1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons sea salt
2 tablespoons Ceylon or Indian black tea leaves
Discard tough crescent-shaped muscles from 1 pound large sea scallops. (Muscles adhere to side of scallop.) Rinse scallops, drain and dry on paper towels. Mix brown sugar with sea salt, toss with scallops and chill about 10 minutes. Pour cold water to cover 2 tablespoons black tea leaves and leave to soak 10 minutes also.
Drain leaves and spread in bottom of a wok. Set a rack on top. Rinse scallops, dry on paper towels and arrange on rack so they do not touch each other. Cover wok with a lid or foil and put over medium heat. Watch until you see wisps of smoke, then allow 2 to 3 minutes of cooking time, depending on size of scallops. They should remain translucent in the center. Serve hot or at room temperature. Serves 2 as a main course.
Blue tea, named for the bluish tinge of the leaves, is better known as oolong, popular in Taiwan (still called in the tea world by its old name of Formosa). Oolong has the depth of flavor of black tea with a touch of grassy green, and it is useful in poaching and simmering.
When making a quick supper of chicken and vegetable soup, I have found that a few spoonfuls of leafy oolong transform commercial chicken broth. The tea leaves themselves are delectable, tender but holding shape in the broth. In desserts, black teas that are highlighted with spices such as cinnamon or flavors such as apricot or raspberry are useful when poaching fruit.
Black tea leaves stuck in an empty teapot have pursued me all my life when washing up, so it was a surprise to me that freshly infused leaves can be good to eat. Looking beyond chicken broth, I found this offbeat green salad in which tea leaves are added like an herb. Simply soak half a cup of a large-leaf tea, such as oolong, for at least 12 hours in a generous amount of cold water, drain thoroughly without squeezing the leaves and toss them with butter lettuce in a dressing of raspberry vinegar and vegetable oil. The tea adds an elusive, flowery fragrance.
Cooking with tea has been full of surprises. Did you know that black tea leaves can be powdered in the pepper grinder? The leaves behave exactly like pepper. Just empty out the peppercorns, add the tea and, after a few turns of the grinder, you’ll have the pure taste of tea in powder form.
Try sprinkling black Indian tea instead of pepper on beef carpaccio or lamb chops or jasmine tea on duck. Grind smoky lapsang black tea and mix it with yogurt as a simple sauce for smoked salmon or mackerel.
Scatter tea powder, particularly of green tea, over fruit salad. Add it to breads and cookies, chocolate mousse and chocolate cakes. Then ask your guests the identity of this new flavoring and enjoy their bewilderment. For tea on the Web, visit www.mariagefreres.com.
Tea leaf chicken in broth
We’re all accustomed to dried herb leaves in our soups and stews, so this brilliant vegetable consomme flavored with tea leaves is only one step further. Cooking takes about 10 minutes, making this an ideal simple supper for serving with crusty bread. Any large-leaf tea from China or Japan, whether green or oolong-style, is appropriate.
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