(10 seconds each to read and are almost that quick to prepare)
By Lisa Messinger
Food and Cooking at Creators Syndicate
What takes just seconds to prepare and yields about 100 servings? Your own tea blend. No longer just an expensive gourmet buy at a special shop, gourmet blends you create at home have only your imagination to limit them.
Whatever you have in your pantry even might make a memorable cup to serve to family and friends. The 100-cup yield black tea-almond extract-ground almond recipe that follows is a good example. Serving on ice once brewed is the perfect easy summer touch for your beautiful blends.
They also make quick hostess or other occasion gifts. Tracy Stern, tea boutique owner, party planner and author of Tea Party, considers them the gifts that keep on giving. Most of the enticing blends in her Tea for You: Blending Custom Teas to Savor and Share fit that bill.
Here are a few ideas:
- For the chocolate craver, Assam tea leaves are combined with cacao nibs, cardamom, cloves and orange peel.
- For chamomile tea lovers, consider a mix including that as well as fresh mint, grated peeled ginger and honey.
Fresh herb blends and spice blends are just as simple and spectacular.
"A basic green salad can be given many faces by changing the selection of fresh herbs," recommends Rosalind Creasy, an award-winning garden writer who penned Recipes from the Garden, Edible Herb Gardens and Edible Flower Gardens.
Jennifer McLagan, international chef and cookbook author, loves the classic French seasoning mix quatre epices, a combination of white pepper, nutmeg, cloves, ginger and at times cinnamon and allspice. She points out that the blend "varies according to the whim of the producer" and that's why you are just as likely to create your own fun blend as any of the world's most seasoned manufacturers.
In fact, as expert Fabienne Gambrelle, author of Spices, likes to remind those shy about stirring up their own concoctions, spice merchants themselves are always experimenting.
Borrow some ideas from them. Gambrelle recommends:
"The 1990s saw pepper mixes, followed by salts flavored with vanilla, pink peppers, juniper or ginger, sometimes even with a touch of citrus or tea and teas flavored with various spices."
"Spice dealers are constantly finding new uses for existing blends. The fine grocer Eric Bur sells Chica Pica, a piquant mix developed from a recipe by the Rodel canners who use it for sardines. The Quai Sud brand has revised the recipe for Chinese five-spice mix, substituting aniseed for star anise and adding ginger and cilantro leaves. It has also revisited a traditional recipe from Mali, combining cinnamon, cumin, aniseed and strong chili. The Saravane spice dealers have created a harmony of cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg and vanilla in their 'snow mixture' for mulled wine."
Fun fare like this also proves food preparation can be easy, nutritious, inexpensive, fun - and fast. They take just 10 seconds each to read and are almost that quick to prepare. The creative combinations are delicious proof that everyone has time for creating homemade specialties and, more importantly, the healthy family togetherness that goes along with it!
Another benefit: You effortlessly become a better cook, since these are virtually-can't-go-wrong combinations. They can't help but draw "wows" from family members and guests.
ALMOND BLACK TEA MIX
8 ounces black tea leaves
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 tablespoons ground toasted almonds
Yields enough for 100 (6- to 8-ounce) cups.
Combine the tea leaves almond extract and ground almonds in a 16-ounce jar with a tight-fitting lid. Cover and shake gently to combine, then set aside in a dark, cool place overnight.
To prepare tea: Use boiling water to brew cups of the tea, letting it steep for 4 to 5 minutes.
-Adapted from Tea for You: Blending Custom Teas to Savor and Share
.QUICK TIP OF THE WEEK:
What wine books do sommeliers recommend and read themselves? One of my favorite compilations comes from Secrets of the Sommeliers by Rajat Parr and Jordan Mackay. An especially rollicking read is The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson, of which Parr and Mackay write, "A crucial part of understanding wine is understanding geography. That makes a good wine atlas essential, and this is one of the best (Oz Clarke's is also good). Outstanding maps of all the world's important wine regions clearly show how land, sea, and wine are related. A wealth of information about wine styles, viticulture, and history is impressively smuggled into the long, thorough text accompanying the maps."
Lisa Messinger is a first-place winner in food and nutrition writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the National Council Against Health Fraud and author of seven food books, including the best-selling The Tofu Book: The New American Cuisine with 150 Recipes (Avery/Penguin Putnam) and Turn Your Supermarket into a Health Food Store: The Brand-Name Guide to Shopping for a Better Diet (Pharos/Scripps Howard). She writes two nationally syndicated food and nutrition columns for Creators Syndicate and had been a longtime newspaper food and health section managing editor, as well as managing editor of Gayot/Gault Millau dining review company. Lisa traveled the globe writing about top chefs for Pulitzer Prize-winning Copley News Service and has written about health and nutrition for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Reader's Digest, Woman's World and Prevention Magazine Health Books. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.