Masala Chai

 

Yancey and I went to Vancouver last weekend for his birthday, and every second was divine. Including the Kashmiri Chai we drank from Vij's food truck in the middle of Olympic Village and the chai from Granville Island Tea, both drunk in the full-on October sun with the man I've been in love with for 26 years. (Nuts. We met on a school bus on his 16th birthday. So I guess the "in love" part is maybe 25.9 years. It didn't take long. Thank you, teenage self, for having a decent head on your shoulders. And thank you, sheer circumstance and fate.)

So when we came home this week to full-on wind and rain, it seemed a good time to make a batch to warm us up and hold on a little longer to our magical 24 hours in Vancouver. I'm not big on the chai served in most coffee shops--too sweet. Making my own lets me add as much fresh ginger and as little sugar as I want. And have some to give away.

I'm really feeling the changing seasons this year, marveling at how it happens despite global warming, despite not receiving an edict from the White House or a buyout from shareholders. We live under the shadow of Mt. Baker, and my favorite bumper sticker from the last few years is, "Vote No Eruption of Mt. Baker!" There are so many things we can't control, so I'm always coming back to what we CAN control. Creating microclimates of kindness around us, asking for forgiveness when we haven't, making the bed in the morning (have I already told you how revolutionary that's been for me?), getting back to people who ask something of us, remembering that we come from love and are born for love. So yes, more poetry. Lots of love to each of you.

Every Year at This Time

In last light, before dinner,
the oak is resplendent
with half-dead leaves,
full of spaces to hold
the autumnul glow.

A cat crosses the alley,
sure-footed on wet pavement,
and kitchen lights blink on. 

The season is turning,
as it does, as it should,
every year at this time.

I'm witnessing it
for the forty-first time,
finding again
that we--me, the cat, the tree--
were made for change,
to shine, let go, die
and be born again.

Spiced Milke Tea (Masala Chai)
I quadrupled this. As long as you're going to the work to grind spices and steep things, might as well make some for later. I store it in quart mason jars in the fridge, reading to be warmed up for a crowd in a saucepan or in microwaved mugs. This recipe is from "Gourmet Today," one of my big Gourmet cookbooks that I treasure. I subbed fresh ginger for dried, and you can use any "plain" tea. They call for loose tea, but I just throw some PG Tips in there. Lipton or English Breakfast would be fine. And I'm sure you could sub non-dairy milk. Serves 4.

10 green cardamom pods, cracked, seeds removed and pods discarded or 1/2 tsp. cardamom seeds
1 1/2 inch piece cinnamon stick
4 peppercorns
1/4 tsp. fennel seeds
1" piece of fresh ginger, very thinly sliced
2 c. whole milk
3 1/2 Tb. packed brown sugar, or to taste 
1/8 tsp. salt
2 c. water
4 Lipton or PG Tips teabags

Grind together cardamom, cinnamon stick, peppercorns, and fennel seeds with a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.

Bring milk just to a simmer in a heavy saucepan. Stir or whisk in brown sugar, salt, spice mixture and fresh ginger. Reduce heat to low and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes to infuse flavors.

Meanwhile, bring water to a boil in another saucepan, add tea, and steep for a few minutes. (I like mine extra strong.)

Add tea to hot milk mixture and strain the whole thing through a fine-mesh strainer into cups or jars.