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Sunday, February 26, 2012

It's Time to Partea

You may be debating if you should point out the typo on the title or if you should just let it be.
I know I write in Shakespeare's language, the same way Sofia Vergara speaks it (but then, unfortunately, that's where our similarities end).
I'm aware I need an editor to change, explain, correct and make this blog make sense. And some dear people have kindly offered to help, but then, after researching the ingredients, developing, testing and photographing the recipes, writing the posts, waiting for those charitable editing souls to finish, and finally making the corrections,I would probably be able to post once a year. And since I believe food is as infinite as mathematics, I just put my self-contiousness aside, and I shamlessly type, even if I write in English with a heavy Spanish accent.
I apologize for often turturing the Queen's language all the way into Spanglish, but I really try my best to be as respectful as I can.
Now, going back to my "partea," the title is not a mistake, but an effort to be creative (or funny, or loved, understood, accepted or noticed), as this week I'm blogging about tea.
A couple of years ago I was assigned to write a story about "cooking with tea" for Kiwi magazine (sorry, tried to find the link, but it's not available, so please take my word for it). It ended up being an incredible learning and inspiring experience for me, and I just kept writing.
I had long conversations with Chas Kroll, then the director of the American Tea Masters Association, and to tea expert Diana Rosen, co-author of many tea books, including Cooking with Tea.
I found the topic so fascinating that I kept bargening to get a higher word count in the piece, even without increasing my pay (did I mention I'm a brilliant business woman?). When published, the initial story was reduced to a third of what I had originally turned in.
Now that I'm my own editor-in-chief, and I (unfortunately) don't depend on ad space, I'm happy to revisit the topic and expand a bit more. Here it comes:

Second only to water, tea is the most consumed beverage in the world. It’s believed that Camellia sinensis, the tea bush, originated in China 5000 years ago. From there, tea, the drink made by steeping the dried leaves of this particular bush in hot water (note that steeping leaves, roots, seeds, barks, etc other than C. sinensis doesn't result in TEA, but an herbal infussion or tisane), became a favorite throughout Asia, where it was highly praised for its restorative properties and considered a symbol of status. In the early 1600s it was introduced to Europe, where it gained many devotees, especially among Brits.

While here in the United States, Starbucks lattes and Coca colas are still more popular, the tea market has quadrupled in the last 15 years, as the information about its health benefits has spread.

This antioxidant-packed beverage helps improve mental performance, regulates cholesterol levels, increases
metabolism and even prevents dental caries, among many other fabulous tricks that are still being researched.


Depending on the processing of the leaves, there are four basic types of tea (in increasing order of oxidation level and caffeine content): white, green, oolong and black. Besides the type of processing, each one of these teas--just like wine grapes and honey--comes in many varietals; and the color, fragrance and taste of each batch is affected by the climate, soil, altitude and rain of the place they come from. So, depending on the processing and origin of each bush, different teas, have different flavors.

As Ms. Rosen explained me, white tea, from young leaves, is subtle with floral and citrus notes. Green tea can have a light, smoky flavor with grassy and ocean notes. Some Oolong teas have floral, fruity or spicy hints, while others have more roasted flavors. Black tea, the most consumed tea worldwide, is astringent, and its flavor varies dramatically among regions.

With all this alternatives, tea experts and aficionados recommend that you let your own palate be your guide. “Each tea is individual and should be tasted first to find its predominant characteristic (is it sharp, soft, citrus, earthy, or smoky?), and then it can be matched with a recipe,” explained Rosen. She recommended using intense teas when preparing intense-flavored dishes, and pairing delicate teas with delicate foods. “Sweet, grassy, green teas are wonderful in salads or egg dishes; black tea is great with meat or poultry, and it’s delicious in fruit
compotes, where it cuts the sweetness. Fruity teas are good for ice cream or egg sauces.”

As a suggestion, don't add a lot of tea when cooking, a little goes a long way and DON'T cook the tea for too long because it can turn bitter.

A new flavor experience opens up by not only sipping, but also cooking with tea, especially when using greeen tea. Some types of green tea, especially the premium kinds (such as Japanese ichibancha, gyokuro and sencha) have a very high umami content. Thus, green tea can be the secret way of infussing a dish with "deliciousness". 


Some ways of incorporating tea into cooking are:

- Flavoring oils or butter (infuse warm oil or butter for a few minutes, then remove tea bags,
cool oils and refrigerate butter). Flavored oils can be served in salad dressings or drizzled over soups. Infused butter is a hit on pancakes and as an ingredient in pastries.


-Substituting brewed tea for water when cooking rice or pasta.

-Infusing stocks for soups or sauces.

-Sprinkling on fish, poultry or beef before cooking

PARSNIP OVEN-ROASTED "FRIES" WITH GREEN TEA AND APPLE CIDER GLAZE

For this recipe, I was inspired by a similar one published in this month's issue of Bon Appetit magazine. I saw the photo and ran out to but parsnips. I love these pale-carrot-looking roots. They have such a delicate, sweet and floral taste that I thought would go great with mild green tea and some apple cider left over in my fridge. The thyme imparts a very pleasant woodsy flavor.
I hope you like this dish as well!
INGREDIENTS

  • Vegan
  • Free of: gluten, wheat, soy, nuts, dairy and eggs
  • Super ingredients: antioxidant and fiber rich parsnips, green tea and thyme

1 cup (8 oz) apple cider
2 bags green tea (or 4g. loose green tea, separated), separated
About 10 sprigs fresh thyme
11/2 lbs (about 5 medium) parsnips
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

METHOD
Preheat oven to 450 F.
Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
In a small saucepan over medium high heat, cook apple cider, 4 thyme sprigs and one bag of green tea (or 2g. in a tea filter), until the liquid reduces to a 1/4 cup. It will have to simmer for about 30 minutes. Do not boil. 


Remove tea bag after 10 minutes and discard.
While cider reduces, peel parsnips and cut them into approx. 3-inch long and 1/2-inch wide sticks.
Spread parsnip sticks into one layer on the baking sheet and add oil, salt and pepper and mix, until all the sticks are evenly oiled and seasoned. Top with the remaining thyme sprigs.

Sprinkle sticks with some of the contents of the tea bag (about 1/2 teaspoon), so they are all lightly sprinkled. Reserve the remaining tea for another use.
Bake parsnip for 10 minutes, turn and bake for another 6 to 8 minutes, until they brown.

By this time, apple cider should have reduced enough. 

Remove thyme sprigs and pour glaze over parsnips immediately after they come out of the oven, so glaze caramelizes with the heat of the baking sheet.

Serve immediately.

Enjoy!
Makes about 4 servings

1 comment:

Debra Rapoport said...

OH OH I love parsnips (often eat them like candy!)so this is a terrific new approach. And I'm a TEA lover as well. Can't wait to try it! Debra