Dippy Egg with Matcha Toast Soldiers

Before May slips away from us I want to share one of my favorite spring recipes with you. A drippy, dippy egg is one of the loveliest ways to start any weekend morning. Here, thick matchsticks of Homemade Matcha Honey Wheat Bread are dunked into perfectly cooked 4-minute eggs. Served with a mélange of aromatic cut herbs, this humble yet elegant meal celebrates spring’s freshest flavors.
Instead of regular store-bought toast, I make a Matcha Honey Wheat Bread that has a heartier flavor and texture than regular white bread. To enjoy it with Dippy Eggs, you’ll need to plan on making the bread ahead of time, ideally the day before.

When enjoying this light meal, I typically follow a double dipping process where a toast bread stick first takes a plunge into the eggy pool of liquid sunshine before getting lightly pressed into a mound of fresh herbs. Whichever herbs look the most vibrant and fresh at the market will work great here, just be less generous with adding stronger tasting herbs (like rosemary) so that the flavors stay light and bright. 
My other favorite herbs to use in this recipe are tarragon, thyme, and even basil. Cut the herbs finely with a super sharp knife so that they are easily picked up by the moistened bread sticks. A light sprinkle of smoked French sea salt makes a tasty finish.For those of you not feeling the making bread from scratch bit, you can simply slather store-bought, toasted bread with softened salted butter and then top it with a generous sifting of matcha green tea powder. Cut the bread slices into matchsticks (i.e. soldiers) and you’re all set to start dipping! 
Dippy Eggs with Matcha Toast Soldiers 

Ingredients:

Matcha Honey Wheat Bread (see recipe below)

eggs

chopped herbs (I used a mix of chopped dill, chives, and rosemary)

sea salt to taste (I used Maldon Smoked Sea Salt)

Equipment:

small pot

slotted spoon

egg holder

sharp knife

Directions:

1.)  In a small pot, bring water to a full boil (enough water to completely cover eggs). Cut the Matcha Sandwich Bread into long sticks, about 1″x 5″, to make Matcha Toast Soldiers.

2.)  Boil eggs for 4 minutes. Meanwhile, toast the bread sticks.

3.)  Use a slotted spoon to remove the eggs from the hot water, then carefully place them into the egg holders. Use a sharp knife to slice off the top of the eggs, then sprinkle the eggs with sea salt. Serve immediately with the Matcha Toast Soldiers and chopped herbs on the side.Matcha Honey Wheat Bread

Makes 1 large loaf.

Ingredients:

1 cup + 2 Tbsp lukewarm water

2 1/4 tsp SAF instant yeast

1 cup whole wheat flour

3 cups bread flour

2 Tbsp matcha, sifted

2 Tbsp flax meal

3 Tbsp honey

2 tsp salt

4 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened

1 Tbsp melted butter or non-stick spray, for coating bowl and pan

Equipment:

large stand mixer with dough hook attachment

large bowl

plastic wrap

work surface

pullman loaf pan (13″ or 12 cup capacity)

serrated bread knife (if slicing)

cooking thermometer (optional)

bread slicer (optional)

Directions:

1.)  Make the Dough. Place the yeast, whole wheat and bread flours, matcha, flax meal, honey, salt, and butter in the mixing bowl of a large stand mixer. Turn the mixer on low-speed, then add the water. Increase the speed to low-medium, then continue to mix for 10 minutes.

2.)  First Rise. After 10 minutes you should get a soft and supple ball of dough. Place the dough in a bowl lightly greased with melted butter or nonstick spray. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, then place it in a warm, draft free place to rise until doubled in volume.

3.)  Shape the Loaf. After doubling in volume, place the dough on a work surface, then give the dough a few light kneadings. Lightly pull/press the dough to make an evenly thick 8″ x 11″ rectangle (like a piece of paper). Fold the left and right sides over lengthwise to meet in the middle (the sides should overlap). Square off the edges, then pinch the seams closed. Tuck, pinch, and seal off the ends under the long loaf.

4.)  Second Rise. Place the cylinder-like loaf seam side down, into a pullman pan greased with melted butter or nonstick spray. Let the dough rest in the pan for about 5 minutes (covered with plastic wrap), then use your fingers to press the dough into the pan as evenly as possible–this will help to assure squared off edges on the loaf when it bakes. Cover the loaf pan with plastic wrap, then place in a warm, draft free place until it rises to 1/2″ under the top edge of the pan.

5.)  Bake, Cool, and Slice! About a half hour before the loaf has finished rising, place an oven rack in the middle of your oven, then heat the oven to 450 degrees F. When the dough has risen (1/2″ under the rim), slide the greased top of the pullman loaf pan on. Bake the loaf for about 40 minutes, until the loaf is golden brown or registers an internal temperature of 190 degrees F on a cooking thermometer. Wait until the bread completely cools before slicing with a serrated knife.

Valerie Tea House & Bakery in Echo Park

In the heart of Los Angeles lies Echo Park, an area that I usually zip through while driving on the 5, 110, or 101 freeways. This historic urban neighborhood was recently renovated over the last few years, and the result is an arty mix of shops and light eateries–the perfect way to take a break if you are stuck in LA traffic.A few large blocks north of Echo Park Lake, you’ll find Valerie Tea Shop & Bakery, a cafe known for their luxurious petit fours and baked goodies. This bake shop may look small and simple, but inside you’ll find a host of tea time treats, from Tartine to Crème Fraîche Scones to Matcha Petit Fours.

The teas served at Valerie are blended by American Tea Room, a tea shop based out of Beverly Hills. You’ll find a few of their tea varieties in the store, but if you want a full list of their offerings you’ll need to visit the Valerie Confections website. Another wonderful perk of shopping online is being able to order petit fours for your friends and family. These little cakes are a welcome change from your everyday box of chocolates, with a marked touch of elegance and good taste. For the true petit four lover, Valerie even carries a yearly subscription for these confections. What’s great is how their petit four flavors have evolved over the years. They now carry two of my favorite tea flavors, both Matcha (with lemon verbena) and Earl Grey!
You can also pick up some tea accessories at Valerie. The one teapot that they stock is one that I brew with everyday called Hario Chacha Kyushu Maru. This Japanese glass teapot is ideal for brewing tea for 1 or 2 people, easy to use and clean. If you have some time to relax, definitely make your way out to the patio area of the tea shop. On the day I visited with my friend Danielle from This Picture Book Life, we ended up sitting out there for hours, chatting away while enjoying the LA sunshine.

In LA, it’s rare to find an artfully crafted tea shop. As such, Valerie Tea Shop & Bakery does a great job of setting a standard–the atmosphere here is casual yet finished, everything you’d expect modern tea time to be. Valerie also has two other locations in the LA area, one on First Street and the other at Grand Central Market, but if you love tea as much as I do then the Echo Park location is the one you’ll want to seek out first.

Valerie Echo Park

1665 Echo Park Avenue

Los Angeles, CA  90026

213.250.9365

valerieconfections.com

Tea of the Week: Bigelow’s Girl Scout Thin Mints Herbal Tea

Knock, knock, knock. And there they are…Girl Scouts, with their adorable smiling faces, asking if you’d like to buy just a few boxes of cookies.

It’s a daunting dilemma having Girl Scouts show up at your front door, especially if you’re trying to watch your calories. You don’t actually want to tell the sweet little girls “no,” do you? For those of you who feel my pain, there’s hope for us and it comes in the form of tea…more specifically, Girl Scout Thin Mints Tea!

In partnership with the Girl Scouts of America, Bigelow Tea Company launched its cookie-flavored teas earlier this year. As the operator of the largest working tea plantation in the US, leave it to Bigelow Tea to come up with a distinctively all-American tea flavor to delight the young at heart. On top of that, Cindi Bigelow, the third-generation President of the companywas once a proud Girl Scout herself!

Next year, I’m hoping that the Girl Scouts come knocking on my door with both cookies and tea. How great would that be? In the meantime (for those of us in the US), be on the lookout at your local grocery stores. Like the cookies, Thin Mints Herbal Tea is a seasonal offering, so it’s a great idea to stock up while you can!Tasting Notes for Bigelow’s Girl Scout Thin Mints Herbal Tea:

BREWING TIPS:  Brew at 212 degrees F for 4 minutes. This tea brews dark and strong quickly so keep an eye out while it’s steeping.
THE BLEND:  A mix of peppermint, chicory, rose hips, licorice root, low-fat alkalized cocoa powder, natural chocolate flavors, and other natural flavors.
THE SCENT:  Of soft, bright peppermint with hints of rich caramel.
THE STEEP:  The color is dark chocolate brown, like coffee! Each sip starts with the smooth taste of chocolate followed by mild mintiness. The chocolate and mint flavors are well-balanced where one doesn’t overwhelm the other. This is great served on its own if you want to taste more of its peppermint base. Enjoy it with a splash of milk to highlight its rich, deep, chocolate flavors. I like the taste of this brew hot, not cold.
GET IT:  The tea is available in grocery stores during the months of March, April, and May this year. It can also be found on Amazon, but not at the Bigelow site. I found my tea at Sprouts, alongside Caramel and Coconut, the tea version of Caramel deLights (a.k.a. Samoas)!
FOOD PAIRING:  Since this is caffeine-free, refreshingly minty, and inspired by cookies, it’s ideal as a substitute for dessert. If you want to indulge, serve this with anything chocolatey like Chocolate Petit Fours, Homemade Chocolate Pocky, or those leftover Thin Mints parked in your freezer (are there any left!?). The touch of mint makes this tea a delicious partner to a few pieces of dark chocolate. This is also great for the calorie conscious who are craving a taste of Thin Mint Cookies minus the guilt.

Salmon Poke on Baked Wonton Crisps

There’s something about fair food that brings out the gluttonous evil twin in people. Foods that we normally wouldn’t touch all of a sudden become strangely enticing (cronut ice cream sandwiches, anyone?), despite how fantastically bad they are for you. Out of all the naughty foods at the OC Night Market last weekend, there was one snack that stood out from the rest as being not only delicious but healthy too…poke!
While my hubby was waiting for his order of Garlic Crab Fries to come out, I peered into the adjacent booth to find some fresh fish poke (pronounced POH-kay) being prepared. Wonton skins, seaweed salad, and fleshy chunks of fresh salmon…I watched these beautiful bites being stacked together and immediately thought that I’d have to make them once I got home.
Poke is basically marinated sushi-grade fish. In Hawaii, the dish is commonly served on its own like a salad, similar to the way ceviche is served. Soy sauce, fresh ginger, and roasted sesame oil pack a ton of Asian flavor and keep the dish tasting light and bright. Here, I’ve made a slimmed down version of the dish by baking the wrappers instead of frying them. The skins turn out just as golden and crunchy as the deep-fried version.

Salmon Poke on Baked Wonton Crisps is so incredibly fast and easy to make. The hardest task is finding a well-stocked Asian market to get sushi-grade fish and ready-made seaweed salad. Sencha or gyokuro do a delicious job of highlighting the fresh sea flavors in these healthy gourmet treats. Serve the tea hot and the savory umami tastes become richer. Serve the tea iced and the contrasting soft and crunchy textures will stand out that much more.  
Salmon Poke on Baked Wonton Crisps

Makes 12 crisps.

Ingredients:

8 oz. sashimi grade salmon or tuna

1 tsp grated ginger

1 Tbsp soy sauce

1/2 tsp sesame oil

squeeze fresh lemon juice

shichimi togarashi, to taste (optional)

12 potsticker wrappers

non-stick vegetable oil spray

1 cup seaweed salad

1/4 cup sliced green onion (green parts only)

1 Tbsp black and regular sesame seeds

1 Tbsp masago or fish roe

Equipment:

sharp knife

large bowl

grater

large baking sheet lined with foil

Directions:

1.)  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Cut the salmon into 3/4″ chunks. To make the poke, place the chunks into a large bowl and mix them together with the soy sauce, ginger, sesame oil, lemon juice, and shichimi togarashi (if using). Set aside.

2.)  Spray the foil lined baking sheet with vegetable oil spray. Place the 12 potsticker wrappers on the baking sheet, then spray the tops of the wrappers with an even layer of vegetable oil spray. Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes or until the wrappers are golden brown and crisp. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and let the crisps cool for a few minutes.

3.)  Place a rounded Tbsp of seaweed salad on a crisp and spread it out evenly, leaving a 1/2″ unfilled border. Now place a rounded Tbsp of the poke on top of the seaweed salad. Top the poke with a scattering of sliced green onion and a tiny dollop of masago or fish roe. Finish with a sprinkle of sesame seeds. Repeat this step to make 12 finished poke crisps.

The OC Night Market

The OC Night Market has been on my list of things to do in Orange County for the longest time. This modern food fair is inspired by Asian eats of all kinds, from sushi burritos to pork belly gua bao. Best of all, it’s a place where munching, nibbling, and sipping are entirely acceptable and in fact, celebrated!There are several perks to taking part in an Asian food fair and free Pocky is one of them. Upon entering the market, we were greeted by a cheery red Pocky truck, with a costumed lady handing out boxes of Pejoy, otherwise known as inside out Pocky. After trying them, I’m officially convinced that regular Pocky are superior to this new invention, but nonetheless I am always thankful for handouts.
There are two main drinks to refresh with when at the OC Night Market…the first is Japanese beer and the other is tea. Many of the teas at the market are served Taiwanese style, infused with modern additions like tapioca boba and fruit jellies. These certainly aren’t your $30 per ounce variety of teas, but they are satisfying, perfectly portable, and best of all…tasty!Here’s a view of some black tea leaves post-steeping, used for making Hong Kong Milk Tea. This Chinese twist on a British classic is one of my favorites, a balanced blend that’s bold and creamy. I tried to make small talk with the tea guy at this booth hoping to find out exactly what kind of tea leaves they used, but he was super secretive about it and refused to budge. I’m guessing a mix of Ceylon, Assam, or English Breakfast. Any ideas?Food on a stick is popular at the OC Night Market. But unlike the deep-fried corn dogs and twinkies you find at your local state fair, Asian food on a stick tends to be low-carb. Korean beef, Thai spiced chicken, lobster balls…a skewered snack in one hand and a cup of chilled tea in the other and you’re set.Here was my first tea choice of the day, Watermelon Green Tea, made from fresh watermelon juice and jasmine green tea. Only mildly sweet, this cooling refresher is easy to make at home and ideal for sipping on as the days longer and hotter. And speaking of hotter, how cute is this dim sum inspired tank top? In addition to all the fair food, you can expect many craft and art vendors at the OC Night Market. I can’t say that I would be comfortable sporting this tank around, but I can certainly appreciate the person who could.
In addition to all the regular booth vendors, you’ll also find several food trucks a the OC Night Market. It’s always great to know you can hunt down your favorite food finds long after the fair is over. Buddha Bing and Tokyo Doggie Style are a few of the food trucks that caught my eye. Non-dairy boba milk tea? Leave it to the food trucks to think of everything!
If you plan on making it to one of the future night markets, it’s a good idea to get there early. Just as the sun starts setting, you can expect seriously long lines. One of the longest lines we came across was for takoyaki, pancake-like balls made from a wheat-based batter with pieces of octopus mixed in. Takoyaki are delicious when served with hot green teas, especially savory ones like genmaicha.
Our last stop of the evening was for twice cooked pork belly buns. What set these buns apart from your everyday Chinese buns is that they are deep-fried after being steamed, and hence twice cooked. The filling inside the buns was much like char siu pork filling, except less reddish in color and also less sweet. I suppose the less sweet filling was to accommodate for condensed milk, drizzled atop the hot buns just before serving (yes, you read that right!).
If you’re a foodie coming through SoCal at the right time, you should definitely check out the OC Night Market in Costa Mesa or it’s sister food fair, the 626 Night Market in Arcadia. These food fairs typically run 2-3 times a year, and the venues continue to grow in size as they grow in popularity. Come thirsty, hungry, and with an open mind and I’m sure you’ll find some tea foods that you never even knew existed!

Tea of the Week: Nina’s Thé de Marie Antoinette

If you’ve ever watched Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette, there’s a scene where the Queen of France partakes in a delicate cup of blooming Chinese jasmine tea. The scene is meant to reflect the decadence of the times, precisely what lead to the queen’s tragic death during the French Revolution.

Aside from being known for her beauty, fashions, and whimsical hairstyles, what’s less obvious is what a dedicated mother Marie Antoinette apparently was. She had 4 children, 2 who passed away while she was still alive, one who would suffer a terrible death during the Revolution, and only one daughter (her first-born) who would live to adulthood.

Nina’s Marie Antoinette blend is a tea that reflects back on the happier times in Marie Antoinette’s dynamic life. This Ceylon black tea combines the flavors of apples and roses. The tea is flavored with apples that come from King’s Kitchen Garden, otherwise known as Le Potager du Roi, in Versailles.

Upon realizing that her first-born was a girl and not the male heir that everyone wanted, it’s said that the queen stated: you are not what was desired, but you are no less dear to me. Here’s to all the mothers out there who accept their children, wholeheartedly, without conditions. More than anyone else, you deserve to sit back and relax with a good cup of tea!

Tasting Notes for Nina’s Thé de Marie Antoinette:

BREWING TIPS:  Brew at 212 degrees F for 3 minutes.
THE TEA:  Black Ceylon tea from Sri Lanka mixed with rose petals and natural rose and apple flavor.
THE SCENT:  If you love feminine, perfume-like teas, this is the blend for you! This tea combines the scent of fresh roses with juicy, cut apples. The perfume notes will markedly soften upon brewing.
THE STEEP:  Brews to a brilliant coppery gold. The steep is bold but not at all harsh. The apple flavor is that of tart, green apples, and is much more pronounced than the taste of roses.
GET IT:  At the Nina’s Paris website or on Amazon.
FOOD PAIRING:  This tea pairs well with French macarons and petit fours because it’s strong black tea base balances out the sweet factor in these confections. Perfect for enjoying with mom for Mother’s Day breakfast or brunch!

Tea of the Week: Den’s Tea’s Gyokuro Suimei

My hubby and I are planning on moving into a new home this summer. Choosing cabinets, comparing countertops, rethinking paint samples…it’s been an exciting process. Figuring out what to do with our yard is officially next up on our to-do list. With the wretched California drought staring us in the face, we’re actually having to consider the option of synthetic grass now (boo!). I’m not sure what will become of our yard, but with Den’s Tea’s Gyokuro Suimei I know I can always count on an authentically grassy experience–drought or no drought.
The thin, string-like needles of Den’s Tea’s Gyokuro Suimei produce a richly vibrant green liquor that’s bursting with spring vegetable flavor. One of the marked characteristics of this tea is the color of the brew, which looks and tastes as if the tea was juiced not just steeped. If you like your green tea to brew to true green (not yellow, amber, or brown), then this is definitely the cup for you. 
I love to treat this Japanese green tea as one of my very special green teas, not for the everyday. It’s a slightly pricier tea but absolutely worth it if you are an avid green tea lover. As the days get warmer, this is delicious when prepared as an overnight, cold brew. Enjoying it this way will help to accentuate the fresh, bright qualities of this tea…super refreshing and crisp to the last drop!

Tasting Notes for Den’s Tea’s Gyokuro Suimei:

BREWING TIPS:  Brew at 140 degrees F for 2 1/2 minutes for the first steep. Increase the brew temperature to 160 degrees F for 1 minute for the 2nd steep.
THE TEA:  Rich, dark, needle-thin green leaves. The tea looks like perfectly preserved, cut grass.
THE SCENT:  The scent is reminiscent of seaweed and fresh-cut green vegetables like bok choy, asparagus, or baby kale.
THE STEEP:  The brew steeps to a brilliant, dark, emerald green, as if it were a clear version of matcha. It’s taste is a balance between sweet and savory. The tea is rich with pronounced umami flavor, almost like a green vegetable broth. Mildly sweet and very slightly bitter.
GET IT:  At Den’s Tea’s website.
FOOD PAIRING:  The steeped leaves of this tea are so tender and flavorful that you can actually eat them! I love throwing them into steamed rice that’s paired with light Asian dishes. Try using them in my White Cut Chicken with Ginger Scallion Oil and Tea Rice or as a replacement for matcha when making Matcha Sushi Balls. For dessert, try a cup of this vibrant brew with Coconut Milk Pudding.