Saturday, February 26, 2011

Cooking with Tea -- Beef Short Ribs in Smoky Tea Sauce and Frozen Sweet Tea Recipes

I have an affinity for tea. Since I was young, it's been an important part of my life.

In my earliest memories it was Lipton tea in a bag.  Then an English cousin introduced us to Red Rose. Then, with the aid of a trusty immersion coil (to boil water in my dorm room in those years before the residential microwave), I discovered the world of loose, herbal and flavored teas at McNulty's Teas in New York City.

I continue to drink tea of all sorts from complex chai to floral jasmine to delicate linden and more.  I have also used tea in cooking.

For several years I have wanted to develop more recipes with tea.  Recently, I took some time and did just that.  The recipes below were developed for a column in the j. weekly I did about a Bay area-based national tea firm, Republic of Tea.  The company started in 1992 and is located in Novato, CA. It distributes more than 200 products nationally. To see the version in the j., please click here.

Two of the company’s teas inspired me to create these recipes. I used its lapsang souchong tea (for more on lapsang souchong tea in general click here) combined with fragrant spices to give the beef short ribs a slightly smoky, wonderfully complex flavor. I used British Breakfast tea (a variant of English Breakfast tea) for the Frozen Sweet Tea, but any unflavored black tea (or decaffeinated black tea) will work. The third recipe, for an ice tea using Republic of Tea's Jasmine Jazz green tea, is adapted from the Republic of Tea website. (For some background on  jasmine teas in general, click here.)

Similar teas from other sources can be substituted. 

I have plans for more recipes using tea.  If you have some you'd like to share, please leave a link in the comments section below.

Boneless Beef Short Ribs in Smoky Tea Sauce
Serves 4

This blog would need smell-o-vision to help you really appreciate the deep, wonderful, exotic scent that wafts through the house as these short ribs braise.  And, once they are done, fork tender, moist and meaty, the taste does not disappoint.  A fine company dish, especially when made in advance and gently reheated.

Note: A coffee grinder does a great job of processing the tea and spices. Grind bread into crumbs and discard to clean before and after.

2 Tbs. plus 1 Tbs. lapsang souchong tea
1/2 tsp. Sichuan OR black peppercorns
4 whole OR 2 tsp. ground star anise
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. salt
2 lbs. boneless beef short ribs
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock or water
2 Tbs. oil plus more if needed
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup chopped carrot
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
½ cup chopped celery
2 Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro OR parsley

Grind 2 Tbs. of tea, peppercorns, anise, ginger and salt until very fine using a spice mill, cleaned coffee grinder, blender or mortar and pestle. Rub spice mix all over short ribs. Let coated meat sit for 30 minutes.

Heat the stock to boiling. Take off heat. Steep remaining tea in hot liquid for 5 minutes using a tea ball or strainer. Remove tea leaves, reserve liquid.

Heat oil on high heat in a large, deep pan and brown short ribs on all sides. Set aside. Add more oil to pan if needed, reduce heat to medium high, sauté onion until lightly browned, add garlic, sauté until golden. Add carrot, bell pepper and celery, sauté for a minute and put meat back in pan, adding 1 cup of the reserved tea liquid. Bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat to keep at simmer, turning meat and stirring occasionally and adding additional tea liquid if needed. Cook about 1 1/2 to 2 hours until very tender. Remove meat and keep warm. Cook sauce uncovered on high until reduced about in half. Pour sauce over short ribs. Sprinkle with chopped herbs.

Frozen Sweet Tea
Makes 6-8 Servings

This is a sorbet version of the popular Southern drink. The tea is brewed double strength as if for ice tea. Stop the freezing when the tea is slushy and still a bit liquidy and serve it in a glass with a straw for a "Slurpee" or "Icee" version.  If you are serving it as a sorbet, I think a little chopped mint on top is an appropriate garnish.

2 cups boiling water
8 bags or 8 tsp. loose unflavored black or decaffeinated black tea
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
1 Tbs. lemon juice

Pour boiling water over tea bags or loose tea (in tea ball or strainer). Let steep for 5 minutes. Remove tea bags or leaves. Combine the other 2 cups of water with sugar in a small pot. Heat until sugar has dissolved and water is simmering, stirring occasionally. Mix tea and sugar water together. Stir. Refrigerate until cold. Add lemon juice. Stir. Pour into ice cream machine and process according to directions. It will be soft and slushy. Serve immediately or store in freezer. If frozen, let stand at room temperature 20 minutes before serving.

Adaption for Making without an Ice Cream Maker

This version makes a grainer, more granita-like frozen treat.

Once the tea and sugar mixture is cold, pour it into a metal pan or other freezer safe container that is wide and flat. Place in the freezer and stir and scrape the mixture every half hour with a sturdy fork until frozen. Remove from the freezer about 20 minutes before serving and scrape to break up and serve.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Replicate Oakland's Street Tacos with Turkey "Carnitas" and Quick Carrot and Jalapeno Pickle

Oakland’s many cultural traditions help make it a vibrant place. Part of the flavor this mix gives the city is literally a taste of how others live, with lots of ethnic and street food to choose from. Since I rarely cook pork, I’ve adapted a traditional Oakland street taco filling for turkey and give directions on how to serve it just like the taco trucks that line International Boulevard.

Turkey “Carnitas”

Carnitas is traditionally braised or roasted pork that is cut into cubes, fried in lard until crispy and then shredded. Recipes vary by region throughout Mexico. Here I replace the pork with turkey and the lard with schmaltz. If you’d rather not cook in chicken fat, use the oil but try adding just a tablespoon or two of the rendered chicken fat to boost the flavor. Chicken fat, also called schmaltz, can be rendered at home or is available frozen in some markets. (Here's a link to Empire's schmaltz, the one I most use.  Interestingly enough they've chosen to call it "liquid rendered chicken fat."

1 tsp. salt, plus additional as needed
½ tsp. ground black pepper, plus additional as needed
½ tsp. dried, ground oregano
½ tsp. ground cumin
1 Tbs. oil
1 Tbs. plus 1 Tbs. additional fresh lemon or lime juice
1 ½ lbs. of boneless, skinless turkey thighs
4 oz. rendered chicken fat (about a half jar of schmaltz) or ½ cup canola oil

Mix salt, pepper, oregano, cumin, oil and juice into a paste and rub on turkey meat. Let marinate for 20 minutes to an hour. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Place turkey thighs in a roasting pan, tent pan with foil and bake until the internal temperature is 170 degrees or the meat is opaque through out and juices run clear. Be careful not to overcook. Cut cooked turkey into 1” cubes. Heat chicken fat until liquid and hot. (Or heat canola oil in a 12” fry pan until hot.) Add turkey cubes. Fry, turning cubes over often, until well browned and very crispy. Remove turkey from pan with a slotted spoon or tongs and drain cubes on a paper-towel lined plate. (There will be a lot of fat or oil left in the pan.) Using two forks, shred the turkey meat. Taste. Toss with additional lemon juice and salt and pepper as needed. Use to make Oakland Taco Truck Tacos (see below) or burritos, or serve with rice and beans.

Quick Pickled Jalapeños and Carrots

This quick pickle is a typical accompaniment for street tacos. The tacos are also often served with thick slices of cucumber, whole or sliced radishes and a grilled or fresh green onion or two. Remove the jalapeño seeds for a bit less heat.

1 cup thinly sliced carrots
1-2 fresh jalapeño peppers, sliced
White vinegar

Cook the carrots in water to cover until just beginning to soften. Drain. Rinse with cold water. Put carrot and jalapeño slices in glass bowl or jar. Mix well. Cover with vinegar (or use half vinegar, half water for a milder pickle). Chill for at least an hour or two before serving. Store leftover pickles in the vinegar mixture in the refrigerator.

Oakland Taco Truck Tacos
Makes about 12-16 small tacos

About 32 small corn tortillas (6”-8” in diameter)
1 recipe turkey “carnitas”
Salsa and other toppings as desired, such as hot sauce, guacamole and or avocado slices
Wedges of lime or lemon
1 recipe quick pickled carrots and jalapeños
Fresh radishes or radish slices, cucumber slices, grilled or fresh green onions

Heat the tortillas in a steamer or in the microwave wrapped in a damp paper towel for 20-30 seconds until warmed. For each taco, stack one tortilla directly on top of another and place on plate. Top with a few tablespoons of the turkey. Add salsa or other toppings as desired. Serve with wedge of lime to spritz over taco and a few pickled carrots and jalapeños on the side with radishes, cucumbers or other accompaniments as desired.

a version of this article first appeared in the Temple Beth Abraham Omer.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Make It Hot (Sauce) for Valentine's Day with Recipes for Harissa, S'hug and "Below the Belt" Sauces

I'm personally a sucker for champagne, chocolate and flowers when it comes to Valentine's Day, but my husband, not so much.  If fact, he'd probably  like nothing better than one of these hot sauces and something delicious to slather them on.  (Good thing we already have a few jars of them in the fridge.)

Try the North African harissa or the Yemenite s'hug (sometimes written z'hug) on foods ranging from soups and stews to flatbreads and couscous as well as grilled meats. The American-style Below-the-Belt Hot Sauce is something my younger son and I cooked up and works anywhere you'd use a vinegar-based hot sauce.

Both Moroccan and Tunisian Jews make harissa from dried, hot red chilies. Harissa originated in Tunisia in the 16th century when the country was occupied by the Spanish, who imported the New World chili to its new territory. After the Ottoman Turks regained control of Tunisia, the condiment spread throughout North Africa. Tunisians traditionally season their paste with caraway; Moroccans are more likely to use cumin.

S’chug, the Yemenite hot sauce, originated in the 17th century after the chili pepper was introduced in Yemen. It combines fresh green hot peppers with cilantro and the flavorful spices favored in the local cuisine – black pepper, cumin, and cardamom. The resulting condiment is sometimes mixed with crushed tomatoes, sesame seed paste or yogurt to temper the heat.

Since the traditional peppers used for these sauces can be hard to come by, these versions rely on more readily available Mexican chilies.

You can tone down the heat by choosing milder chilies and by removing the seeds. Use caution when handling chilies and be careful to cover any cuts on your hands and to avoid touching your eyes. The sauces will get hotter and more intense over time.

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

This is my distillation of several recipes. I used 12 New Mexican, six pasilla and two guajillo chilies. The guajillo chilies boost the heat. If they are not available try arbol or pequin chilies. The dried chilies are available in some supermarkets and in Latino grocery stores.

5 oz. dried, whole, hot red chili peppers OR 4 oz. dried red chili flakes
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp. salt
2 Tbs. lemon zest
1 Tbs. lemon juice
1/4 tsp. ground cumin
1/8 tsp. caraway seeds, crushed (optional)
1 cup olive oil

If using the whole dried chilies, stem and seed. Cover with boiling water until soft, about a half hour. If using the chili flakes, cover with boiling water and soak for 5 minutes, until softened. Drain. Put softened chilies or chili flakes into food processor with garlic, salt, zest, juice, cumin and caraway (if using). Puree until smooth and thick. Add olive oil, process until combined. Store in covered glass jar in the refrigerator for up to 1-2 months.

Makes About 2 Cups

This is adapted slightly from Gil Marks’ recipe from the “Encyclopedia of Jewish Food.”

9 ounces fresh green chilies (jalapeño, serrano and or New Mexico), stemmed and roughly chopped
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
4 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
1 tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. salt

Put a fourth of the chilies and a fourth of the oil in blender and process until ground. Add remaining chilies and oil in 3 more batches until the chilies are ground fine. Add a fourth of the cilantro and grind and repeat until all the cilantro is ground. Add garlic and process until smooth. Add cumin, cardamom, pepper, and salt and blend until mixed. Store in refrigerator in covered container for up to 2 months.

Below-the-Belt Hot Sauce
Makes About 1 1/2 Cups

Toasting the jalapeños gives the sauce a slightly smoky flavor. A version of this recipe appeared in this post, which also explains how the hot sauce got its name.

6 red jalapeño peppers
1 red bell pepper
6 Caribbean or habanero peppers
3 garlic cloves
1 1/2 cups of white vinegar
Juice of 1 lime

Heat a dry skillet or griddle (do not use non-stick) and toast jalapeño peppers until blistered and slightly blackened on all sides. Remove stems from all the peppers. Seed bell pepper (and jalapeño and Caribbean if milder sauce is desired) and roughly chop. Puree in food processor with garlic. Combine puree with vinegar and lime juice and heat in a small pot until simmering and cook until the bits of pepper and garlic have softened. Let cool. Pour into airtight container. Store covered in the refrigerator for up to six months.

A version of this post first appeared in the j. weekly.

Thursday, February 03, 2011

Funny It Doesn't Taste Chewish -- Kosher Chinese Recipes for the Lunar New Year

Jewish Grandmother's Tofu
 Two of my great interests are Asian and Jewish foods. So to celebrate the Lunar New Year and the arrival of the Year of the Rabbit, I thought I’d share a few recipes with Chinese taste and Jewish rabbinical authority.

All the processed ingredients in these recipes are certified kosher (meaning that they meet the demands of traditional Jewish dietary guidelines such as no pork, not mixing meat and milk, etc). Larger supermarkets and specialty stores (especially those with an organic or natural foods section) should have a selection of kosher-certified Chinese sauces and ingredients. You may need to try a few stores to get what you need. Be careful, some brands have versions both with and without a hechsher (the symbol of rabbinical certification). To learn more about kosher food, certification and the symbols to look for on food product labels, click here.

Jewish Grandmother’s Tofu is my version of the classic Mapo Dofu (Old Grandmother’s Tofu) which replaces the pork with ground turkey and a few traditional ingredients with others that can be found with kosher certification. Serve over rice and or along side stir-fried vegetables. The amount of chili paste makes it a mildly to moderately spiced dish depending on the brand of chili paste and your palate. Adjust the amount of chili paste to taste. (Oh, and just so we are clear on this, I am not a grandmother. The name is just my attempt at being clever. Those of you who know my sons, Seth and Noah, can stop worrying.)

Egg Drop Soup with Chicken Meatballs and Greens is my version of a dish I ate variations of throughout a trip to China a few years ago. As part of a multi-dish Chinese dinner the recipe would make six-to-eight servings. To make it a heartier one-bowl meal, add a cup of cooked rice to the bottom of each individual bowl before ladling in the hot soup.

Jewish Grandmother’s Tofu
Serves 4

1 lb. firm tofu, rinsed and cut into 3/4” cubes
2 Tbs. vegetable oil
1 lb. ground turkey (not breast)
2 Tbs. minced ginger
2 Tbs. minced garlic
2 Tbs. chopped green onion (white and light green parts) plus 2 Tbs. for garnish
2 Tbs. black bean garlic sauce
1-2 Tbs. fresh chili paste, such as sambal oelek
1 cup of water
2 Tbs. sugar
2 Tbs. unseasoned rice vinegar or apple cider vinegar
2 Tbs. soy sauce
2 tsp. cornstarch stirred into 2 tsp. of water
1/2 tsp. fresh ground black pepper or brown Sichuan pepper

Put tofu into a bowl, cover with boiling water. Let sit 15 minutes. Drain and reserve. Have all ingredients ready. Heat wok or large fry pan (do not use non-stick). Add oil and swirl to coat pan. Stir fry ginger, garlic and green onion, being careful not to burn garlic. Add the turkey and stir fry for a minute, using the side of a spatula to break apart any clumps of meat. Add the black bean sauce and chili paste and stir fry for 30 seconds, then add the water and the tofu. Bring to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, being careful not to break apart the tofu. Add the sugar, vinegar and soy sauce. Stir to combine then gradually add in the cornstarch mixture while stirring until sauce has begun to thicken but is still a bit runny. (You may not need to use all the cornstarch mixture.) Put in a serving dish and sprinkle with the ground pepper and green onions.

To read about how I learned about this dish in a cooking class in Shanghai, and to see a more traditional version of this dish, click here.

Egg Drop Soup with Chicken Meatballs and Greens
Serves 4

For the meatballs
1 lb. ground chicken (not breast)
1 egg white
1 tsp. minced ginger
1/2 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. minced green onion (white and light green parts)
Vegetable Oil

For the soup
8 cups chicken stock
2 slices of ginger, 1/4” thick
10 oz. fresh spinach, chopped
4 oz. fresh shitake or brown mushroom caps, cut into ¼” slices
1 Tbs. tomato paste
1 tsp. fresh chili paste such as sambal oelek
1 Tbs. apple cider vinegar
1 Tbs. soy sauce
1 egg
1/4 tsp. plus 1/2 tsp. sesame oil
2 Tbs. chopped green onion for garnish

Mix chicken with egg white, ginger, garlic and green onion. Oil a plate and your hands. Form 8 meatballs (mixture will be loose) and place on oiled plate. Put chicken stock in a large pot, add ginger slices. Bring to a simmer. Add meatballs and mushrooms. When meatballs have floated to the top, add spinach, tomato and chili pastes, vinegar and soy sauce. Gently stir until combined. Simmer until meatballs and vegetables are cooked. Beat egg with 1/4 tsp. of sesame oil. Stir soup as you drizzle in egg. Stir in remaining sesame oil, remove ginger slices and serve garnished with green onions.

To see an alternative version of this dish, please see my original recipe here.

To see all my recipes/posts on Chinese food, click here.
A version of this post previously appeared in the j.

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Promises, Promises

Egads!  I've been traveling (Las Vegas for business), catching up on work after being gone from the office and prepping for my next trip (vacation in Istanbul), but all the while I've been eating, cooking and just thinking about food.

Here are some items to look forward to:

Dinner buffets in Vegas (this time the new Cosmopolitan Hotel)
Ethnic food in Vegas: Cuban, Mexican and Chinese
Vegan Home Cooking:  Sweet Potato Casserole with Onions, Peanut Butter and BBQ sauce
Jewish holiday celebrations -- Purim foods
Cooking with Tea
More wrap ups from the Fancy Food Show

Meanwhile, if you have any sightseeing, shopping, food or other suggestions for Istanbul, I'd love to know about them. Leave a comment below or email me through my profile.