason would be to simply consume the entire nutritional value of food." It's also a kick to eat basmati-flavored rice made from parsnips.

Bennett's menu Jan. 11 will include a variety of appetizers, raw and nonraw vegan dishes, with the piece de résistance being a raw dish of broccoli corncakes with ponzu sauce. The dinner starts at 5:30 p.m. and the $35 fee includes everything. Reservations must be made by Friday (Jan. 3) at 344-4356.

— Wayne Melton

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