Food : Love : Chai

There is something about food that is akin to love.

There is something about cooking that is love in action.

Maybe it’s just my Southern roots running deeper into my soul than I imagine, but for me, on some core level: Food equates to Love.  Now this is not true just on the romantic level, but all types of love.  Food for the homeless as a response to your love for community and compassion for humanity.  Food for your friends for all the joy they bring to your life.  Food for the grieving because you have felt their pain.  And lets not forget those nights when you cook simply for yourself, because you are happy with who you are.

I guess it’s because food is both a basic need for survival and an indulgence that can awaken the senses, unveiling countless variations of pleasure.  It satisfies on a core level and it touches our higher sensibilities.  Taste evokes memories of people, smells take us back to events we had forgotten and the act of preparing a meal can remind us of who we are.

Both my Mother and Father shared the kitchen growing up.  My Mom did most of the cooking, providing us everything from bacon and eggs to liver and onions to her amazing Monkey Bread to keep us occupied while she put the finishing touches on Christmas morning.  My did was the special occasion cook.  He fired up the grill for holidays and pulled out the waffle iron for his pecan or bacon waffles for birthday breakfast when all our friends had spent the night.  (They were so light and crispy I have yet to recreate them successfully.)  Even when they forced me to eat my liver and onions, I knew everything had been prepared out of love for my brother and me. Now this ‘act of love’ is a part of who I am.

Rich and Aromatic

This weekend however food and the romantic side of cooking did mix.  I was filled with an almost tangible excitement as I’ve been playing around with those amazing Indian spices trying to perfect a cup of simple Masala Chai.  You see I found out my new boyfriend really likes Chai.  He was spending the weekend with his Father, and before he was headed out of town I was looking up the history and methodology for authentic masala chai.

There is apparently no ‘one true’ recipe for the spicy milked tea, but instead as many variations as there are regions and families in India and beyond. So for 4 days I’ve been testing cup after cup.  Here is my favorite recipe so far.  I’m just so caffeinated right now that typing is getting little  hard.  I hope he, and you, enjoy it!

Masala Chai

Crushed Spice Mix

Ginger Slices

  • 1 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup whole milk or half and half
  • 1 green cardomom pod
  • 1 star anise star
  • 2 cloves
  • 3 black peppercorns
  • 1/2 bay leaf
  • 2 quarter sized slices of fresh ginger
  • 1 3-inch piece of cinnamon stick – broken
  • scant 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 rounded tablespoon black Assam tea
  1. Place your dried spices in a mortar and roughly break them up to release their flavors.  Make sure your cardamom pod is broken enough to release the inner seeds.  Do not grind or pulverize the spices.
  2. Add the water and spice mixture to a small pot and place on medium heat.  Add the sliced ginger and bring to a gentle boil.  Reduce heat and gently boil the spices for about 7 minutes.  You do want the liquid to reduce slightly.
  3. Add the Assam tea to the water and boil for 3 minutes more.
  4. Add the honey and cold milk.  Slowly let the tea heat until it just begins to simmer.
  5. Remove from heat and strain through a sieve into a large mug
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Pork Pinwheels with Herbed Gorgonzola souffle’.

Pork Pinwheels with Herbed Gorgonzola Souffle’

20120513-143938.jpg Ingredients

  • 4 large center cut pork chops about 1 inch thick
  • 2 8 oz packages cream cheese
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 3/4 cup gorganzola cheese
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 full green onions
  • Cavenders Greek seasoning (or favorite pork seasoning)
  • 4 Campari tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper

Using a sharp knife, remove any fat from sides of porkchops. Carefully spiral slice the porkchops into a long strip about 1/8 inch thick. (each porkchop will be making two pinwheels) You should end up with a strip of pork about 36inches long. Cut strips in half until you have stripsapproximately 18 inches long.

Season pork strips with Cavenders or your favorite pork seasoning andsets aside.

20120513-150845.jpgCut the cream cheese into chunks anto place in a food processor. Add the 2 eggs and garlic. If the Gorgonzola is in a block break it up and add it to the mix. Roughly chop and add the green onions. Blend until almost smooth.

Take the Campari tomatoes and cut them in half using the flower or other decorative technique.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Tear tin foil into approximately 5 inch squares.  Take 1 square and place it on your working surface.  Spray the tin foil with cooking spray.

Take one of the seasoned pork strips and layer about 4 inches of one end with the Gorgonzola mixture.  Stand that section on one end and make a circle about the size of your Campari tomatoe flowers.  Fill the center hole of the pinwheel with the Gorgonzola mixture and begin winding the pinwheel layering about 1/4 to 1/8 inchmixture between each layer.

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Once you have wound your pinwheel to the end use a toothpick spear to hold the pinwheel together during baking. Place a tomatoe flower and press it into the center so it partially covered by the porkchop. Sprinkle the tomatoe with salt and pepper.

As you complete each pinwheel place it and the tin foil square on a baking sheet.  Once you have all 8 pinwheels completed, place the baking sheet in the oven and cook for 25-30 minutes.  

While the pinwheels are cooking, carmelize the onion slices until they are a medium brown.  Set aside.

When the pinwheels look like they are just about cooked, turn the oven on broil and brown until the tips of the tomatoe flower and the souffle are browned.

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Pull the pinwheels from the oven, remove the foil and plate them. Top with strings of the carmelized onions.