Category Archives: Food

Week 51: Oodles of Noodles


Nearly every culture has a form of noodle to compliment its cuisine. The word “noodle” derives from the German word nudel. Generally made of unleavened dough (no yeast), they are cut into strips, shaped or dropped by the teaspoon into boiling, salted water to cook, or are steamed or fried.

In the Philippines noodles represent long life and good health and it is believed that they must not be cut short so as not to corrupt the symbolism. The Filipino noodle dish pancit is served to celebrate the birth of a child and on subsequent birthdays. Kugel is a baked pudding or casserole made from egg noodles (Lokshen kugel) or potato and is a traditional Jewish dish, often served on Shabbat and Yom Toy. In the northwestern region of China and Central Asia, Uighurs and Uzbeks make a dish called manta, steamed dumplings filled with mutton and pumpkin and served with cream. In Turkey, the dish evolves into manti, tiny tortellini-like dumplings that are boiled and served with yogurt, mint-infused oil, paprika, and crushed walnuts.


The Chinese made noodles as far back as 3,000 BCE, although the first written evidence of noodles in China was not until 206 BCE. An excavation of an Etruscan tomb shows drawings of natives making pasta in the 4th century BCE, and in the 1st century BCE, Horace wrote of fried sheets of dough called lagana. Arabs took noodles, string-like shapes made of semolina flour and dried before cooking, with them on long journeys in the 5th century. Wheat noodles (udon) were adapted by a Buddhist monk in Japan in the 9th century from an earlier Chinese recipe. Persian resteh noodles were eaten in the 13th century. Pasta has been a staple for Italian families for generations.  Marco Polo is credited with bringing pasta to Italy after his exploration of the Far East in the 13th century and written records of spatzle in Germany date to 1725.


A virtually fat free and salt free food, noodles are low on the Glycemic Index (GI). The Glycemic Index is a ranking of carbohydrates and the effect they have on our blood glucose levels. A low GI carbohydrate is digested more slowly and satisfies hunger longer without increasing blood sugar levels.


Noodles are usually classified according to ingredients.

Acorn noodles – Korean noodles known as dotori guksu made of acorn meal, wheat flour, wheat germ, and salt.

Cellophane noodles – made from mung beans, potato starch or canna starch.

Kelp noodles – made from seaweed.


Pasta – Italian noodles made using semolina flour, which comes from grinding kernels of durum wheat. Sometimes the semolina is mixed with other flours. It is then mixed with water until it forms sticky dough. Additional ingredients are then added to the pasta, like eggs to make egg noodles, or spinach or tomato to make red or green colored pasta. Pasta is formed into various shapes. Here are some of the most common:

Alfabeto—tiny alphabet letter pasta

Agnolotti—shaped like half moons

Anellini– little rings

Anolini—ravioli in half-moon shape with ruffled edges

Bucatini—long, fat hollow strands like spaghetti

Capelli d’angelo—angel hair pasta; very fine long strands

Castellane—rigid shell shape

Conchigliette- little conch shells

Ditali—small tubes like “thimbles”

Farfalle—bow-tie or butterfly shapes

Fusilli– shaped like a corkscrew

Gnocchetti—small oval dumplings

Maccheroni—little elbows

Mezzi Tubetti—larger hollow tubes

Millerighe– large rigatoni with ribbed sides

Orecchiette—shaped like little “cups” or “ears”

Paccheri– very large tubes

Penne piccolo– small narrow tubes with ends cut on diagonal

Rigatoni—big hollow tubes

Rotelle—small wheels

Rotini– small corkscrews

Sedanini—thin, hollow tubes

Spaghetti—long strands

Spellete- little stars

Tagliarini– similar to linguine with a flat side, but thinner

Vermicelli– similar to spaghetti, but thinner
Rice noodles

Rice vermicelli – also known as rice sticks, they are long and thin

Idiyappam – Indian rice noodles

Khanom chin – fermented rice noodles used in Thai cooking

Pancit noodles – very thin rice noodles used in Filipino cooking

Soba noodles

Somen – thin Japanese noodles often coated with oil

Spatzle – a German noodle made of wheat and eggs

Udon – thicker Japanese wheat noodles


Always cook pasta in a large pot of boiling water to keep it from being sticky.  Never add oil to the water or you inhibit the ability of the sauce to cling to the pasta.  Also, it is not necessary to drain the pasta after cooking unless you are going to serve it cold in a pasta salad. Generally, you should use thinner pastas with thin sauces and thicker shapes with thicker sauces as the sauce will coat the shape and cling to it better.

The proper way to eat spaghetti is to wind the spaghetti up on the fork and eat it in one bite. It is very impolite to eat half of the noodles and let the other half to fall back into your plate. In Asia cultures, making slurping sounds while eating noodles shows that you are really enjoying the meal!


Fukushima, Shunsuke. Japanese Home Cooking.

Marlani, John. The Dictionary of Italian Food and Drink

Week 50: Lobsters


I love living on the Seacoast! My cottage is just a block from the beach and I get to hear the lobster boats go out in the early morning, just before the sun comes over the horizon. And did I mention lobsters? They are plentiful and inexpensive here.

Most of the lobsters we are familiar with are the cold water clawed marine crustaceans referred to as the “true” lobster, but there are tropical varieties as well which include the spiny lobsters and slipper lobsters (which have no claws), squat lobsters, and crayfish.

Lobsters are found in all oceans. They live on rocky, sandy, or muddy bottoms from the shoreline to beyond the edge of the continental shelf. They generally live singly in crevices or in burrows under rocks. They are omnivores and typically eat live prey such as fish, mollusks, other crustaceans, worms, and some plant life. They scavenge if necessary.

Lobsters are invertebrates with a hard exoskeleton, which means they have to molt as they grow. Lobsters, like snails and spiders, have blue blood due to the presence of hemocyanin which contains copper. In general, true lobsters are 10-20 inches long (although they can grow up to four feet long and weigh as much as 40 pounds), and move by slowly walking on the sea floor. However, when they flee, they swim backward quickly by curling and uncurling their abdomens. They live to be about 70 years old and are able to add new muscle cells at each molt. This longevity may be due to an enzyme that repairs long repetitive sections of DNA sequences at the ends of chromosomes, called telomeres.

Did you know that lobsters were once so plentiful that after a storm they would wash ashore in deep piles? They were gathered by hand until the mid-19th century when lobstermen started using baited, one-way traps with a color-coded marker buoy to mark cages. Cages are of plastic-coated galvanized steel or wood. A lobster fisherman may tend as many as 2,000 traps!

Once caught, lobsters are graded as soft shell (or shedders), hard-shell, or old-shell, soft shell lobsters have paper-thin shells and a poor meat-to-shell ratio, but the meat is very sweet. Hard-shell lobsters with firm shells, have more but with less sweet meat, so they command a higher price. Meanwhile, old-shell lobsters, which have not shed since the previous season have a coarser flavor. Culls are lobsters which have lost one of their claws.


Spiny lobsters (langouste or rock lobsters) – Although they superficially resemble true lobsters in terms of overall shape and having a hard exoskeleton, they are distinguished from true lobsters by their lack of claws. They are found throughout all warm seas, especially in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and the Bahamas.

squat lobster

Squat lobsters – These are flattened crustaceans which a long tail curled beneath their bodies. More than 900 species exist throughout the world’s oceans. They are plentiful off Baja, California, Mexico, South America and New Zealand. Flesh from these animals is often commercially sold in restaurants as “langostino” or sometimes dishonestly called “lobster” when incorporated in seafood dishes. As well as being used for human consumption, there is demand for squat lobster meat to use as feed in fish farms and shrimp or prawn farms. This is in part because they contain a pigment that helps to color the meat of farmed salmon and trout.


Crayfish (crawfish, crawdads) – Crayfish are freshwater crustaceans resembling small lobsters. Some species are found in brooks and streams where there is running fresh water, while others thrive in swamps, ditches, and rice paddies. Generally only the tail portion is eaten, except at crayfish boils, where the entire body is served. Like all crustaceans, crayfish are not kosher because they are aquatic animals that do not have both fins and scales. Crayfish are also commonly sold and used as bait.


In Colonial times, lobster was fed to pigs and goats and only eaten by prisoners, indentured servants or paupers. In North America, the American lobster did not achieve popularity until the mid-19th century, when New Yorkers and Bostonians developed a taste for it. American lobster was initially deemed worthy only of being used as fertilizer or fish bait, and until well into the 20th century, it was not viewed as more than a low-priced canned staple food.


Native Americans ate lobsters after wrapping them in seaweed and baking them over hot rocks. We usually boil or steam lobsters today. The most common way of killing lobsters is by placing them live in boiling water or to split the lobster or sever the body in half lengthwise. Lobsters may also be killed immediately before boiling by a stab into the brain, in the belief that this will stop suffering. The boiling method is illegal in some places, such as in the Reggio Emilia region of Italy, where offenders face fines up to €495. When a lobster is cooked, its shell’s color changes from blue to orange because the heat from cooking breaks down a protein which suppresses the orange hue of another chemical which is also present in the shell.


Encyclopedia of Life









Week 49: Citrus Fruit

Variety of fruits

Citrus fruit and plants are known by the name agrumes, which means bitter fruit. Citrus fruit originated in Southeast Asia or Australia thousands of years ago. The three original species in the citrus genus that have been hybridized into most modern commercial citrus fruit are the mandarin orange, pummelo and citron. All common citrus fruits (sweet oranges, lemons, grapefruit, limes, and so on) were created by crossing those original species. Christopher Columbus, Ponce de Leon, and Juan de Grijavla carried various citrus fruits to the new world in the late 1400′s early 1500′s. Today Florida, California, Arizona and Texas are the major producers of citrus fruit in the United States.

Citrus fruit is grown on large shrubs or evergreen trees 15-40 feet tall which bear fragrant, white flowers. The trees thrive in a consistently sunny, humid environment with fertile soil and adequate rainfall or irrigation. The fruit has a peel (also called the zest), a bitter white pith and juicy segments with a discernibly tart flavor derived from a high level of citric acid. The fruit is ripened on the tree.

Medicinal Uses

Oranges were historically used for their high content of vitamin C, which prevents scurvy. An early sign of scurvy is fatigue. If ignored, later symptoms are bleeding and bruising easily. British sailors were given a ration of citrus fruits on long voyages to prevent the onset of scurvy, hence the British nickname of Limey.

The vitamin C in citrus fruit helps produce collagen, which provides structure and elasticity for your skin and tendons. As an antioxidant, it neutralizes free radicals before they damage healthy cells, which prevents inflammation that can lead to chronic illnesses such as cardiovascular disease.

After consumption, the peel is sometimes used as a facial cleanser.

Citrus fruit intake is associated with a reduced risk of stomach cancer. Also, citrus fruit juices, such as orange, lime and lemon, may be useful for lowering the risk of specific types of kidney stones. Grapefruit helps lower blood pressure because it interferes with the metabolism of calcium channel blockers.

Studies also show that citrus flavonoids may improve blood flow through coronary arteries, reduce the ability of arteries to form blood clots and prevent the oxidation of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, which is an initial step in the formation of artery plaques1.

Culinary Uses

Citrus fruit can be eaten fresh, made into or added to beverages, marmalade, used in salads, as garnishes, or squeezed over vegetables, seafood or meats.

Types of Citrus Fruit

bergamot orange

Bergamot orange – This is a small acidic orange, used mostly for its peel. Used in Earl Grey tea.

blood orange

Blood Orange – These are sweet, red fleshed oranges and are very popular in Europe.


Clementine, Tangerine or Satsuma – Thin skinned and sweet, these come out of their skins easily.


Calamansi lime – The very sour calamansi looks like a small round lime and tastes like a cross between a lemon and a mandarin orange. It’s very popular in the Philippines.


Citron – This lemon-like fruit may be the progenitor species of modern lemons and limes. The peel is very thick, and the white, spongy portion of the peel is edible.


Grapefruit – Grapefruit is thought to be a hybrid of pummelo and sweet orange that occurred naturally somewhere in the Caribbean between the time of Columbus’ voyages and its introduction to Florida in 1809. They are a large, slightly tart with a rind that is mostly yellow, and often tinged with green or red. Grapefruits are categorized by the color of their pulp: red, pink, or white.


Kaffir Lime – Thai cooks use these golf ball-sized limes to give their dishes a unique aromatic flavor.  Kaffir limes have very little juice, and usually just the zest is used.

key limes

Key Lime – These are small, round, and seedy, these turn yellow when ripe.


Kumquat – These look like grape-sized oranges, and they can be eaten whole. The flavor is a bit sour and very intenseThey peak in the winter months.


Lemon – This very sour citrus fruit is rarely eaten out of hand, but it’s widely used for its juice, rind, and zest. One lemon yields about 2-3 tablespoons lemon juice.    Lime – When buying limes, select specimens that are dark green, smaller, thin-skinned, and heavy for their size.


Lime – Small and green, limes have uses other than adorning your cocktails. Lime extracts and lime essential oils are also used in perfumes, cleaning products, and aromatherapy.Orange

Orange – Florida oranges are juicier, and better suited to squeezing, while California oranges segment more easily and are better for eating out of hand.


Pummelo or Pomelo – This species originates from southeast Asia where it is as common as grapefruit is in the USA. It is much larger and thicker-peeled than grapefruit, but said to have milder flavor.

Seville orange

Seville or Bitter Orange – These are too bitter for eating out of hand, but they make a wonderful orange marmalade and the sour juice is perfect for certain mixed drinks.


Tangelo (Honeybell )- This is a hybrid between tangerine and grapefruit. Large, bell-shaped, they are available during the winter and are very sweet and juicy.

ugli fruit2

Ugli Fruit – This grapefruit-mandarin cross looks like a grapefruit in an ill-fitting suit. It’s sweet and juicy, though, and simple to eat since the peel comes off easily and the fruit pulls apart into tidy segments that are virtually seedless.



Week 48: Beans and Lentils


Are you thinking of trying a vegetarian diet in an effort to eat healthier? If you’re concerned about getting enough protein, add more beans to your meals. Beans and lentils are referred to as “pulses,” and are the fruit or seed of plants called legumes. Pulses are used for human and animal consumption or for the production of oils for industrial uses.

Many legumes have symbiotic bacterial that have nitrogen fixing abilities. When these plants die in the field, they can be plowed back into the soil and can serve as fertilizer for other crops.

The United Nations General Assembly has declared 2016 as the International Year of Pulses to heighten public awareness of the nutritional benefits of pulses as part of sustainable food production aimed towards food security and nutrition.


Dried beans, peas and lentils have been cultivated for human consumption for ages. Archaeologists have discovered traces of bean cultivation in the Indus Valley that dates to 3300 BC. Meanwhile, evidence of lentil cultivation has also been found in Egyptian pyramids and dry pea seeds have been discovered in a Swiss village that are believed to date back to the Stone Age. Archaeological evidence suggests that these peas must have been grown in the eastern Mediterranean and Mesopotamia regions at least 5,000 years ago and in Britain as early as the 11th century.

Health Benefits

Beans are good sources of protein, excellent sources of fiber, and naturally fat-free, sodium-free, and cholesterol-free. Many types are also good sources of potassium. Beans have a low glycemic index.  This makes them an ideal food for the management of insulin resistance, or diabetes. Numerous scientific studies also show that eating beans helps lower blood pressure and reduce cholesterol. U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend eating about 3 cups of legumes, including beans, per week.

Types of Beans

There are eleven basic categories of pulses:

  1. Dry beans, which include kidney beans, navy beans, pinto beans, lima beans, butter beans, adzuke and mung beans.
  2. Dry broad beans.
  3. Dry peas.
  4. Chickpeas or garbanzos.
  5. Dry cowpeas or black-eyed peas.
  6. Pigeon peas, Congo beans and gandules.
  7. Lentils
  8. Groundnuts and earth peas.
  9. Vetch.
  10. Lupins
  11. Miscellaneous minor pulses, like jack beans, yam beans and winged beans.


Preparing dried beans takes a little more work than just opening a can, but the flavor and texture is superior to canned beans. First, spread them out on a table, kitchen towel or baking sheet and pick out any shriveled or broken beans, stones or debris. Rinse them well in cold, running water. When you soak them, you help remove some of those indigestible sugars that cause flatulence. So place the beans in a large bowl or pan, cover with water and soak overnight or for about 8 hours in the refrigerator. Rinse and them place them into a large pot and cover with 2 inches of water or stock. (Don’t add salt at this point since that slows the beans’ softening.) Slowly bring to a boil, skimming off any foam on the surface. Reduce heat, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally and adding more liquid if necessary, until beans are tender when mashed or pierced with a fork. Cooking times vary with the variety, age and size of beans; generally you’re looking at about 1 to 2 hours.

After sorting dried peas and lentils, bring 1½ cups water or stock to a boil for each cup of dried lentils or peas. Once the liquid is boiling add the lentils or peas, return to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, until tender, 30 to 45 minutes.

Culinary Uses for Common Pulses

Adzuki Beans

These little dark red beans are sweet and easy to digest. Splash them with tamari and barley malt or mix them with brown rice, scallions, mushrooms and celery for dynamite, protein-rich rice patties

Black-Eyed Peas

These creamy white, oval-shaped beans are ubiquitous in southeastern US states where they’re a traditional New Year’s dish. Toss them with yogurt vinaigrette, tomatoes and fresh parsley.

Cannellini Beans

These are some of my favorites. Cannellini beans are packed with nutty flavor. Add them to tomato-based soups like minestrone or toss with olive oil and black pepper for a satisfying side dish.

Chickpeas/Garbanzo Beans

This prominent ingredient in Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and East Indian dishes — think hummus and falafel — has a mild but hearty flavor. Garbanzos are a good foil for strong spices like curry powder, cumin and cayenne pepper, so add them to salads, soups and pasta dishes

Great Northern Beans or Navy Beans

Think of these guys as big teddy bears; they’re the largest commonly available white bean, but they’re all soft and mild on the inside. These are great as baked beans or add them to soups and stews with longer cooking times.

Green Lentils

Ooh la la! These lentils hold their shape well and have deep, rich flavor. They’re an excellent addition to salads, spicy Indian dal or simple lentils and rice.

Green Split Peas

Give peas a chance! Split peas shine in soups where they’re cooked until creamy to bring out their full, sweet flavor. Serve them with a dollop of minted yogurt for an Indian touch.

Kidney Beans

These large, red beans are popular in chili, salads, soups and baked beans. Make sure to cook them until completely tender and cooked through to eliminate the gastric distress-causing toxin that’s present in raw and undercooked kidney beans.

Lima Beans

Thankfully, succulent lima beans are shedding their bad reputation as the food to force-feed kids. Add them to minestrone and other soups or combine them with corn and green beans for succotash

Lupini Beans

At Italian fairs and Spanish beer halls these beans are a popular snack. Technically a member of the pea family, these flat, coin-shaped, dull yellow seeds are second only to soybeans in plant protein content. Use caution when cooking! Lupini beans need a special extensive soaking and brining preparation to ensure removal of potentially harmful bitter alkaloids that occur naturally in the beans.

Mung Beans

You probably know mung beans for their sprouts, but the beans themselves are revered as a healing food. Mung beans range in color from greenish-brown to yellow to black and have delicate, sweet flavor. They need no pre-soaking, cook quickly and are easy to digest; you can’t go wrong.

Pinto Beans

A favorite in Southwest and Mexican dishes — “pinto” means “painted” in Spanish — these earthy beans have a delicious, creamy texture ideal for refrying. Combine with onions, chili powder, garlic and tomatoes as a filling for enchiladas or sauté cooked beans with olive oil, garlic and tamari.

Red Beans

These small, dark red beans are subtly sweet and hold their shape when cooked. They make a great choice for soups and chili and as a companion to rice.

Red Lentils

Don’t be fooled by the name; this variety of lentil isn’t really red. In fact, their soft pink color turns golden when cooked. Note that red lentils cook quickly and don’t hold their shape so they’re best in soups or purées or cooked until creamy with Italian seasonings

Split Peas

While green peas are picked while immature and eaten fresh, dried peas are harvested when mature, stripped of their husks, split and dried. Split peas don’t require presoaking and their mild flavor and creamy texture make good companions to garlic, onions, dill, curry and ginger.

Let’s get cooking!


Week 47: Say Cheese


When I grew up my exposure to cheese was limited to grilled cheese sandwiches and macaroni and cheese, made with Velveeta American processed cheese. The selection of cheeses in grocery stores was limited and gourmet delis were nonexistent. Gradually American palates have become more sophisticated and we have a global selection of fine cheeses now available to us. My travels have allowed me to sample Gruyere fondue in Switzerland, caprese made with fresh mozzarella di buffalo in Italy, and Stilton in the United Kingdom.


Cheese predates written history, but is believed to have been discovered accidentally by an Arabian merchant who put his supply of milk into a pouch made from a sheep’s stomach, as he set out on a day’s journey across the desert. The rennet in the lining of the pouch, combined with the heat of the sun, caused the milk to separate into curd and whey. That night he found that the whey satisfied his thirst, and the cheese (curd) had a delightful flavor which satisfied his hunger

Ancient Egyptians loved cheese so much that depictions of the cheese-making process were painted in tombs in 2500 BC. Homer’s Odyssey talks about how Cyclops stored his cheese. The Greeks and Romans used cheese as a delicious currency. The Romans love to dine on fresh cheese with figs, but they also used it in salads. Cheese, olives and raisins made up he meager rations of the Roman soldiers. Cheese is even mentioned in the Bible. Between the eleventh and fourteenth centuries, monasteries dominated cheesemaking replacing stone or clay containers that had been common until then with copper kettles.


Many cheeses today are still produced via traditional methods and recipes, although processing has become easier with the advent of mechanization.

Cheese can be made from the milk of any mammal. The makeup of milk varies with the animal, and the variations are what make sheep cheese and goat cheese different from cow’s milk cheese. On the average, cow’s milk consists of 87% water, 3 ½% protein, 3 ¾% fat, and almost 5% lactose (milk sugar) by weight, along with water-soluble vitamins, such as A, B complex, and D. It is the protein and the lactose that are most important in cheesemaking.

Sheep’s milk contains almost double the fat content of cow’s milk and has a higher lactose content which gives it a slightly more acidic flavor. Examples of cheeses made from sheep’s milk are Italian Pecorino and Greek Feta.

Goat’s milk cheeses are known as chevre. The characteristic aroma derives from specific fatty acids which are formed soon after milking, although modern processing methods have helped to minimize the strong smell. Goat’s milk produces very small curds which is the reason why it is produced and sold in small packages.

To make cheese from milk, two things must occur: the lactose must convert into lactic acid, which is lower in acidity, and an enzyme must be added to trigger the clumping together of the casein molecules which causes curds to form. When that happens, the whey is drawn off and the process begins. The curds are cut, are slightly reheated for some varieties of cheese and salt is added to help draw off moisture. The hard cheeses are pressed, molded and air-dried. The final stage is aging or allowing the cheese to ripen.

It is through ripening that a cheese develops its varietal character. Cheeses ripen according to their shape, size, age and type. The temperature and humidity also affects the type of cheese made.

The best, most flavorful cheeses come from fresh, raw milk, but the USDA forbids the importation of raw-milk cheeses aged less than 60 days. Currently, more than one-third of all milk produced each year in the U.S. is used to manufacture cheese.

Would you like to try to make your own cheese at home? You can order supplies to get you started from the New England Cheesemaking Supply Co. ( ) or for a more extensive program, get your cheesemaking certification from the University of Vermont’s Institute for Artisan Cheese.


Fresh Cheeses – essentially uncooked and unripened curds ready to eat directly after being made, like ricotta, cream cheese, farmers cheese, cottage cheese, Italian Mascarpone and French fromage blanc.

Soft cheeses – soft spreadable consistency, surface ripened (sprayed or exposed to molds so that they ripen from the rind inward), like French Brie and Camembert.

Semi-soft cheeses – Slightly less water content than soft cheeses. Examples include French Reblochon, Italian Taleggio, el Paese, German Butterkase and semi-soft cheeses with mold on the inside such as Roquefort, Gorgonzola, Stilton and a variety of blues.

Semi-hard cheeses – These cheeses have an elastic, firm texture and are easy to cut and usually have a wax, paraffin or plastic coating. What semi-hard cheeses have in common is the slight heating of the curd during the production process. Examples include Dutch Gouda, French Gruyere, German Tilsit, Swiss Appenzeller and Emmental.

Hard cheeses – made from curd that has not been heated or cooked to solidify it, but are pressed to complete the drainage of whey. They ripen evenly throughout and have a long shelf life. Examples include English Cheddar, Spanish Manchego and Italian Parmiggiano Reggiano, Pecorino Romano, Provolone, and French Morbier.

Processed cheese – a by-product made of natural cheese, vegetable-based guys, dyes, emulsifiers and stabilizers.


Carroll, Ricki. Home Cheese Making.

Hastings, Chester. The Cheesemonger’s Kitchen: Celebrating Cheese in 90 Recipes.

International Dairy Foods Association ( )

Jenkins, Steven. Cheese Primer.

Roberts, Jeffrey. The Atlas of American Artisan Cheese.

Smith, Tim. Making Artisan Cheese.

Week 46: Cilantro and Coriander

coriander plant

Coriander is considered both an herb and a spice since both its leaves and its seeds are used as a seasoning condiment. The Coriander plant is grown as annual which requires well-draining, fertile soil supplemented with warm summer climates to flourish. For leaf coriander, the plant is allowed to reach only about 9 to 15 inches in height. If left to grow further, it may reach about 5-7 feet tall, bears small white or light pink flowers by midsummer, followed by round-oval, numerous, aromatic coriander seeds. Flowering coriander is often planted in a flower or vegetable garden as it repels aphids.


The use of coriander can be traced back to 5,000 BC, making it one of the world’s oldest spices. It is native to the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern regions and has been known in Asian countries for thousands of years. Coriander was cultivated in ancient Egypt and was mentioned in the Old Testament. Ancient Grecians used cilantro essential oil as a component of perfume and the Romans used it to preserve meats and flavor breads. Early physicians, including Hippocrates, used coriander for its medicinal properties, such as an aromatic stimulant.

Culinary Uses


Fresh coriander leaves are used as an herb, and are known as cilantro, or Chinese parsley, and bear a strong resemblance to Italian flat leaf parsley. The leaves are broadly lobed at the base of the plant, and slender and feathery higher on the flowering stems with a citrusy flavor, which is stronger in the stems, so they should be chopped and added to recipes as well. Heat diminishes the flavor, so coriander leaves and stems should be used raw or added to the dish immediately before serving. The fresh leaves are an ingredient in many savory dishes in South Asian foods, Chinese and Thai dishes, Mexican cooking, and in salads in Russia. Chopped coriander leaves are a garnish on Indian dishes such as dal. The Portuguese are the only Europeans who continue to use cilantro as much as they did in the 16th century – combining it with chilies and huacatay (black mint) to produce a distinctive table sauce, and pared with potatoes and fava beans.


The fruit of the coriander plant contains two seeds which, when dried, are the parts that are used as the dried spice. When ripe, the seeds are yellowish-brown in color with longitudinal ridges. They have a fragrant flavor that is reminiscent of both citrus peel and sage. Coriander seeds are available in whole or ground powder form. Roasting or heating the seeds in a dry pan heightens the flavor, aroma and pungency. Coriander is commonly used in Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, Indian, South Asian, Mexican, Latin American, Chinese, African and Southeast Asian cuisine. In Germany and South Africa, the seeds are used while making sausages. In Russia and Central Europe, coriander seed is an occasional ingredient in rye bread. The Zunis of North America have adapted it into their cuisine, mixing the powdered seeds ground with chilies and using it as a condiment with meat, and eating leaves as a salad. Coriander seeds are also used with orange peel to add a citrus character in brewing certain styles of beer, particularly some Belgian wheat beers.

Medicinal Uses and Health Benefits

The herb parts (leaves, root, and stem) of the cilantro (coriander) plant have been found to have many antioxidants and essential oils that have been used as analgesics, aphrodisiacs, antispasmodic medicines, deodorants, and digestive aids. Recent research (although done on rats and mice) has shown coriander to control blood sugar and to lower LDL cholesterol levels.

Coriander seeds and fresh Cilantro leaves and stems differ in nutritional value. Cilantro leaves are particularly rich in vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin K. Coriander seeds generally have lower content of vitamins, but they do provide significant amounts of dietary fiber, calcium, selenium, iron, magnesium and manganese.


Norman, Jill. Herbs and Spices: The Cook’s Reference.

Week 45: What’s the Beef?


There is a greater focus these days on reducing meat intake. But beef remains one of the best sources of protein in our diet. Focusing on lean meat, choosing the right cuts of beef, and buying the best quality available insure that you can enjoy a sizzling steak on the grill or a tender slow-roasted pot roast on occasion. Here’s what you need to know.

Beef is the meat of domesticated cattle, generally castrated as calves and specifically raised for meat. It is the third most widely consumed meat in the world, accounting for about 25% of meat production worldwide, after pork and poultry at 38% and 30% respectively.

Although cattle have been domesticated for several thousand years, it is unknown exactly when people started raising cattle for their meat. Cattle were widely used as draft animals (oxen) and for milk, and were specifically bred to increase meat yield with the mechanization of farming, or to improve the texture of meat, giving rise to the Murray Grey, Angus, and Wagyū. Cattle have only been in North America since Columbus introduced them in 1493 on his second expedition to the West Indies. The Spanish brought cattle to Florida and Texas in succeeding decades. Texas Longhorns descended from the original Spanish cattle and were raised in the mid-1800s on the open range to meet America’s demand for beef. The Homestead Act of 1862 threatened the open range and cattle ranching began to decline. Today beef cattle are raised and fed using a variety of methods, including feedlots, free range, ranching, and intensive animal farming. In 2014, he largest exporters of beef were Argentina, Brazil and the United States.

How Beef is Graded

The USDA designates eight beef quality grades. The grades are based on two main criteria: the degree of marbling (intramuscular fat) in the beef, and the maturity (estimated age of the animal at slaughter).

Most beef offered for sale in supermarkets in the United States is graded U.S. Choice or Select. U.S. Prime beef is sold to hotels and upscale restaurants, and usually marketed as such.

  • U.S. Prime – Highest in quality and intramuscular fat, limited supply. Currently, about 2.9% of carcasses grade as Prime.
  • U.S. Choice – High quality, widely available in foodservice industry and retail markets. Choice carcasses are 53.7% of the fed cattle total. The difference between Choice and Prime is largely due to the fat content in the beef. Prime typically has a higher fat content (more and well distributed intramuscular “marbling”) than Choice.
  • U.S. Select (formerly Good) – lowest grade commonly sold at retail, acceptable quality, but is less juicy and tender due to leanness.
  • U.S. Standard – Lower quality, yet economical, lacking marbling.
  • U.S. Commercial – Low quality, lacking tenderness, produced from older animals.
  • U.S. Utility
  • U.S. Cutter
  • U.S. Canner

Utility, Cutter, and Canner grade are rarely used in foodservice operations and primarily used by processors and canners.

Types of Beef Cuts

After a steer is slaughtered, it is cut into four quarters and then further cut into primal cuts (chuck, brisket, shank, rib, short plate, shaft, loin, sirloin, flank and round), subprimal cuts or is designated for “fabrication.” The cuts of beef that come from well-used muscles tend to have a larger portion of connective tissue and can be tougher than those cuts from areas where the muscles are less used.

Specialty Beef

Certified Angus Beef is a brand created in 1978 to distinguish the highest-quality beef produced from descendants of the black, hornless Angus cattle of Scotland. The meat must meet American Angus Association standards for yield, marbling and age, and be graded as high choice or prime.

Kobe beef is traditionally produced in Kobe, Japan. Wagyu cattle are fed a special diet, which includes beer to stimulate the animal’s appetite during the summer months. The cattle are massages with sake to relieve stress and muscle stiffness in the belief that calm contented cattle produce better-quality meat. The cattle are raised without hormones and the meat is dry-aged for 21 days prior to sale. This special treatment does result in meat that is extraordinarily tender and full-flavored. It is also extremely expensive and can cost as much as $200 per pound. Only about 3,900 head of cattle each year meet the strict standards to be labeled as Kobe beef, and only about 10% of this is exported from Japan. Much of the Kobe beef on restaurant menus is domestic Waygu and does not come from pure Japanese bloodlines.

Halal beef has been certified to have been processed in a prescribed manner in accordance with Muslin dietary laws.

Kosher beef has been certified to have been processed in a prescribed manner in accordance with Jewish dietary laws.

Organic beef is produced without added hormones, antibiotics, pesticides, or other chemicals, though requirements for labeling it organic vary widely.


Raw beef:

Steak tartare is a French dish made from finely chopped or ground (minced) raw meat (often beef). More accurately, it is scraped so as not to let even the slightest of the sinew fat get into the scraped meat. It is often served with onions, capers, seasonings such as fresh ground pepper and Worcestershire sauce, and sometimes raw egg yolk.

Carpaccio of beef is a thin slice of raw beef dressed with olive oil, lemon juice and seasoning. Often, the beef is partially frozen before slicing to allow very thin slices to be cut.

Preserved Beef:

Bresaola is an air-dried, salted beef that has been aged about two to three months until it becomes hard and a dark red, almost purple, color. It is lean, has a sweet, musty smell and is tender. It originated in Northern Italy. Bundnerfleisch is a similar product from Switzerland.

Chipped beef is an American industrially produced air-dried beef product, described by one of its manufacturers as being “similar to bresaola, but not as tasty.”

Beef Jerky is dried, salted, smoked beef popular in the United States.

Biltong is a cured, salted, air dried beef popular in South Africa.

Pastrami is often made from beef; raw beef is salted, then partly dried and seasoned with various herbs and spices, and smoked.

Corned beef is a cut of beef cured or pickled in a seasoned brine. The corn in corned beef refers to the grains of coarse salts (known as corns) used to cure it. The term corned beef can denote different styles of brine-cured beef, depending on the region.

Cooked beef:

There are various ways to cook beef. Generally the tougher cuts are braised or stewed. Steaks can be grilled.

When you place a steak on the grill at temperatures of 300 degrees or more, you produce a crust with rich, caramelized flavors that form from the meat’s natural sugars and amino acids. This process is called the Maillard reaction, named for the French physician who, almost a century ago, was the first to investigate similar reactions between proteins and sugars in the human body. At the same time, you don’t want the steak’s interior to go much above 135 degrees (medium rare) because that’s the temperature at which it stays juicy. If you cook the steak more than that, the strands of protein in the muscle fibers contract so much that they squeeze out the juices.

Customs and Traditions

Most Hindus consider killing cattle and eating beef a sin. Bovines have been highly revered as sacred to mankind in Indian culture due to the critical role of cattle, especially cows, as a source of milk, and dairy products. The slaughter of cattle has been likened to matricide in these cultures, due to the fact that the cow provides milk and sustenance for society. Cow’s milk is again used as curd, butter, cheese, milk sweets and a wide range of other items.


Three ounces of lean beef contains 154 calories and 25g of protein which provide all the amino acids the body needs for optimal health to maintain weight and to build and preserve muscle. 

Health Concerns

In 1984, the use of meat and bone meal in cattle feed resulted in the world’s first outbreak of mad cow disease in the United Kingdom.  In 2010, the EU, through the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), proposed lifting the restrictions on feeding mammal-based products to cattle. allowing for certain milk, fish, eggs, and plant-fed farm animal products to be used.


Labensky, Sarah and Hause, Allan: On Cooking: A Textbook of Culinary Fundamentals.


Week 44: Birds of a Feather


Poultry is an excellent source of lean, low fat protein. Whether you’re barbecuing chicken on the grill, preparing that holiday turkey, or preparing fried chicken for a picnic there are a lot of choices for adding more poultry to your diet. The USDA identifies six categories of poultry (Rock Cornish game hens are a form of chicken).  Here they are:

Chicken – The domestication of poultry took place between 7,000 and 10,000 years ago. This may have originally been as a result of people hatching and rearing young birds from eggs collected from the wild, but later involved keeping the birds permanently in captivity. Domesticated chickens may have been used for cockfighting at first and quail kept for their songs, but soon it was realized how useful it was having a captive-bred source of food.

Today, chicken is the most popular poultry in the world. It is available fresh or frozen in many forms. Although the sex of the bird doesn’t matter, older male birds are generally tough and stringy and are not as flavorful as female birds. The French poulet de Bresse is considered the world’s finest, and is a blue-legged variety raised on a diet of milk products plus sweet corn and other grains near the village of Bresse in southeastern Burgundy. They are only available in the US from specialty food importers at a premium price.

Rock Cornish Game Hen – The Rock Cornish game hen is a cross between the Cornish Game and White Plymouth Rock chicken breeds and is described by the USDA as a “young immature chicken (less than five weeks of age), weighing not more than two pounds ready-to-cook weight.” Thus, it is not a true game bird. A Cornish hen typically commands a higher price per pound than typically sold chickens, despite a shorter growing span of 28 to 30 days, as opposed to 42 or more for regular chicken.

Duck – Duck contains only dark meat and is available whole or as duck breasts, usually frozen. Duck has a high percentage of fat and it is important to render as much fat as possible. Ducks were not mentioned in agricultural texts in Western Europe until about 810 AD, when they began to be mentioned alongside geese and chickens as being used for rental payments made by tenants to landowners. Ducks are farmed mainly for their meat, eggs, and down.

In some countries, geese and ducks are force-fed to produce livers with an exceptionally high fat content for the production of foie gras. Over 75% of world production of this product occurs in France, with lesser industries in Hungary and Bulgaria and a growing production in China. Foie gras is considered a luxury in many parts of the world, but the process of feeding the birds in this way is banned in many countries on animal welfare grounds

Goose – Geese also contains only dark meat and has very fatty skin. It is usually roasted at high temperatures to render or burn off the fat. Domestic geese are larger than their wild counterparts.

Guinea Hen – the domesticated descendant of a game bird with both light and dark meat and a flavor similar to that of a pheasant, it contains very little fat. It must be “barded” or have fat added to it (inserted in cuts in the skin or overlapped with bacon) to make it juicy and tender. Guinea hens eat mainly insects, but also consume grasses and seeds. They will even eat the ticks that carry Lyme disease. They happily roost in trees and give a loud vocal warning of the approach of predators.

Squab (Pigeon) – No, this isn’t the same pigeon you see in the park! Commercially raised, the pigeon has dark, tender meat and very little fat. It is best broiled, sautéed or roasted and also benefits from barding.

Turkey – Pre-Aztec tribes in south-central Mexico first domesticated the turkey around 800 BC. It is the second most popular bird eating in the US and has both light and dark meat. It is generally available year round as frozen whole birds, or fresh as turkey parts, ground or as sausage and bacon. Turkeys are reasonably priced and yield a lot of meat. However, fresh organic, free-range turkeys available during the Thanksgiving season can cost up to $300.

Ratites (Ostrich, Emu and Rhea) – these are flightless birds with small wings and flat breastbones. Their meat is red, even though they are classified as poultry. They generally contain very little fat and are best prepared by broiling, grilling, roasting and pan frying and are served medium rare to medium.

Game Birds

Partridge, pheasant and quail are widely raised on game preserves and farms. Partridge has a stronger flavor than pheasant and the meat tends to be tougher. Pheasant is the most popular game gird and has a mild flavor and tender meat. Quail are very small and are often served whole and stuffed. Quail were depicted in hieroglyphs from 2575 BC.

Commercial Production

Chickens are raised indoors in huge windowless chicken houses that may contain as many as 20,000 birds. They are primarily fed corn and soybean meal, but animal protein, vitamins, minerals and antibiotics are often added to produce quick-growing birds. Consumers are becoming concerned about the residual effects of the added nutrients and chemicals and are opting for organic, free-range chickens which are allowed outside the chicken houses, without antibiotics and fed only a vegetarian diet. Free-range chickens are superior in flavor and quality.


Poultry is graded by the USDA according to overall quality with the grade (USDA A, B or C) on a shield on the product packaging. Nearly all poultry sold in retail outlets is Grade A. Grade B and C are used primarily for processed poultry products.


With the exception of duck breasts and squab, which are often left pink, poultry is always cooked well done. To determine doneness:

  1. When the bird is done, it will have a firm texture, resist pressure and spring back when pressed with a finger.
  2. Temperature – Use an instant-read thermometer. It should read 165o-170oF at the coolest point.
  3. Looseness of joints – When bone-in poultry is done, the leg will begin to move freely in its socket.
  4. Color of the juices – Poultry is done when its juices run clear.

Health Concerns

Poultry is highly perishable and susceptible to contamination by salmonella. Fresh chickens and other small birds should be stored on ice or at 32o-34oF for up to two days. Larger birds can be refrigerated at these temperatures for up to four days. Rinse it under cold running water and then try and clean with disposable paper towels to remove any collected juices prior to cooking.


Labensky, Sarah R., and Hause, Alan M. On Cooking.

Week 43: Go Fish


What are you going to fix for dinner tonight? Alaskan halibut in a lemon pepper sauce, shrimp pad Thai or steamed Maine lobsters with butter?

We’ve all heard the adage “There are plenty of fish in the sea.” Although it often refers to relationships, it’s also something to think about when we ponder the availability of seafood for the dinner table. The oceans are so vast, yet tens of thousands of species of fish and shellfish in our oceans and rivers are being adversely impacted by overfishing, bycatch (inadvertently catching unintended species), removal of prey and predators from complicated food chains, and habitat and ecosystem damage. Fish are also becoming contaminated in a variety of ways. Landfills, fertilizer and pesticide runoff from farms, waste discharge from factories all contaminate our waters. Mercury, for example, enters an aquatic ecosystem from power plant runoff. Rivers feed into the ocean and the contaminant finds its way into the marine ecosystem.

In the once rich fishing grounds of Japan overexploitation of Pacific bluefin tuna has reduced its population by as much as a third over the past two decades. In 2014 the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shut down cod fishing, from Provincetown, Mass., up to the Canadian border, in an effort to reverse plummeting numbers of the fish in the Gulf of Maine. They also put restrictions on Atlantic salmon, sea scallops and a number of other species. In the Georges Bank fishing area of New England, there are catch limits on haddock and herring, the latter being bait for lobsters.

So, what can we do? How can we be mindful, health-conscious consumers of seafood? The answer lies with sustainable seafood, which is caught or farmed in ways that have minimal impact on ocean health and considers the long-term vitality of harvested species. Our best choices for fish have low levels of mercury (less than 216 parts per billion) and provide at least 250 milligrams of omega-3s per serving.

On the New Hampshire Seacoast a cooperative of fishermen and consumers have joined together to protect the ocean, sustain NH’s fishing industry, and support the local economy. Their Community Supported Fishery Program and Restaurant Supported Fishery Program provide weekly shares of delicious, fresh caught fish from local waters. Like community sponsored agriculture programs, participants pay a weekly or monthly amount and pick up their shares at designated locations. For more information, please go to

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association fisheries service supports using aquaculture to produce sustainable seafood. Aquaculture refers to fish or shellfish farming and has been practiced for more than a thousand years, but it is the last 30 years that we have seen an unprecedented expansion of fish farming, making it a substantial contributor to global food supply. Today, half of our seafood comes from aquaculture.

Two types of aquaculture exist. Marine aquaculture farms the fish species that live in the ocean and fresh water aquaculture is the fish species that live in freshwater. The aquaculture fisheries hatch and raise the fish until market size allowing the wild fish to repopulate without the threat of overfishing. In this way, we can repopulate and save the ocean ecosystem. The types of farmed seafood can vary from oysters, prawns to salmon. The environmental impact of aquaculture depends on the species, the location of the farm and how they are raised.

But there are potential environmental  concerns with aquaculture. Farmed carnivorous fish, such as salmon, require a food source which is high in fish-derived proteins. So, fish farms need to find a source of food which does not depend exclusively on wild fish being caught. The second is to ensure that any wild fish used as feed is caught in a sustainable manner. This is because removal of these species low in the food chain can have serious implications for fish stocks, the food chain and other wildlife including sea mammals and seabirds.

There are also problems which stem from fish farms being located in inappropriate areas. These include vulnerable habitats (both terrestrial and marine), essential fish habitats or areas with high concentrations of wild fish. Some of the problems can include organic waste accumulation on the seabed under sea pens – resulting in degraded water quality sea lice and other disease transfer; and altered food chains from escaped fish. Escaped farmed fish can interbreed with wild fish of the same species, resulting in genetic dilution (domestic farmed fish can have low genetic variation); they can spread disease; they can displace eggs of wild fish and they can put pressure on natural resources through competition with wild fish. For example, the Pacific oyster was introduced into UK waters in the 1960s for aquaculture purposes and it was seen as a more commercially viable alternative species to the native oyster. Since this time, the Pacific oyster has spread into the wild. Natural populations of the Pacific oyster can now be found in the Kent and Essex area resulting in reef formations which have displaced or modified some areas of the native oyster and biologically diverse marine environments.

A range of chemicals can be used in marine aquaculture operations such as disinfectants, anti-foulants and medicines (including vaccines) can be toxic to wildlife and can cause significant damage to the wider ecosystem, especially anti-foulants containing copper.

Center for Food Safety works to ensure and improve aquaculture oversight, furthering policy and cultural dialogue with regulatory agencies, consumers, chefs, grocers, fish retailers and legislators on the critical need to protect public health and the environment from industrial aquaculture. They advocate better alternatives to large scale open ocean aquaculture, including Recirculating Aquaculture Systems (RAS). RAS, closed-looped and biosecure aquaculture operations which avoid many of the contamination potential inherent in factory fish farming and fulfill the need for clean, sustainable and healthy seafood supplements to our wild fisheries.

The organization Seafood Watch has an app you can download to your iPhone or Android phone that provides up-to-date seafood recommendations and locate restaurants and stores near you that serve ocean friendly seafood. Their recommendations are labeled “Best Choices,” “Good Alternatives,” or “Avoid.” Their scientists research government reports, journal articles and white papers and contact fishery and fish farm experts. After a thorough review of all the available data and information, they apply their sustainability criteria. Their website lists their approved Eco-Certification Program labels that you can look for when you purchase seafood. You can also search for seafood recommendations online at

Some of the best seafood choices you can make now are Atlantic mackerel (wild caught in US and Canada), freshwater Coho salmon (farmed in US), Pacific sardines (wild caught), farmed shrimp (US), and fresh and canned salmon (wild caught from Alaska.)

So, what are you waiting for? Head for the seafood market!


Week 42: Tea

Empress Hotel

Many years ago we traveled by ferry from Anacortes, Washington to Victoria, British Columbia and enjoyed high tea at the Empress Hotel. It was one of the old grand hotels, now a Fairmont Hotel, that overlooked the waterfront with elegant décor and impeccable service. It was the first time I sampled a scone with strawberry jam and clotted cream as well as a crumpet (similar to an English muffin) drizzled with honey. Delicious! Afternoon tea is still a custom in the United Kingdom where, it is considered one of Britain’s cultural beverages.

Tea is an aromatic beverage commonly prepared by pouring hot or boiling water over cured leaves of the Camellia sinensis, an evergreen shrub that is native to Asia. Other than water, tea is the most widely consumed drink in the world


Drinking tea originated in China in 2737 BC and was initially used for medicinal purposes. Tea drinking spread to Korea, Japan and Vietnam during the Tang Dynasty (618–906 CE).The first recorded shipment of tea by a European nation was in 1607 when the Dutch East India Company transported a cargo of tea from Macao to Java, then two years later, the Dutch bought tea which was from Japan and shipped it to Europe. Tea was first sold in a coffee house in London in 1657, and Catherine of Braganza started the tea-drinking habit to the British court when she married King Charles II of England in 1662. Tea, however, was not widely consumed in Britain until the 18th century, and remained expensive until the latter part of that period. British drinkers preferred to add sugar and milk to black tea, and black tea overtook green tea in popularity in the 1720s. The popularity of tea in Britain also led a number of historical events. The tax on tea caused the Boston Tea Party that was one of the causes of the American Revolution. The British trade deficit caused by the demand for Chinese tea eventually resulted in the Opium Wars.


Tea plants are propagated from seed and cuttings. They thrive in a warmer climate, require acidic soil and need at least 50 inches of rainfall each year. Many high-quality tea plants are cultivated at elevations of up to 4,900 ft above sea level where the plants grow more slowly and develop better flavor. If left undisturbed, a tea plant will grow into a tree about 50 feet tall, but they are usually pruned to waist height to make it easier to pick the tea leaves. Also, the short plants bear more new shoots which provide new and tender leaves and increase the quality of the tea. Only the top 1–2 in of the mature plant are picked.

The largest producers of tea are the People’s Republic of China, India, Kenya, Sri Lanka and Turkey. In 2014, the U.S. imported 285 million pounds of tea, with an estimated retail value of approximately USD $10.8 billion. Over the last five years, total hot tea sales have increased more than 17% and are expected to double over the next five years. Today, India is the country that consumes the most tea.

Types of Tea

Tea is generally divided into categories based on how it is processed. At least six different types are produced:

White – Wilted and unoxidized.

Yellow – Unwilted and unoxidized, but allowed to yellow.

Green – Unwilted and unoxidized.

Oolong – Wilted, bruised, and partially oxidized.

Black – Wilted, sometimes crushed, and fully oxidized (called ‘red tea’ in China); black tea has the highest level of caffeine.

Post-fermented – Green tea that has been allowed to ferment/compost (‘black tea’ for the Chinese.)

The most common teas consumed are white, green, oolong, and black. Although herbal teas are also referred to as tea, most of them do not contain leaves from the tea plant, but are made by steeping herbs, fruits, seeds, or roots in hot water.


Tea is sold loose or prepackaged in paper tea “bags.” The loose tea must be individually measured for use. Strainers, tea balls, tea presses, filtered teapots, and infusion bags prevent loose leaves from floating in the tea and over-brewing. In 1953 Tetley invented the tea bag and introduced it to Britain where it was a huge success. Instant tea was developed in the 1930s, with Nestle introducing the first commercial product in 1946.

Many of the active substances in black tea do not develop at temperatures lower than 194 °F. As a result, black tea in the West is usually steeped in water near its boiling point. In the western hemisphere, black teas are usually brewed for about four minutes and are usually not allowed to steep for less than 30 seconds or more than about five minutes (a process known as brewing or mashing in Britain). In many regions of the world, however, actively boiling water is used and the tea is often stewed. In India, black tea is often boiled for fifteen minutes or longer to make masala chai.

Many flavorings are added to varieties of tea during processing. Among the best known are Chinese jasmine tea, with jasmine oil or flowers, the spices in Indian masala chai, and Earl Grey tea, which contains the lemony flavor of oil of bergamot. In eastern India, people also drink masala lemon tea contains hot tea with roasted cumin seed powder, lemon juice, black salt and sugar, which gives it a tangy, spicy taste. Adding a piece of ginger when brewing tea is a popular habit of Sri Lankans, who also use other types of spices such as cinnamon to sweeten the aroma.

In a traditional Japanese tea ceremony matcha green tea powder is ground from fine Japanese green tea leaves. Its pleasant taste and health benefits make it a favorite of many tea-lovers today. Organic matcha powder is whisked in a bowl with hot water to create a frothy, bright green, nourishing beverage. Once prepared, it is then immediately consumed in its entirety.

In the Kashmir region between India and Pakistan, noon chai, a pink, creamy tea with pistachios, almonds, cardamom, and sometimes cinnamon, is consumed at special occasions, weddings, and during the winter months when it is sold in many kiosks.

In the United States, 85% of tea is consumed is iced tea and is heavily sweetened with sugar and referred to “sweet tea” in the southeastern U.S.

Health Benefits

According to research presented at the 2007 Scientific Symposium on Tea and Health, theanine, an amino acid that is for the most part uniquely found in tea (green and black), may help prevent age-related memory decline. Additional studies have found that some teas may help with cancer, heart disease, diabetes, encourage weight loss, and lower cholesterol. Tea also appears to have antimicrobial qualities.

In fact, for well over a decade, researchers have been evaluating the link between weight loss and a chemical in green tea called EGCG, which actually does help promote weight loss. ECGC is a type of antioxidant that is found predominantly in but also in smaller amounts in red wine and chocolate. Most people know that antioxidants can help decrease the harmful effects of oxidative stress, a process associated with premature aging and cell breakdown. But this particular antioxidant does more. ECGC helps promote fat loss by increasing the rate at which the body burns fat and prevents the breakdown of a neurotransmitter called norepinephrine that signals the brain that you’re full.