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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The French Laundry’s Winter Garden…Radishes Anyone?

Food trends fascinate me.  A few years ago, the highly acclaimed baker, Nancy Silverton (and co-owner of the Pizzeria Mozza Restaurants) put Butterscotch Budino on her menu…she got rave reviews for this tasty pudding…and all of a sudden we started seeing budino’s and butterscotch on dessert menus everywhere we went.  Beets is another item that has made the rounds on menus –  various varieties,  colors, sizes, & cooking methods  are offered as the golden or red beet may be pickled, smoked, roasted, or served raw… along with their leaves too.

When in Napa Valley, I love to walk  to The French Laundry (TFL) gardens in Yountville…located directly across the street from Thomas Keller’s famed restaurant.  After visiting this winter…I predict the humble radish to be the food trend we see adorning plates everywhere…from bulb to leaf. The gorgeous TFL gardens were prolific with baby broccoli, chives, nantes carrots and more…but the radishes really caught my attention…while I was not familiar with most of these varieties, I can see why TFL likes them…they offer a crisp texture, pungent, peppery flavor and plenty of color lending themselves to be a valued addition to almost any plate.

The French Laundry Winter Garden…featuring…the radish…a cool season vegetable that is easy to grow.  Takes three weeks to harvest.

The French Laundry Restaurant…unassuming, easy to drive by and miss

The French Laundry Restaurant…unassuming, easy to drive by and miss

 

TFL Garden hothouse…radishes anyone?

A stunningly beautiful February morning at TFL Gardens and hothouse…radishes — baby carrots — baby lettuces — the veg is honored here

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Nutritional information about the radish … One cup is just 19 calories, 4 grams of carb., 29% of your recommended daily vitamin C and 7% fiber…there are also several minerals, including potassium.

So, what’s your radish?  My preference is to enjoy them thinly sliced or julienned over a fresh salad…my husband can sit and eat several whole ones as a snack.  However you choose, using them offers a little more depth to a dish…either in texture, crunch, color, and that bit of peppery flavor.

Three types of radishes…tender and peppery and crunchy

Three types of radishes…tender and peppery and crunchy

Valentine For A Friend…Heart-Shaped Scones From White Lily Flour

Happy Valentine’s Day…

My good buddy and “sounding board”, Hils,  loves my biscuit scones.  She is quite a disciplined eater, but will indulge when it’s worth it.  These scones are worth it…top with a tart lemon curd and you’ve got the perfect, decadent pairing.  I made heart-shapes and used White Lily Flour …which we discovered at Surfas.  The signage claimed that this soft winter wheat, light flour is what makes Southern biscuits and Southern baking sooooo wonderful.  The flour is really fine..feels a bit like cornstarch and certainly made an outstanding scone.  I love using this product.  We baked a batch  with all-purpose flour too and tasted them against the ones made with White Lily…both were excellent, the Southern scone was lighter and a bit flakier, very nice.  There was a bit more texture to the ones made with my general, all-purpose flour (which my husband actually preferred…and he’s the Southern one ?!*#  🙂 ).   We will bake with the White Lily a few more times and let you know our findings.

Heart-shaped scones made with White Lily flour…a Southern favorite

Heart-shaped scones made with White Lily flour…a Southern favorite

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Packaged and ready to deliver to Hils…

O.K…all she needs is a nice cup of tea with these …

I still have some old Martha Stewart gift boxes w/ wrapping that we got 5 years ago when in New York and at her t.v. show…makes great Valentine gift wrapping.

I still have some old Martha Stewart gift boxes w/ wrapping that we got 5 years ago when in New York and at her t.v. show…makes great Valentine gift wrapping.

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Think Garnish…Whimsical, Beautiful, Rustic, & Compelling

You might have heard the phrase, “you eat with your eyes first.”  Those who know me, know I love to eat.  I love food.  It’s as simple as that.
I also love foods that look good.  The older I get, the less I seem to be able to consume and keep healthy…so, smaller portions are in order.  This fits perfectly with my passion for afternoon tea menus.  Beautiful petite bites are what I seek at tea time.  Often I prepare my own, and  while I thoroughly enjoy cooking, I am not very good at the detail work of decorating –  so, when I want that little something to make my dish yield an extra smile that warms the heart, I use garnishes.  Innovative packaging, serving pieces, cutters, and papers simplify my work and can take an ordinary dish to being something special.  With little effort, let your garnish reflect the beauty, whimsy, or rustic appeal you desire.   For my most important events, when I need things to look really awesome with a “wow” factor, I call on my niece, Sammycakes…she is masterful at creating spectacular looking (and tasting) desserts.  Knowing my interest in creating compelling, unique small bites; my sister-in-law and niece sent me a link to a site they thought interesting called Think Garnish.  I believe they saw the site in Martha Stewart Living Magazine. Check it out, there are clever ideas awaiting you there.

Think Garnish describes what garnish is all about this way…”Have you ever wondered what makes the difference between something special and spectacular?  It’s the Garnish…that little something extra that brings a sparkle to the eye and a giggle to the heart.

A few of my latest favorite festive garnishes are below:

Ricotta cheesecake baked and served in these festive cups…normally this special family recipe Easter pie is not very attractive as a whole pie…these cups dressed them up nicely…topped with a little heavy cream…gorgeous

Ricotta cheesecake baked and served in these festive cups…normally this special family recipe Easter pie is not very attractive as a whole pie…these cups dressed them up nicely…topped with a little heavy cream…gorgeous

Shot  glass sized dessert cups…just about guilt free in size…these were at the St. Regis Tea and Tinis buffet

Shot glass sized dessert cups…just about guilt free in size…these were at the St. Regis Tea and Tinis buffet

 

 

Sometimes garnish with parchment paper and a square mold are the look you want…this photo from la Cucina Italiana…it is a mini lapsing soughing tea cake

Sometimes garnish with parchment paper and a square mold are the look you want…this photo from la Cucina Italiana…it is a mini lapsang souchong tea cake

From Think Garnish…this cute small tulip cup is available from their site…these are just up my alley.

From Think Garnish…this cute small tulip cup is available from their site…these are just up my alley.

Pinterest offers an enormous amount of ideas for beautiful and clever garnishes…these tea bag cookies take a little extra time cutting and are so cute --

Pinterest offers an enormous amount of ideas for beautiful and clever garnishes…these tea bag cookies take a little extra time cutting and are so cute —

Think Garnish says that “products are blank canvases just waiting for your expression. Totally customizable, they offer infinite possibilities. Take this opportunity to let your personality shine through… and make every occasion a special occasion. You’ll be surprised how easy it is to bring simple sophistication to everyday life. Garnish provides all the ingredients and ideas you need to create an experience that everyone will remember. Remember, there is no one perfect moment to add a little Garnish…every moment deserves to be Garnished.”

I encourage you to express yourself through adding a little garnish…Valentine’s Day is coming…the perfect opportunity to create a new memory through food.  Food is Life…it may as well be interesting.

 

 

 

 

 

Recipe: Marbled Tea Eggs … in Celebration of the Chinese Spring Festival

My mother, Betty, celebrated as many cultural festival days as she knew about…she did this before we had such enormous access to information via the world wide web.  She attempted foods from other cultures often – and quite successfully…she had a knack and intuition about what went together to make a dish shine.  We celebrated Bastille, St. Valentine, St. Patrick, Cinco de Mayo, all U.S. holidays (including cherry pie on Washington’s birthday) and at least a dozen family days with special menus from her.  She loved Chinese foods and, if alive today, she’d be preparing something to celebrate China’s Spring Festival later this week.

The Spring Festival (Chinese Lunar New Year) of 2014 falls on January 31. The public holiday starts from January 31 to February 6. It is the Year of the Horse.  This festival is considered the most important of the year.   Below is the step-by-step process for making China’s famous marbled tea eggs…I just finished consuming my last one from the batch I prepared last week.  The sweet scent and flavor from the star anise and cinnamon stick balance beautifully with the savory soy and Chinese black tea…the yin and yang are in sync.

Marbled Tea Egg Recipe (From Tea With Betty: A Tea Manual):

Marbled Tea Eggs..nesting in a clear Steuben bowl...

Marbled Tea Eggs..nesting in a clear Steuben bowl…

Makes 12 eggs.

PREP TIME:  20 minutes TOTAL TIME:  8 hours 20 minutes (includes soaking time)

12 large eggs

1 ½ teaspoons coarse salt

3 tablespoons loose Chinese black tea or other black tea (Earl Grey or smoky Russian Caravan)

2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 star anise

2 cinnamon sticks

Boil eggs 15 minutes over low heat.  Cool in the cooking water.  Drain the eggs and tap shells all over with the back of a spoon until each shell is covered with a web of cracks.

Return eggs to the pan, cover with cold water, add salt, soy sauce, star anise, cinnamon sticks, tea.

Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer very slowly for approximately 2 hours.

Remove from heat, let cool in the pan with the liquid, then cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.

When ready to serve, remove eggs from liquid, peel, cut eggs crosswise, and serve.

They will be beautifully marbled looking.

Serve chilled, with small bowls of the cooking liquid and coarse salt or slice and serve on soft white bread with mayonnaise.

Ingredients in their place (mise en place) for steeping "cracked" hard boiled eggs…

Ingredients in their place (mise en place) for steeping “cracked” hard boiled eggs…top left, cinnamon sticks and star anise: top right, Adagio black dragon pearls Chinese Yunnan tea, soy sauce, coarse salt

 

After hard boiling your eggs, discard water, crack eggs with the back of a spoon, place back in pan with cold water and the ingredients…slow steep for 2 hours

After hard boiling your eggs, discard water, crack eggs with the back of a spoon, place back in pan with cold water and the ingredients…slow steep for 2 hours

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Marbled Tea Eggs, stunning looking, fragrant with spices, yolks perfectly centered..eat alone or slice and put on bread/biscuit with a little mayo..mmmmm

Marbled Tea Eggs, stunning looking, fragrant with spices, yolks perfectly centered..eat alone or slice and put on bread/biscuit with a little mayo..mmmmm

Making these marbled eggs is truly as easy as boiling water…the fragrance wafting through the house when they are slowly simmering is delightful.  The end result is a healthy, beautiful product.  Enjoy with a cup of green tea or an oolong.

 

Drink tea!  It’s good for you 🙂