Edible Culture

As the wind throws our wind chimes against the house, and stirs up whitecaps on the lake; I sit beside our wood burner feeling quite cozy. I was thinking about our kitchen fest last holiday weekend; I absolutely love egg dishes and had made Shashuka on Sunday. The dish’s name means ‘all mixed up’ and in a sense it is. Its name dates back to the Ottoman Empire and is a favorite in the Middle East, Israel and North Africa. It’s hardy, affordable and delicious with warm spices of cumin and smoked paprika, along with tomatoes, sweet peppers, chickpeas, onion, garlic and of course eggs. There are several similar egg dishes in the world that have some of these ingredients along with their own cultural flair. I have always thought that any dish combining tomatoes and eggs is an automatic winner.

Shashuka has a comforting nature and healthy ingredients. There are many variations that allow for levels of spiciness, along with vegetables, herbs and meat. You can add ground lamb or sausage before sautéing the onion and pepper, and garnish it with feta; or you can make it more Tex-Mex by omitting the paprika and adding chili powder, black beans or corn, then finishing it with chopped fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lime juice. It’s just plain flexible, so let your imagination soar. These days, practically any dish in which eggs are cooked in a sauce may be called Shashuka. In my last cookbook I have a recipe for Green Shashuka, made with spinach, Swiss chard, arugula or kale; along with onions, garlic, herbs, cream and feta.

SHASHUKA

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 sweet peppers, I like one red and one yellow, cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 15-oz cans fire roasted tomatoes (or 6-8 fresh Roma tomatoes, chopped)
  • 1 15-oz can rinsed chickpeas
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon Aleppo pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 2 cups packed baby spinach
  • 2 fresh eggs per person
  • 1/2 cup fresh micro-greens, chopped fresh parsley or cilantro for garnish
Let’s start with onions and garlic
Then add beautiful peppers and tomatoes

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. In a large non-stick or cast iron skillet, heat your oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté for 3-4 minutes or until soft and translucent; add garlic and sauté 1 minute more. Add peppers and fresh tomatoes if using; cook until soft, about 8-10 minutes.
  2. Add fire-roasted tomatoes if using, then cumin, smoked paprika, Aleppo pepper (or red pepper flakes), black pepper, chickpeas and tomato paste. Stir to combine. Simmer until thickened, about 5-8 more minutes.
  3. Stir in baby spinach and fold gently until spinach wilts. Make indentations in the sauce and gently crack the eggs into the wells. Season eggs with salt and pepper. Cover the skillet, and cook until the egg whites are just set, but yolks are still soft, about 7-10 minutes.
  4. Carry skillet to table and serve hot, sprinkled with garnish of your choice.

Serves: 2-6

Eggs poaching in sauce
Beautiful Shashuka ready to eat!!

“Food is love!!”

Basic Comfort

As we dive into our pantry’s and larder’s, there are few things more affordable than beans. I always have assorted cans on hand for dinners that come together quickly. But when it comes to a texture and flavor difference, I can’t recommend enough, using dried beans. My goodness, could anything be more pantry stable and down right cheap? As many of us are home more than usual due to the pandemic, this is the perfect time to simmer up a pot of these amazing nuggets.

There are four dried beans that I always have on hand, both for their versatility and flavor: cannellini, chickpeas, dark red kidneys, and black. You can create beautiful soups, stews, salads and braises. It is not difficult to cook dried beans; it’s really a matter of time. Although I own an Instant Pot, I prefer to cook beans on the stove. I find that electric pressure cookers give you a lack of control. The beans tend to split and rupture their skins when cooked in a pressure cooker. The beauty of controlling the simmer and cooking time is they will be just right for your application. The only thing you really need to plan is soaking them overnight.

A pot on cannellini’s ready for the stove.

Sometimes you will cook beans to add to your recipe; other times they are part of the recipe and are cooked with your meat. There are a few nuances that I suggest when cooking beans. The most important one is don’t salt your beans while they are cooking. Salt makes the skins tough and doesn’t allow the bean to become soft. Once your beans are cooked to the texture required for your recipe, then feel free to add salt. Beans require salt! I also like to add a few cloves of garlic and a bay leaf, but this is an option, not a requirement. There is such a thing as the pot liqueur or the bean cooking liquid. When I cooked beans for this stew, I dished up a cup of the beans, pot liqueur and topped it with homemade basil oil. I literally swooned!

The following stew is a great way to use cooked cannellini beans. You can use either bulk Italian sausage or link. If you use links, you will simply remove their casings before cooking. The spinach adds a nice texture and color. If you don’t have spinach, you can use Swiss chard or ribboned kale or leave it out completely. The stew will still taste great!!

ITALIAN STEW WITH CANNELLINI AND SAUSAGE

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups dried cannellini beans
  • 3 cloves garlic and 1 bay leaf (optional)
  • 4 ounces pancetta, finally cubed
  • 1 pound bulk/or 5 links, Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and diced 1/4 inch
  • 2 cups (packed) fresh baby spinach
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS:

FOR THE BEANS:

  1. Soak your 2 cups of beans overnight. Cover them with about 4 inches of water.
  2. Drain your beans and place in a Dutch oven of enamel covered cast iron pot and cover with water about 2 inches. Add garlic and bay leaf if using. Bring to a boil, then turn heat down to a simmer. Cover and cook 45-90 minutes until soft. Once soft, add 1 teaspoon Kosher salt and simmer 15 minutes more. Drain and separate beans in half. You will puree one half to thicken stew.
Italian sausage and pancetta

FOR STEW:

  1. If using links, take the sausage meat out of its casings and crumble it into a large soup pot, along with the pancetta.
  2. Cook over medium-high heat for 10-15 minutes, until thoroughly cooked and slightly browned. Meanwhile, prep the other ingredients.
  3. Transfer the sausage and pancetta to a plate lined with paper towels, leaving 2 tablespoons of fat in the pot (spoon any excess out).
  4. Add the onion to the pot and sauté for 3-5 minutes or until soft and translucent. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute more.
  5. Add the beans, chicken broth, Italian seasoning, and rosemary. Stir thoroughly and dissolve any browned bits in the bottom of pot. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  6. With an immersion blender, (I use a quart Mason jar) puree the remaining half of cooked beans until smooth. Add them back to the pot, along with the sausage and pancetta. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
  7. Remove stew from heat and stir in the baby spinach. The spinach will wilt in about 2 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve hot.

Serves 4-6

Ready to serve
Savory Italian bean and sausage stew.

” A stew sustains you against the hungers of the world.”

Little Orbs of Joy

I often find that if I’m making something that freezes well, why not double or triple the recipe? I often do this with sauces, condiments, caramelized onions and especially this recipe , Lamb & Feta Meatballs. If I make a single recipe I get approximately 16-18 meatballs. Two weeks ago I quadrupled the recipe using 4 pounds of ground lamb and made 60 (enough for 5-6 meals)!!

These little orbs are versatile and full of flavor. Plate them with last weeks recipe for Roasted Sweet Pepper and Tomato Sauce, place them in a pita with tomato and tahini sauce, use them in spaghetti and meatballs, serve them with tzatziki sauce. You can serve them as an appetizer by stabbing them with bamboo skewers with a sauce on the side. You get the idea. They freeze beautifully, so with a little effort, you are ready for a quick delicious option at a moments notice. If you have a food saver you are golden, if not, place frozen meatballs in a quart freezer bag and remove as much air as possible.

LAMB AND FETA MEATBALLS

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 pound grass-fed ground lamb
  • 4 ounces feta, crumbled
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 3 garlic cloves, grated on micro-planer
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh breadcrumbs, without crusts, pulsed in a food processor
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
Lamb meatballs ready to freeze
Frozen meatballs vacuumed sealed

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. If making a single batch, preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper (you will use two of these to freeze the meatballs prior to vacuum sealing them if doubling or tripling your recipe).
  2. In a large mixing bowl, place the ground lamb, feta, thyme leaves, garlic, breadcrumbs, ground cinnamon, olive oil, along with salt and pepper and mix thoroughly with your hands. Using a meatball scoop or your hands, shape into golf ball size balls. You should end up with about 18 meatballs, placing them uniformly on baking sheet about 1 1/2 inches apart.
  3. If freezing extra, place sheet in freezer overnight. Once frozen place 10-12 meatballs in a vacuum seal bag or freezer bag and seal. To defrost place bag in sink of cool water for about an hour. If making a single batch place in oven for 15-20 minutes, or until browned. Serve hot.
Ready for future eating!
Delicious!

“Preserving food is an excellent bank account.”

A Self-Sheltering Pantry

Wanted to reblog this post as we enter another phase of self-sheltering. This was my most read blog this year!

Twisted Basics

As we approach week 10 of self-sheltering, I started to contemplate the future in terms of preparedness. I’m hardly a conspiracy theorist, nor am I a doom and gloom kind of person. I am however a planner. My father used to instruct, “Fail to plan, plan to fail.” After being caught off-guard during the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic, I wanted to create a pantry that would sustain us if the predictions of a ‘second wave’ come to fruition this fall and upcoming winter. The idea is to have provisions for a 4 month stay-at-home if necessary.

At the beginning of my recent cookbook Twisted Basics: Laugh, Cook, Eat! I have a section called A Well-Stocked Pantry. It was an attempt to combine a balance between fresh and convenience. When approaching non-growing seasons (late fall and winter) and the desire to leave the confines of our homes as little as…

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Notch It Up!

I’m sure many of you have made something for your families that needed something extra, but you’re not quite sure what it is. Well, I may have the answer for you: Roasted Sweet Pepper and Tomato Sauce. This sauce has it all; it’s sweet, yet piquant, savory and adaptable to so many dishes. The secret is in the roasting. Roasting as we know deepens the flavor of all vegetables and this is no exception. Roasting is so helpful that you can make this sauce even with greenhouse peppers and tomatoes. For me, if I’m going to go through the process, why not make enough to put up? This sauce can be canned in a water bath for 15 minutes, or frozen in half-pint jars. If you roast one sheet pan of peppers, and one sheet pan of tomatoes and garlic it will yield about 5-6 half pints.

But the real deal is just how many uses you will have for it! I’m fond of plating a sauce under an entre like lamb meatballs (next week’s recipe) or cauliflower cake. You can spoon it over a piece of toast or an English muffin and top it with a poached egg. Spoon it over scrambled eggs, or hard boiled eggs or on a sandwich instead of mayo. You are only limited by your imagination!

Sweet peppers ready to be roasted
Halved tomatoes and garlic ready for roasting.

ROASTED SWEET PEPPER AND TOMATO SAUCE

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 sweet peppers, your choice of color, but include one red, halved vertically and seeded
  • 2 tomatoes, cored and cut in half horizontally
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 head of garlic, tops trimmed just enough to expose cloves
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon pure maple syrup
Roasted peppers
Roasted tomatoes

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Line a large sheet pan with aluminum foil (if you are preparing a batch of quantity, line two baking sheets; using one for peppers and one for tomatoes). Place peppers, tomatoes and garlic on sheet pan.
  3. Baste vegetables with olive oil, then add your salt and pepper. Place in oven and set your timer for 20 minutes. Rotate trays from top to bottom and roast an additional 20 minutes. Remove the tomatoes and roast the peppers for approximately 20 minutes more. You want the peppers charred in various places. If doing a single batch place everything on one sheet pan and roast for 35 minutes.
  4. Let cool slightly, then with a paring knife, carefully pull off the skins of tomatoes, then repeat with the peppers. Discard skins. Squeeze the garlic out of its papery skins.
  5. In a blender or food processor, place your tomatoes, peppers, garlic, red wine vinegar, maple syrup and some additional salt and pepper. Blend or pulse for about 1 minute. Add an additional 3 tablespoons of olive oil and process again until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning adding more vinegar, salt and pepper if needed.
  6. Pour into half pint jars and can or freeze.

Yield: 1 half pint

Roasted red pepper and tomato sauce just blended.

“An ounce of sauce covers a multitude of sins.” —Anthony Bourdain

Hunkering Down

Most of the leaves are off the trees, and the view from my window is brown and gray. We are preparing to self-quarantine for the winter. Our larder and freezers are full of food prepared during our growing season. For all practical purposes we are ready to be home. The wood is stacked and the farm put away for the season.

Winter is actually a much needed quiet time on the farm, regardless of the pandemic. Val and I have stacks of books at the ready. The days are centered around food, discussion, reading, writing and cribbage. It is a simple life that suits us. There are times when the only sounds are the ticking of clocks, the wind across the lake and the crackling of the wood stove. This quiet is the counterbalance to the pandemic and the political tension all around us. With open hands, rather than fists, we will heal our tattered hearts and listen.

The following recipe makes more Indian butter sauce than you will need for one head of cauliflower, but it freezes beautifully and can be at the ready the next time you want to make it. If you want a little more bulk, steam some jasmine rice and serve it along side. It soaks up that wonderful sauce; and you might not have leftovers. You also will want all your spices measured out before you make the sauce, so you can sprinkle them in all at once. Don’t be intimidated by the list of ingredients, it comes together rather quickly; and you will find it on your regular rotation.

Steamed cauliflower sections with Indian butter sauce ready for roasting.

ROASTED CAULIFLOWER WITH INDIAN BUTTER SAUCE

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 large head of cauliflower, cut in quarters leaving as much of the green leaves as possible
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 large or 3 small shallots, minced
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoon garam masala
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
  • 2 large garlic cloves, grated on Microplane or minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 28 ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes and their juices
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
  • Cooked jasmine rice (if using)
  • Chopped fresh cilantro, for serving
Roasted cauliflower with Indian butter sauce

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. In a large pot over high heat, place a steamer basket, 2 cups water, and your quartered cauliflower. Cover, bring to a boil and steam for 10 minutes. Remove the cauliflower with tongs and gently let it drain on a clean kitchen towel. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Next, make you butter sauce. In a medium heavy sauce pan over medium high heat, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter, add the shallots and a pinch of salt; cook until golden brown, about 5-8 minutes.
  3. Stir in the garlic, ginger, red pepper flakes, cumin, paprika, garam masala, and lime juice. Sauté for another 2 minutes.
  4. Add the heavy cream, and tomatoes with their juices. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Take off heat and using a stick blender, blend until smooth. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, and lime zest.
  5. On a large baking sheet lined with parchment paper, place your drained cauliflower quarters evenly on it. Baste each quarter generously with sauce and roast for about 25 minutes.
  6. Place cauliflower on attractive platter and sprinkle with chopped fresh cilantro.

Serves 4

Beautiful roasted cauliflower, with Indian Butter Sauce
Enjoy!!

“Loneliness is the poverty of self; solitude is the richness of self” —May Sarton

Sweet and Sour

There’s a reason fall is called a transitional season. The wind is howling here today with 50 mph gusts, sending our bird feeders crashing against our deck. It’s in the 30’s with periods of snow, mixing in with the falling leaves, sending everything on a Twister ride. No worries, the forecast for next Sunday is 70 degrees!

We are fortunate that our larder is full. Comfort food means different things to each of us. I love it when we turn the corner from summer vegetables to fall. I enjoy pairing vegetables with whole roasted chickens or roasting them for sheet-pan dinners. I’m a visual person, after all, we eat with our eyes, and I love to have bright colors and contrasts in food. This dish is perfect when red cabbage and apples are at Market. It combines the best of color and contrast; as it’s both sweet and sour. It comes together in under an hour and pairs well with chicken, pork or duck.

Sautéing the onions and cabbage

SWEET AND SOUR RED CABBAGE

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 medium red cabbage, cored and thinly sliced (about 6-8 cups)
  • 3/4 cups apple cider or fresh apple juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped, plus more to garnish
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seed
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 3-4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon local honey

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. In a large pot sauté the onions in butter until lightly browned. Add the cabbage and sauté for an additional 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. The cabbage will reduce in volume quite a bit.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients except the honey. Cover, cook on low heat for about 25-30 minutes.
  3. Add honey and adjust with more vinegar or honey if needed.

Serves 4

Colorful and delicious!

“Vegetables to me are….I don’t want to say the most exciting part of cooking, but certainly a very exciting part of cooking, because they continue to change. They come into season and they go through different phases.”

–Thomas Keller

HOME

I know this is technically a food blog, but this poem was inspired by the previous post and I wanted to share it.

HOME

I could not recognize you earlier

yet you stood by, as sentry

waiting to be noticed.

I ran past you in a blur

thinking you were there, or there.

Like a crow, diving toward all things shiny,

shallow and meaningless.

Now stationary and still

I stare for long periods of time

watching leaves falling

within hidden patterns.

My roots slowly pushing through clay soil

discovering new depths unknown

in the shadow and light.

All feelings welcome

neither good or bad, right, or wrong,

simply wanting to be held closely

within me and recognized as home.

Deep Roots

As we prepare to self-quarantine for the winter, I am wondering how many people really enjoy being home? What is the meaning of home for each of us? Is it easier to be home as we age? By the time I turned 30, I had already moved 36 times in my life. I remember never really feeling at ease or content when I was at home. The following 36 years I have moved 3 times. I have lived in a rural climate now for 14 years and I find that my sense of place has changed dramatically since I lived in the urban world.

My writing desk overlooks both marsh and lake. I face a large window that beckons I not only write, but rest in this environment. I stare at our bird feeders and the weather for long periods of time. I learn subtleties, and patterns of nature and the seasons. I find this calming; and who wouldn’t want to feel calmer during these days of upheaval?

It seems to me, when I lived in the city I was much more interested and connected to both entertainment and personal possessions. Being pleasing and accepted by people was of prime importance. It wasn’t until I began searching out periods of solitude and quiet that I began requiring those things to stay balanced. As I stay in one place, my roots grow deeper in the soil, providing a vessel for my own thoughts and perspectives. I feel held. My relationship with my wife is nurtured by this sense of place. We have our rhythms and interests that continue the story of this land. We both love the quiet, growing and cooking food along with sharing that food with others. For some, the meaning of roots is about tradition, for us the meaning of roots is about the land, food and relationships. Our relationships are based on mutual respect and love. They are reciprocal in the most fundamental of ways. We have each others backs. We can ask for help, and often it is given without request. There is laughter, discussion and heart. As Joni Mitchell once said, “All we ever wanted was to come in from the cold.”

The following recipe has some flexibility to it. I love purchasing (or growing) beets with greens. The greens are beautiful, healthy and add color and interest to this meal salad. If beet greens are not available, arugula or spinach are a good option, but use them raw rather than sautéed. I also enjoy alternative dressing ideas. The basic dressing uses extra-virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar and garlic. Try using extra-virgin olive oil, white wine vinegar and peach or apricot jam. Beets love being pared with stone fruits; or you can use orange juice. Free you imagination to add interest and surprise. If you find yourself out of capers, chop up some olives; and chevre or goat cheese can easily substitute for feta. No pistachios? Try toasted walnuts.

Savory, hearty and delicious

ROASTED BEET SALAD WITH FETA & PISTASCHIOS

INGREDIENTS:

  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 1/2 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 7 medium-large beets with greens
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons chopped drained capers
  • 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese (about 3 ounces)
  • 3 tablespoons chopped roasted pistachios
Beets ready to go into oven
Vibrant beet greens

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Whisk oil, vinegar and garlic in small bowl to blend. Season dressing generously with salt and fresh ground black pepper.
  2. Cut tops off beets; reserve greens. Arrange beets in single layer in a baking dish; add 1 cup water. Cover with aluminum foil and bake until beets are tender when pierced with a knife; about 1 hour 15 minutes. Let cool until you can handle them and peel off the skins. I pick them up with paper towels and slip them off.
  3. Cut beets in half and slice thinly. Transfer to large bowl and mix with capers and 1/4 cup dressing. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  4. Cut stems off beet greens and discard. Wash greens, then with some water still clinging to the leaves, transfer to large pot or skillet. Stir over high heat until just wilted but still bright green, about 4 minutes. Drain greens; squeeze out excess moisture. Cool; chop coarsely. Transfer to medium bowl and toss with enough dressing to coat. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Arrange beets in center of platter. Surround with greens; sprinkle with feta and pistachios. Drizzle with any remaining dressing.

Serves 4-6

Yum.

“A tree with strong roots laughs at storms. –Malay proverb

Sounds Of Silence

As we move closer to the presidential election, I find myself feeling overwhelmed by both the pandemic and our turbulent political discourse. I traverse between a feeling of calm to a nameless agitation that grabs me the moment I leave the safety of our home. It seems that the world is becoming more and more dangerous. My heart grieves for the victims of Covid, the poisoning of our planet for profit, the inequality and injustice displayed by people in power. Our problems seem overwhelming. I often wonder what impact one person could possibly have to change the tone of the conversation, much less the world? As an individual how do I live a life that nurture others, the planet and myself? How do I stay authentic to my beliefs in a world that wants to label me?

In the small microcosm of my life, I look for signs of hope. How have I made a difference? Since I moved to the country, my greatest teachers have been nature, the seasons, and the land. If we care for the land, the land offers up the food that both feeds us and provides our livelihood. That clean, wholesome food is taken to the farmers market and sold to people that care about what they feed themselves and their families. It’s a life that is simple, focused and real. We place a seed in the ground and have faith that it will grow. I believe that we often receive what we put into the world; a sort of what goes around, comes around. When I am kind to people, it follows that people are generally kind to me. But what happens when people are unkind, disrespectful, and angry? What happens when there is drought or deluge or crop failure? When a pandemic strikes or unemployment, or changes we didn’t expect or ask for? I believe this is when our faith is really tested, when our priorities and attitudes matter.

It seems to me that faith, the belief in things unseen, is about the things in life that cause us to question, to change, to grow. I don’t believe that the challenges in life are judgements, but opportunities to understand the world and ourselves more fully. How do we cultivate our better selves when we are up against our fears and the rapid pace of change? We are all flawed human beings; there are no saints among us. How do we nurture our inter-connectedness? How do we come to realize what happens to one of us, happens to us all? My greatest challenge is to keep my heart open, to feel pain when someone is hurting, to look at the glass as half full.

As the fall prepares us for winter, may we take the time to reflect and adopt a slower pace. The land rests, and in the same sense so do I. Dormancy is a gift. I can’t assimilate life without periods of quiet. There is time for long morning coffee and deep listening. Clocks tick, fires burn and hearts beat. It is a season where less is more. This resting period is a time to replenish both our physical and emotional beings. In this quiet stillness I hear a small voice say, “Your faith is measured by the wideness of your heart.” One of my favorite poets, Stanley Kunitz said it in a different way: “Live in the layers, not on the litter.” In these layers of life, the peace I sought is found.

Although food is my passion, there are days when I’m involved in other interests or projects. This is when the simplicity of a sheet pan dinner is exactly what I turn to for a meal that is virtually hands off, yet delicious. They are basically designed around a protein and a vegetable. This one uses everything that I have either in freezer or pantry. Although I have used pumpkin as the vegetable, you could just as easily use sweet potatoes or butternut squash. Don’t forget to save your pumpkin seeds to roast, for an added treat.

A delicious sugar pumpkin, loaded with seeds.
Pumpkin wedges, ready to be tossed with olive oil and maple syrup.

DIJON-ROSEMARY CHICKEN THIGHS WITH MAPLE GLAZED PUMPKIN

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 5 large garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
  • 6 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
  • 5 shallots, halved lengthwise
  • 1 small sugar pie pumpkin (about 2 lbs.)
  • 2 tablespoon pure maple syrup
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Ready for the oven
Seasoned perfectly

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a large sheet pan with aluminum foil.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the mustard, 3 tablespoons of the oil, the vinegar, garlic, and rosemary. Add the chicken, garlic and shallots and toss to coat. Let stand at room temperature while you prepare the pumpkin.
  3. Cut off the top and bottom of the pumpkin, then cut it in half lengthwise and remove the seeds. Cut each half into 1-inch wedges. In another large bowl, stir together the maple syrup and the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the pumpkin and toss to combine. Place the pumpkin wedges in a single layer on one end of the prepared pan. Remove the chicken, garlic and shallots from the marinade and place on the other side of the pan. Season generously with salt and pepper.
  4. Roast until the chicken is opaque (160 degrees F) throughout and the pumpkin is golden brown and soft, about 45-50 minutes. Serve right away. Sprinkle fresh rosemary leaves as a garnish.

Serves 4-6

Beautifully golden and aromatic
ENJOY!!

“Silence isn’t empty, it’s full of answers.”