etc

Beverages

Glühwein

Mulled or spiced wines are understandably popular when the weather turns cooler, and almost every country has its own version of mulled wine, wassail, or glogg. I confess I was never a fan until I spent my first winter in Germany — or rather, my first Christmas season. Glühwein (GLOO - vine), roughly translated as "glow wine," is the official beverage of the German Christkindlmärkte (KRIST-kin-del-merk-tuh) or Weihnachtsmärkte (VY-nahkts-merk-tuh), the world-renown Christmas markets!

Glühwein is both light-bodied and lightly spiced, which makes it eminently drinkable by the mugful as one wanders outdoors through the colorful stalls and festive displays of the markets. And when you're at a Christmas market, you will want to drink Glühwein by the mugful, not only because it's delicious, but also because it's winter in Germany and it's darn cold wandering through those markets!

It is the lightness in both body and spice that distinguishes Glühwein from other mulled wines I've tried, and it's this same quality that made me such a fan. Unlike many other mulled wine recipes which are 100% wine, sweetened and spiced, Glühwein can be one-third to one-half water. This is what makes Glühwein both quaffable in large sips to keep warm, and quaffable without getting too tipsy throughout the long winter day and night as one revels in the festive spirit of the Christmas market. The amounts of each spice used in Glühwein are also generally less than in other mulled wines, so the finished drink is as easy on the palate as it is on the liver.

There is something that seems just plain wrong about drinking Glühwein indoors. I can't remember ever seeing anyone drinking Glühwein inside a restaurant in Germany, although it might be on the menu. Having said all that, once it turned really cold here, we longed for a friendly mug of Glühwein to chase away the chill, even if we were drinking it at home. At least it was still cool in the house, unlike last winter when we made a batch of Glühwein in Hawaii! (Now that was just wrong, and we couldn't really enjoy our drink when it was still 70F outside!)

When making Glühwein, choose a cheap dry jug wine, such as a California Burgundy. No need for a pricey bottle here — not only are you going to add fruit and spices, but you're going to cut it with water, too. If you want to make this for a party, prepare the Base in triple or quadruple quantities, and divide the Base accordingly (into 3 or 4 batches). Then make each batch of
Glühwein as needed by adding a bottle of wine to the Base, and heating gently. If you make a big batch at once and leave it simmering too long, the alcohol can cook out and the spices become bitter.

You can fortify and personalize your Glühwein by adding shots of your favorite liquor or liqueur to your mug. My favorite addition is amaretto, a combination that is sold as "Heisse Liebe" (Hot Love) at the Heidelberg Christmas market (seen here) where I first tried it. Even if we only have our memories of Germany's Christkindlmärkte now, at least we can still make a hot mug of Glühwein to keep us warm.

Now if only I could figure out where my Zimtwaffeleisen is ...

GLüHWEIN

BASE:
500 ml/ 2 cups water
one orange, washed well, and sliced crosswise
Peel from one lemon
1 stick of cinnamon
3 whole cloves
3 tablespoons of raw sugar (only 2 TBL of regular sugar)
3-4 whole green cardamom pods
8-10 whole coriander seeds
1 vanilla bean

Note: If you can only find decorticated ground cardamom (inner seeds removed from the pod and ground) at the supermarket, put about 1/4 tsp. together with the cloves and coriander seeds, in a tea ball or tie them up in a coffee filter, and boil with the other spices and fruits. Remove bag after wine has been added and warmed through.

1 bottle (750ml) dry red wine
Rum, brandy, amaretto, or other liqueur, if desired

Bring water to boil. Add orange slices, lemon peel, cinnamon, cloves, sugar, cardamom, coriander and vanilla bean. Return to boil, then turn heat down to medium high and cook for 25 minutes.

The base can be prepared in advance, or in large quantities and kept refrigerated until needed. Re-heat Glühwein Base to boiling before adding wine.

Add bottle of wine and turn heat down to simmer – DO NOT BOIL. Keep at simmer for 15 minutes.

Pour into mugs, being careful not to pour in any of the whole spices. Add shots of rum, brandy, vodka, amaretto, hazelnut liqueur or sambuco as desired. Enjoy with spice cookies, such as Spekulaatis, Pfeffernusse,
Molasses Crinkles, or Zimtwaffeln. Zum Wohl!



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Calamansi Margarita


It’s another CLICK! event, and this time the theme is Citrus. The Jugalbandits are accepting entries until August 30th, so get out your cameras and join the citrus-scented fun...




It’s the King of Limes, in my book — Calamansi — also known as Kalamansi or Calamondin (Citrofortunella microcarpa).


It’s flavor: a cross between lime and maybe a Seville orange, and as distinct as Key Lime or Wild Lime Leaves. If you’ve never tried it, I’m sorry. Really. You don’t yet know what you’re missing. It looks like a small round lime, but with the thin peel of a tangerine. In markets it may range in size from a Pfennig (smaller than a penny) to a half-dollar, and in color from mottled greens to pure orange, though its pulp is always a dark orange. The more orange the rind, the sweeter the juice will be; but it’s never as sweet as its eponymously named cousins. We prefer the greener ones — after all, we want to take advantage of its lime-ier qualities.


Native to southeast Asia, calamansi trees can be found as popular ornamental trees far from their native lands. When we lived in Europe we had this potted tree to remind me of home, and from which we could pick fresh calamansi most of the year. They are a popular tree in the nurseries and garden shops (labelled “Calamondin”) in Europe, and they’re raised in Tuscany (talk about being a long way from home!). I often wondered if anyone else buying these trees in Germany actually used the fruit as well. The glorious fragrance of both the fruit and leaves is extremely addictive, so be warned — try it once and you’ll be hooked. I used to love to crush the leaves and place them in a bowl, especially in winter, for a hint of the coming spring.

Calamansi are ubiquitous in Philippine cuisine — and for me, arroz caldo, pancit bihon and bistek are just not the same without this distinctive flavor. Calamansi also makes the best limeade in the world — no, the universe! You can find a frozen limeade concentrate from the Philippines in some Asian markets — availability is spotty on Oahu, even at Pacific Supermarket, a dedicated Philippine supermart. Surprisingly, it was regularly available at the military commissary when we lived in Germany, so if you have access to an Air Force commissary (Army ones didn’t always carry it), look in that frozen juice shelf more carefully.

Marvin at
Burnt Lumpia is doing some interesting experiments of his own using calamansi, and his infused vodka inspired me to try my hand with my preferred poison (tequila, hold the worm) to make the ultimate limeade — a Calamansi Margarita. So after a long long long day of sorting, cleaning and packing, there’s nothing better than a cool margarita on the beach to help one de-stress... and be thankful.

Bee, I have one for you, too, if you’d care to join us... I’d offer Jai one as well, but I don’t want to be accused of bribing a judge!

CALAMANSI MARGARITA
(adapted from
epicurious.com)

2 oz. Cuervo 1800 Tequila
1 oz. fresh calamansi juice
splash Triple Sec
1 tsp. raw sugar
clear ice cubes
coarse salt and calamansi for garnish

Prep glass by rubbing rim with cut calamansi, then dipping edge in salt. Keep aside.

Go to beach. Set up your beach chair.

Shake all drink ingredients together. Fill glass with fresh ice. Pour cocktail into glass.

Enjoy with setting sun casting long shadows on Diamond Head in backdrop...

If you like these flavors, try
Tequila & Calamansi Marinated Flank Steak

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Food as Medicine: Ginger-scallion "tea"

Ingredients for ginger scallion tea

Most of this week we've been dealing with the flu. First T, now me. Our first line of defense during cold and flu season is ginger-scallion-cinnamon "tea." Making this drink, I can't help but think of the gifted healer and friend who taught me how to make it. During our first winter in Boston I was having a hard time dealing with the bitter cold, and any little cold often turned to bronchitis. Pam taught me how to make this drink to boost my immune system. In traditional Asian medicine, ginger, cinnamon and members of the Allium family, which includes scallions, are considered Yang, or warming energy. By the end of that winter, almost everyone in our office was drinking some form of this tea!

First you need a "hand of ginger" which is the large piece you see in the picture above. Washed well and lightly scrubbed, the ginger need not be peeled, but should be sliced. Then 2 large scallions, including the roots. (Pam was very specific that the roots must be kept intact.) Finally, a handful of cinnamon bark. If you're using the thicker rolled "cinnamon," you'll need 2 rolls. An optional ingredient is a pear, either the Asian nashi pear (in photo) or your favorite variety. The pear provides a very mild natural sweetness, and may be eaten separately as a treat or to soothe a cough.

Place all these in a large pot and cover with at least 4 quarts/liters of water and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower heat to a simmer. After 30 minutes, remove the scallions and continue simmering for another 30 minutes.
Cooling tea bag full of cinnamon
After simmering for an hour, use a ladle to serve yourself some "tea" and enjoy while hot. This beverage, like the friend who shared its secret with me, is strong and full of energy, with only a hint of both sweetness (cinnamon) and earthiness (scallions) beneath it. It is most beneficial if drunk as is, but if you want to sweeten it, choose a natural sweetener such as stevia, agave or fresh fruit juice. Processed white sugar has actually been found to lower one's immune response for 5 hours after being consumed, so should be avoided.(A) Artificial sweeteners are increasingly shown to be cancer-causing and likewise should be avoided.(B)
Finished ginger tea

Let the pear cool for awhile in the liquid, then enjoy separately. In traditional Chinese medicine, pear is considered a "cooling" fruit that lubricates the lungs and quiets coughs.

Gingered pear is soothing for coughs

You don't have to wait for a cold or the flu to make this for yourself, in fact you may avoid getting either if you start boosting your immunity now. When we lived in places where the change of seasons was more noticeable, I started making this drink when the air started to get crisp, but here in Hawaii it's easier to forget that seasons still change and flu is always around the corner. Stay healthy, Everyone! And to Pammie, we will always think of this as "Pam's tea" — thank you for all your generous gifts to us!


(A) See the article: "Sugar's effects on your health"
(B) Learn more about the benefits of natural sweeteners and the dangers of artificial one: "Sugar substitutes and the potential danger of Splenda"
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Food as Medicine: Artichokes

Artichoke in bloom

Food as medicine is an ancient concept, of course. It has a documented history over 5000 years in Asia, and at least a couple millenia in Europe. And now much of traditional lore about chicken soup to treat colds, and garlic to ward off illness is now backed by scientific study.

To explore this further, I've borrowed a book from the library called, “Herbs, Demystified” by Holly Phaneuf, PhD. It’s not part of
Linda Bladholms’ similarly-titled series explaining the mysteries of ethnic groceries, instead Dr. Phaneuf writes in plain-speak (most of the time) about the medicinal value of and clinical research, if any, behind some of the herbs and plants that are gaining popularity as medicinal and wellness foods. (The book is subtitled: “A Scientist Explains How the Most Common Herbal Remedies Really Work”)

Take artichokes, for instance. I love artichokes, but never thought of them as a medicinal food until earlier this year when I saw a local TV program highlighting healthy eating. The show featured 2 local naturpathic doctors who use both food and alternative therapies as medicine in their practice. One of the doctors is of Vietnamese descent and described how her grandmother would make a “tea” by simply boiling halved artichokes. She recommended it for maintaining good liver function and said it promotes clear skin.

When I had cooked artichokes before, it was always in highly seasoned (lemons, onions and peppers) water, which was then discarded. I'm always drawn to “grandmother wisdom,” though, so we decided to try it. We were expecting a bitter or funny-tasting brew, but were happily surprised it had a clean, mildly sweet, and pleasant taste. In fact, it tasted exactly like an artichoke heart. We’ve since adopted the practice of boiling artichokes in plain water, so we can also drink the “tea” afterwards.
Lovely organic chokes Halved artichokes 2 Treats: Artichokes and
And now we have Dr. Phaneuf’s explaination about why this may or may not be a good practice. She concludes her six page review of research into artichokes by saying:
  • they contain beneficial anti-oxidants,
  • may reduce cholesterol,
  • may improve both HDL/LDL cholesterol ratios and
  • may improve bile production (hence, digestion).
She also warns, however, that further research is needed about whether artichokes can worsen an existing gallstone condition, and whether they deplete valuable CoQ enzymes. She also cautions that people who are allergic to other members of the daisy family (which also includes chamomile, milk thistle, dandelion and echinacea), may be allergic to artichokes too. Please refer to pages 31-37 of Dr. Phaneuf’s book for her full article. And of course don’t attempt any changes in your medical program (for instance, stop taking your prescriptions and eating artichokes instead!) without consulting with your medical provider.
Artichoke
If Dr. Phaneuf's caveats don't apply to you, then "A Santé!" "Zum Wohl!" "Kampai!" "Salud!"

(UPDATE - 7 APRIL 2008 - To wash artichokes, especially if you intend to drink the "tea," it is important to clean away as much pesticide residue as possible from non-organic produce. Following the advice from this NPR story, "
What does it take to clean fresh food," instead of just spraying the vegetables, I prefer to soak the artichokes in a solution of 1/2 cup of white vinegar in 1 gallon of water (2 TBL. of vinegar to 1 liter/quart water). This allows the solution to get between all the packed leaves. Then rinse under running water, and drain.)

What do you do with the artichoke after making "tea"? Try
Stuffed Artichokes with Italian-style Dressing or South Asian Style Stuffing.

Read more about the health benefits of artichokes at LifeScripts.com,
here.

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Warming a chilly Leeward morning

Bocha (aka Pocha): Tibetan butter tea

For the last month or so I've been thinking about a tea we tried last January when we took a quick trip to the Pacific Northwest to visit my brother's family. Wouldn't you know it, it was the coldest days they had had there in 30 years or something. The roads were icy, the wind bit through our wool coats, clouds hung practically on our heads, and only the bravest of souls were out. On a drive back to our hotel, we happened on a Tibetan restaurant, Lungta. Never having had Tibetan cuisine before, it was a no-brainer that we would stop and try it. The food was exquisite, with some of the most subtle and delicious seasoning I've ever encountered. But the true revelation was the unusual butter tea. On the menu it was called Bocha, and was described as "lightly buttered, salted & churned with milk." We asked our waitress about it and she gave us fair warning that most people don't like it on first taste, but that it was sort of the national drink in her country. She also said it was very “warming.” On such a day, it sounded like it might be a winner. (You have to figure that Tibetans know a little something about how to keep warm in bitter weather.) She soon produced large mugs of a milky tea with a trace of butter on the surface.

First sip: OK, that's different — I've never had salt in my tea before, and I rarely add milk to tea either. But the spread of heat down and through the chest was a welcome sensation, and certainly worth a second sip. By the third sip, we were both hooked and loving the “heatiness” it provided — it was more than just the physical sensation of drinking a warm beverage, it was a warmth that went down to your toes. Before we left we asked the proprietor about the Bocha, and what special type of tea she used. She was genuinely surprised we liked the tea, and was kind enough to bring out a brick of dark pungent leaves to show us. We asked if it was something we could find in a shop nearby, but she told us she didn't know of a source, and said that friends send her the tea. So that was that. Nice experience, recommended Tibetan cuisine to any one who cares about good food, and soon returned to Oahu.

Eight months later and I'm craving this butter tea. It's not exactly cold here, but lately after midnight the temperature has been dropping below ... 70°F/21°C!! I know folks on the Mainland and elsewhere will have little sympathy for us, but that's pretty cool temperatures for around here. : - )

I found a few recipes for butter tea on the web, but the most helpful was from the Tibetan Assn. of Northern California at
Lobsang's Tibetan recipes. On this site it is called Po Cha and the recipe seems straightforward enough: you need black tea, salt, butter and full-cream milk. And a chandong, or churn for making tea. (If anyone knows where I can get one of these, please let me know!) The original Bocha is made with yak butter or milk, but we were a bit short on that so we went with unsalted butter from cow's milk.

I’m not much of a black tea drinker, except as iced tea, so in deciding on a tea to use I opted for the kind I used to send my tea-loving mother by the bags full — Lipton’s Yellow Label black tea. This was not available on Guam, so wherever we have lived, one of my first missions was always to seek out a new source of Yellow Label to keep mom supplied. These are available in Oriental shops, especially Chinese groceries, everywhere we have lived except here in Hawaii. Fortunately the Indian grocery carries 2 types of Yellow Label, the regular one, and another that is produced in India (shown here). But plain black tea just didn't smell as fragrant and earthy as I remembered the tea brick at Lungta being. One site I found mentioned using Pu-erh tea instead of black tea, so I used a mix of 1/3 Pu-erh and 2/3 Yellow Label.
Pu-erh teaYellow Label black tea
First we made a double strength tea (2 heaping TBL black, and 1 heaping TBL pu-erh, simmered with 4 cups water and reduced to 2 cups liquid). Then added 1 TBL butter, 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/2 cup half-and-half. And since I don't have a chandong (yet) and I'm a little leery of spinning hot liquids in closed containers at high speed, I opted to use a stick blender. This step emulsifies the butter into the tea.
Blending to emulsify butter

Now what to nibble with this delicious heat-y tea? Seemed a good opportunity to try something from all those new recipes collected from the
World Bread Day round-up. Something that wouldn't require turning on the full oven. In the end, we went with Hannah's vegetarian butterscotch bread, with the following adjustments. There was no vegetarian butterscotch pudding mix to be found at either of Oahu's 2 main health food shops so I turned to my over-stocked pantry to see what I had for substitutes. We had a powdered flan mix that comes with its own caramel sauce: the ingredient list had no gelatin so I hope it qualifies as vegetarian.

Soy milk disagrees with both of us, but we do use almond milk, and Hannah emailed to say it was an acceptable substitute for soy (Thanks, Hannah!). I only have olive oil for cooking and baking, so I substituted an equal amount for the canola in Hannah’s recipe. Also, I used less sugar because I wanted to use the liquid caramel flavoring from the flan mix for the extra flavoring.
As much as I hated to, I omitted the chocolate chips ONLY because we’re making this to complement the butter tea and it didn’t seem like the chocolate would mesh well with the salty tea.
Bocha and Butterscotch bread

The Verdict
The tea was delicious and hit the right notes from our memory of that first taste of Bocha. It is a very rich and filling tea, thanks to the half and half and butter, of course. Not something you really want to drink on a regular basis unless you have a chance to work it off outdoors in a cold clime. It would make a great pre-ski or pre-Volkswanderung drink. I wouldn't recommend adding a sweetener to this beverage, and if you aren't used to drinking tea without a sweetener, you might literally find this tea hard to swallow. You may want to have sweet cake or cookie on the side to round out your experience.

The bread was a super moist loaf with a great chewy crust and delicious caramely butterscotchy flavor. T admits that he is not a big fan of vegetarian baking (he usually passes on treats at the health food bakery), but he was the first to say how pleasantly surprised he was by how flavorful, light and moist this quick bread is. The mild sweetness was a perfect counterpoint to the salty rich tea.

Here is the final recipe, with the original quantities/ingredients noted in parentheses.

Butterscotch bread
Butterscotch Bread
(Original by Hannah, as adapted by manju)

1 cup/ 250ml almond milk (Soymilk)
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
3/4 cup/ 145g granulated brown sugar,
aka “raw” sugar or demerara (1 cup/190g sugar)
1/4 cup/ 60 ml. olive oil (canola oil)
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Caramel flavoring packet from flan mix
1 cup/ 100g all-purpose flour (1 ½ cup/ 150g)
1 cup/ 90g whole wheat pastry flour (½ cup/ 45g)
1 2.75 oz. package
Goya flan mix (Dr. Oetker’s butterscotch pudding)
½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
(optional) ½ cup chocolate chips

Pre-heat oven 350F/ 180C. Butter/oil loaf pan.

In large mixing bowl, add vinegar to almond milk and set aside to curdle.

In separate bowl, combine both flours, flan mix powder, baking soda and powder and salt, and sift well together.

Beat vinegar/milk mixture until frothy. Add sugar, oil, vanilla and caramel packet and beat again until sugar dissolves.

Slowly add dry ingredients to wet, mixing well after each incorporation. Pour into prepared pan and bake 35-50 minutes, depending on your pan, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Cool in pan 15 minutes, then on rack until completely cool. Use serrated knife to slice.
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