Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Happy New Year!

Fall is suddenly here! The air is chilly and crisp. I even bundled up in a heavy jacket today, and my feet crunched over some leaves on my way to work.

This is my favorite time of year. It's that back to school, football game weather. It's the kind of weather that makes you want to bake something, anything, just so you can turn on the oven to warm up the kitchen.

And last night, I did. In honor of Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, I made some traditional foods for dinner, including potato kugel and honey mustard chicken.

The honey is eaten to celebrate a sweet new year.

Somehow, we have three bottles of honey in the cupboard. One is from the CSA, the second came back with us from our trip to Mexico, and the third we bought from a small canoe livery in the middle of Ohio (random, but true).

Because of our extensive honey collection, we were pretty happy to usher in Rosh Hashanah. Tonight, I'll dip some apples into the honey (and probably tomorrow night, and the next night too).

L'Shana Tovah!

Potato Kugel (from kosherfood.about.com)

8 medium potatoes
2 onions
6 eggs
1/2 cup oil
4 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 heaping Tbsp. salt
1/2-1 tsp. pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400° Fahrenheit (200° Celcius).
2. In a large bowl, mix eggs, oil, flour, salt and pepper. Set aside.
3. Coarsely grate the potatoes and onion by hand or food processor. Let stand 3-5 minutes. Squeeze out excess liquid. Add grated potatoes to the egg-flour mixture. Mix by hand only until smooth.
4. Pour into a greased 9x13 inch baking dish.
5. Bake, uncovered, for 1 hour or until golden brown on top and a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.
YIELD: 12-14 servings.

Chicken in Honey Mustard Sauce (from judaism.about.com)

4 pounds chicken pieces
1/2 cup flour
4 Tbs. pareve margarine
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup chicken bouillon
blanched roasted almonds for garnish

1. Coat each piece of chicken with flour, and brown the chicken in the melted margarine.
2. Arrange the chicken in a greased pan.
3. Mix the honey, mustard and bouillon and pour this over the chicken pieces.
4. Cover and bake in preheated 375 degrees Fahrenheit oven for 45 minutes.
5. Garnish with the roasted almonds. Serve over a bed of white rice.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Chopping and Chakras

When I moved into my condo two years ago, I often heard a man chanting somewhere outside my window while I was in my kitchen. I never knew where it came from, but it sounded like rapid-fire meditation with chakras in full gear. Gradually I stopped noticing, even when I started spending more time in the kitchen.

Yesterday I was in a very domestic state - cleaning, doing laundry, and other chores - when I decided to make sauteed summer squash with red pepper and onion for lunch. I had all of those vegetables from my last CSA delivery, along with garlic and parsley. It was one of those rare occasions where I had everything at my fingertips.

But the recipe required a lot of prep work. As I chopped vegetables, lost in my own thoughts, I suddenly heard the chanting outside my window. I peered out but only heard the familiar rhythmic mantras of someone seeking spiritual nirvana.

Wikipedia describes meditation as a mental discipline that is practiced for many possible reasons: to achieve "a higher state of consciousness, to greater focus, creativity or self-awareness, or simply a more relaxed and peaceful frame of mind."

I've never formally meditated in my life, except for belting out a couple of long "oms" during yoga class. But for me, cooking is a form of meditation. I find myself very focused as I manage the whole food preparation process into a meal to be eaten.

Cooking is a good activity for goal-oriented people who like to see tangible results after they put a lot of hard work into something. It reminds me of why I once trained for a marathon. After several months of hard work and motivation, I achieved a goal - an incredibly empowering and satisfying thing to do (although the pay off of cooking is eating, which is much more pleasurable than running 26.2 miles).

Maybe that has nothing to do with meditation. I don't know. But I find that activities that require me to work with my hands, like cooking or gardening, tap into that creative part of my brain. There is something so rewarding about completing these kinds of projects. I always feel better afterwards - kind of like getting that runner's high.

Sauteed Summer Squash with Red Pepper and Onion (from The New York Times)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup chopped) (I used a whole onion, medium sized)
2 plump garlic cloves, minced (I love garlic and used 5 medium-sized cloves)
1 1/2 pounds summer squash, cut in 1/2-inch dice (I used 2 squash)
1 small red pepper, cut in 1/4-inch dice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat, and add the onion. Stir often and cook until tender, five to eight minutes, then add the garlic, summer squash, red pepper and about 3/4 teaspoon of salt. Turn the heat to medium-high and cook, stirring, until the squash is translucent and the red pepper tender, about 10 minutes. Add freshly ground pepper, taste and adjust salt. Stir in the parsley, and remove from the heat. Serve as a side dish, or use it as a filling for a vegetable tart, gratin or frittata. (I served over brown rice.)


Related Posts with Thumbnails