Saturday, February 17, 2007

Tea Time

Tea Selection

I'm coffeed out...I have drank my fair share of coffee over the years, and I'm (for a while at least) done with coffee. The fact that Starbucks can sell a cup o'joe for close to five bucks doesn't make it sit any better with me. I've decided to give tea a whirl and explore flavors, choices, styles, etc.

Right now I'm partial to the black teas. I really want to understand the differences and nuances of black teas first before experimenting with the world of herbal teas.

So today as I stared at the tea section at my local supermarket, I walked away with a box of Bigelow's Constant Comment and Twinings Peach flavored black tea.

As I sit typing this article I am enjoying a hot mug of the peach tea.

My reviews and comments shall soon be added to this article.


Black Sampler

Black Sampler

Discover the world of difference between supermarket tea and the gourmet varieties found in this set. Sample black teas from China, India and Sri Lanka. Six tins in total, one ounce apiece.



Recently on a mission to the Pacific, I felt a cold coming on...Which is strange cuz I don't get sick, or as I like to say, " I don't do sick."

Anyway I got sick, very sick, and because of the mission, and then the subsequent timing of the red-eye flight back to NYC, I was not able to start any antibiotics till after I returned to the east coast with a sinusitis running at full terminal velocity.

Well, I got my amoxicillian and after a couple of days of severe congestion coupled with a bout of fever induced sleep induced apnea, m sickness started to turn an upward trend in feeling better. However, I was still congested, very congested.

This was when our housekeeper showed up in the evening to help out with an impending complicated morning, spying my condition, she immediately broke out ingredients to prepare an old world (South Asian Old World) remedy called Rasam.

After an elaborate method of preparation that lasted about 15 minutes, she presented me with a thin, but very dark soup that had aromas of garlic, lemon, peppers, and onions. The mere steam started to penetrate my sinuses. I took a first sip and almost could not finish the spoonful as it was way spicy. I completed that spoonful, and out of politeness endured another spicy one, and just when I thought I would not be able to endure anymore...I began lapping it all up. I finished the entire bowl, and my sinuses started to clear almost instantly. What was this soup? It's called Rasam and here are three recipes on this most amazing remedy which I now think of as a culinary delight:

Simple Rasam

Serves 4

Preperation Time 30 Minutes

Green Vegetables

250 gms tomatoes, quartered
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, crushed
4 green chillies, chopped
1 lemon-sized ball of tamarind
1 tbsp jaggery
1 tsp mustard seeds
10 curry leaves
1 red chilli, broken into two
1 tsp coriander seeds – roasted & powdered
1 tsp cuminseeds – roasted & powdered
2 tsps peppercorns – roasted & powdered
½ tbsps oil

1.Extract the pulp of tamarind by soaking it in a cup of hot water.

2. Boil the tomatoes, chillies and garlic in 4 cups of water.

3. Add the ground spices, jaggery and tamarind pulp and simmer for 15 minutes.

4. Heat the oil.

5. Splutter the mustard seeds.

6. Add the curry leaves, red chilli, asafoetida powder and onion and fry for a minute.

7. Pour it over the tomatoes.

8. Serve hot.

Here's another recipe:


(Indian spicy dal soup)

The soup is traditional to southern India and can be varied with coconut, chilis, and ginger, not to mention tamarind and even asafoetida. Serve hot to 4-6 people as a first course.

Garnish: chopped cilantro

Bring water to boil in a saucepan, add the lentils, reduce heat, cover, and cook until tender, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a heavy pot to medium high, add the mustard and cumin seeds, and let cook until the seeds begin to pop. Reduce heat to low and cover for a minute or two. Be careful that the seeds don't burn. Toss in the quartered tomatoes, the pepper, cumin, and minced garlic and saute for a few minutes to release and concentrate flavors. Add one cup of water and salt and scrape up the pan to dissolve into the water. Let boil uncovered until the liquid is reduced by half.

Stir in the lentils, and add enough water to bring the quantity up to 6 cups. Let simmer for 10-20 minutes.

When ready to serve, whisk in the lemon juice, ladle into bowls, and sprinkle each with finely chopped cilantro leaves.

Spicy Tomato Rasam

2 large ripe healthy tomatoes
4 cups water or top water of boiled dal (stock)
2 whole red chillies
1 stalk curry leaves
1 tiny sprig mint leaves
1 tiny sprig coriander leaves
1-2 flakes garlic grated
2-3 pinches clove-cinnamon powder
1/2 tsp. sambar masala
8-10 peppercorns
1 1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. mustard seeds
2 pinches asafoetida
1 marble sized ball of jaggery or 1/2 tsp. sugar
1 small strip tamarind
1 tbsp. ghee or oil
salt to taste


  1. Put whole tomatoes in boiling water, simmer for 3 minutes, keep aside for 5 minutes.
  2. Heat 1/4 tsp. oil in a small pan, add pepper corns and 1 tsp. cumin seeds.
  3. Roast till aromatic, grind in a mortar or under a stone till powdered. Keep aside.
  4. Remove tomatoes from water, peel away the broken skin.
  5. Grate or mash till fine.
  6. To the thick pulp, add roasted whole chillies, all leaves, all masalas, salt, tamarind, jaggery and mash well either with hand or with a hand blender.
  7. The ingredients should have blended well into the pulp.
  8. Take in a deep pan, add stock or water.
  9. Heat ghee in a small pan, add mustard and remaining cumin seeds, asafoetida and allow to splutter.
  10. Add garlic and stir, add carefully to the rasam.
  11. Bring to a boil, check spices and salt and adjust.
  12. Simmer for 2-3 minutes. Keep aside covered for 10 minutes before serving.
  13. Serve hot as a soup or with steaming hot plain rice and papads.

Making time: 30 minutes
Makes: 5 servings.
Shelf life: Best fresh and hot; though masala pulp may be frozen and used later.