The prospect of spring, yelping puppies, laying under an umbrella on a beach some where tropical, the first snow fall, a good cup of coffee, a good book, being with friends whom you haven't seen in years. All simple things yet powerful enough to delight the senses and the spirit.
Keeping things simple can help minimize stress in our lives. Back in September of 2007, when were we in the process of moving to Minneapolis, it became obvious to me how much junk I have accumulated over my four years at college. (It's not a good sign when 100 boxes are barely enough to move the belongings of two people from a two bedroom apartment. ) There were things I kept because I thought I would need them yet they had not been used since the day they were bought. What was I thinking when I bought two sets of the same outfit, in different colors, that I wore only once? Not to mention the dumpling-maker that I never used. And who needs three cosmetic cases full of make-up? Ok, maybe some people do, but I am certainly not one of those. I made the decision then and there to get rid of anything I hadn't used in more than six months. Miraculously, my possessions shrunk to a little more than a half! And I like it like that.
Now here I am, six months later, in my new home, my life and surroundings seem so much more orderly. Interestingly, I am beginning to appreciate the things that I own even more, in the sense that I pay more attention to and take better care of them. Not to mention that it is now easier to find things. The apartment is a lot less cluttered (which gives the perception of neatness, stress on "perception.") There is a lot to be said about living in an environment that is neatly organized and functional.
This notion of simplicity is also extending to my approach to food. Now, don't get me wrong: I appreciate the complexity of creating an elaborate dinner; the time, energy, creativity, the plethora of ingredients. In fact, I have plans for my most elaborate and ornate Easter dinner so far (even though it will be dinner for two.) Yet, there are times when a few simple ingredients make the most impressive dishes. Interestingly, I have found that, in these cases, the fewer the ingredients, the more flavorful the final dish. Possibly, our taste buds have a heightened awareness of each individual ingredient that would have otherwise been dissipated by a jumble of stronger flavors. Or, maybe, it's just my imagination. Either way, simplicity is the main ingredient in the dishes I share with you today. At the same time, I implore you delve into your own simple world and I hope that you find a universe of elegance; a place that flows in a way that inspires you.
Simple Herb Roasted Chicken
1 whole chicken, 3 to 4 lbs
1 - 2 tsp salt
11/2 tsp black pepper and lemon mixture (or ground pepper)
1/2 tsp chili powder (optional)
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 small bunch fresh parsley
1 tsp dried thyme
1. Set oven to 450 degrees F.
2. Wash and dry chicken well with paper towels.
3. Mix salt, black pepper and lemon mixture, and chili powder. Set aside.
4. Remove rosemary leaves from twig and discard twigs. Cut away parsley leaves and discard stalks. Set herbs aside
5. Carefully separate the skin from the flesh of the chicken being careful not to remove it completely. Gently place parsley and rosemary underneath the skin trying to distribute it as thoroughly as possible. Flatten the skin over the flesh, being sure to remove all air bubbles.
6. Sprinkle salt mixture into chicken cavity then tie legs together securely.
7. Thoroughly rub the remainder of the salt mixture over the entire bird and place in roasting pan. Sprinkle thyme evenly over top of chicken.
8. Place in oven and roast for one hour, turning pan 180 degrees only once halfway during roasting, for even browning.
9. Remove from oven and let rest for 10 to 15 minutes before dissecting to serve.
Lentil Stew with Spinach
2 cups brown lentils
2 tbsp olive oil
3 whole tomatoes, diced
1 small onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 mild green chilies, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup cooking wine
1 cup frozen or 2 cups fresh spinach
handful of fresh parsley
1. Wash and cook lentils in pressure cooker for 5 to 10 minutes until soft but still holds its structure. Remove from heat and set aside.
2. In large saute pan on medium heat add olive oil. To hot olive oil add chopped onion, garlic and chilies. Cook for 5 minutes until onions are translucent.
3. Add tomatoes to pan and cook for a further 3 minutes.
3. Add cooked lentils and cooking wine. Mix well and simmer on medium low heat for 8 to 10 minutes.
4. Add spinach and cook for another minute or two until fresh spinach has wilted or frozen spinach is thoroughly mixed throughout peas.
5. Season to taste with salt and pepper, Sprinkle with fresh chopped parsley before serving.