Just like other agricultural products, tea has its seasons and now is the time for shincha, the new crop of sencha green tea from Japan. As green, lovely, and refreshing as this most popular everyday Japanese tea can be in the cup, when properly brewed, it is also the ideal partner in what I consider a perfect marriage of seasonal ingredients. When paired with seasonal rhubarb, it is astoundingly delicious. Taking the tea a few steps beyond the cup, and infusing the leaves with milk, adding cream and a modicum of sugar, and then cooling and freezing the sieved mixture (preferably in an ice cream machine in which the chilled ice cream base is turned until thick and on its way to being fully frozen) will yield a memorable sencha ice cream. The pale green of the tea ice cream alternating with the bright crimson of the lightly poached and hardly sweetened red rhubarb lights up a tall glass parfait cup. A late spring dessert doesn’t get any better than this. If you like, serve it with a thin, black sesame wafer or a shortbread wedge and you will have reached nirvana in a cup.
Here’s how to arrange that winning marriage:
Yields: 4 generous servings
For the poached rhubarb:
4 stalks of brightly colored fresh rhubarb, about 10 ounces in total
¼ cup of granulated sugar
Cut the rhubarb into ½-inch cubes. Place the cubes in a heavy saucepan with just enough water to coat the bottom of the pan. Add the sugar and cook briefly, just until the rhubarb softens slightly. Don’t overcook into a mush. Remove from the heat and immediately transfer to a heatproof bowl. Cool to room temperature, cover, and then chill.
For the sencha ice cream:
2 cups of whole milk
¼ cup (50 grams, approximately) of sencha leaves
2 cups of heavy cream
½ cup (100 grams, approximately) of granulated sugar
Few drops of pure vanilla extract
Bring the milk and tea leaves to a boil. Remove from the heat and infuse for a few minutes, or until the tea flavor is clearly apparent. Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a heatproof bowl, pressing hard on the tea leaves to extract as much of the liquid as possible. Return the mixture to a clean saucepan. Add the cream and sugar and cook, stirring, over a low heat just until the sugar dissolves completely. Cool and then chill until cold. Add the vanilla and freeze in an ice cream machine.
Beginning and ending with the fruit, layer the lightly cooked rhubarb alternating with scoops of the sencha ice cream in a tall clear glass and serve immediately.
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