Monday, October 17, 2011

Five Spiced Pear & Ginger Lassi: Seeking Balance

Five Spiced Pear & Ginger Lassi

I recently rediscovered how much I love five spice.  In case you're not familiar, it's a classic Chinese seasoning consisting of ground cinnamon, star anise, fennel, clove, and Szechuan peppercorns.  While it may sound like a lot, the balance struck between sweet, salty, smooth, sharp, and spicy is wonderfully engaging to all the senses.  From its pungent licorice aroma to the way it saunters across the taste buds, it's a spice that's difficult to ignore and even harder to forget.

Now while it's true that five spice is usually comprised of five main spices,  the "five" actually refers to the five elements in traditional Chinese medicine: wood, fire, earth, metal, and water.  In short, the belief is that balance between the five elements results in wellbeing and harmony, both for the individual as well as his/her surroundings.  The tricky part is that, by nature, the elements do not exist in harmony.  Water extinguishes fire, fire burns wood, wood controls earth, and so on.  So Chinese medicine prescribes that we pay attention to this constant interplay of the elements, seeking balance in our daily lives through our habits, the arrangement of our living spaces, and diet.  Pretty interesting, huh?

Gimme five!

But what's even more interesting to me is how imbalance has been the theme of my life as of late.  Between work, performing, auditions, making time for friends and family, and writing this blog, harmony and wellbeing are fairly distant concepts.  While all of these things individually feed my soul and make me happy, the combination of all them at once is definitely testing my limits.  But rather than moan and groan about the situation, my goal right now is to expand my limits, finding ways to achieve and sustain balance amidst all my different obligations.  In the now immortal words of Tim Gunn, "Make it work."

So literally rediscovering five spice while rearranging my pantry and spice rack a few weeks ago couldn't have happened at a better time.  The smell of it instantly set my mind awhirl with warming memories of char siu bao and steaming bowls of pho.  And with the cooling weather (yes, even in Texas), it also inspired me to incorporate it into my fall cooking and baking.

This was the first recipe to spring from that inspiration.

Vegan Five Spiced Pear & Ginger Lassi
(GF, DF, V, rSF, SF)

1/2-3/4 medium pear, seeded
1/2  banana
1/2 c unsweetened coconut yogurt
8 oz unsweetened almond milk
1/2 teaspoon five spice powder
1/2 teaspoon GF vanilla extract
3/4 teaspoon ginger puree
1-2 pinches salt

1.  Cut pear into smaller pieces.  I recommend using a Bartlett, Anjou, or Comice pear that has just ripened.  If your pear is quite ripe and therefore quite sweet, start with 1/2 of the pear.  You can always add more.
2.  Add almond milk and yogurt first and then add pear and banana.  I used unsweetened cultured coconut milk yogurt and almond milk because I prefer things to be less sweet than most, but feel free to use what you would normally use.  Blend until uniformly smooth.
3.  Add five spice powder, vanilla extract, and ginger and pulse to combine.  At this point, taste and then add one to two pinches of salt if desired to enhance and give distinction to the different flavors.
4.  Makes 16-18 ounces.

A Bartlett pear that is just ripe: fragrant but not syrupy sweet

The cozy interior of one of my latest kitchen gadgets: the Ninja

Served with some GF & V ginger spice cookies my sister sent me

At first, I thought I was making a smoothie.  But upon tasting it, I realized I had made a variation on the lassi, a traditional yogurt based Indian drink.    Not all sweet, but not all savory, with a slightly thinner consistency.   At home in Michigan, my sister would make them all the time during the summer with mango puree, and before I eliminated dairy from my diet, it was a must-have drink for me at Indian restaurants.  So this was a very pleasant surprise.

The cool thing is that you could really drink it at any time.  Perhaps add some protein powder and bee pollen granules for a quick breakfast or post-workout snack, serve it as it is to accompany a spicy curry or richly flavored stew, or maybe add a bit more pear and/or banana for a dessert or sweet treat for the kiddos to dunk their cookies in.  And if five spice isn't your thing or you don't have it on hand, cinnamon with a dash of allspice will substitute nicely into the recipe.

While making it work is definitely a priority, I am reminded that making it fun is just as important.  All of the things I'm doing are things I love and things that I am so fortunate to have in my life.  So rather than feeling "burdened," I strive to keep the truth that I am "blessed" at the forefront of my mind.  

And on that note, I leave you with a picture of a magnet I have kept with me over the last ten years.

May the week ahead be filled with seized moments and savored breaths. :)


  1. Mmmmmm Lassi! Ginger, Pear and 5 spice are great together. This sound delicious. We will have to whip up some when I see you in December. Thanks for the guest spot in the photo via my spice cookies. Yum, yum, yum! I always liked that magnet too. =) Hugs

  2. Of course! Those cookies were amazing. And I emphasize "were" [i.e. please bring more with you in December!]. And the saying on the magnet is so true - more true than I give it credit for sometimes.


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