New Year’s tea 2015

NOTE: Since I am still catching up on my blogging, you will get to read about not one, but two New Year’s teas!  Here is the first of two posts …

nyinvite2015For our 3rd annual New Year’s Tea, I hosted a candlelight tea.

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dsc04343-smallThis year, we decided to try some blossoming teas from the Red Blossom Tea Company, a tea company out of San Francisco specializing in Chinese tea.  “Blossoming teas” (as they’re called at the Red Blossom Tea Company) are also known as “flowering teas” or “blooming teas.”  Produced in Yunnan province, China (also home to puerh tea), flowering teas are bundled tea leaves that are wrapped tightly with flowers into a ball and dried.  When the tea balls are infused in hot water, they unfurl and blossom like flowers.  They are best appreciated in glass teapots or tea cups to better admire the effect of the flowers.  Thank you N. for your gift of flowering teas!

Osmanthus (white tea that tastes like dried apricots)

Osmanthus (white tea that tastes like dried apricots)

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Chrysanthemum and green tea


Jasmine and green tea


Lily and green tea

The girls suggested an Italian menu for our New Year’s Tea as a send-off for my upcoming trip to Italy. 🙂  Yum!


Ribollita (Tuscan bread and vegetable soup by Lady S. from the Barefoot Contessa)

Ribollita (Tuscan bread and vegetable soup by S.)

(recipe from the Barefoot Contessa)

1/2 pound dried white beans, such as Great Northern or cannellini
Kosher salt
1/4 cup good olive oil, plus extra for serving
1/4 pound large diced pancetta or smoked bacon
2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
1 cup chopped carrots (3 carrots)
1 cup chopped celery (3 stalks)
3 tablespoons minced garlic (6 cloves)
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 (28-ounce) can Italian plum tomatoes in puree, chopped
4 cups coarsely chopped or shredded savoy cabbage, optional
4 cups coarsely chopped kale
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
6 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
4 cups sourdough bread cubes, crusts removed
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, for serving

In a large bowl, cover the beans with cold water by 1-inch and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to soak overnight in the refrigerator.Drain the beans and place them in a large pot with 8 cups of water, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer uncovered for 45 minutes. Add 1 teaspoon of salt and continue to simmer for about 15 minutes, until the beans are tender. Set the beans aside to cool in their liquid.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large stockpot. Add the pancetta and onions and cook over medium-low heat for 7 to 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent. Add the carrots, celery, garlic, 1 tablespoon of salt, the pepper, and red pepper flakes. Cook over medium-low heat for 7 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Add the tomatoes with their puree, the cabbage, if using, the kale, and basil and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for another 7 to 10 minutes.

Drain the beans, reserving their cooking liquid. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, puree half of the beans with a little of their liquid. Add to the stockpot, along with the remaining whole beans. Pour the bean cooking liquid into a large measuring cup and add enough chicken stock to make 8 cups. Add to the soup and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes.

Add the bread to the soup and simmer for 10 more minutes. Taste for seasoning and serve hot in large bowls sprinkled with Parmesan and drizzled with olive oil.

Mushroom risotto Shiitake, maitake, crimini, Parmesan cheese, and white truffle oil

Mushroom risotto (shiitake, maitake, and crimini mushrooms with Parmesan cheese and white truffle oil drizzle) by Henni

See my new glass tea caddy from Ikea?  I love that it’s clear glass, has 3 tiers, and is small enough that you can still carry on a conversation across the table without having to peek through the tiers to make eye contact.  The only drawback is the one-piece construction (plates are not removable) but you can disassemble it for storage which can be desirable since bigger caddies take up a lot of room.

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Italian club sandwiches with Proscuitto, cheese, and tomato, by Lady A.

Italian club finger sandwiches with prosciutto, cheese, arugula, and tomato, by A.

Italian club finger sandwiches
(adapted from recipe by Rachael Ray)

6 slices thin cut white bread
1 cup soft, spreadable herb cheese (recommended: Alouette)
8 slices prosciutto di Parma
12 leaves fresh arugula or basil (spicy vs. sweet)
2 plum tomatoes, thinly sliced

Trim all crusts from bread. Spread 4 slices with herb soft cheese. Top each cheese covered slice with 2 slices each of prosciutto, 3 leaves of arugula, thinly sliced tomatoes seasoned with a pinch of salt.

Italian club sandwich with Penne salad with eggplant by Lady N.

Italian club sandwich and Penne salad with eggplant by N. (penne, olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, and eggplant)

Dessert: Earl Grey shortbread and chocolate caramel covered pretzels

Dessert: Earl Grey shortbread and chocolate caramel covered pretzels

Thank you ladies for a wonderful send-off and for sharing your hopes and aspirations.  It was a great start to the new year!

Happy new year!

“Honestly, if you’re given the choice between Armageddon or tea, you don’t say ‘what kind of tea?”

― Neil Gaiman


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