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GOOD COOKING / ABBY MANDEL

Tea: a Beautiful Afternoon Buffet

July 21, 1999|ABBY MANDEL

A tea may sound formal but it's really a beautiful buffet that works well for a baby or bridal shower or for any other afternoon gathering. It can comfortably embrace a crowd or an intimate group.

True, tea has an aura about it, so bring out the white lace, pristine linens, fresh flowers, your best silver, china tea cups and plates. This is an admittedly feminine interlude.

The time-honored menu for a tea party is petite sandwiches, scones, sweets and tea. I've updated this to include a Southwestern quiche that fulfills today's preferences for vibrant flavors.

Also included is a real orange scone with currants, perfect with softened sweet butter and preserves. The quiche and the scones can be baked ahead and reheated near serving time; the tea punch can also be made ahead.

The rest of the menu--tea sandwiches, tarts and cookies--can be ordered from your favorite bakery or gourmet shop.

Southwestern Quiche

Active Work Time: 25 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

PASTRY

2 to 3 tablespoons masa harina or flour

Pastry for 9-inch tart

* Sprinkle masa harina on both sides of pastry. Gently roll into 12- to 13-inch round, turning and sprinkling with masa harina to keep from sticking.

Brush off excess masa harina and gently fold dough in half, then in half again. Put point of dough in center of greased 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom (preferably black steel) lined with parchment paper. Unfold dough and ease into place.

Trim, leaving about 3/4 inch beyond edge of pan. Fold over edge of dough to make double-thick rim around sides. Press into place; crimp edge to decorate. Prick crust about 20 times with fork. Place pan on baking sheet and freeze 10 minutes. Bake at 450 degrees until lightly browned, about 11 minutes. Remove from oven. Reduce heat to 375 degrees.

FILLING

1 tablespoon oil

10 green onions, including green tops, thinly sliced, about 1 1/2 cups

1/2 jalapeno, seeded if desired, minced

1 tablespoon flour

3 tablespoons minced cilantro

1 1/2 cups shredded Chihuahua cheese or Monterey Jack

1 cup half and half

2 eggs

1 tomato, seeded, cut in small dice, about 1/2 cup

Cilantro leaves for garnish

* Heat oil in nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add green onions and jalapeno. Cook, stirring, until heated through, about 1 minute. Stir in flour and cilantro. Spread over warm crust and top with cheese.

* Put half and half and eggs in bowl. Whisk until mixed. Slowly pour cream mixture into crust. Scatter diced tomatoes around edge.

* Bake until puffy and browned, 35 to 40 minutes. Cut into wedges using serrated knife. Put cilantro leaves on wedges. Let rest 10 minutes before serving, or can be made ahead, cooled completely, refrigerated overnight or frozen up to 1 month. While still chilled, cut into wedges; let come to room temperature. Warm in 350-degree oven for 10 minutes. To serve warm or at room temperature, remove from pan, garnish with cilantro and arrange on platter.

16 servings. Each serving: 125 calories; 124 mg sodium; 41 mg cholesterol; 9 grams fat; 7 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams protein; 0.14 gram fiber.

Real Orange and Currant Scones

Active Work Time: 25 minutes * Total Preparation Time: 35 minutes

These scones can be made ahead, completely baked and frozen, or frozen unbaked.

1 1/2 cups cake flour

1/4 cup sugar

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/8 teaspoon salt

6 tablespoons butter, cut into small dice

1/3 cup currants

1 tablespoon minced orange zest

1/3 cup whipping cream

2 tablespoons orange juice

All-purpose flour for kneading

1 egg

1/4 teaspoon salt

* Mix flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Use pastry blender to cut butter into flour until mixture is crumbly. Stir in currants and zest. Add cream and juice. Stir with fork until flour is moistened; do not overmix.

* Knead dough 5 to 6 times until smooth on lightly floured surface. Pat dough until uniformly 1/2-inch thick. Cut out scones with floured 1 3/4-inch cutter. Use dough scraps by gently pressing together. Scones can be wrapped and refrigerated or frozen; place scones in layers, separated by wax paper, in airtight container. When ready to bake, use scones directly from refrigerator or freezer. Place on baking sheet (not black steel), spacing 1 inch apart.

* Whisk together egg and salt. Lightly brush onto scones (some glaze will be unused). Bake at 425 degrees until bottoms are browned and interior is not wet and doughy (separate 1 scone to check), about 8-10 minutes.

16 to 18 scones. Each of 18 scones: 99 calories; 111 mg sodium; 28 mg cholesterol; 6 grams fat; 11 grams carbohydrates; 1 gram protein; 0.09 gram fiber.

Citrus Tea Punch with Fresh Mint

Active Work and Total Preparation Time: 10 minutes plus 2 hours chilling time

10 cups boiling water

6 tea bags

6 cloves

Zest of 1 lemon, removed in strips

Zest of 1 orange, removed in strips

2/3 cup sugar

1 (12-ounce) can frozen lemonade, thawed

2 tablespoons mint leaves

10 mint sprigs

* Pour boiling water over tea bags, cloves, lemon zest and orange zest. Cover. Let steep 5 minutes. Use tongs to transfer tea bags to plate (when cool enough to handle, squeeze tea bags over pot to release all tea); stir in sugar until dissolved. Stir in lemonade. Chill several hours or up to 2 days. 1 hour before serving, stir in mint leaves and refrigerate.

* Strain tea. Put ice cubes in chilled stemmed glasses. Pour in tea; garnish with mint sprig.

10 servings. Each serving: 113 calories; 5 mg sodium; 0 cholesterol; 0 fat; 30 grams carbohydrates; 0 protein; 0.03 gram fiber.

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