Masala Chai with Dates and Honey

~ Masala Chai (Spiced Tea) with Dates and Honey ~

The holiday season is approaching, which of course means that our lives will become more, ahem, spirited. It’s around this time of year that I usually post my gløgg recipe here at TasteFood. But before I let that genie out of the bottle, I will first offer this recipe for Masala Chai. Like gløgg, it’s warm and spiced, but instead of wine, it consists of milk and tea. As you brew it your kitchen will smell like cookies, cake and a holiday all at once. Unlike gløgg, chai has no alcohol, so you are free to imbibe as much as you wish at any time of day. So go ahead and make a pot for a late morning or afternoon pick-me-up. And don’t worry – the glogg recipe is coming.

Masala Chai with Dates and Honey

The dates impart sweetness in the tea as it steeps. If desired, add honey for added sweetness. Cows milk or a combination of almond and cows milk may be used in the tea. Serves 2 to 3.

1 1/2 cups water
4 cardamon pods, crushed
6 cloves
2 medjool dates
1 cinnamon stick
1 one-inch piece of ginger root, sliced
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 cups milk
1 tablespoon assam tea
Honey

Combine the water, cardamom, cloves, dates, cinnamon, ginger and peppercorns  in a medium sauce pan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat. Simmer, partially covered, 10 minutes. Add milk and tea. Simmer 5 minutes. Add honey to taste if desired. Strain into warm mugs.

Bloody Mary Gazpacho

I’ll have a shot of vodka with my soup, please.

If heat could speak, then it was shouting this weekend. Summer arrived with a bang, and the temperature soared to triple digits. When it’s that hot, appetites wane and thirst dominates. Food takes on a cool and liquid quality. It’s time for Gazpacho.

Gazpacho is a raw tomato-based soup blended with a vegetable bowl of produce. It’s perfect when the weather is stifling. No cooking is required, the spiced tomato juice quenches thirst, and a confetti of chopped vegetables refresh and nourish. I prefer to keep my gazpacho chunky, taking pleasure in each slurpy mouthful of crunchy vegetables mingling with cool juice. In this recipe, I’ve taken the variation one step further by adding celery, Worcestershire sauce and a generous squirt of Tabasco, thus evoking a Bloody Mary. Why stop there? If you’re in the mood and appropriately mature, serve the soup in a glass and add a shot of vodka for a wondrous beverage/soup/salad in a glass – a perfect antidote for a hot and shouty day.

Bloody Mary Gazpacho

Serves 6 to 8.

1 quart tomato juice
2 large vine-ripened tomatoes, stemmed and seeded, diced
2 large celery stalks, finely diced
1 English cucumber, seeds removed, finely diced
1 green or red bell pepper, stemmed and seeded, finely diced
1 large carrot, finely diced
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, stemmed and seeded, minced
1 large garlic clove, minced
Juice of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lime
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce, or to taste
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley leaves

Optional garnishes:
Extra-virgin olive oil
Vodka
Fresh lime juice

Combine all of the ingredients except for the parsley and garnishes in a large bowl. Mix together and taste for seasoning. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 6 hours. Before serving stir in parsley. If serving as a soup, ladle into bowls and drizzle with a little olive oil. To serve with vodka, mix 1 cup gazpacho with 1 ounce vodka. Pour into a glass and serve cold with fresh lime wedges as a garnish.

Cooking for your Health: Mango Smoothie with Chili and Lime

Cooking for your Health: Mango Smoothie with Chili and Lime

Mango Smoothie with Chili, Lime and Ginger

In this month’s installment of Cooking for your Health, it’s time to get serious: Let’s talk bikinis. Summer is nearly here in the northern hemisphere, and while the weather may not yet be blinding hot, it will be soon enough, which means that it’s time to haul out the swimsuits. Don’t panic. Getting in shape for our bikinis and trunks should not sacrifice good nutrition, flavor or enjoyment. That’s where this smoothie comes in as the perfect liquid meal and refreshment for when the days grow warm.

Smoothies are a blend of fruit and/or vegetables, blitzed with ice, juice or yogurt. They may be sweet, savory or a blend of both, such as in this Mango Smoothie. It’s a tropical mix of mango and pineapple balanced with citrus, the prickle of ginger and a kick of heat from chile which lends a pleasant vegetal note. It’s a refreshing, nourishing and low caloric snack in a glass. You might be parked on a chaise lounge under an umbrella, but your tastebuds will be dancing.  Continue reading Mango Smoothie with Chili and Lime

Gløgg, Glüwein, Mulled Wine

Gløgg, glüwein, mulled wine – the names and languages are different but not the results. Orange, cinnamon and cloves steep in red wine fortified with a reduction of port wine spiked with Cointreau. Goodness, if that isn’t enough to get you fired up for the holiday season, then I’m not sure what will.

There are many pre-made mixes for gløgg, but the best way to make it is from scratch. It’s easy to do and requires an inexpensive full-bodied red wine.  When you make the gløgg, the aroma of simmering spices and wine will fill your home with winter cheer. Best served in front of a fire on a cold and snowy day.

Gløgg 
Serves 8 to 10

For the garnish:
1 cup raisins
1/3 cup Cointreau, Gran Marnier, or rum
1/2 cup whole almonds (optional)

For the gløgg:
1 1/2 cups Port wine
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup Cointreau or Gran Marnier
1/3 cup brown sugar
Zest of 2 untreated or organic oranges, shaved in strips with a vegetable peeler
10 cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
2 bottles full-bodied red wine

Fresh orange slices as garnish

Prepare the garnish:
Combine the raisins and Cointreau in a small bowl. Let stand at room temperature for at least 2 hours. (The raisins may be prepared up to one week in advance.  Cover and refrigerate until use). Toast the almonds in a dry skillet on the stove. Remove from the heat and coarsely chop into large pieces.

Prepare the gløgg:
Combine all of the gløgg ingredients, except the 2 bottles of red wine, in a heavy large pot with a lid. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until the liquid reduces to about 2 cups, 12 to 15 minutes. Add the red wine, cover the pot, and reduce the heat to low. Heat the gløgg without letting it come to a boil (or the spirits will evaporate!)

To serve, add a spoonful each of raisins and almonds, if using, to a glass or mug.  Strain the gløgg into the glass. Garnish with fresh orange slices and serve with a spoon for scooping up the raisins and almonds.

Blackberry Spritzers and a Mojito

Blackberry Spritzers and a Mojito



~ Blackberry, Lime and Mint Spritzers~

It’s summertime and the living is easy. And what better way to enjoy the sultry season than with a refreshing, thirst-quenching drink? During this window of time when blackberries are prolific, I like to make a syrup which I add to drinks and use for desserts.  Depending on the mood or time of day, I’ll stir a few spoonfuls of the vibrant, tangy syrup into icy glasses of Prosecco or sparkling water. If we’re feeling extra festive, I’ll muddle a jigger-full with mint, lime and rum and call it a mojito. It’s all good. Just be sure to make extra to freeze as ice cubes to pop in drinks or thaw later in the year for a sip of summer.

Blackberry Syrup
Makes about 1 cup

12 ounces blackberries
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar

Combine all of the ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until blackberries soften and release their juices, about 10 minutes. Cool. Purée in a food processor, then strain through a fine-meshed sieve. Discard the seeds.

Blackberry Spritzers
Makes 1 

Ice cubes
1 part blackberry syrup
2 parts sparkling water, white wine or Proscecco
Lime wedge and mint leaves for garnish

Fill a wine or cocktail glass with ice. Add syrup and sparkling water. Stir. Garnish with lime and mint.

Blackberry Mojito
Makes 1 

1/2 lime, cut in 4 wedges
2 sprigs mint, plus extra leaves for garnish
2 tablespoons (1 ounce) blackberry syrup
Crushed ice
1.5 ounces white rum
Sparkling water
1-2 blackberries for garnish

Muddle 2 lime wedges, mint sprigs and syrup together in a sturdy highball glass. Fill the glass with crushed ice. Pour rum over ice. Top with sparkling water to taste. Garnish with whole blackberries, remaining lime wedges and mint.

Gløgg: Scandinavian Spiced Mulled Wine

Gløgg: Scandinavian Spiced Mulled Wine

Glogg tf

It’s nearly December which means one thing:  It’s time for Gløgg. Gløgg is the Scandinavian version of spiced mulled wine. From a corner of the world where winters are defined by brief grey days and long dark nights, fire and warmth are woven into the Nordic lifestyle and winter celebrations.  Candles provide cosiness and light, adorning windows, tables and the holiday tree. Pelts and fur soften cold surfaces and soothe the skin. Socializing and rituals enliven the home and brighten the spirit. And hearty meals with fortified drinks warm the belly and feed the soul.

From now until Christmas, gløgg is prolific in Scandinavia. Hot, spiced and boosted with wine and spirits, this liquid pick-me-up is an elixir worthy of the vikings. Served in cafes and restaurants, from city street carts and at social gatherings, it’s the season’s antidote to the cold and dark. Most home cooks will make their own brew, whether enabled by a mix or from scratch. This recipe is my version of gløgg from scratch, and I encourage you to try this method. It avoids the cloying sweetness often found with mixes and is easy to prepare. As it simmers, the aromas of wine and spice will fill your home hinting at Christmas to come. Never mind any inclement weather outdoors. Inside it will be warm and cosy – a perfect complement to the winter day.

Gløgg

Makes 8-10 servings

For the garnish:
1 cup raisins
1/3 cup Cointreau or rum
1/2 cup whole almonds

For the gløgg:
1 – 1/2 cups Port wine
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup Cointreau or Gran Marnier
1/3 cup brown sugar
zest of 2 oranges, cut in strips
10 cloves
2 cinnamon sticks
2 bottles inexpensive dry red wine

Fresh orange slices

Prepare the garnish:
Combine the raisins and Cointreau in a small bowl. Let sit at room temperature for at least 2 hours. (Raisins can be prepared up to one week in advance.  Cover and refrigerate until use.)
Toast the almonds in a dry skillet on the stove. Remove from heat and coarsely chop in large pieces.

Prepare the gløgg:
Combine all of the ingredients except the 2 bottles of red wine in a heavy large pot with a lid.  Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered until reduced to 2 cups, 12-15 minutes.
Add red wine and warm over low heat with the lid on the pot. Do not boil.
Add a spoonful each of raisins and almonds to a glass or mug.  Strain gløgg into glass.  Garnish with fresh orange slices.

Elderflower Syrup

Elderflower Syrup

Hyldeblomst tf

We are spoiled with nature in Northern California, but one thing missing in our garden landscape is elderflowers. Elderberry bushes are prolific in North America and Europe, growing in gardens and the wild. The ripe berries are often used to make wine and marmalade. But, in my opinion, the best part are the flowers which peak in the early summer weeks. The blossoms can be harvested and left to macerate with sugar and lemon for several days to make a syrup which imparts a soft floral and honeyed flavor to drinks and desserts. Dilute a few spoons of the syrup with water for a soft drink, or with champagne or wine for a cordial. The flowers may also be dipped in a light batter and fried, serving as a light dessert.

Hyldeblomst cordial

When we lived in Denmark, elderberry bushes were everywhere. They grew in our garden and along the paths we walked into town. In June, after a welcome warm spell, we picked baskets of elderflowers and made the concentrated syrup that we would enjoy throughout the season. So, naturally, when we return to Denmark on visits, if the timing is right we continue the tradition of making elderflower syrup.


Elderflower Syrup
Makes 2 quarts

40 elderflower sprigs
4 untreated lemons with skin, cut in slices
4 pounds granulated sugar
3 ounces food grade citric acid
2 quarts boiling water

Thoroughly rinse the elderflower sprigs. Place in a large pot with a lid. Add lemon slices. Add sugar and citric acid. Pour water over elderflowers. Stir to ensure the sugar dissolves. Cover and let sit at room temperature for 4-5 days. Strain syrup through a fine meshed sieve or cheese cloth. Pour into sterilized bottles. Refrigerate until use. (Syrup may also be frozen in ice cube trays.)
To serve, mix a small amount of syrup with water, white wine or champagne to taste.