Vie de Cacao
Cacao Masala Chai 0
In the last few years, chai has made a regular reappearance in my life. Most times, I'll make a quick chai with only two spices (cardamom and cloves), but other times, I'll want more depth to my chai. Here’s a recipe for a brisk chai with subtle notes of chocolate.
As a kid, chai was a daily treat for my sister and I growing up in Pakistan. After our parents and grandparents woke up from a late afternoon nap, chai was served to the adults, and my sister and I always managed to get at least half a cup each. As the adults would sit in chairs in the living room to sip their chai and talk, my sister and I would plop down on the floor and cozy up next to the coffee table (or is it a chai table if chai is being served?), which was the perfect height when we were seated on the floor. It also put us in the middle of the action—the adults had to reach around us to get their chai and we got to hear all the gossip.
We loved chai because we turned it into a sweet treat by adding lots of sugar. Dessert before dinner! It was also game time for me. I played the game of dipping biscuits into the chai and figuring out how many times and how deep I could dunk the biscuit into the chai before it would break off and fall into the chai. The biscuits were delicious, and I’m not even sure I drank the chai each time.
When I left my parents’ home in Miami, chai stopped being part of my routine, and coffee took its place. When I visited my parents or family, I'd drink a cup or two of chai if some was already being made for others, but I only occasionally made a cup for myself. I still drink coffee in the mornings because I can grab it on the go. (I’m in search of a chai cart or chai wallah in DC.) But, in the evenings, when I want something warm and need a little caffeine to power me through but not keep me up all night, I've been making chai. I also make chai on weekend mornings when I have time to savor it.
A few words about some of the ingredients.
I prefer using whole spices for chai rather than making a spice blend because I can vary the spices and the amount depending on the taste I want. This recipe uses whole, green cardamom pods, fennel seeds, freshly-sliced ginger, and whole cloves.
Assam tea is a black tea named after the region where it's grown, Assam, India. It’s grown primarily at or near sea level and has a brisk, malty flavor with a strong color.
This recipe calls for natural, unsweetened cacao powder, also known as cocoa powder. Pure, unsweetened cacao powder imparts a bitter taste and a deep chocolate flavor. To get powder from the cacao bean, the nibs are first ground into a paste (chocolate liquor), most of the fat (cacao butter) is removed, and the remaining solids are ground into a fine dust to produce cacao powder. You can also use raw, organic cacao powder, which is found mainly at health food stores. The cacao powder is said to be raw because the cacao beans have been processed only at low temperatures to retain maximum nutrients, and as a result, this powder apparently has higher amounts of magnesium, iron, potassium, and other minerals and antioxidants.
I've used both 2% milk and almond milk in this recipe without having to alter the proportions.
Cacao Masala Chai Recipe
Makes two servings.
1 cup water
1 cup milk
3 green cardamom pods, crushed (To open the pods, take a knife with a large, flat blade, like a chef's knife, place the cardamom pod on a chopping board, and using the heel of your hand, and lightly crush the pod under the flat part of the blade.)
3 whole cloves
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 thin slice of fresh ginger
3 1/2 teaspoons of loose black tea (I prefer Assam)
2 teaspoons natural, unsweetened cacao powder
Sugar or sweetener of your choice
Equipment & Tools
Measuring cup and spoons
Medium size saucepan
Two medium-size mugs
Put all ingredients except tea, cacao powder, and sweetener into saucepan over medium heat.
Bring to a boil.
Reduce to a simmer and add tea. After 4-5 minutes, slowly add the cacao powder into the saucepan as you whisk lightly to keep the cacao powder from clumping.
Strain and pour into cups.
Sweeten to taste.
If you decide to use raw cacao powder, stir it in once the tea is taken off the heat to minimize nutrient loss.
- Puja Satiani
Spinach Apple Walnut Salad Featuring Cacao Nib Vinaigrette 0
Makes 2 servings
1 rounded teaspoon cacao nibs, coarsely ground
1 1/3 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper
3 oz spinach leaves
1 medium Granny Smith apple, cored, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons dried cranberries
2 tablespoons crumbled goat cheese
Handful of coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted
The cacao nibs subtly balance the sweet and tart flavors of the cranberries and apple, and they also boost the nutrient value of this salad.
Remove long stems from spinach leaves, then rinse under cold water, and pat dry. Place spinach in a large bowl. Add apple slices and cranberries to bowl.
For dressing, stir salt, pepper, nibs, and balsamic vinegar in a small bowl. Slowly whisk olive oil into balsamic vinegar mixture, then pour enough vinaigrette over salad until lightly coated. Toss as necessary to distribute dressing.
Divide salad between two plates, and sprinkle goat cheese and walnuts over each salad.
Store any remaining vinaigrette at room temperature.
To make a substantial salad, I add grilled chicken and serve with a few toasted baguette slices.
Apple Butter, Dark Chocolate, and Cheddar Grilled Cheese 0
Smoky cheddar cheese and dark chocolate are brought together by the sweetness of apple butter, perfect for when you’re craving comfort food.
2 slices sourdough bread
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
½ oz fine dark chocolate, grated
2 ¼ oz smoked sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon apple butter
For the chocolate, buy a block of fine dark chocolate and grate it. I opted for a 55% cacao dark chocolate that balances bitter and sweet. And for the apple butter, I used a local (Maryland) variety, McCutcheon's.
Preheat a cast iron skillet to medium-low heat.
Place bread on a cutting board, and brush the melted butter on one side of each slice of sourdough. Put one slice of the bread, buttered side down, on the skillet. Sprinkle half of the cheese on the sourdough, spreading to the edges. Spread all of the chocolate on top of the cheese. Drizzle the apple butter onto the chocolate. Then sprinkle on the remaining cheese. Top with the second slice of sourdough, with the buttered side on the outside.
When the underside is golden brown and the cheese and chocolate have fully melted, flip the sandwich over. Don’t rush the process. Gently press down on the sandwich to encourage consistent browning. Cook until second side is golden brown. Before removing from the skillet, flip back to the original side for a few seconds to reheat slightly.
Cut in half and enjoy immediately.
Yoga + Chocolate 0
We recently hosted a Yin Yoga + Chocolate workshop with Third Space Wellness in Silver Spring. A chocolate pairing was a natural fit for this type of yoga. Click here for an overview of yin yoga if you are unfamiliar with it, and below you’ll find suggestions to conduct your own yoga and chocolate pairing.
Here’s why yin yoga and chocolate marry well. Chocolate should be enjoyed when you’re able to turn the “do-not-disturb” sign on and take a moment (or two or three) of silence to employ your senses and fully experience each bite. Likewise, yin yoga requires focus and awareness. Yin yoga is by no means easy. You hold a pose for several minutes, during which time your focus should be on the present and on releasing your body deeper into the pose but not to the point of pain. For someone like me who is trying each day to take time to focus on the present—on being present at least for a few minutes without reaching into past problems or speculating over future worries—integrating a chocolate pairing with yin yoga required a mindfulness that I sincerely appreciated.
If you practice yin yoga and want to introduce a chocolate tasting into your practice, here are my suggestions:
• Select a few small pieces: We enjoyed four pieces of chocolate during a two-hour workshop, pausing briefly every thirty minutes or so for chocolate and light discussion. Each piece could be consumed in two bites, and none was so rich that it would linger on the palate.
• Close your eyes: Use all of your senses when you are eating the chocolate to focus on reaching a meditative state. But I recommend finding chocolate that makes you instinctively close your eyes as you enjoy it. While you certainly want to use your sight to admire the beauty of what you are about to consume, you can focus fully on the flavors and textures in your mouth if you close your eyes. Likewise, during a yin yoga pose, I found myself closing my eyes to minimize distractions and to focus on my body and my breathing.
• Integrate the two: We incorporated the chocolate into the yin yoga practice, rather than only offering chocolate after yoga. For instance, we began with a chocolate to open the mind to fine chocolate versus adulterated chocolate/candy (for more on chocolate vs. candy, click here) and followed with a pose to open the back and upper body. As we delved further into the yoga practice, we held an opposing pose to open the chest and enjoyed chocolate that directly contrasted the chocolate with which we began.
• Sip water: Have room temperature water near you, not only to stay hydrated but to cleanse the palate.
Regardless of whether you welcome yin yoga into your life, we can all benefit from one of its teaching principles of being fully present each day.
See you on the mat!