Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Sencha and Streusel

E returned from Door County with his overnight bag in one hand and a bulging paper bag in the other. Inside the bag were shiny red cherries that he bought from a roadside stand. These were tart cherries, probably the last of the season, and I was glad to see the unwrapped bag, now perched on our kitchen table. I hankered after them for months, awaiting their short-lived harvest in mid-July, and fearful lest I missed it altogether. I listened to E recount how he came upon the cherries, tucked away on the side of a road with fast-moving traffic and next to a bevy of baby goats huddled under a sign proclaiming $5 To Pet Us. A farmer stood in the middle of this entrepreneurial operation, between bleating goats and three-tiered shelves creaking under the weight of cherries. There were the tart cherries, ruby-red sweet cherries, and even yellow ones, all heaped in 3-pint boxes and metal pails. E took away a boxful, which basked snugly in the back seat of our car for the next four hours while he drove home.

With the cherries, I baked a streusel for our tea. From the oven, aromas of cardamon and cooked brown sugar wafted forth, while my stomach growled.

I pulled out my new bag of the Marumura sencha, a fukamushi (deep-steamed) from the spring's first flush harvest. Up to this point, I've only had the asamushi sencha -which is lightly steamed- and looked forward to tasting its longer-steamed counterpart. I brewed the fukamushi for a brief 45 seconds and sipped expectantly: the taste was mild with a barely-there astringency of a sencha. The vegetal flavor has less of a mouth-coating umami than that of the 1st flush Nishi, an asamushi I have been drinking lately. The second infusion of the Marumura -brewed for a mere 15 seconds- was more flavorful than the first and still mildly vegetal. I thought, if I were sencha-naive, I would most likely prefer the fukamushi to the asamushi; the former a little too innocuous. But I have been drinking sencha for several years -more avidly nowadays- and so prefer a kick to a sedate nudge in my tea.

This kick was a piquancy that could easily backfire and turn undrinkably bitter if the tea were left to brew for seconds longer. But with mindful attention to the brewing, a perfect cup emerges, full of nuances for me to discover. I sipped the tea and with a forkful of the cherry streusel in my mouth, relished the kick of cardamon.

Recipe for Cherry Streusel
(adapted from How to Cook Everything Vegetarian)

3 pints of pitted tart cherries
1/2 cup of sugar
For the streusel:
1 stick of butter
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
seeds from 10 cardamon pods
1 cup all-purpose flour
pinch salt

Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease 9-inch baking dish.
Cream butter and brown sugar with electric mixer. Stir in flour, cinnamon, cardamon seeds, salt, lemon juice until combined and crumbly. Set this aside and in another bowl, combine the sugar with the cherries.
Place the cherries in the baking dish and pour the streusel mix over the cherries. Bake for 30-40 minutes, until golden. Serve warm.


Veri-Tea said...

That sounds like an absolutely delicious combination Cha Sen!

I would like to try a fukumashi sencha at some point - will have to investigate where I can find some down here...

Anonymous said...

Sencha-naive? Indeed! I can imagine someone going for the milder flavor, even though it's more vegetal, because they're not sure about the umami. I haven't been drinking Japanese tea for years but thankfully I already would like the umami more than the vegetal flavor. Perhaps therefore I'm Sencha-sophisticated. --Spirituality of Tea

Cha sen said...

I wonder if you can mail-order from Rishi which has a large variety of sencha, including fukamushi and many asamushi and chumushi (which I will get to in later post!)
I really am not a paid consultant for Rishi, but just a big drinker of their teas :)

I agree that you are most likely a sencha-sophisticate:)