Time is too precious. A life is a moment in season. A life is one snowfall. A life is one autumn day. A life is the delicate, rapid edge of a closing door’s shadow.
-Allan Lightman, Einstein's Dreams
So fall comes and I move indoors and cook in pots and pans, lots of them. I roast, and braise. The house fills with kitchen smells- sizzling garlic, browning onions, pie spice and bread crust-- and I get hungry earlier.
I've been reading a lot about ritual lately. The positive psychology movement can prove that ritual is a building block to happiness. Repetitive acts, followed religiously, raise your spirits.
In Happier:Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment, Tal Ben-Shahar writes:
People are sometimes resistant to the idea of introducing rituals because they believe that ritualistic behavior may detract from spontaneity or creativity–especially when it comes to interpersonal rituals such as a regular date with one's spouse, or artistic rituals such as painting. However, if we do not ritualize activities– whether working out in the gym, spending time with our family, or reading for pleasure–we often don't get to them, and rather than being spontaneous, we become reactive (to others' demands on our time and energy). In an overall structured, ritualized life, we certainly don't need to have each hour of the day accounted for and can thus leave time for spontaneous behavior; more importantly, we can integrate spontaneity into a ritual, as, for example, deciding spontaneously where we go on the ritualized date. The most creative individuals–whether artists, businesspeople, or parents– have rituals that they follow. Paradoxically, the routine frees them up to be creative and spontaneous.
What is fall cooking if not a ritual? Moving inside, pulling out the big pots, preparing the foods you remember from the year before, and the year before that?
This year, the ritual allowed for spontaniety-- just as Tal predicted it would!
I poured Sadaf pomegranate syrup over the already-cubed butternut squash from Trader Joes or Costco , sprinkled it with salt, pepper and olive oil, and roasted it until crispy. That's a keeper.
Then I decided to try a version of the Italian rolled meat dish braciole that would be, let's face it, nothing like the Italian rolled meat dish braciole. Instead of beef I used chicken breasts. Instead of pecorino and prosciutto I used roasted kale, capers and olives. I still bathed it in a rich tomato sauce, and the smells still filled the house. It all turned out very well-- lighter, kosher, but full of the flavors of a traditional fall kitchen. A new ritual, perhaps...
[RECIPE] Chicken Braciole
2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast
1 bunch Tuscan kale, chopped
10 cloves garlic, minced
2 onions, chopped
1 can crushed Italian tomatoes
1 cup deep red wine
1 cup extra version olive oil
4 bay leaves
1/2 cup chopped pitted Greek olives
1/2 cup capers
fresh chopped parsley
Have the butcher flatten breasts into schnitzels, or do it yourself with a mallet.
Heat 1/2 c. olive oil in a large skillet. Add 1 chopped onion and 5 cloves chopped garlic and saute until golden. Add kale, salt and pepper cover and cook until soft. Remove from pan and set aside to cool.
Place a large piece of kitchen parchment or wax paper on your counter. Lay out chicken on the parchment into one overlapping rectangular "sheet." Pile filling along the long end in a thin even line. Using the paper to help, roll the braciole up tightly. Remove paper and tie with kitchen twine. Set aside.
Make sauce: Heat remaining olive oil in pan, add and saute remaining onion and garlic, add bay leaves, salt, pepper, wine, olives, capers and tomato and bring to simmer. Cook until reduced and rich, about 20-30 minutes. Set aside.
Heat 2 T olive oil in a large skillet. Add braciole and quickly but gently brown on all sides. Add sauce Bring to a simmer, reduce heat and poach until cooked through, about 20-30 minutes.
Remove from heat, spinkle with parsley. Serve by slicing crosswise, topping with sauce.
[RECIPE] Pomegranate-Glazed Butternut Squash
1 pound butternut squash, cubed in 1/2 inch cubes
1/4 c. pomegranate syrup (not juice).
salt and fresh ground pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cover a large, flat baking sheet with tin foil. Mix all ingredients on the sheet. Coat the squash well with the syrup and oil, then spread to separate most of the pieces. Roast for 20 minutes, stir, then roast for about 20 more, until the edges and sides are well-crisped.
Serves 2-4. It's very very addictive. For a photo click here.http://pic.twitter.com/RZADBS9K0M