TeaGuide: Reviews and Ramblings

March 24, 2015

Cooking with tea: Hot and sour sesame noodles

This is one of my favourite tea recipes, and it’s especially nice as a warm-weather lunch or light dinner, or as part of dinner. The recipe was inspired by a dish served at a bistro in a small New Jersey town. I convinced the chef/owner to give me his list of ingredients, and from there I tweaked it around. One key component that I added was tea.

As I tried various teas to see which one worked best, I was surprised to find three very different teas that each complemented the dish in its own way.Hot and Sour Sesame Noodles My first test was with a slightly smoky Georgia tea, because I like a cup of smoky tea with spicy foods. Yummy! When I fixed the dish with rice noodles I tried genmaicha, a user-friendly green tea mixed with toasted rice kernels. Another hit! Then came the day when I really wanted this dish but didn’t feel like steeping up another pot of tea, so in my laziness I used leftover oolong tea. Bingo once again!

My favourite tea for this is oolong, but choose whichever you prefer. For best results use strong tea made with twice as much leaf as usual and steeped for the regular time. If you’re using oolong, make sure it’s not a floral variety (believe me, it’s yucky). A peachy/nutty generic “Formosa oolong” works best.

Now about the other ingredients … You can use almost any kind of noodles or pasta you like; I’ve used wheat, whole wheat, rice, buckwheat – even ramen noodles. Adjust the amount of garlic and cayenne to your own taste. Rice vinegar is available at most supermarkets. The only really exotic ingredient is gomasio, a mixture of salt and sesame seeds sold in natural food stores. If you can’t find it, substitute plain sesame seeds.

The recipe is easily doubled, tripled, or more to serve a crowd, and it’s tea-rrific for picnics or buffets.

Hot and sour sesame noodles
About 4 servings

3/4 pound (12 ounces) noodles, linguine, or pasta
1 teaspoon light oil (peanut, sunflower …)
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/3 cup strong tea, cooled
2 Tablespoons maple syrup, agave, honey, or other syrupy sweetener
1 Tablespoon tamari or Kikkoman® soy sauce
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon crushed cayenne pepper flakes
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
Gomasio or sesame seeds
Suggested toppings: cubed tofu, shredded lettuce, shredded carrots, bean sprouts, sliced cucumber, sliced celery, slivered canned water chestnuts, sliced snow peas, slivered scallions, cooked and cooled broccoli florets

Prepare the noodles to al dente tenderness. Rinse with cold water, drain well, and place in a large bowl. Toss the cooked pasta with the light oil; set aside. Mix the tomato paste and vinegar together in a small bowl. Add the remaining ingredients, blending well. Divide pasta into four dishes, top as desired, then spoon on the dressing. Sprinkle each dish lightly with gomasio. Enjoy!

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All content Copyright 2007-2015 JP Badarau; all rights reserved.

October 22, 2014

Ramblings: Tea time treats

The word tea doesn’t refer only to the leaf or the beverage — sometimes tea refers to a meal. A British working man might come home and ask his wife “What’s for tea?” just as we here in the USA ask “What’s for lunch … or dinner?”

I originally developed this recipe after a trip to Québec and Montréal, where we had — as usual — purchased a fair quantity of their wonderful maple syrup. Two things I’ve always loved are maple syrup and sweet potatoes. When I fix candied sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving I always include maple syrup, and thought there must be other ways to pair up these two complementary flavours.

Another long-time favourite is almond butter. It’s healthful and it tastes so good. I use it as cake filling, in smoothies, and of course slathered on anything in the baked-goods family. Finally the light bulb went on: why not put them all together?

Well, it worked even better than I’d hoped and it has become one of my favourite teatime recipes. Especially when I can use the sweet potatoes from our own garden, which start to mature in mid-October, just in time for Thanksgiving. I’ve served this simple spread with scones, biscuits, crumpets, toast, and even shortbread many times. Perfect paired with a fragrant Darjeeling, or a malty Assam, or perhaps a smooth Ceylon tea.

Sweet potato butter

The first sweet potato we pulled from our garden this year. It weighed a whopping 800g (1.75 lb) — and it was yummy!

Be sure to use the best quality pure maple syrup, preferably Grade B, which is less refined and much more mapley. Almond butter is available at many supermarkets next to the peanut butter; if you can’t find it, try a natural foods store or look online.

You can cook the potatoes by boiling or baking, tho’ I prefer to cut them into cubes, place them into a shallow bowl, cover with a damp paper towel, and nuke for about twelve minutes or until tender.

Serve this yummy treat at your next autumn tea and I almost guarantee you and your guests will smile. Be sure to let me know how you like it!

Sweet potato butter
About 1-1/2 cups

1-1/2 cups mashed cooked sweet potatoes (about 2 large potatoes)
2 Tablespoons almond butter, unsweetened and unsalted
2 Tablespoons maple syrup, or to taste
1/8 teaspoon grated nutmeg

Place the potatoes into a mixing bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients to the mashed sweet potatoes. Mix well by hand, or purée briefly in a blender or food processor for a smoother texture. Serve with biscuits, scones, crumpets, or tea bread. The butter can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for about two days, but is best served as soon as possible after preparing. (Tip: Be sure the almond butter is at room temperature before mixing it in.)

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July 29, 2013

Yummy fresh summer soup … made with tea of course!

Fresh cornHere we are again at midsummer. There are so many beautiful fruits and vegetables in our gardens and in the farm markets — the bounty can almost be overwhelming!

If you have a vegetable and herb garden, pick each one just before you’re going to use it so it’s at its freshest and tastiest. Don’t have a garden, or grow only a few kinds of fresh produce? Then pay a visit to your local farmers’ market.

If you’re not sure what to buy first, may I suggest corn? The season for fresh corn runs from about mid-summer to the end of September depending on where you live. Take advantage of its availability while you can, and this soup is good start. No cooking is required, and once you prepare the vegetables you can just toss everything into the food processor.

There are tools designed specifically for removing kernels from an ear of corn, but we find that our method works just fine: break each ear in half, hold upright on a cutting board, and cut straight down with a very sharp knife as close to the cob as possible. Bell peppersI prefer yellow or bi-colour corn for this recipe; I thought white corn was too sweet and less flavourful, but make your own decision.

In this recipe the tea should impart just a subtle flavour so infuse it at regular strength. I used a Japanese sencha and it perfectly complemented the flavourful fresh vegetables

If you’re interested in herbal remedies, don’t throw away the corn silk. Cut off the dark brown ends and preserve the remaining silk by drying or freezing. Herbalists recommend cornsilk, which is very high in sulphur, in infusion form for bladder infections and simple cystitis. (Of course consult your health-care professional before treating any ailment.)

Some folks think eating raw corn is scandalous, tho’ I often prefer raw to cooked so long as the corn is fresh and the sugars haven’t turned to starch. The kernels fairly burst with flavour! After fixing and enjoying this soup, try tossing raw corn kernels into a salad of tomatoes and cucumbers for another delicious way to enjoy summer in a bowl :-).

Fresh corn and pepper soup
About 4 servings

3 cups corn kernels (about four ears), divided
1 cup green tea prepared at regular strength
1 cup cold water
1 Tablespoon tamari soy sauce
1 medium red, yellow, or orange bell pepper, cut into chunks
2 Tablespoons chopped parsley, preferably flat-leaf (Italian style)
2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Japanese senchaCombine two cups of corn with the water and tamari in a food processor or blender. Process for a minute or so until you get a somewhat chunky purée. Add the bell pepper, herbs, and remaining corn and process for another thirty seconds. Add salt and pepper to taste, then process for another ten seconds or so to blend in the seasonings. Serve immediately, or store in an airtight container in the ‘fridge for one to two hours and serve chilled.

Variations:

> Garnish with halved cherry or grape tomatoes, or with a sprinkling of additional parsley, cilantro, or a mixture.
> To make this soup into a light meal, top each bowlful with about 1/4 cup cooked and cooled edamame (green soybeans). You can find these in the freezer section of your supermarket or natural food store, and sometimes they’re available fresh in Japanese groceries. Cook in boiling water or broth for five minutes; if they’re in the pod remove the pods after cooking.
> Spice things up by adding a small jalapeño pepper with the bell pepper. This variation was a big hit!

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