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Archive for August, 2011

TIP OF THE DAY: Grow Your Own Herbal Tea

Tea leaves are herbs. Photo by Zakir Ghouse | Fotolia.


We use the term “herb tea” to specify a tea made of caffeine-free herbs. But black, green, oolong and white teas, which come from the plant Camellia sinensis, are also herbs themselves.

According to Chinese legend, in 2737 B.C.E., Emperor Shen Nong discovered tea by accident. While boiling drinking water in the garden (a standard safety practice in the millennia prior to safe water systems), a leaf from an overhanging wild tea tree drifted into his pot—inadvertently brewing the first pot of tea. (More on the history of tea.)

While you probably can’t grow a tea tree or bush in your home or garden,* you can grow other herbs that steep into delicious “herbal” teas.

*If you live in a hot, moist climate, you can try it. Tea grows in temperatures ranging from 50°F to 86°F, in areas with an average yearly rainfall of 787 inches and an elevation of between 2000 and 6500 feet above sea level.


Herbs To Grow For Tea
Most herbs have some type of homeopathic quality—but grow and brew the flavors you prefer. Take a look at:

  • Basil or lemon basil
  • Chamomile
  • Fennel
  • Lavender
  • Lemon balm
  • Lemongrass
  • Lemon verbena
  • Mint (apple mint, orange mint, peppermint, spearmint)
  • Rose hips
  • Rosemary
  • Sage (we love sage tea; look for pineapple sage in addition to regular sage)
    How To Brew Fresh Herb Tea

    1. PLUCK and rinse the herbs.

    2. CRUSH them in your hand to release the essential oils.

    3. ADD the leaves to a cup or pot and cover with boiling water to steep, for three minutes or longer. Use 3 teaspoons of herbs per cup of water (if the herbs are dried, 1 teaspoon per cup of water).

    4. ENJOY the tea hot or iced.

    Suggestions From Experts

  • Harvest the herbs in the morning, after the dew has dried.
  • Most herbs are at peak just before they flower.
  • Harvest all your herbs by the end of the season, before the first frost. Dry them whole and store in an airtight container away from heat and light.
  • In addition to making tea, you can use the herbs as seasonings.

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    FOOD HOLIDAY: Celebrate National Water Quality Month

    August is National Water Quality Month.

    Whether you rely on tap water, bottled water or both, celebrate it by learning more about this substance without which no life form can live. Clean drinking water (called potable water) is essential to humans and other life forms.

    However, about a billion people around the world have no access to potable water. The unhealthy water they drink results in every tragedy from blindness to mortality.

    You may wish to celebrate National Water Quality Month by making a donation to Just $20 means clean water for one child or adult. You can also support the cause by purchasing an attractive Gelaskin for your phone, iPod or laptop.

    Learn more about the water you drink:

  • Bottled Water Issues
  • The Health Benefits Of Water
  • Municipal Water Vs. Bottled Water
  • The Origin Of Water
  • How To Evaluate Water
  • Water Purification Systems Vs. Bottled Water
  • Water Types Glossary

    Don’t take it for granted. Photo by
    Davide Guglielmo | SXC.



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    TOP PICK OF THE WEEK: Beanitos Bean Chips

    Healthful and flavorful, Beanitos are a
    better-for-you chip. Photo by Jaclyn
    Nussbaum | THE NIBBLE.


    Looking for something different for your Labor Day feast?

    Serve Beanitos Bean Chips.

    We first wrote about this flavorful bean chip—think bean dip in a chip form—some 18 months ago. They’ve become a favorite snacking chip at THE NIBBLE, so much so that they’re our Top Pick Of The Week.

    For Labor Day, serve them with black or refried bean dip, tomato salsa or black bean salsa.

  • Read the full review.
  • Here’s the original review.
    Dip Recipes To Serve With Beanitos

  • Black Bean Salsa (video recipe)
  • Watermelon Salsa With Corn & Black Beans
  • White Bean Dip

    Find more of our favorite snack chips.


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    Product: Colatura Di Alici, The Secret Sauce

    As ketchup is to Americans, as soy sauce is to Chinese, the favorite condiment in ancient Rome was garum, an anchovy sauce.

    While the Roman Empire is long gone, a form of garum is alive and well. Today it’s called colatura di alici, or juice of anchovies. (It’s also called anchovy sauce or anchovy syrup; the latter is inaccurate, as a syrup is a thick, viscous liquid.)

    As strange as “anchovy juice” may sound, colatura is an aromatic condiment that enhances any dish, adding flavor without fuss.

    Ask any great Italian chef, and you’ll probably find that colatura is their secret ingredient (it’s an umami food). Chef Lidia Bastianich told the Wall Street Journal just that. She uses a touch of colatura instead of salt.

    Colatura (the word comes from the Latin colare, to strain) is made by curing anchovies with salt and extracting the free-run liquid that drains from them. It’s a laborious and painstaking process to create a truly artisan food.


    The secret sauce: colatura. Photo courtesy


    The clear amber liquid is as highly prized by Italian cooks today as it was back in ancient Roman times. Back then, dinner guests would bring a bottle of colatura as a house gift, as one would bring a bottle of wine today.

    In fact, prior to the 20th century, Italian families would make their own colatura for home use and for gifts.

    Today, they can use this time for other pursuits thanks to Cetara, a small fishing village on Italy’s Amalfi Coast. The town produces colatura as an heirloom food.

    Is colatura a great secret waiting to be discovered? We think so. Even if you’re not an anchovy fan, colatura is a wonderful blending ingredient, adding a briny, zesty flavor that isn’t fishy. Unlike anchovy paste and Southeast Asian fish sauces such as nam pla and nuoc mam,* the flavor is briny (so use less salt in the recipe).

    Pick up a bottle of colatura di alici online for yourself or your favorite cook.

    *Colatura is the free-run juice of salted anchovies, a richer product than most southeast Asian fish sauces. The latter is brine in which fish (or fish parts) have been pickled.


  • Create a sauce for pasta (a favorite use in Italy): Combine 3:1 olive oil and colatura, sautéed garlic, lemon zest or red pepper flakes and parsley.
  • Add a spoonful to perk up the flavor in soups and sauces.
  • Add a teaspoon to sautéed greens (escarole, spinach, Swiss chard) or potatoes, with some crushed or minced garlic and a dash of chile flakes.
  • Make a simple salsa verde: Blend colatura with lemon juice, fresh herbs and garlic for fish dishes, as a salad dressing or as a dipping sauce.
  • Add a splash to Caesar salad dressing or other salad dressings.
  • Mix with the pan juices of grilled fish to create a sauce.
  • As a drizzle on sliced tomatoes, instead of salt.
  • Add to mashed potatoes (mash the potatoes with extra virgin olive oil and season with colatura and chopped flat-leaf parsley) or hot potato salad (sliced potatoes dressed the same way).
  • From Lidia Bastianich: Drizzle on roast lamb or chicken before serving; distribute with a brush.
    Tell us your favorite uses!


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    TIP OF THE DAY: Try Gourmet Marshmallows

    Luscious blackberry marshmallows from
    artisan confectioner Gateau Et Ganache.
    Photo by Dhanraj Emanuel | THE NIBBLE.


    It’s National Toasted Marshmallow Day, but today’s supermarket marshmallows are nothing to celebrate.

    Over the decades, what was once a melt-in-your-mouth confection has acquired the personality of a cotton ball—but not as soft.

    In the early 1950s, Kraft Foods developed a technique to make vast quantities of marshmallows commercially. The process drastically changed the delicate texture of handmade marshmallows, and the use of artificial flavors made the airy delight much less delightful. While mass-produced marshmallows are fun to pop into hot chocolate or toast for s’mores, how many of us enjoy eating them straight from the bag?

    So today’s tip is: Seek out handmade gourmet marshmallows from a marshmallow specialist.

    Think of gourmet marshmallows as you would fine chocolate. They’re an all-occasion gift with the bonus of being fat-free and gluten-free.

    If there’s no artisan confectioner near you (or in your specialty foods store), check out our recommendations for the best gourmet marshmallows.

    Brush up on the history of marshmallows.



    Marshmallows get their name from the marsh mallow plant (Althea officinalis), the root of which contains a sticky, white, almost jelly-like substance. The Egyptians combined it with honey as early as 2000 B.C.E., to make a candy.


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