Wednesday, July 23, 2008


There are times when I find myself struck stupid in awe of culinary ingenuity. I'm not talking postmodern plating techniques or posh "deconstruction" of familiar foods (Caesar salad broken down to an olive, a curl of Parmesan, and an anchovy on a single leaf of romaine? That's not creative, that's just mean.) I'm talking about one of those "Why didn't I think of that!" moments, when new culinary opportunities throw themselves at you like a level 2 tropical storm.

Today, my friends, was such a time. I was reading Gastronomica at a local bookstore coffee shop, and had ordered what I thought was a simple iced tea.

Simple, it was not. Delicious and enlightening, you bet your buttons.

Queen of Sheba Thyme Iced Tea. Yes, that's right, savory herbs in a slightly sweet, surprisingly refreshing summer drink. Amber in color, without a trace of bitterness. I could taste hints of jasmine and mint, but the thyme was the star, uninhibitedly screaming to my taste buds, "You think I'm just for roasting chicken and bouquet garni? Think again."

I was blown away from the first sip to the last, each mouthful cropping up more ideas for the culinary herbs in my garden. From the obvious (who doesn't love a big mug of peppermint tea?) to the skeptical (oregano? Do I dare?), I sat grinning like a child on her birthday, clutching the cool glass and tossing around herbal combinations.

How could I resist the inevitable incarnation...

Lemon Basil Iced Tea
1 handful fresh Lemon Basil (or your favorite)
1 Tbs Dried Basil
2 c. Boiling Water
1 tsp local honey or agave nectar
2 tsp fresh lemon juice

Place dried basil in tea infuser or non-bleached tea bag. Pour boiling water into large bowl with fresh basil and infuser.
Steep 5 minutes and strain. Stir in honey while tea is hot (it won't dissolve well in cold tea), and let chill in fridge for an hour.
Serve over ice with fresh basil and fresh squeezed lemon juice.

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