Tea Time With “Steeped” Cookbook Author Annelies Zijderveld

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Tea is such a lovely creation. So much comfort and goodness in one cup. It warms you on a cold day, puts a bit of pep in your step when you’re feeling sluggish, and makes you feel better when your under-the-weather. It was about time someone took all of this wonderfulness beyond the mug and created everyday recipes using tea. Annelies Zijderveld did just that in her new cookbook, Steeped: Recipes Infused with Tea (releases April 7, 2015). Annelies was kind enough to tell us all about the book, as well as share a few teaser photos of recipes (like the Matcha Tea Affogatos above or the Green Tea Granola below) and her recipe for Chamomile Corn Chowder.  ~Kate

Tell us about Steeped: Recipes Infused with Tea and what inspired you to write your first cookbook?

I’ve always appreciated how tea nudges us to slow down. Tea also brings people together or can be sipped in solitude with a good book. I wanted to explore the idea of how using tea as an ingredient in favorite foods might welcome pockets of time to savor life in the little moments that happen at the table and in the kitchen. When I worked at Mighty Leaf Tea years ago, I had the chance to talk to chefs and pastry chefs who deftly turned to tea as an ingredient in cooking and baking and set me on my path to begin experimenting with it at home. I wanted to translate that idea for other adventurous home cooks. Steeped: Recipes Infused with Tea invites tea into every meal of the day through fresh, whole food recipes that encourage everyday celebration.

What has writing a cookbook taught you about yourself and/or your cooking style?

So much! I deeply enjoyed the act of writing the book even as we continued to refine and whittle it into the best version of itself. I am an eclectic cook who likes to layer flavors and textures. I’ve always been deeply inquisitive about interesting ingredients and trying to find new ways to use them. I wanted to convey the idea of using tea as a spice and flavor—really celebrating what makes that tea sing—in Steeped recipes. I also set out to craft vegetarian recipes since many cooking with tea recipes that exist tend to lean heavily on meat. At home, we tend to be flexitarian and eat meat infrequently and I’ve never met a vegetable I didn’t like. Have you seen the episode of Portlandia about Collin, the chicken? That sketch made me laugh out loud in recognition.

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What motivates you to do what you do in the kitchen?

Since I was young, I’ve always been open to experimenting in the kitchen. That act of discovery and curiosity compels me forward. Usually it starts with the seed of an idea that I chew on in my mind like working a line of poetry until the moment is ripe to tackle it. I am a believer in keeping a well-stocked kitchen so that when inspiration strikes, I can chase after it. And chase after it again and again until it tastes just right. Earlier this spring, I was teaching cooking classes in Oakland through Cooking Matters and would listen to what participants wanted to learn or what they struggled with to get meals on the table—this greatly informed my few recipes for the class. I think mealtime is important and special at nourishing us in ways that include more than just the food.

How did you come up with 70 different plant-based recipes?

I tend to sketch out recipes before I start them whether it’s drawing what I think I want the final dish to resemble or making a list of ingredients and then fleshing them out through cooking. I knew early on that I wanted to focus on a core set of teas and show their various applications. Because of this I really challenged myself to taste as many nuances in the teas and tisanes as possible so that I could begin to think about other ingredients that would play well with them. Living in the Bay area, a seasonal lens of cooking naturally infused into the book too especially as I would find inspiration from weekly jaunts at the farmers’ market. As the book began to take shape while writing the proposal, the sections dictated some of the recipes too as I wanted to create a book that was balanced in the number of recipes per section and per tea and tisane.

How do you take your tea?

Hot. Though when I have a hankering for iced tea, I take the plunge.

Do you have a favorite tea?

It’s so hard to pick a favorite and I usually decide based on the time of day or my mood. That said I am thrilled that Matcha is finally getting its just desserts. I could easily drink Matcha everyday … and sometimes do. It’s become a litmus test when I’m dining out of sensing restaurant tea savviness in addition to surveying their hot tea menu. Recently, I was in Los Angeles and visited Republique which offered Iced Matcha and a Green Tea Basil Smash. They won me over with two menu items. Usually I start the day with black tea, often Earl Grey or Masala Chai with a splash of milk. Lapsang Souchong can do no wrong. And I always have a place in my heart for a good oolong. But Ceylon Kenilworth with its honey notes can woo me any day. And sometimes I just crave the vegetal notes of a good Sencha green tea. Do you see the dilemma? I just like really good tea.

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Can you tell us the difference between Afternoon Tea and High Tea?

We are going through a meal redefinition right now in the U.S. where more people are eating smaller meals throughout the day and evening rather than three square meals. Back when dinner happened later in the evening in the U.K., around 8PM, afternoon tea served a particular purpose of providing some light bites with tea to appease the appetite until dinner. High tea consisted of a heartier meal that would sometimes substitute for dinner and the term, “high” references the height of the dinner table for this meal eaten earlier in the evening. It all kind of reminds me of Tolkien and the meals referenced by Pippin such as “second breakfast” and “elevensies” in the Fellowship of the Ring. Come to think of it, we should make elevensies a thing.

What’s the first recipe you’d like us to tackle in the cookbook – something that will hook us in?

It’s so hard to just pick one but I would suggest making a pot of Chamomile Corn Chowder (recipe below), maybe especially because right now a bit of cheery yellow soup could be comforting and warming and a reminder that winter will end. Perhaps it’s also fitting that I suggest using frozen corn in the recipe. I like to serve this soup with slices of homemade spelt bread.

What do you eat when no one is looking? A guilty pleasure of sorts.

A hot corn tortilla slathered with a spoonful of smooth peanut butter and a square of melted bittersweet chocolate dragged across that is then rolled up tight—it may not sound like much, but it’s just sweet enough to be the right kind of something when the occasion calls for it.

Please share a little tea tip to inspire a home cook.

If I can share only one tip it would be to take heed of water temperature when brewing tea. A few degrees can really change the flavor and character of the final cup. You might find that it will change your tea drinking and cooking experience greatly.

What’s one of the best homemade food gifts you’ve ever received?

A friend gave us a jar of plum ginger jam she had canned as a housewarming gift. My favorite gift to give others is a still warm loaf of sourdough made from my vivacious starter. There’s something about the transaction of time that happens with homemade food gifts. Someone was thinking about you when they stirred a pot of slumping plums scenting the air with ginger. The thoughtfulness of the jam spread well beyond the evening she presented the jar.

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Chamomile Corn Chowder

The floral honeyed tones of chamomile beautifully complement the sweetness of corn. This chowder owes its body to being half puréed, rather than to cream or butter, making it naturally vegan. I use frozen corn here, but if you’re lucky enough to find fresh organic corn, by all means use it. ~Annelies

Makes: 2 to 4 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon safflower, grapeseed, or other neutral oil
  • 1 1/2 cups (1 medium) white onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup (1/4 medium) green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups (4 small) potatoes, chopped
  • 1 cup (1/2 medium) sweet potato, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 1/2 cups (4 bags or 2 tablespoons loose) chamomile tisane, brewed
  • 1 pound frozen corn kernels, preferably organic, or the kernels from 2 ears of corn, preferably organic
  • 2 tablespoons fresh curly parsley, chopped

Directions:

  1. Place an 8-quart stockpot over medium-low heat for 1 minute. Swirl the oil in the pot to coat. Sauté the onion and bell pepper for 5 minutes. Add the potatoes, sweet potato, salt, pepper, and chamomile. Raise the heat to medium-high. Once boiling, about 5 minutes, cover and lower the heat to simmer. Cook until the potatoes are fork-tender, about 5 minutes. Raise the heat to high. Stir in the corn and cook for 3 to 4 minutes.
  2. Ladle half of the soup and solids into a blender, avoiding the sweet potato. Remove the cap from the blender lid and hold a towel over the opening. Purée until smooth. Return the puréed soup to the pot and stir to integrate. Grind in black pepper, to taste. Garnish with the parsley.
Photos taken and styled by Stephanie Shih. Recipe from Steeped: Recipes Infused with Tea by Annelies Zijderveld, Andrews McMeel Publishing.

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