It’s time to think beyond the cup when it comes to tea, because this flavorful, healthful liquid not only is good for sipping: You can cook with it, as well.
The dried leaves themselves are a lovely addition to spice rubs for meat and poultry, particularly a smoky tea such as lapsang souchong. Steep tea leaves in hot water and use the brew for all or part of the liquid needed for fruit compotes, grain dishes, soups, sauces, marinades, and, as in the accompanying recipe, for poaching.
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Then there’s matcha powder, made of ground green tea leaves, which provides a stunning hue and unique taste to smoothies and desserts.
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Whether you choose Earl Grey, Darjeeling, chai, jasmine or another variety, each tea imparts its own distinctive, fragrant layer of taste and color, not to mention a wealth of flavanols, compounds that have been shown to protect skin and heart health, among other benefits.
Here, green tea is the base of an aromatic poaching liquid for salmon fillets. It starts with garlic, ginger and scallions simmered in water for 10 minutes. Then green tea bags are added and left to steep for 5 minutes. (Be sure not to leave the tea in much longer than that, to keep a bitterness from developing.)
A squeeze of lime is added, and the fish is cooked gently in the liquid. It emerges not tasting of of green tea, per se, but with a subtle, yet compelling depth of flavor from all the infused ingredients. Served hot or chilled over a crisp mound of slaw made of napa cabbage, shredded carrots and daikon radish, dressed in a bright, sweet-tart Asian dressing, this is a satisfying dish that gives an entirely new meaning to “tea time.”
Green Tea-Poached Salmon with Asian Slaw
For the slaw:
3 tablespoons plain rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon honey
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon chili garlic sauce, such as Sriracha (optional)
1/4 head napa cabbage, thinly sliced (about 4 cups)
1/2 small (10-to-12-ounce) daikon radish, peeled and sliced into ribbons using a vegetable peeler or shredded using a box grater
1 medium carrot (scrubbed well), sliced into ribbons using a vegetable peeler or shredded using a box grater
1/4 small red onion, very thinly sliced
For the fish:
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
One 2-inch piece peeled fresh ginger root, minced (1 tablespoon)
2 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal, white- and light-green parts kept separate from the dark-green parts
5 cups water
5 green tea bags
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Four 6-ounce center-cut, skin-on salmon fillets
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
For the slaw: Whisk together the vinegar, oil, honey, lime juice, salt and the Sriracha, if using, at the bottom of a bowl large enough to hold all the slaw ingredients.
Add the cabbage, radish, carrot and red onion, which should total 7 to 8 cups of vegetables. Toss to incorporate the dressing. Let the slaw sit while you prepare the salmon.
For the fish: Combine the garlic, ginger, the white and light-green scallion parts and water in a large, deep skillet or saute pan. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low; cook for 10 minutes, then remove from the heat. Add the tea bags and let steep for 5 minutes.
Discard the tea bags, then add the lime juice and place over low heat.
Arrange the salmon fillets in the skillet, skin side down. Add water as needed to make sure the fish is completely submerged. Cover and cook for 8 minutes or until the fillets are opaque and firm. Use two spatulas to gently transfer the fillets to a plate or cutting board; discard the skin.
Season the salmon with the salt and few grinds of pepper. Serve warm or chilled over a mound of the slaw, garnished with the sliced scallion greens.
Nutrition: Per serving: 340 calories, 35 g protein, 9 g carbohydrates, 18 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 95 mg cholesterol, 220 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber, 6 g sugar