Tea: Good Sense for Cents

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Making your own teas at home is terrific for the mind, body and wallet! It’s nutritional alternative way to replace sugary sodas and adrenaline-stressing coffee. Ayurvedic practitioners have recommended drinking warm teas throughout the day for millennia.  The warmth soothes the entire digestive tract. Recently black and green teas have been touted in scientific studies as a great source of antioxidants. The volatile oils in naturally caffeine-free herbal tea have powerful nutritional benefits. For instance, ginger and fennel aid digestion. Raspberry leaf stabilizes female hormones. Mint relaxes intestinal tension. For the threat of a cold, rose hips provide high potency vitamin C, and slippery elm immediately coats a scratchy throat.

I make a full pot at least twice a day. For pennies most mornings, I make one of four varieties of loose Earl Grey tea that I purchase from a local teach shop in Los Angeles, Chado Tea Room. Loose tea is much less expensive than teabags and any Englishman will tell you, it’s the superior way to make tea. Without the constriction of a teabag or tea ball, the free-floating tealeaves flourish into a brew more fully and readily. Whether hot with half and half or chilled later in the day with lemon, I add a little bit of agave syrup to sweeten black and green teas without spiking my blood sugar levels.

Later in the day and right until bedtime, I drink all kinds of caffeine-free tea concoctions as a way to hydrate and nourish myself. Some of my favorite combinations for a full pot of tea are below.

Civilized Morning:

2 t. Earl Grey with lavender

Served with half and half and agave syrup

After Dinner:

1 inch sliced fresh ginger

½ lemon

1-2 T. agave syrup

Tummy Tamer:

2 T. fennel seeds

1 T. agave syrup

Romantic Afternoon:

1 t. lavender

3 T. rose water

2 T. kava kava

Cold Coming On:

1 T. slippery elm

1 T. rose hips

Adventures in Calamari

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A friend of a friend, Enrique, caught a Humbolt Squid in the cool California waters between San Pedro and Catalina Island a week ago. At sixty-five pounds and with dandling tentacles, is stood almost as tall as our handsome, statuesque fisherman. Brought on Friday night, I was too intimidated by the looming threat of it cooking up as tough as a fat tire, so instead we opted for the deli that night.
Next day, I took my surgically-sharp knife to the defrosted section that looked strangely like a KKK hood. Slithering and eerie with a faint briny odor and pushed into my bamboo cutting board with a firm palm, I slipped the blade under the membrane of this slippery white mass and pushed. With some guiding I pierced the place between the white flesh and the membrane, until it was my fist working to the other side of this slab of an animal. A weird sense of victory came in spurts each time a significant strip of membrane ripped off the main flesh. Great fun, and I must say, very primal!
Next I cut the calamari into 2-3” strips that were a mere ¼” wide. Then I took the whole slithering pile of them into a bowl, covered them with goat milk, a bit of kosher salt and plastic wrap and set them in the refrigerator to marinade. The enzymes in the goat milk break would down the proteins that make calamari tough, or so says the owner of Frankie’s on Melrose Blvd, whose restaurant makes the best calamari on either side of the Mississippi.
Thirty-six hours later, milky strips emerged visually unchanged. Now it was time to compose a batter that would be both light and crisp and yet adhere when fully cooked. Borrowing secrets from tempura, I opted to combine rice flour and an effervescent liquid––in this case beer. First I mixed rice flour, eggs, salt and pepper, and saved adding the beer until the final dredge through coarse corn meal was eminent. )Recipe will be postedin 3 days.)
My last consideration was on how to achieve the crispness of deep fried without the fat content or the danger of boiling a quart of oil! In my opinion it’s too dangerousto boil a quart or so of oil in the home kitchen. So I heated my Lodge iron griddle until it was searing hot. Rapid cooking is imperative for tender, crispy calamari. Then I mixed in ½ a bottle of beer to the rice and egg batter. Now with the speed of an assembly line, I dipped each drained strip of calamari into the batter, dredged them in the cornmeal, and plopped them on the hot griddle, which had just enough safflower oil on it create a crust.
Turning only once and cooked to golden brown in just two minutes, they were placed on a paper towel lined dish, where they were served with a hot, spicy tomato marinara sauce I made the day before.
Wow! Wow! Wow! What threatened to be chewy, had turned out––according to every one of my guests–became the most tender calamari any of us had ever had! Success!!!!
Unfortunately Enrique and his lovely wife, Lucia were down with the flu, so they did not taste their local catch, but waiting for them in the freezer is a fully dressed quart of calamari ready for the skillet as soon as they are well.
So does anyone else have something they’ve caught that I can tackle? Bring it on!!
Enrique’s video of of his live catch is on his facebook page here. Thanks, Enrique!!

Wine is fine and Chateau Larruau is beyond words!

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Here’s a link to one the the best wines I’ve had in the last few years. I was with friends at Greenblatt’s Deli in Los Angeles (relax, I had turkey) who is infamous for their wine and spirits department. As we waited for a table, we browsed the offerings, where we found Chateau Larruau for $39.95.  This wine’s vineyard is the property next door to Chateau Margeux, one of the top rated wines in the world that can commonly sells for $1200 a bottle. Well it seems keeping it in the neighborhood really does count this time. This luxurious wine had a delightful character and a finish as smooth as velvet. At close to $40 a bottle it may not be your everyday wine, but then we do so need to celebrate life in an over-the-top way from time to time to honor the experience of living. If you’ve got a wonderful moment to celebrate, I recommend doing so with this wine.

Red Bell Peppers: the Low-Calorie Snack Food

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Give up the fatty chips! Crispy, crunchy, take-the-edge-off-hunger is usually what we want in a snack food, but how about one loaded with vitamin C?  It’s a surpisingly satisfying snack that can be put into a baggie and brought on the road, too. Prep time is 30 seconds!

Red bell peppers are easy to find and they are sweeter than their green cousins.  Just wash it off, cut it in 1″ strips and toss on a little salt. You’ll be surprised how satisfying and delicious red pepper strips are. Ultra low-calorie so, crunch until your heart’s delight!

The best kind of calories!

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Did you know that the only food edible my man that has a negative calorie count is raw celery? (Ok, elephants can chomp thru all kinds of raw vegetation!) It burns more calories to ingest and digest it than it has.  That is because fiber takes a lot of power to break down, and particularly when celery is raw, its got lots of tough fiber.  My pal Stephen turned me on to one of my now fav juicing recipes: Celery, pear and ginger.  Fabulous!!