About Mastering and Enjoying Home Cooking. Drink, Cook, and Live Well!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Spiced Bananas Flambé

This recipe is not unlike Bananas Foster which made from bananas and vanilla ice cream, with the sauce made from butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, dark rum, and banana liqueur. The French dessert Crêpe Suzette, consisting of a crêpe with a caramelized sugar-butter sauce, was probably a precursor to Bananas Foster. To make this more Caribbean (think of the Island of Martinique where the French first grew bananas) use rum instead of Brandy and use Orange Curacao liqueur.  Have a match handy to ignite the alcohol.

2 Firm ripe bananas split length wise down the middle.
4 tablespoons of turbinado or Demerara sugar (natural brown sugar)
1/2 cup of Napoleon Brandy
3 tablespoons of sweet butter
Top each banana slice with a mixture of ground cinnamon, allspice and cloves
¼ cup Contreau or orange Curaçao or Triple Sec
Heat a frying pan on medium high. Cut bananas down their middle length-wise. When the pan is hot, add the butter, and, when melted, add the bananas cut side down on buttered surface. Sprinkle each banana with a tablespoon of sugar. When the bananas begin to clear, turn each slice over carefully so as not to break the slices. Again, sprinkle each banana with a tablespoon of sugar. Cook for several minutes then add Contreau and Napoleon brandy. Hold face back from the pan and use a long match to ignite the fumes. If you have a microwave above your cook top, you may want ignite the fumes when the pan is away from the cook top. When the flames settle down, return the pan to the cook top. Cook to reduce liquids to a thick bubbly sauce. Use a spatula to carefully remove the bananas to the serving plates. Spoon some sauce over each banana.

Bananas and the resulting caramel sauce can be used to top a premium vanilla or pecan ice cream.

Bay Leaves

True bay leaves from various types of bay laurel trees. Used both fresh and dried. An aromatic herb that is used to flavor soups, stews, vegetables, olives, beets and meats. Three most significant supplies come from Mediterranean-Turkey (Laurus nobilis), India and California. The fragrance is more notable than its flavor in cooked food.

The leaf of the California bay (Umbellu­laria californica) tree is similar to the Mediterranean bay but has a stronger flavor. The very intense fla­vor of fresh bay leaves will mellow and become less bitter when dried. Premium bay leave are long, slender and intact. Unless in a pouch or wrapped in cheese-cloth, do not crumple the leaves. Even hours of cooking does not tenderize these, so small bits can get stuck in the throat.

Litsea glaucescens, laurel silvestre (aka Mexican bay leaf)  is from southern North America, mostly Mexico and may be used a substitute for Laurus nobilis. Due to overuse including ceremony of Palm Sunday, Mexican bay leaf has been declared as a protected species by law and its gathering is illegal. Mexican bay leaf is thinner-leafed, more silvery and more delicate in flavor than Mediterranean bay.

Like sage, many herbalist will claim these can cure almost anything.

Almost any stew, broth or soup can be improved with the addition of one or more bay leaves. "Bouquet garni" contains bay leaves as does marinades for olives or pickling spices. The bay is added to milk when preparing homemade rice puddings, ice creams or a white sauce.

Riff’s executive chef and owner John Platt makes a bay laurel butter that he serves with his Cedar Plank Salmon. I would make the butter by steeping 2 bay leaves per ¼ pound of clarified butter over a low flame for 20 minutes. (Clarify the butter will help prevent the butter from darkening.)

Pearl Street Plank Rubbed Salmon

This recipe uses a tasty and handy rub that truly is delicious on salmon. It is made by the Savory Spice shop. (Pearl Street Plank Rub invented by Dan Hayward, Savory Spice Shop Owner, Boulder Colorado and probably inspired by Pearl Street Mall’s Riff Restaurant that has Cedar Plank Salmon on their menu. Fo another recipe that uses this rub see sweet-potato-fries

Select fresh salmon steaks or filet sections that are bright and pink. Salmon you select should have bands of white streaks running through the flesh. (See picture - below)

Fatty Salmon1
Salmon steak or filet – allow at least a ½ pound per person
Pearl Street Plank Rub
A very good olive oil

Pre-heat oven to 375 F.

Line a thin sheet pan with heavy tin foil. Oil the tin foil liberally with olive oil.

Pat the fish dry and rub it very liberally with rub. Set the portions on the oiled tin foil leaving an inch between portions. Use a brush and lightly oil the salmon. Let salmon absorb the rub for 20 minutes before cooking. Bake at  375 F for 15 minutes, then raise the temperature to 425 F and cook until done (10~12 minutes depending on thickness and desired degree of doneness – do not overcook). [Despite a heavy rubbing, the spice does NOT overpower the flavor of the salmon.]

I like to serve this on aromatic steamed jasmine white rice topped with Iranian sumac.

1. A fatty salmon is regarded as the most richly flavored and chock-full of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Roasting Pan

Everyone is in the kitchen
It is getting again to that part of the year when everyone is in the kitchen. Several times a year, if you are lucky, you are called upon to entertain a large group of friends and relatives. For me, these are some of the year’s best of times. During these festive events, you will find yourself needing a large roasting pan for a whole ham, whole standing rib roast or large turkey.  The basis for choosing the size of the pan depends on the refrigerator size for it will sit on the biggest shelf. 

I want a big roast or turkey for several reasons:
People feel more comfortable with helping themselves to seconds if it looks like there is plenty.
I don’t have to cook again for days
If doing a bird, it takes a big one to hold enough dressing to last several meals
Dark bits in roasting pan floor
When cooking a turkey I find the larger ones are in the range of 23~25 pounds. My roasting pan (see picture below) is 18 x 13 x 3.5 inches because that is what fits my refrigerator. If one has handles that fold down when not in use so much thr better. (Take up no extra length when not in service.) Enameled steel pans (Granite ware), stainless are all good for service. A non stick pan is undesirable as it is less useful at producing those wonderful dark caramelized bits that stick to the pan’s bottom that make such great gravy. The pan serves to hold the turkey, ham or roast as it defrosts in the refrigerator which will take days so plan ahead if thawing a “big one”. Brand names for some manufactures of pans in these larger sizes are EURODIB (Homichef brand), KichenAid, and Matfer Bourgeat. The high side wall prevents excessive splatter and anything less than 3 inches is less serviceable.The bottom of a good roasting pam will look something like the picture to the left.

This is the type of pan one keeps forever so paying a premium is justifiable. If Aunt Martha stuck a fork or baster through your last tin-foil roasting pan and caught the stove on fire, you will be especially happy that this is not possible this year.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Avocado and Pear Salad with Pear Infused Vinaigrette

This is somewhat upscale salad for an occasion or just as an everyday treat.

Mixed mesclun greens
Slices of Hass avocado
Sliced Bosc Pears

Pear Infused Balsamic Vinaigrette

1 Teaspoon Dijon Mustard (not needed if using Xanthan gum)
3 Tablespoons Alessi Pear Balsamic Vinegar2 (or more to taste)
2 Tablespoons Italian grape seed oil2 (Substitute peanut or corn oil)
½ Teaspoon onion powder
½ Teaspoon garlic powder
1 Teaspoon paprika
¼ Teaspoon aji Amarillo chili powder
1 Teaspoon sea salt
½ Teaspoon black pepper or more
1/8+ Teaspoon Xanthan gum3 powder (optional)

Refrigerate avocado slightly before slicing. Toss greens, pear slices in a little vinaigrette just enough to coat. Line each plate with greens mixture. Cut avocado in half, then peel and slice. Garnish plate with a fan of slices of Hass avocado. Spoon some the vinaigrette on the avocado.

1. Oil is available from Midtown Olive Press at The Shops at Friendly Center, 3354-141 West Friendly Ave. Greensboro, NC 27408, and (336) 315-6000. See their website: Midtown Olive Press
2. Can be purchased online at Amazon.com or at Harris Teeter’s
3. Xanthan gum is used as a thickener for salad dressing. A 1/2 teaspoon will thicken a cup of salad dressing, keeping the mixture more homogeneous. Use 1/8 teaspoon and a smidge more for this amount of dressing.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Sourdough Apple Currant Sage Dressing

“If one consults enough herbalist...every sickness known to humanity will be listed as being cured by sage.” Varro Taylor (herb expert)

This dressing may be prepared the day before and considering the amount of work that goes on Turkey Day, it’s a very good idea to prepare a day ahead and store in two 2-½ gallon Ziploc bags. Under-salt the dressing if it’s cooking in a brined bird. This dressing may also be used on any fowl or with pork. This recipe is enough for one 25 pound turkey. Preparation time is about an hour. Under salt the dressing if it’s cooking in a brined bird as the brining has salt in it. (Read notes) Do not include any uncooked meat products in the dressing as the key to turkey cooking time removes the turkey from the oven at 140 F which may not insure safe food practices. This dressing may also be used on any fowl or with pork.

Enough for one 29-pound Turkey. Preparation Time: About an Hour

5 stalks fresh celery, diced
2 yellow onions3, peeled, diced
6 Roma Apples, cored, peeled, diced
12-ounce box of currents (like small raisins)
1 pound of golden raisins
½ ~ 1 pound of raisins
1 ½ ~ 2 loafs of extra sourdough bread1, plastic wrapped,
processed with food processor to medium breadcrumbs.
4~5 sticks of melted sweet butter
1 ½~2 tablespoons black pepper
Salt to taste (under salt if using a brined turkey)
3~4 tablespoons4 of ground sage (to taste)

Use a really giant bowl or use a stock pot. Make bread crumbs out of the sour dough bread a little at a time and process in the food processor not too fine. Peel and coarsely pre-chop onions and process in the food processor not too fine. Coarsely pre-chop the celery and process in the food processor not too fine. Peel and core apples and process in the food processor to raisin sized chunks or slightly larger. Add all other ingredients and mix well. Taste the blend. Add more sage if needed. Under salt the dressing if it’s cooking in a brined bird as the brining has salt in it. Tightly pack dressing into the neck cavity and main cavity of the bird. Follow directions for roasting a dressed turkey. Do not add any form of un-cook meat to dressing.  Any roasting error could prevent the internal temperature from reaching a sufficiently high temperature to kill any bacteria present. I suggest using a direct indicating thermometer stuck deep in the bird insuring that the internal temperature exceeds 140oF for at least 10 minutes. If you are preparing the dressing the day ahead, remove the dressing from the refrigerator the same time as the turkey, allowing it to come up to room temperature, if possible; failing to do so may make it damn cold to handle the dressing.

Cook any extra dressing in the oven in a tightly cover chaffing or casserole dish for 1 hour at 350F. (Add extra salt to extra stuffing not cooked in the bird, if needed, if you under salted for a brined turkey.)

  1. I do not use dry breadcrumbs or stale bread, as it is too difficult to chop in the food processor. Sour dough bread that is wrapped (either sliced or whole loaf) being a little moister make good bread crumbs in the food processor and does not require re-hydration. Buy the bread ahead of time so it is not sold out the week of Thanksgiving.
  2. Do not add any form of un-cook meat to dressing. Any roasting error could prevent the internal temperature from reaching a sufficiently high temperature to kill any bacteria present.
  3. White onion as a substitute.
  4. Do not be alarmed about quantity of sage, that is not a “typo”.

Jerked Shrimp on Rice or Catalan potatoes

A portion is four or more large shrimp per person
Rub shrimp with a mixture of regular Jamaican Jerk blend or extra hot Jamaican Jerk Blend2 that we add a pinch each of ground clove and additional ground allspice.

Jamaican Jerk blend
Rub shrimp in Jamaican Jerk blend and barbeque of hot coals until just pink on each side (2 minutes a side or until opaque).
Brush with olive oil. Serve over rice or Catalan Potatoes.

Day old cooked Jasmine rice
1 Tablespoon of rendered pork lard or butter
Iranian sumac1

Reheat the rice in a hot frying pan with a little butter or lard. Sprinkle generously with sumac to flavor. Top  rice with a portion of jerked shrimp.

  1. Sumac  is indigenous to Persia and there are hundreds of varieties. Sumac is a berry of a bush that grows wild. It is widely used in different kinds of the Middle Eastern food. Sumac is most popular for its mildly sour taste. The Lebanese and Syrians use it on fish, and Iraqi and Turks on vegetables. In Arabic cuisine sumaq is used on dishes such as Fattoush (a type of bread salad) and Za'atar herb blend which is likely to be on the Persian table as a condiment.

2.      Savory spice shop’s hot version is blend containing toasted onion, salt, garlic, sugar, allspice, Mediterranean thyme, habanero chiles, chives, black pepper, nutmeg, Saigon cinnamon and sage.

Jerked Shrimp with Catalan potatoes



San Marzano Tomatoes

 “The San Marzano tomato is Italy's most famous plum tomato, grown in Campania, the home of pizza -- since the middle ages. The tomato is prized for its tart flavor, firm pulp, red color, low seed-count and easily removed skin. It is widely used in both pizza and pasta, though recently it has become famous around the world as the base for Vera Pizza Napoletana. It's interesting to note that Naples lays claim not only as the home of pizza, but also tomato-based pasta dishes -- both enjoyed by local royalty in the 17th century.”

“The San Marzano tomato is now protected by tight rules, like many wines, cheeses and even Pizza Napoletana, obtaining the DOP (Denominazione d' Origine Protetta) label in 1996 from the European Union for the processed product.” To make sure you get the real thing, the D.O.P. products are marked. These are grown in the Sarnese Nocerino area of Italy, renowned for its especially fruitful soil as a result of its proximity to Mount Vesuvius.

The canned San Marzano tomato is better than most fresh supermarket varieties. If these are not readily available near where you live, you can buy canned San Marzano tomatoes online at Amazon.com although they are not cheap. The Italians claim that it’s not just the tomato but where it’s grown (volcanic soil) that contribute the high character in this tomato. You may grow your own; vines start bearing later in the summer. There is little doubt in this author’s mind that these tomatoes make a superior sauce if you do not have home grown or farm fresh ripe tomatoes.

Common Brands include Cento, Colucchio, Lavalle, and Strianese. Avoid cans without the DOP marking.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Two Salads with a Tangerine Balsamic Vinaigrette

Simple salads with a unique Tangerine Balsamic Vinaigrette atop fresh greens with fruit, and with grilled steak can be as much an appetizer as a salad. Assemble dressing in a shake bottle and shake well before serving. Water cress is a seasonal available ingredient; you may substitute mesclun greens or other mixed greens

Salad One
Thin slices of grilled rare steak or lamb3
Thin slices of Bosc pears
Twice washed and patted dry watercress trimmed of excess stems

Salad Two
Mandarin orange slices
Twice washed and patted dry mesclun greens
A cherry tomato or two
Optionally add sliced avocado
Optionally add pinenuts

Tangerine Balsamic Vinaigrette

            3 Tablespoons tangerine1 balsamic vinegar or more to taste
2 Tablespoons Italian grape seed oil2 (Substitute peanut oil)
¼ Teaspoon onion powder
¼ Teaspoon garlic powder
¼ Teaspoon smoked paprika (pimentón)
¼ Teaspoon aji Amarillo chili powder
¼ Teaspoon aji Ancho chili powder
½ Teaspoon sea salt
½ Teaspoon white pepper
¼ Teaspoon Lemon pepper
1/8+ Teaspoon Xanthan gum4 powder (optional)

Salad with a Tangerine Balsamic

Toss greens in vinaigrette. Make a bed of greens. Add other toppings. Drizzle toppings with additional vinaigrette, as required.

1&2. Both oil and vinegar are available from Midtown Olive Press at The Shops at Friendly Center, 3354-141 West Friendly Ave. Greensboro, NC 27408, (336) 315-6000 have a excellent ones. See their website: Midtown Olive Press
3. Alternatively use thin-cut breast of chicken that has been sautéed in butter. Lamb has more flavor than beef when served cold.

4. Xanthan gum is used as a thickener for salad dressing. A 1/2 teaspoon will thicken a cup of salad dressing, keeping the mixture more homogeneous. Use 1/8 teaspoon and a smidge more for this amount of dressing.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Jack's - Is a restaurant that has come and gone worth talking about?

I think so. Jack's Restaurant was once the second oldest in San Francisco. It originally opened in San Francisco in 1864. Jack's Restaurant was the epitome of San Francisco private elegance at 615 Sacramento Street, in an old three-story building. 

The Carte de Jour was incredible – a patron could order anything with any sauce and any vegetable where they could dine publically, or on the second floors discrete rooms that featured a hall and private stair access to go and come so as not to be seen. One dined for hours. San Franciscan’s often dined as a family. Even the children were properly dressed, with the boys in suit and tie, and girls with their pink ruffled dresses and white gloves. This was a place that was cash only. The staff took their reservations over a pay phone that hung of the wall at the edge of their small bar. If you were a regular and had a reservation, your were seated immediately, even if a line was out the door and down the block.

This was also my father’s favorite restaurant for all the same reasons: that we were never disappointed at Jack’s. My favorite waiter was a bit of a boozer but always somewhat gruff while at the same time charming. We would play a game every time I came. I would ask how the house wine was. He would say I will bring you a glass, which he did promptly. After pouring an elegant glass from a full bottle, he would leave the bottle. Every night of the week had its own special five-course meal with selectable alternatives, which was a real bargain even at $50 a person back in the sixties.

Was this the best food, or what exactly made Jack’s standout and make Playboy’s 50 Best restaurants in world in 1970?  I think in some respects the menu certainly helped but when Playboy polled their raters, it was how comfortable they felt there. If a patron ordered steak cooked extra well done with a sweet white wine, the waiter would say “excellent choice” – a customers was never wrong, the staff made us feel like royalty.

I have to say that no restaurant I go to now serves old-school favorites like fried eggplant,  creamed spinach, chateaubriand with a bordelaise sauce, sweetbread in a brandied maitre d’Hôtel sauce, escargots bourguignon,  and crepes suzette.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Chef's Resources

No matter if you run a restaurant or cook exclusively at home, doing the job well takes training and resources. These links may be helpful.

Research Pages:

 The Culinary Knowledge for Professional Chefs, Foodies and Culinarians is a good resource. 
See http://www.chefs-resources.com/



Restaurant Resources

Chef’s Attire

USDA Food Nutrician

Friday, September 14, 2012

Elena’s Tomato Sauce with Salt Pork

(Sugo de Pomodori e Guanciale)  This is my favorite pasta sauce and it is used for many dishes including spaghetti, lasagna, canneloni and manicotti. One may add this to a good fish stock as the basis for an Italain fish stew (cacciucco or cioppino). If you want a Pizzaiola Sauce, add a glass of red wine when you add the tomatoes.

This is Elena Mantini’s recipe, my good friend who lives with her family along the Appian Way in Quaromiglio. Now in her 80’s and still going strong. One of the best Italian cooks I know, Elena and her daughter Rosanna help me learn to cook at a young age. She set the bar high.

Sauce is for a pound of pasta
½ Diced Spanish (yellow) onion
¼ cup each of minced carrot and minced celery4
3 Tablespoons of best olive oil
4 Tablespoons of double strength tomato paste

¼ Pound chopped guanciale2 or salt pork
1 Pound of fresh seeded, peeled, ripe San Marzano tomatoes1, chopped
2 Cloves of crushed garlic finely minced
Crushed red pepper or powdered chili
Small pinch of marjoram or fresh marjoram
Small pinch of basil or fresh basil, chopped
Small pinch of shopped rosemary or fresh chopped rose­mary
Season with black pepper and salt

Garnish with finely chopped parsley, a dollop of ricotta cheese and sprinkle with grated Parmigiano Reggiano or peccorino Romano cheese.

Sauté onion, celery and carrot and crushed red pepper in olive oil with pork product until onions are translucent. Add garlic and stir. After just 1 minute, add tomato paste and a tablespoon water. Cook on high heat while stirring constantly to allow the tomato paste to caramelize somewhat before adding anything else. This gives the tomato sauce hundreds of different flavor compounds. Now add tomatoes and the rest of the spices. Cook covered thirty minutes on medium low stirring occasionally to prevent burning. Remove lid and cook on very low to reduce liquid. Correct seasoning with fresh ground black pepper. Serve over very hot pasta and garnish.

Variation of this recipe includes using pork neck bones, venison sausage, or coarsely chopped Italian sausage. Use caraway seed with venison and use finely crushed Star anise or anise seeds with Italian sausage recipe. Variations to garnish include substituting basil for parsley or a combination of both and Pecorino Romano for the Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.

Pasta choices I favor include spaghetti, fettuccine, vermicelli, mostaccioli (large penne), campanelle (fluted bells), orecchie (ears), rigatoni (tubes), penne rigate (diagonally cut cylinders with ridges) or conchiglie (shells). Elena always served just spa­ghetti.                                                                                                  

1.  San MarzanoTomatoes  . Use canned if fresh not available.
2.  Guanciale has become quite popular and increasingly more available outside of Italy. Guanciale is the cured meat from the jowl (“guan­cia” in Italian) of the pig or sometimes boar. The meat is cured with salt, pepper, hot pepper and sometimes sugar for a month. After hanging for another month, the Guanciale is ready to be consumed. Guanciale is a fundamental flavor for many of the dishes of the Lazio region (Roman food) especially sauces including Amatriciana, and Carbonara. Guanciale replaces pancetta in any recipe for a bolder fla­vor. See page   for Homemade guanciale.
3.  This caramelization is a Maillard reaction (a chemical reaction between an amino acid and food sugars.) The temperature necessarily needs to be above 305 F and water retards this reaction. In Italian, soffriggere means to brown so the ingredients are also referred to as a soffritto.
4.  The combination of onions, carrots, and celery are referred to is America as the “aromatic vegetables” and as a mirepoix (mir-pwaah) by the French.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Spiced Omelets

Eggs, to a chef, are like a blank canvas to a painter. They eagerly await transformation into a palate of flavors highlighting the extraordinary journey of spices and herbs have had over the millennium. A virtual cornucopia of flavors is at your command with all the spices and herbs available in a modern kitchen. When cooking eggs, salt is added at the end so it does not act as an astringent letting the eggs cook “loosey-goosey”.

Common to all omelets below:
White pepper
Sea salt (Fleur de Sel)
Sweet butter (Use olive oil for Spanish omelet)
2 Large free-range organic eggs, beaten

Garnishes: (any of the below)
            Chiffonade of Basil
            Chopped chives
            Chopped parsley

Provence Omelet
1/2 teaspoon Herbes de Provence

Italian Omelet 1
1/4 teaspoon marjoram
Garlic Powder
Onion powder
Chopped rosemary

Italian Omelet 2
1/2 teaspoon Parmesan PestoSprinkle (savory Spice shop) (use some inside and outside)

Spanish Omelet
1/4 teaspoon or more Aji Amarillo (powdered)
1/4 teaspoon Aji Ancho (powdered)
1/4 teaspoon Oregano
Garlic Powder
Onion powder

Heat pan until hot. Add butter and swirl until melted and just beginning to brown. Add eggs, swirl to bottom of pan. Add spices to taste including pepper. Spill uncooked portion of eggs over the edge by making hole or pulling edge back with a spatula to hasten even cooking. Add sea salt, then fold omelet in half and turn out onto plate. If needed, adjust omelet’s position on plate with a clean towel. Garnish as desired. Serve hot.

1. Any number of ingredients, from cheese, tomatoes, and mushrooms may be added either inside or as a topping. Cheese is best melted inside the omelet while tomatoes and mushrooms are best pre-cooked and add hot.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Greens with a Blush Raspberry Vinaigrette

Deliteful salad easy to prepare. Raspberry flavor goes with avacodo exceptionally well. Assemble dressing in a shake bottle and shake well before serving.

Sliced avocadoes (slice just before needed)
Mesclun greens or mache lettuce or baby spinach
Sliced shallots


Blush Raspberry Vinaigrette

3 Tablespoons Alessi1 white balsamic raspberry blush vinegar
2 Tablespoons peanut oil
½ Teaspoon onion powder
½ Teaspoon garlic powder
1 Teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon aji Amarillo chili powder or a hotter variety
½ Teaspoon sea salt
½ Teaspoon white pepper
½ Teaspoon black pepper
1 Teaspoon graded Romano cheese
¼ Teaspoon coriander

1/8+ Teaspoon Xanthan gum2 powder (optional)

Fan slices of avocado on the bed of greens. Top with sliced shallots. Drizzle with vinaigrette.

1.  Made from a blend of Italian white wine vinegar and the musts of white grapes, this white balsamic vinegar has been infused with the flavor of raspberries. Crisp and delicate in taste, use in salad dressings, poultry or fish marinades, or even sprinkle over fresh fruit or sliced strawberries. Substitute any quality raspberry balsamic. Midtown Olive Press at The Shops at Friendly Center, 3354-141 West Friendly Ave. Greensboro, NC 27408, (336) 315-6000 have a really excellent one. See their website: Midtown Olive Press

2. Xanthan gum is used as a thickener for salad dressing. A 1/2 teaspoon will thicken a cup of salad dressing, keeping the mixture more homogeneous. Use 1/8 teaspoon and a smidge more for this amount of dressing.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Tea for Me

Many nations ritualistically brew tea with an elevated sense of respect, which may trace back to the scarcity of tea or even the importance that tea brings to getting together the family or close friends, In any case, tea is appropriate anytime one wants to pamper oneself with a peaceful interlude. For the Persians, tea is taken at breakfast, lunch, dinner and in between with at least one or more refills. The Persians’ have been enjoying tea for many centuries. The Japanese even have a tea ceremony.

The Caspian restaurant in Santa Clara blended their own tea, which would have  remained entirely their secret were it not for its popularity among their patrons who wished to extend the experience to their own homes and friends. My version of their blend consisted of a pinch of the spices lemon verbena and cardamon added to a brew of Orange Pekoe and Earl Grey Teas. Recently, I became aware of the availability of dried Kaffir lime leaves and subsequently add a leaf or two to steep in the water, then subsequently use water to brew the tea. I suppose I could also add lemongrass.

This is a one-cup recipe, which can simply scale as necessary.

1 Tea bag, Twinings, Ceylon Orange Pekoe Tea

1 Tea bag, Twinings, Classics, Earl Grey Tea

Pinch of Lemon Verbena(1/2 teaspoon per 2 cups water)
Pinch of Lemon Thyme (1/2 teaspoon per 2 cups water)
Pinch of cardamon (1/8th teaspoon per 2 cups water)
1 Kaffir lime leaf
Other optional and alternate spices/flavors include cinnamon, turmeric, aromatic chilies, and rose-water1

Boil 2 cups of water. Add Kaffir lime leaf. Allow to steep for several minutes. Reheat until just boiling, adding balance of ingredients. Allow to steep to desired strength. Pour trough a sieve into pre-heated cup.

  1. Chai Tea or "Spiced Tea" is often a variation of black tea to which is added cardamom, ginger, clove, black pepper, bay leaf, star anise or fennel and often include milk.
  2. More than 50 varieties of tea: http://www.twiningsusa.com/