Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Complete this statement: If I were an ingredient I would be _____________...

Hint: My answer is below...
Why would you be that ingredient? 

After water, Tea is the world’s second most popular beverage. Legend has it that tea was discovered in China in 2737 BC by the Emperor Shen Nung, when the leaves of a wild tea bush accidentally fell into a pot of boiling water. By the time of the Tang Dynasty tea had become China’s national drink. This legend sounds like many of my recipes, accidental yet amazingly flavorful and resilient.

Almost all countries have their own tea culture just like all cultures have their own style of cooking. The ability to use tea as a culinary ingredient allows me to honor and unite the world in my individual way while incorporating the healthful benefits of tea into any meal.  

Tea, a frequently overlooked cooking ingredient, is one of infinite flavor profiles. Tea should play a role in everybody's kitchen as a teasoning, marinade, sauce, smoking agent, braising, poaching and brining liquid. Tea enhances the flavor of a dish in a totally different way than any other spice in your cupboard. Chances are you probably already have a full cupboard of tea that is going stale; just cook with it.

How do you pair tea with an ingredient?

The first step is to smell the tea. Close your eyes and let your senses lead you . What foods would taste good with that tea? What flavors would complement or contrast the flavor profile of the tea. The next step is to decide how to use it. Will you grind it for a rub? (Tea should have its own grinder, so it won't pick up notes from coffee or other spices.) Or would it work better in a brine, as a smoking agent, in a marinade, etc?  For example, you can take almost any recipes and substitute brewed tea for any liquid (chicken stock, veggie stock, veal stock, water) or you can throw in the pot of water when cooking a starch. 

The Following recipe uses tea as a base for a seasoning and to flavor the quinoa as it cooks. 

Corn off the cob Quinoa Salad

Serves: 4 - 6

For the teasoning:

1/2 tablespoon Mate Limon Chai, finely ground

1/2 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon salt

For the quinoa:

3 cups red quinoa

2 tablespoons Mate Limon Chai

6 cups water

For the sauteed vegetables:

3 tablespoons canola oil

1 red onion, sliced

1 pound shiitake mushrooms, sliced

5 ears corn, roasted and cut off cob (of 1 can of corn, drained)

1 red pepper, chopped

2 cups edamame

1 pound cherry tomatoes, cut in half

1/4 cup basil, thinly sliced

Salt and pepper to taste

For the dressing:

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

2 tablespoons agave

1 lime, zest and juice

1 cup olive oil

13/4 teasoning

Directions: For the teasoning: Mix tea and spices together.

For the quinoa: Place quinoa in medium pot. Sprinkle Mate Limon Chai over quinoa. Add 6 cups water to pot. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes. Cook until soft but still a little crunchy.

For the vegetables: In a sauté pan over medium--high heat, add the canola oil. When the oil is hot add the onion and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the shiitakes and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, until soft. Add the red pepper, edamame and corn and cook for another 4 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn stove off and mix in cherry tomatoes.

For the dressing: In a mixing bowl, whisk the agave, apple cider vinegar, lime zest and lime juice. Slowly add the oil whisking vigorously to emulsify the dressing (may be done in a food processor). Sprinkle in 1 tablespoon of the teasoning and mix to combine. Add more to taste

In a big serving bowl, coat the quinoa with half of the dressing. Add the sautéed veggies and mix to combine. Add more dressing to taste. Add salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with fresh basil.

What ingredient would you be?

By the way, I didn't have time to cook Lenny Martinelli's Lapsang Souchong Braised Lamb, which is why I didn't write about it. I promised my husband that it will be Sunday's night dinner so stay tuned to hear how it comes out...

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