Monday, March 29, 2010

Tangerine-Glazed Poppy Seed Brunch Cake

If sugar is the only thing getting you high from your poppy seed cake, you haven't tried this recipe. No, this confection is not laced with pot butter (that was SO ten years ago), but it is chalk full of poppy seeds... poppy seeds that could cause opiates to appear in your urine during a drug test and make you look like a heroine addict and lose your job. Poppy seeds of... Satan!

Uh, just kidding about the Satan bit. (Do Jews believe in Satan?) But that really did happen to some folks, like the policeman who ate four poppy seed bagels in one day and was suspended for four months when his urine showed a false positive for morphine. (But, I mean, really, four bagels in one day?)

No half-hearted tablespoon or two here, this cake is dense with an entire cup of the devil-seeds that have been steeped in warm milk to bring out their unique flavor. The seeds retain their crunch and pop pleasantly between your teeth as you chew, the way I always enjoyed smelt roe, those tiny orange fish eggs, in my California roll as a sushi-loving seven-year-old.

It is a pleasure to get to experience poppy seeds showcased like this, when they are usually an afterthought playing second fiddle to lots of sugar and lemon and I never really saw the point of them at all. Until I made this cake. Then it all made sense. Consider me a believer.

The base recipe, which I've had the nerve to tweak, comes from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. Deborah, who was the founding chef of Greens, not only writes phenomenal and accessible recipes for both sweets and savories alike, her books also make excellent reading material in the bath, or before bed.

Her writing style is friendly, straightforward, comforting, and at times poetic (but never pedantic), and she has been an inspiring and encouraging guide in the last six years of my cooking career. I dream of taking one of the food writing classes she teaches at the Tassajara Zen Center - literally, I have actually had dreams about this. (ahem - birthday's in December!)

This cake recipe appears with four others in her book, in which she writes, 'I'm very fond of elaborate cakes, especially when they're made by someone else.' Oh, snap! See why I love her?

Inspired by some brilliant murcott mandarins that arrived in our box, I added the zest to the batter and brushed the top with a glaze made from their juice. The cake seems very Eastern European to me, from the densely seeded texture to the deep burnished brown that the cake turns in the oven.

Versatile and not too sweet, it manages to be both light and rich, sturdy and delicate, plain and complex. The seeds lend a nutty flavor and help keep the cake moist for days.

Good on its own with a cup of tea or coffee, this cake wouldn't be amiss with a dollop of lemon or mandarin curd, some sliced strawberries or a touch of whipped cream.

Or perhaps a bit of morphine, if it's that sort of Sunday. (Kidding!)

Tangerine-Glazed Poppy Seed Brunch Cake

Makes one 9" round cake, 12 servings

1 cup poppy seeds
1/2 cup milk
2 cups flour (I used 1 cup each all-purpose and whole spelt flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
zest of two tangerines (such as murcotts) and one lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 eggs, separated
1 cup sour cream or buttermilk (or milk stirred with the juice of half a lemon)

juice of 2 tangerines and 1 lemon
1/4 cup sugar

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375º. Grease a 9" round springform pan.

Heat the milk in a small saucepan until small bubbles form around the edges and it gives off some steam. Stir in the poppy seeds and set aside to steep while you get on with the rest of the cake. (This can be done up to 2 hours in advance.) The seeds should absorb all of the milk. If they seem dry, add a bit more milk. If they are overly wet, pour off any unabsorbed milk before adding to the batter.

Sift together the flour, baking powder, soda and salt in a medium bowl.

Combine the butter and sugar in the bowl of a kitchen aid fitted with the paddle attachment. Grate the zests right in, and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in the vanilla, then the egg yolks, one at a time, until well combined.

With the mixer on low, add the soaked poppy seeds to the butter mixture, stirring to combine. Add half of the flour mixture, all of the buttermilk, and the other half of the flour mixture, stirring to combine after each addition. Remove the bowl from the mixer and fold the batter by hand a few times, scraping the sides, bottom and paddle, to make sure it is homogeneous.

In a clean, large bowl (or the now-empty bowl you used for the dries), whip the egg whites with a whisk until they hold soft peaks. Stir 1/4 of the egg whites into the batter to lighten it, then fold in the rest of the whites with a rubber spatula until just combined and no streaks remain.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth gently. Bake until the cake is a dark, burnished brown on top, begins to pull away from the sides of the pan, and springs back to the touch, about 45 minutes, rotating once or twice. Remove from the oven.

When the cake is almost finished baking, make the glaze:
Combine the tangerine juice, lemon juice and sugar in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, swirling occasionally, until thickened and syrupy, about 5 minutes. The liquid should reduce by about half.

Brush the warm glaze over the top of the warm cake until it has absorbed it all, and let cool completely before slicing, serving and devouring.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Crustless Skillet Quiche with Asparagus and Chevre

If quiche is the elite sophisticate who spends hours primping before the vanity, then this dish is her down-home cousin in a faded dress lounging in a hammock.

I was going to title this post 'Quiche for Lazy People' (damn you, searchability!), but since 'Bojon' connotes a laid back attitude anyway, felt it might be redundant.

All that is to say, this is a great dish to have at your fingertips for those leisurely weekend (or bojon) mornings (or afternoons) when you want something a bit special, slightly more gussied-up than a bowl of cereal or a bagel, but don't have the time or patience (or blood-sugar level) to fuss with making, chilling, rolling, chilling again, and par-baking a pie crust.

Imagine a brunch dish with the ease, but not the rubbery, can't-face-it-at-this-ungodly-hour-or-with-this-hangover egginess of a fritatta, that is ready to eat in 40 minutes and tastes of the savory side of spring. The texture is smooth and creamy, like the inside of a quiche, casual enough for a lazy Sunday brunch, but tasty enough to serve guests for a light but substantial supper. The delicate custard creates an elegant foil for grassy asparagus, pungent goat cheese and parmesan and a fresh dose of sunny lemon zest.

You could probably double the recipe and bake this in a 9 or 10" skillet to feed a larger crowd of 6-8. Vary the vegetables, using spring onions, leeks, or chives in place of the scallions, and spinach or nettles, zucchini or mushrooms for the asparagus. (Cooking techniques and times will vary, natch.)

Serve with plenty of buttered toast to mop up the juices at the bottom of the pan, and a salad of arugula, radishes and slivered snap peas tossed with a bit of olive oil, lemon juice and flaky sea salt. A side of roasted potatoes and parsnips wouldn't be out of place either.

And perhaps a mimosa or two, if it's that sort of Sunday.

Crustless Skillet Quiche with Zucchini, Corn and Cherry Tomatoes
Decadent Eggs on Toast 

Crustless Asparagus and Goat Cheese Skillet Quiche

Makes 3-4 servings

1 tablespoon butter
1/2 bunch of asparagus (about 1/2 pound), fibrous ends snapped off, sliced into 1/2" diagonals
1/2 bunch scallions, cleaned well and sliced, including the greens
1/4 teaspoon salt
squeeze of lemon juice
2 eggs
1 cup half and half (or 1/2 cup each heavy cream and whole milk)
zest of one lemon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 ounce freshly grated parmesean (about 1/3 cup), plus extra for grating on top
2 ounces fresh goat cheese

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 375º.

Melt the butter in a 6" oven-proof skillet (preferably cast iron). Add the sliced asparagus and scallions, and saute until bright green and tender, about 8 minutes. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt and a squeeze of lemon juice and remove from the heat.

While the veggies are cooking, whisk the eggs in a 2-cup measure to break up the yolks. Whisk in the half and half, 1/4 teaspoon salt, the parmesan and the lemon zest to combine.

Crumble the chevre over the vegetables in the skillet, then pour over the custard. Top with a grating of parmesan.

Put in the oven and bake about 20 minutes, until puffed and golden. Let cool a few minutes out of the oven before serving up.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Lemon-Lavender Pound Cakelets, and Goats!

Happy spring! It has been a long, dark, wet winter and, much as I love hearing the pitter-pat of raindrops outside while curled up on the couch, a batch of chocolate-chip oatmeal cookies in the oven, I am not sorry to see winter go. Here in SF, the weather has been cooperating beautifully, gifting us with day after day of sunny, warm weather. I look at the clock every evening at 7:30 and hollar ecstatically, 'It's not dark yet!"

The time change benefits me (and you!) in another way: there is more daylight during which to take food photos! Before I started this blog, I never gave that much thought, but I don't know how bloggers who have day jobs/live in Sweden do it. Luckily, I don't have either of those problems (though if it came down to it, I'd rather be trapped in the land of vodka, potatoes and ABBA than a nine-to-fiver), but I'm enjoying that extra hour or two of flexibility all the same.

Speaking of challenging photography sessions, have you ever attempted a photo shoot of goats? A 'goato-shoot,' if you will? My hunch is probably not. But if you had, you might know that getting a shot of a goat not eating something (grass/clothing/my hair) proves a formidable task.

The lovely Loretta, mid-munch

Jay and I had the pleasure of meeting a quartet of goats last weekend when my voice teacher's fabulous human quartet played a house concert in Montclair. The hosts, Frankie and Jeannie, are the happy keepers of four goats, a flock of chickens, two hives of bees, a mama turkey and her 8 chicks. The goats, Yo-yo, Riley, Loretta and Luna, were not only pretty as could be (for goats), but also very sweet and personable (goatable?). During rare periods of respite from nibbling on grass/clothes/my hair, they gave us many a loving nuzzle, head-butt, and even a few bashful kisses.

Riley, a La Mancha goat

Frankie and Jeannie make the most delicious cheese from the milk. We had the gustatory pleasure of sampling a fresh cheese, with the delicate flavor and texture of a sheep's milk ricotta, that had been blended with dill, and a creamy, tender feta, packed in fragrant olive oil.

Yo-yo enjoying some good lovin'

Cheese made from fresh, unpasturized goat's milk doesn't have the funky, 'goaty' flavor of commercial goat cheese. Sadly, in most states in the U.S. including this here one, it is illegal to sell unpasturized goat's milk products, so unless you personally know a cheesemaker, you may not get the pleasure of experiencing this first hand. All the more reason to participate in one of Frank and Jean's cheesemaking workshops! See below for their contact info.

Turkey chicks! Cuter than the grown-ups... their mama (sorry, mom)

Anyway, the houseconcert included a potluck, so I whipped up some springy cakelets, really a vehicle for the mascarpone cream I had leftover from the wedding cake. I used a buttermilk poundcake recipe from an old Fine Cooking magazine, and whipped the butter with some ground lavender buds and lemon zest. I piped lemon-lavender curd into the centers, and topped the cakes with the mascarpone cream, and added a few buds and strands of zest for garnish.

These cakes make a pretty, sweet way to usher in spring, with the flavors of flowers and sunny Meyer lemons. They make a nice addition to an outdoor potluck or brunch, or perhaps a Mother's day bash. You could also bake this batter in a 9x5" loaf pan or an 8" round cake pan, and serve slices with dollops of the cream and some macerated strawberries, with or without the curd.

If you're interested in backyard chicken workshops or cheesemaking workshops, you can contact Frankie at They also offer design and layout consultation for those interested in building their own goat homes, and advice on various breeds of milk goats.

I am personally looking forward to getting more goat time this spring, learning the ins and outs of cheesemaking, and delving further into the wonderful world of goat's milk. In any case, I hope you're enjoying the beginning of spring, with or without goat kisses.

Lemon-Lavender Pound Cakelets, with Lemon-Lavender Curd and Mascarpone Cream

Makes 1 dozen cupcakes

Be sure to use organic, culinary lavendar for these cakes, rather than the pesticide-laden stuff used for potpourri and cosmetics. The cakes are best assembled just before serving, so that the cake part can be room temperature and soft, but the curd and cream cold. Extra cakes can be stored in the fridge for up to a day or two.

For the cakes:

1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons dried lavender buds
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
zest of two lemons (preferably Meyers)
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup buttermilk

Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350º. Line 12 standard muffin cups with paper liners.

Grind the lavender buds with a tablespoon of the sugar in a coffee grinder. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the sugar, ground lavender, butter and lemon zest. Beat on medium speed until fluffy and lightened in color, 3-4 minutes, scraping down the bowl occasionally. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until combined, scraping as needed.

In a medium bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. With the mixer on low, add half the dries, mix until combined. Add the buttermilk, mix to combine, and then add the rest of the dries. Give the batter a final fold with a rubber spatula to make sure it is thoroughly mixed, then divide the batter among the 12 muffin cups. (A spring-loaded ice cream scoop works well for this.)

Bake the cupcakes, rotating once halfway through the baking time, for 20 - 25 minutes. The tops should spring back when pressed lightly with a finger, and a tester should come out clean. Let the cakes cool for 10 minutes, then remove to a rack to cool completely.

Lemon-Lavender Curd

This recipe makes about 1 cup of curd, which is twice what you will need to fill the cakes. Extra curd can be enjoyed on toast, with scones or muffins, or stirred into plain yogurt, possibly topped with strawberries.

zest of one lemon
1/3 cup lemon juice (preferably Meyer)
1 1/2 teaspoons lavender buds
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
2 egg yolks
2 ounces (1/2 a stick) unsalted butter, in 1" pieces
1 tablespoon heavy cream or half and half
pinch salt

In a small saucepan, heat the zest, juice and buds to just below a simmer. Cover and let steep for 10 or 20 minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, egg and yolks to combine. Bring the lemon juice mixture back to a bare simmer, and, whisking constantly, slowly pour into the egg mixture to temper. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a heatproof rubber spatula, scraping the sides, bottom, and corners of the pot. Cook until thickened to the consistency of gravy, or 170º F, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, and immediately whisk in the cold butter, cream and salt until combined. Strain through a fine mesh seive and into a small bowl, lay a piece of plastic wrap on the surface of the curd, and chill in the refrigerator until needed. The curd will keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Mascarpone Cream

Since I made these cakes with cream leftover from another cake, I'm not positive about the amounts. This should work just fine, though. You can use a stand mixer, or a large bowl and a whisk if you're feeling butch. If you overwhip and the cream begins to clump up and seize in the direction of butter, not all is lost: gently fold in a few tablespoons of unwhipped heavy cream with a rubber spatula to loosen the mixture.

Mascarpone cream will keep its shape for 2 or 3 days in the fridge.

1/2 cup (4 ounces) mascarpone
3/4 cup (6 ounces) heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whip the mascarpone and cream together until they hold soft peaks. Sprinkle in the sugar and vanilla, and continue whipping until they hold firm peaks. Store in the fridge until needed, up to three days.

To assemble the cakes:

Use a chopstick to poke a hole in the center of the cakes, moving the end of the stick around to create a space for the curd. Spoon half of the curd into a piping bag fitted with a small, plain tip (or use the corner of a plastic baggie, snipping the corner when the bag is filled). Plunge the tip into the hole, and squeeze to fill. It's ok if some curd oozes up and out the top of the cake. Fill the rest of the cakes. (Alternatively, you can cut a cone-shaped section out of the top of the cake, then slice off the pointy end of the cone to make a disc. Eat the pointy scrap. Spoon some curd into the slot in the cake, then top with the cake coin to close the hole.)

Dollop the mascarpone cream on top of the cakes, and use a butter knife or offset spatula to smooth. Top with a few lavender buds and a bit of lemon zest.

Curried Quinoa with Spring Veggies and Yogurt

I distinctly remember my first attempt at cooking quinoa. It occured around the same time as my first attempts at cooking rice, which, though failed in texture (can anyone say 'pudding?'), at least tasted halfway decent.

I was living in Bologna and, while walking to my boyfriend's apartment on the outskirts of town, happened upon a little shop selling exotic foodstuffs from faraway lands. I purchased a package of the tiny grain and cooked it up in the apartment of said boyfriend, along with some chicken simmered in coconut milk and curry powder. I remembered watching the little halos on the individual grains unfurl magically (probably because I hadn't known to cover my pot so that it could steam properly). We devoured the chicken; I mean, coconut milk, curry powder and caramelized onions? Yum! But the quinoa remained on our plates in sad, sallow heaps.

There was no denying the facts: Quinoa tasted weird.

But quinoa is so healthy, so packed with protein, so gluten-free, so full of vitamins and minerals, a 'superfood,' they say, which is why I continued attempting to cook it when I returned to the land in which people regularly use such terms as 'superfood;' i.e. California. And it hasn't been until recently that I've come not only to tolerate the healthy little buggers, but to actually enjoy them.

The secret? A simple five-minute soak in cool water, and a thorough rinse removes the bitterness that dwells on the outside of the grain, allowing a nutty sweetness to emerge. The starches wash away letting the grains remain distinct, with a delicate, feather-light texture.

This dish works warm, at room-temperature, or cold. It's a nice thing to have in the fridge during the erratic days of spring, which can swelter by day or chill by night. It makes excellent picnic fare, or can provide you with a nourishing meal during a lunch break/blogging session.

It tastes even better a day or two later, when the flavors have melded. If I planned to eat this cold, I would stir the yogurt and cilantro right in, and add the almonds just before serving. Feel free to add any other vegetables you like, or some cubed tofu or roasted chicken to make it more substantial.

But please take the time to soak your quinoa. Your tastebuds will thank you.

Curried Quinoa with Spring Veggies and Yogurt

Makes 6 servings

If your scallions seem at all sandy, clean them like so: rinse the scallions and cut off the roots. Slice the white and green parts thinly, and put in a medium bowl filled with cold water. Leave for a few minutes, swishing them around a bit, letting any sand fall to the bottom. Scoop out the scallions with your fingers, leaving the dirty bits behind.

Curried quinoa:
1 1/2 cups quinoa
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 3/4 cups water
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 large carrots
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 bunch scallions, washed and sliced (white and green parts)
1 - 2 cups snap peas, slivered (or shelled english peas)
juice of 1 lemon
a few handfuls of cilantro leaves, chopped
1/2 cup toasted almonds, chopped
1 cup plain, whole-milk yogurt

Cook the quinoa:
Soak the quinoa in cool water for 5 minutes or so. Strain in fine mesh sieve, give it another rinse, and drain well.

In a medium saucepan, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the quinoa, and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes to toast slightly. Add the water, curry powder and salt, stirring once to combine. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat to low. Steam the quinoa for 15-20 minutes until it is tender and all the water is absorbed. Let stand off the heat 5-10 minutes, then uncover and fluff with a fork.

Prepare the veggies:
Meanwhile, grate the carrots on the large holes of a box grater. Warm the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the carrots, curry powder and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5-10 minutes, until crisp-tender. Add the scallion, and cook for a few minutes minutes until tender. (If using fresh shelled peas, add now and cook for a minute or two until tender. If using snap peas, add in the next step.)

Dump the quinoa into a large bowl and add the carrot-scallion mixture, snap peas and lemon juice, tossing gently to combine.

Serve warm or at room temperature with a generous scoop of yogurt, a sprinkling of almonds and a flurry of cilantro.

A Different Shade of Wedding Cake

I would be understating the fact if I said that I don't particularly love cake. Teacakes, carrot cakes or cheesecakes I like just fine. I speak of the fluffy, bland, layered variety. While the rest of my pastry class avidly practiced piping skills and whipped buttercreams, I wondered when we would be allowed to bake bread, like REAL bakers.

Just kidding, of course. Building layer cakes takes a ton of skill and work, something that non-bakers probably don't realize. There's baking the cakes, slicing them into perfectly equal layers, building them so that they don't droop or list to one side, coating them with a gazillion layers of icing until they look silky smooth, finishing them with schmancy decorations... they take for freakin' ever. And what are you left with after all is said and done? Some sweet, dry, white fluff.

Sadly, nine times out of ten when I am asked to bake something it is cake. Why we as people honor occasions with these horrific concoctions is entirely beyond me. Wouldn't you prefer to remember your 18th birthday/going away party/bat mitzvah with something that actually...tastes good? Wouldn't you prefer a nice, gooey brownie, or a scoop of silky ice cream, or a slice of juicy pie? I know I certainly would any day.

And please don't get me started on wedding cakes. They epitomize all that I find loathsome about the whole business. Come on, brides: do you really need a designer, five-tiered extravaganza that costs more than I earn in a year covered in 100 magnolia flowers handmade out of edible sugar paste in order to live happily ever after?

Ok, enough of my ranting. When my very bojon friend (and I say that as the highest form of a compliment - remember, bojon is a state of mind) Vanessa asked me to gift a cake to her wedding reception, of any sort, size or shape, I gladly agreed. Vanessa and Lincoln had been engaged for as long as I'd known them, when Vanessa and I worked as baristas at our local coffee shop, Farley's, and spent most of our shifts telling dirty jokes, preferably to the customers. Vanessa took a firmly un-bridezilla stance on her wedding, and, as a result, seemed to enjoy herself on the big day. ('I'm going to take my first married pee!' she gleefully told a dozen different people on her way to the loo.)

I used 1 1/2 times my go-to chocolate cake recipe, the one-bowl chocolate cupcakes from Martha Stewart Baking. (I love Martha, or at least her recipe writers, and am not afraid to admit it.) I poured it into two half-sheet pans and baked them, then cut them in half, for a total of four cake layers. For the filling, I whipped together 1 pint each of mascarpone and heavy cream, sweetened with a bit of sugar and vanilla, and sprinkled them with 4 pints of strawberries, chopped. I swathed the whole thing in a batch of chocolate buttercream, also by Martha. The final cake measured 14 inches wide, 10 inches deep, and 5 inches tall, and weighed about 10 pounds. I'd say we got about 40-50 servings out of that bad boy.

And you know what? Not only did the cake taste great, but I didn't even loathe assembling it. The components came together with a mere hour or two of active time, and the assembly took less than that. I got away with a mere two (two!) coats of icing. I guess I'm getting better at this. The cake was devoured, seconds were gone back for, and one guest who had worked catering weddings for ten years said it was the best cake he'd ever had.

Though I can't really agree (flourless chocolate? streusel coffeecake? ricotta cheesecake?), I am glad I could contribute my silly skills to a truly beautiful, enjoyable, and bojon-style wedding.

Congratulations, Vanessa and Lincoln!

(I still don't like cake, though.)

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Bojon Masala Chai

On sunny SF days, 90% of Mission hipsters can be found, fixie bike and foofy dog in tow, lounging on a blanket in Dolores Park, drinking PBR from a can, iPod earphones firmly in place, skinny jeans cuffed just so. The rest of us find a tiny square of grass among the vintage dresses and shaggy hairdos, roll up our shamefully bootcut pants, and perhaps strum a few ukulele chords in the sun.

The weather never lasts long, though, and sooner or later a vicious wind blows in, scattering the block-long line at Bi-Rite creamery. (Just kidding! Bi-Rite groupies wouldn't let a little thing like freezing-cold weather deter them from their mission.) At times like these, nothing beats a steamy mug of masala chai from Samovar, creamy with organic milk, lightly sweetened with handmade palm sugar.

More ironic than a hipster in a 'Vote McCain' t-shirt, a cup of said chai, which disappears all too soon, forcing you from the pampering haven of soothing music and heavenly smells and back into the squall, costs about the same as two giant meals of rice and dal would in India. The ingredients are so inexpensive; a dollar or two worth of spices, tea, milk and sugar get you six Samovar-sized servings in the comfort of your own home.

As an added bonus, the simmering spices perfume your house, making your toes tingle in anticipation of the spicy sips to come. You can use any sweetener or milk you like, and vary the spices to your taste. Cloud it up with whatever dairy, or non-, you like, such as vanilla-maple almond milk. I've made this tea with english breakfast, ginger pu-erh, and rooibos teas; all produce great chais of varying flavors and colors. You can also use green tea, as in the Kashmiri tradition.

Chai is the perfect Bojon treat, since it takes little effort to make and simmers for a long time on the stove. A big batch can be refrigerated, providing tasty morning bevvies for the whole week. It is also good chilled, weather permitting, of course.

Here is my version, adapted from Sweet!, an aptly titled book by Mani Niall featuring loads of recipes made with all sorts of natural sweeteners. The original calls for jaggery, an unrefined Indian sugar. If you use that, you are much more hip than I. But do me a favor: never utter the words 'chai' and 'latte' in the same sentence.


Bojon Masala Chai

Makes six 1-cup servings

For an extra-spicy variation, you can cover and steep the spices for up to 2 hours after they've simmered for 30 minutes. Reheat the infused water, add the tea, and proceed with the recipe.  I recommend using ceylon (or "true") cinnamon here – they have a more subtle, fruity flavor that lets the other spices shine, whereas the cassia varieties tend to take over more.

5 - 3" cinnamon sticks (preferably ceylon)
10 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
3" piece of fresh ginger, sliced into coins
1/2 of a vanilla bean
16 peppercorns
3 whole cloves
3 allspice berries
2-3 tablespoons black (or green or rooibos) tea
3 tablespoons sweetener (honey, agave, jaggery and sugar all work)
1 1/2 cups milk or milk substitute (such as almond or coconut milk)

In a large saucepan, combine all of the spices with 6 cups of water. Bring to a bare simmer, reduce the heat, and cook at a bare simmer for 30 minutes. Turn off the heat, add the tea, and let steep for 10 minutes. Add the sweetener and milk and warm over low heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a large pitcher or measuring cup.

Drink hot, or cool and store in the fridge for up to a week. Warm as needed, or drink chilled.