Thanks to you too, ocean.

To Americans in the U.S. and abroad, have a wonderful Thanksgiving. To the English, thanks so much for Maldon crystal sea salt. It’s quite lovely, both sprinkled on dishes and digitally magnified to an alarming degree. To everyone else, have an enjoyable day tomorrow, also known in my country as “Thursday.”

I am thankful for free food blogs, kind readers, and macro lenses.

Maldon sea salt

Chard Lentils du Puy, take me away!

I love greens but have always avoided chard. Why? Well my theory is that I have a subconscious terror of eating a green that sounds a lot like shard, but I’m not really sure about that, because if such a terror does exist, so far it has successfully remained subconscious. Also, chard costs more. So for years I passed over big bunches of bright rainbow chard in favor of kale, collards, and mustard. It was only after I found an intriguing recipe for chard and lentils that I finally decided to give chard its shot.

Lentils du Puy & chard with thyme sprigAs I chopped the pretty stems, I got excited about the new taste sensation that I would experience. There’s nothing like preparing and eating a novel ingredient, I thought happily. When you can’t travel much, it’s a delight when a simple vegetable prepped right in your own mundane kitchen can transport you to a virgin landscape via your palate. Why, what’s more stimulating than a brand new taste dancing on your tongue, teasing you with unfamiliarity, drawing you into its heretofore unknown flavor tango of—

“You bought that vegetable!” my mom said.

“What vegetable?”

“I used a whole pile of that it in the soup I made last week, remember?”

“Those were small leaves.”

“They were younger.”

“But they didn’t have colored stems.”

Lentils du Puy“There are two kinds, the kind with colored stems and the kind without.”

That was true. But… but… my flavor tango…

“We grow it every year,” she added.

I set down my knife. “We grew this vegetable? In the garden? This summer?”

“You’ve eaten tons of it in my soups. It’s very popular in Korea, though I think it tastes a little bit like dirt.”

“Oh.”

As I was saying, lentils du Puy would be a brand new taste sensation that would transport me to a virgin landscape via my palate. The tiny, mottled, flavorful lentils have a lovely pink and black color and hold their shape when cooked. Lentils du Puy go particularly well with chard, a vegetable that Koreans have eaten for countless centuries—nay, countless millennia—and chard just happens to be a big personal favorite of mine. I think.

Lentils du Puy up closeLentils du Puy with Chard

This dish, adapted from The Best Light Recipe, by the editors of Cook’s Illustrated, couldn’t be simpler (well okay, it could be, but I bet it wouldn’t be as tasty if it was). It yields a delicious, nutritious, hearty dish with a wonderful dirt—er—earthy flavor. Serves 3 to 4 as a meal or 6 as a side dish.

Sweat a finely chopped medium onion, the finely chopped stems of about a pound of chard, and a big pinch of salt in a little oil in a medium pot until the vegetables are translucent and soft. Add 1 and 3/4ths cups chicken broth, 1 slightly heaping cup sorted du Puy lentils (about half a pound, or 225 grams), and a few pinches of minced fresh thyme. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 30-40 minutes, stirring now and then, until the lentils are al dente. Roughly tear the remaining chard into pieces and add to the pot. Cook 10-15 more minutes or until the lentils are just tender all the way through. Salt and pepper to taste.

Plate, then drizzle each serving with a touch of fruity extra virgin olive oil and fresh squeezed lemon. I tasted the dish without oil and lemon and found it insipid. Even just a small amount of those finishing touches makes a big difference here, intensifying the richness of the lentils and brightening the tang of the chard.

New Spice Girl: Sick Spice.

My friend complained about morning sickness due to her pregnancy recently. That gave me an idea. I taste-tested combinations of nausea and gas-fighting spices (plus just plain delicious spices) to create a tea with complex flavor, tickling warmth, and stomach-soothing effects. It’s probably not accurate to call this a chai tea—I drew on Korean ginger tea and non-Indian spices too—but it tastes like a powerful chai that heats you to your core, unlike those watery concoctions that you often get at coffee shops. The only ingredient left in the air was the tea itself. I called my friend to check if she wanted tea leaves. She declined, saying that she wanted to avoid caffeine during the pregnancy.

TEXTThen she dropped the bomb. “I’m feeling fine now.”

What? But I’m making you tea!”

“I don’t have nausea anymore.”

“None at all?”

“No.”

“Not even a little?”

“No.”

“Oh. Well…maybe we’ll get lucky and you’ll feel sick again later.”

My friendship skills could use some work. But hey, at least the tea’s good. I sent her six packets of tea and other congratulatory gifts, including a jar of precious Asian pear jelly with Tahitian vanilla bean (friendship requires sacrifice), and a Matisse card filled with congratulations in my chicken scratch penmanship. Thank God the Internet doesn’t require me to handwrite this blog or you wouldn’t be reading Bon Appegeek, you’d be reading Dom Happegook, which is a completely different kind of blog and way more interesting.

So here it is, a tea for nausea, upset stomach, post-legume-intake “issues,” or just plain enjoying for the sake of it. Advice on making this into a gift follows the recipe. Yields 1 mug of tea, about 1 1/2 cups.

TEXTSPICE TEA FOR EXPECTANT FRIENDS WHO MAY OR MAY NOT BE NAUSEATED, OR FOR YOU. I’M SORRY ABOUT THE REDUNDANCY IN THIS RECIPE TITLE IF YOU ARE MAKING THIS FOR YOU AND ALSO HAPPEN TO BE AN EXPECTANT FRIEND WHO MAY OR MAY NOT BE NAUSEATED.

Ingredients (all optional & flexible):
· 4 cloves
· 3 green cardamom pods
· 2-6 white peppercorns (hot!)
· 2 allspice berries
· 1-2 “petals” star anise
· 1/4 tsp cassia bits
     OR a piece of cinnamon stick
· 1/4 scant teaspoon cracked anise
· 1/4 scant teaspoon fennel
· 1-2 teaspoons loose black tea leaves
· 1/8-inch slice fresh ginger
     OR chunk of candied ginger
· 1 tablespoon sugar or honey, or to taste
· 2-4 tablespoons milk or cream

1) Grind all spices except ginger in a grinder until somewhat fine, about 10 seconds. (You can leave the spices whole or bruise them, but the tea’s intensity drops sharply.) Don’t worry if large pieces of cardamom pod remain. Pour the spices and the tea leaves into a teabag such as T-Sac unbleached paper filters size 1 or 2. (Or use a very fine sieve to strain the spices from the tea later.) Fold the teabag down twice and staple or tie it shut.

2) Bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil in a very small pot. Use less water if you’d like to add extra milk or cream, more water if you’re using a wide pot because the water will evaporate faster. Ultimately you want to end up with about 1 1/2 cups of liquid, so keep an eye on the water level and add some if necessary. Add the teabag plus the ginger.

3) Boil gently for 10-15 minutes, occasionally pressing the teabag lightly to release flavors.

4) Remove teabag. Add the milk or cream and heat the tea until it’s as hot as you’d like. Pour tea into a mug and add sugar or honey to taste. Ginger can be eaten or discarded.

To give tea as a gift:

1) A tablespoon of dry skim milk can be added to the teabag if your friend doesn’t often keep milk on hand, as mine doesn’t. Staple the teabag twice because the milk tends to foam up. You will need a size 2 bag if you also add tea leaves.

2) For multiple teabags it would be faster to do all the spices in one large batch, but the proportions in each bag may be off. I prefer to make one bag at a time.

3) Wrap the teabags in an airtight bag. Wrap candied ginger in a separate airtight bag to keep its moisture from affecting the spices. Include brewing instructions. Make a note to your friend that ground spices lose their potency quickly, so bottoms up!

With all due pain,
Dom Happegook