It happens to me every year. Sometime about the end of June, when our CSA is in full swing and the daylight’s stretching past 8 p.m., I marvel at the sweetness of the season around me, so hot and bright…
The first time Tim took me to Indian food was the first time I liked Indian food. It was also the first time I ordered a lassi. I am half Indian, my dad grew up in southern India, and my Italian-German-Danish mom taught herself to make a mean curry, but I wasn’t on Team International Eating until well into my adult years. By the time I’d met and married Tim, I liked plenty of different cuisines, just not Indian, so on our one-month wedding anniversary, we decided to celebrate by doing something to change that. We went to Nashville’s Sitar and ordered Tim’s favorites: butter chicken and garlic naan. Turns out pillowy herbed dough heady with garlic, alongside creamy, tender chicken, is not a hard sell. I was in. Mostly though, there was that sweetened yogurt drink that had caught my eye on the menu and accompanied my meal. Served over ice in a tall glass, it was sweet, just barely, and flavored with rosewater—it was also the most wonderful offering I’d ever sipped through a straw. I’ve ordered other lassis since, at other restaurants, and they’re usually nice, but that rosewater one is a stand-out. Tangy and frothy and not so sugary to give you a headache (which other lassis have been), it was the kind of drink you dream about for days after it’s yours.
Last week, Tim ordered rose hydrosol (which is similar to rosewater). It’s pretty easy to find rosewater online (like on Amazon, for example), and it smells like bathroom potpourri, which is another way of saying I’m not outside enough. You might be tempted, like I have been for years, to think making a splurge purchase on rosewater is out of hand, but, fresh from the lassis we had for breakfast this morning, let me tell you I was wrong. Rosewater imparts the irreplaceable flavor of roses into the foods it’s placed in, creating a floral flavor at once pleasant and unique.
Tim came up with the recipe for this re-creation of my beloved restaurant drink, and, if you’ll permit me to brag on him for a minute, let me tell you it is spot-on. Pale and frothy, sweet but not overly so, with just enough tang to remind you of the yogurt and kefir but not enough to turn you away. Coupled with the cardamom, it holds the new first-place title of Best Drink I’ve Tasted in my book.
I couldn’t wait until another day to tell you about it, so here you go.
Get your hands on some rosewater and make this now.
I started making this milk within the last few weeks, inspired by the tumeric milk posted over at the beautiful Journey Kitchen. Similar to a hot chocolate my friend Carrie makes (milk + cocoa powder + sweetener + heat = bam!), it’s nothing complicated or confusing. It’s hot and soothing—pure comfort when paired with a big down comforter and some online TV, especially when it’s as cold as it has been around here lately. And, because of the powerful spices, spiced milk is actually really beneficial for your health, too:
First, there’s tumeric, the bright yellow spice that colors mustard and flavors curry. Commonly used in both Chinese and Indian ancient systems of medicine, tumeric is one of the most powerful anti-inflammatory spices out there, the same ingredient I heard physicians wax eloquent about at a CCFA symposium I attended with my friend Alicia a few years ago. Because inflammation is connected to so many physical ailments, from Crohn’s to eczema to heart disease, foods that work against inflammation are like nutritional powerhouses, ingredients I want to work into my diet as much as possible.
There are also ginger and cardamom, long considered beneficial for digestion; cinnamon, which helps regulate blood sugar; cayenne, aid to the circulatory system, among other things; and cloves, another anti-inflammatory and also anti-bacterial spice. I add raw honey for taste, but I could just as easily be adding that for the nutritional benefits as well, as raw honey has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral properties.
But all that aside, trust me when I say the health benefits are just icing on the cake for this drink, which is at once soothing and stimulating, spicy and sweet. Going down your throat, it burns just slightly (and of course, you could adjust the spices to your liking if you’re less tolerant of the kick of cayenne) and feels like a kicked-up version of chai tea or some really amazing steamed milk.
More than anything though, to me, it’s been one of a hundred comforts I’ve been tasting over the last few days, I really believe brought to me by the Great Comforter, the one to whom I could barely hang on at the beginning of this month. There have been long talks with Tim, encouraging Bible studies with friends, peaceful nights of sleep, random free tickets to the symphony, the ability to think clearly enough to remember how many blessings I’ve been given. My friend Joanna, in a recent email, told me that the darkest times in our lives are also times covered by God’s love and grace to pull us out of them, and she’s right. I’m tasting that these days, and it is good.
You gave me life and showed me kindness, and in your providence watched over my spirit. (Job 10:12 NIV)