Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Cool Art of The Simmer

Over the Thanksgiving Holiday I went with my family to see This is It, the Michael Jackson movie. It was one of those rare times when I went to a movie without having read or heard anything about it and had no idea what to expect.

I was blown away. As soon as the movie began, I was completely immersed in it. Half way through, I had a brief moment of self-awareness, and I found that I was sitting forward in my seat, lips parted in a loose smile and eyes wide with wonder.

In addition to seeing Michael Jackson in a totally different light, I left the theater in high spirits and with an unstoppable desire to dance. Owww.

In one of my favorite parts of the film, Michael is rehearsing and, in a moment of inspired clarity, halts the band that is backing him up and scolds them for moving too fast. "You have to let it simmer," he instructs. And he is right. The band does it again, relishing a few moments longer in the beats before letting the song break away.

Let it simmer.

It's a great mantra for our culture which often only puts value on moving on to what's next, and rarely on what's now. In this perpetual moving forward, we lose out on the opportunity to simmer, to marinate, to let our lives build in their flavor, complexity, and richness. 

If your life is anything like mine, time is moving along at a gallop right now. There is more to do than can ever get done. I am planning a wedding. I am building a wellness counseling practice. I am managing and caring for my home. I am counseling at-risk teenagers. These are all good things. But at times the urge to check something off my To Do list causes me to hurry, and this is when I need to invoke my inner Michael (and we all have one) and say, "Stop. You have to let it simmer."

This past Sunday I was in a bit of a tail spin about all the things I should be doing (imagine overly excited dog panting, "what's next, what's next"). Realizing that I didn't want to be supporting this frantic energy, I decided to give myself a time out and to do something slow and nourishing instead, so I made this .

This recipe is from one of my favorite blogs, Coconut & Quinoa  which is written by the head chef of Angelica's Kitchen, an amazing vegetarian restaurant in NYC.

From the second I saw this tart, I knew I needed to make it, and I am so glad I did. It was absolutely delicious and it's the perfect thing to serve if your are hosting a holiday party (or need to bring a dish elsewhere). It's really easy to make (though does take a bit of time), looks phenomenal (I assure you, your guests will be most impressed), plus, it's served at room temperature so you can make it well ahead of time.

Ok, enough blabbering, here is the recipe (wait, one more moment of blabber: You'll note that Amy's recipe calls for you to make an oatmeal crust from scratch. I ended up using a frozen organic whole wheat crust. I guess I can only simmer so long. You can find the recipe for homemade crust on Amy's site):

Roast Squash, Caramelized Onion & Goat Cheese Tart w/ Arugula

2 large red onions, sliced
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 large butternut or red kuri squash, 2 1/2 to 3 pounds, peeled and seeded
fresh black pepper
3 or 4 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves removed
1/4 pound fresh goat cheese
arugula to serve

Ready-made whole wheat pie crust
or Homemade

Place onions and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil into a wide skillet or frying pan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring every few minutes until they begin to brown, about 10 minutes. Lower heat to medium-low and cook until caramelized, this takes a good 30 minutes, if they begin to stick turn heat down a little. Stir in a large pinch of sea salt and the balsamic vinegar, cook another few minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Peel and cut squash into 3/4 inches chunks (to peel squash - cut off ends and use a serrated peeler or knife - this can be a little challenging - I used a large knife and just cut the skin off - this method sacrifices some of the meat but it's much easier), spread squash pieces on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, drizzle with remaining olive oil, a large pinch of sea salt and pepper, toss well. Roast for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown, remove from oven and set aside to cool.
In a large bowl combine caramelized onions, roasted squash and thyme leaves.
Crumble half of the goat cheese into the bowl and gently toss. Crumble remaining goat cheese over the bottom of the pre-baked tart shell, top with squash mixture and return to oven for another 20 minutes until goat cheese is golden and slightly melted. Allow to cool before serving.

Taking it IN

What are some ways you could add more simmering into your life?

For example,  B and I take a moment before eating where we hold hands and close our eyes. It's a brief pause in which we can bring our awareness into the present moment, be grateful for the food, or just have a moment of quiet. We also do this because if we didn't, we would devour the food in 2.5 seconds with out even really tasting it.

Give this ritual a try and see how it feels, or create something new. Perhaps a breathing excercise before going into work, journaling before bed, etc.

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