I am obsessive about tea. Like all tea lovers, I can never get enough of it, and I have a very loose system in place to manage the situation which is hard to maintain because it's constantly in flux. I'm sometimes in danger of boxes beaning me on the head when I open the cabinet. I drink it all year round, but vary the selections. Warming, spicy notes take center stage in the cold months, and bright, zippy, fruit-forward rooibos and tisanes lend themselves well to iced versions. I always enjoyed it in high school in college (remember when Celestial Seasonings was the only game in town?), but it was relegated to afternoon and evening status, in decaffeinated forms, once I found coffee. But coffee, as much as I love the smell and idea of it, just disagrees with my constitution; it revs me up and puts me on fast forward and irritates the bejeezus out of my digestive tract. I quit coffee, after a horrific reflux experience during my pregnancy and after my boys were born. I started listening to my body because boy was it talking, and I haven't really looked back. Tea is incredibly uplifting and restorative; it hugs your soul. Suddenly had a world of tea available to me. Clearly, this needs more attention in a future post. Who's with me?
As honorable and historic and beautiful and restorative as drinking it is, you can do so much more with it. And thankfully, we have Annelies Zijderveld to show us the way.
When I met Annelies several months ago and heard she was about to publish a tea cookbook, I knew I had an immediate friend. I only wish that I didn't live 3,000 miles from her—we would totally rock tea and scones on a regular basis. But I've got the second-best thing, and that's her cookbook Steeped. Its 70 recipes span the gamut from an Earl Grey Soba Noodle Salad to Green Tea Coconut Rice to applesauce made with Masala chai, along with granolas, parfaits, preserves, salads, soups, noodle dishes and a quiche, too. You'll never look at your tea collection the same way again.
I'm sharing a recipe here for Chamomile Corn Chowder with permission of her publisher, Andrews McMeel. Chamomile tea acts as the stock here, offering floral notes that you didn't know could work so harmoniously with corn. I'm now wondering how this stock base would taste had I implemented it with the pea soup I made earlier this week.
Chamomile Corn Chowder
Makes 2 to 4 servings
The floral honeyed tones of chamomile beautifully complement the sweetness of corn. This chowder owes its body to being half puréed, rather than to cream or butter, making it naturally vegan. I use frozen corn here, but if you’re lucky enough to find fresh organic corn, by all means use it.
1 tablespoon safflower, grapeseed, or other neutral oil
1 medium white onion, chopped (1½ cups)
¼ medium green bell pepper, chopped (¼ cup)
4 small potatoes, chopped (1½ cups)
½ medium sweet potato, chopped (1 cup)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3½ cups chamomile tisane, brewed (4 bags or 2 tablespoons loose)
1 pound frozen organic corn kernels or the kernels from 2 ears of organic corn
2 tablespoons chopped fresh curly parsley
Place an 8-quart stockpot over medium-low heat for 1 minute. Swirl the oil in the pot to coat. Sauté the onion and bell pepper for 5 minutes. Add the potatoes, sweet potato, salt, pepper, and chamomile. Raise the heat to medium-high. Once boiling, about 5 minutes, cover and lower the heat to simmer. Cook until the potatoes are fork-tender, about 5 minutes. Raise the heat to high. Stir in the corn and cook for 3 to 4 minutes.
Ladle half of the soup and solids into a blender, avoiding the sweet potato. Remove the cap from the blender lid and hold a towel over the opening. Purée until smooth. Return the puréed soup to the pot and stir to integrate. Grind in black pepper to taste. Garnish with the parsley.
From Steeped: Recipes Infused with Tea by Annelies Zijderveld, Andrews McMeel Publishing.