Jews have an affinity for tea. From Russian tea drunk with a sugar cube in the mouth to Moroccan sweetened, mint-flavored green tea, the beverage has been a part of Jewish life for generations. Also, Jews have long marketed and distributed tea, most notably the Wissotzky firm, which began in Moscow in 1849 and thrives today in Israel.
Republic of Tea is a local tea company with Jewish roots. Ron Rubin, its “minister of tea” and CEO, bought the company not long after its 1992 inception. Rubin, who lives in California and Missouri, is a longtime supporter of Jewish and other causes. Novato-based Republic of Tea has more than 200 products, including many that are certified kosher. It was those kosher teas that inspired me to create these recipes.
Boneless Beef Short Ribs in Smoky Tea Sauce
A coffee grinder does a great job of processing the 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
11⁄2 cups vegetable stock or water
2 Tbs. oil plus more if needed
11⁄2 cups chopped onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
3⁄4 cup chopped carrot
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1⁄2 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 11⁄2 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.
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). 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.
Adaptation for making without an ice cream maker: Once the tea and sugar mixture is cold, pour it into freezer-safe container that is wide and flat. Place in 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. (This version makes a grainier, more granita-like frozen treat.)
Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer. Her columns alternate with those of Louise Fiszer. She blogs her food at www.clickblogappetit.com. Contact her at [email protected]