The Perfect Bite… Spicy Crab Cakes On A Spoon

 

Petite crab cakes…with habanero mayo…paired perfectly with my cup of oolong tea this afternoon

Petite crab cakes…since I was making really small cakes, I wanted a recipe packed with flavor; therefore, I broke away from my regular recipe and went to Martha Stewart’s Hors D’oeuvres Handbook, using her Classic Crab Cake recipe along with her Chili – Lime Aioli. Flavor punch came from the habanero chili peppers & lime juice in the aioli and the jalapeños in the crab mixture

Functional, clean, and attractive… the appetizer spoons are a great vehicle to serve individual bites with sauce…(a side benefit of the spoon as vehicle?…it certainly eliminates the potential of someone “double dipping into the sauce bowl :-)” )

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I love serving foods in simple, yet interesting ways.  Our dear friends (who are Dutch) brought us these lovely and functional bent-handled spoons  from Holland.  They were a good fit for serving these spicy crab cake appetizers last weekend.  Each time I use these spoons, I think of them and smile, because from the day I met J & J (20 years ago), being around them has felt like “home.”

I used this small scoop to shape my crab to fit perfectly into these spoons.

I used this small scoop to shape my crab mixture to fit perfectly onto these spoons

While I served these little cakes with champagne for guests prior to dinner…today I had the few leftovers at tea time with a light oolong tea.  Spicy foods pair well with green teas.  Next time you enjoy Asian foods at your favorite Asian restaurant, take note of the teas they serve…usually oolongs or light green teas.  These teas pair well with dishes with heat from chilies and other spicy flavors.

Shellfish goes really well with oolong and green teas…smoked salmon, shrimp, and lobster flavors are enhanced with the clean, simple, pure taste of these teas also.

One of the beautiful things about having so many choices in types of teas and tea infusions is that you can always find one that enhances your dish…some combinations just take a food bite to another level.  Taste teas with food…enjoy tea…drink tea.  It’s good for you!

Celebrating The Irish….And The History Of “Green”

Green eggs…in celebration of St. Patrick's Day

Green eggs…in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day – green tinged foods may be fun for Americans; however, the color harkens to a darker time for the Irish

My family enjoys gathering and celebrating… St. Patrick’s Day was one of our mother’s favorite days to bring us together, (she regularly reminded us that she was one-quarter Irish).

These days, my sister and niece alternate hosting the dinner.  This year, our Sammycakes surprised us with these utterly delicious deviled eggs…colored green. The yolk /filling was soooo silky smooth and perfectly seasoned – I could have consumed a dozen (I stopped at 4).

Seeing these made me wonder why green is associated with St. Patrick’s Day.  In doing a little research, I discovered this interesting blog post written by Maria Godoy, at NPR’s The Salt food blog, where the history of the great Irish famine and the correlation to green foods are described…

The Irish celebrate their patron saint on March 17, green food has bitter connotations that recall the nation’s darkest chapter, says historian Christine Kinealy.

The reason, Kinealy explains, is the Irish potato famine of the 1840s, which forced so many Irish to flee mass starvation in their homeland in search of better times in America and elsewhere. Those who stayed behind turned to desperate measures.

“People were so deprived of food that they resorted to eating grass,” Kinealy tells The Salt. “In Irish folk memory, they talk about people’s mouths being green as they died.”

At least 1 million Irish died in the span of six years, says Kinealy, the founding director of Ireland’s Great Hunger Institute at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut. Which is why, for an Irishwoman like Kinealy, who hails from Dublin and County Mayo, the sight of green-tinged edibles intended as a joyous nod to Irish history can be jolting, she says.”   From The Salt, NPR blog, post written by Maria Godoy.

The “wearing of the green” is associated to the “shamrock” and various Irish historic activities which are said to have begun around 1640.  The 3 leafed shamrock referenced the Catholic holy trinity, later “the green” was adopted by the Friendly Brothers of St. Patrick.  The holiday is celebrated on March 17 as that is the recognized death day of St. Patrick. Originally it was a religious feast day and has extended into being a celebration day of Irish culture.

While many Irish are somewhat bemused by how joyous the American’s have made St. Patty’s Day, most celebrate and have embraced much of American’s enthusiasm.

A few additional facts about the Irish…they consume more tea per capita than any other recorded population.  Irish breakfast tea is the type of strong black tea that holds up well to milk and is one of my favorites — particularly with a scone or Irish soda bread.  Each year, I make my mom’s Irish soda bread recipe…as doing so, I am flooded with great memories of making dozens of loaves with her.  A favorite remembrance for me is toasting the leftover bread and slathering it with butter the next morning.   Below is this year’s effort.  I bake my soda bread in a soufflé dish we received as a wedding gift a couple decades ago.  It makes a beautiful, rustic-looking loaf.  What’s wonderful about this bread is that it takes about 15 minutes to put together…It’s a quick bread!

Tea With Betty's Irish soda bread…baked in my favorite soufflé dish…using Irish…grass fed…Kerrygold butter of course :-)

Tea With Betty’s Irish soda bread…baked in my favorite soufflé dish…using Irish…grass fed…Kerrygold butter of course 🙂

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Truly FRESH Herbal Infusions…Made Tableside Just For You!

The FRESHEST herbal tea…made to order, table side -- to your liking ---

The FRESHEST herbal tea…made to order, table side — to your liking —

 

The Kitchen Restaurant in Sacramento offered this unique herbal infusion menu…made with fresh herbs to order.

The Kitchen Restaurant in Sacramento offered this unique herbal infusion menu…made with fresh herbs to order.

IMG_0633One of the best dining experiences we’ve ever had was at The Kitchen Restaurant in Sacramento.  I’ll share more about the meal in a future post – Dinner was an “event” which included a unique tea service where we were offered a menu of special blends featuring a basket of fresh herbs.

As the chefs plated the dessert course, we ordered our hot beverages.   I’d never seen anything like this…fresh herbs, clipped to order and steeped at your place setting.

I opted for their green tea…but next time will go for the herbal infusion.

Tetsubin iron teapot service at The Kitchen...

Tetsubin iron teapot service at The Kitchen…

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What Tea Is In Your Cupboard?

I was going through my tea cabinet the other day, determined to weed out anything getting remotely old, wanting to consolidate tins and boxes where I could.  As with spices, checking your code dates and rotating product on a regular basis is a good practice.  Often I am asked, “how long can I keep tea?”  I don’t keep tea over one year old.  Most of the teas I purchase have open code dating on them, so it is easy to keep track of what’s fresh and what’s not.   Some have two year shelf lives, but still, I attempt to go through them within a year.  The fresher they are, the more flavor they have.  Just get rid of old bags and varieties that have been sitting in your cupboard forever…(usually those are the weird flavored herbals that are left behind from some variety box you got ages ago.)  My mom, Betty’s, rule…”when in doubt, throw it out.”

There are approximately eight types of tea that I like to keep on hand.  They are listed at the end of this post. Pictured here…my kitchen tea cupboard…I keep taking over shelves with tea.

My kitchen tea cupboard…Mighty Leaf, Harney & Sons, Peet's, Adagio, Kusmi, Numi, and Marriage Freres varieties are ready for the steeping

My kitchen tea cupboard…Mighty Leaf, Harney & Sons, Peet’s, Adagio, Kusmi, Numi, and Marriage Freres varieties are ready for the steeping

IMG_0526   What’s not shown in the above photos are my absolute favorite morning teas…I order them by the pound from either Mighty Leaf or Harney & Sons…organic assam and organic breakfast are my ultimate favorites for morning tea…with milk.

My "other" stash…by the pound…morning breakfast teas from Harney & Sons and Mighty Leaf…I love the Mighty Leaf Organic Breakfast (have some on order now) and Harney & Sons organic Assam…starting my day with a cup or two of one of these teas is a joy to me.

My “other” stash…by the pound…morning breakfast teas from Harney & Sons and Mighty Leaf…I love the Mighty Leaf Organic Breakfast (have some on order now) and Harney & Sons organic Assam…starting my day with a cup or two of one of these teas is a joy to me.

After years of research and getting overwhelmed by the hundreds of tea varieties out there…here are the ones I keep in my house.

1. Breakfast tea…organic Assam or organic breakfast…leaf tea

2. An Earl Grey…find one you like.  I love Mighty Leaf’s (as does my daughter) and Tea Forte’s is delicious w/ a touch of cornflower leaves in it.

3. Organic Ceylon (for your best black iced tea).

4. Jasmine Downey Pearls (green tea)…love Peet’s, Mighty Leaf or Harney & Sons…the fragrance is a relaxing, healing elixir

5. A good oolong…such as rare Ti Quan Yin

6. Japanese green tea…sencha (grassy green) or Genmaicha (popcorn tea)

7. Masala Chai…just an excellent spicy tea that goes with fall desserts so well….I don’t put sugar in my chai ever, but many like it with sugar…

8. Your favorite Rooibos infusion (the African red bush tea) – naturally no caffeine and lots of healthy attributes

I also enjoy Darjeeling, the champagne of tea (as does my husband)…I keep a couple of those on hand.  I do try different teas now and then and strongly encourage you to find ones you love.  My list is distilled down from years of tasting scores of infusions.  I am quite boring when it comes to tea and now prefer “pure teas”…not so much “flavored” teas.  But the fun is trying a bunch and finding what you like.  My sister loves fruity teas…we had a delicious one this afternoon at Starfish Restaurant in Laguna Beach…an acai oolong from Revolution tea.  It was perfect with our Asian food choices.

When buying tea, look for suppliers you like and can trust…go organic when possible and whole leaf/full leaf for more flavor and health benefits.  And….check the codes of the teas in your cupboard! If you can’t remember when you got that tea…it might just have exceeded it’s life 🙂

Drink tea…and enjoy trying different types. Tasting different teas is a fun journey that now and then surprises you while lighting up your tastebuds.