Sunday, September 21, 2014

Into the Wild

I've been avoiding writing this post for a while now. It feels premature. I'm not ready to write about my year- to sum up, to take stock. We had no summer. Where did the summer go? How is it September already? What is this turning of the seasons?

In some ways, this has been a very good year. I moved into a beautiful new apartment. I have a lovely new roommate. And as I keep telling anybody who will listen- I have a garden which gives me an inordinate amount of joy. In other ways it's been a very difficult year. The job that I thought would be steady and stable turned out to be neither steady nor stable, so I left and am now, once again, job searching. My cat spent a good few months being terribly sick and even now I am continually surprised that she is still alive And then, of course, there was the war and the growing feeling of disillusionment  and dread that accompanied it.

But lo, the new year is upon us, for better or for worse. That is the way time works, evidently.  This year is into the wild. It's a shmitta year. Shmitta is the Biblical injunction to let your land lie fallow every seven years (among other things) It is a sabbath for the land, which is a lovely concept. The truth is,though, shmitta is kind of a pain on so many levels. I've just planted my garden and am now faced with the prospect of just letting it be- no fertilizing, no pruning, no weeding- just watering and the bare minimum that needs to be done to keep it alive. It's hard. Every morning, I go outside. I check on my succulent with the pink-red flowers first, then the aphid-ravished jasmine, then the newly planted purple basil, the strawberry plant, the blackberry, the rosemary, the zaatar, the oregano and the thyme. I deadhead the plant with the white flowers, the multi-colored petunias and move back to the succulent to deadhead it too. I watch the natural drama unfolding. The little black cat, who's still half a kitten, has climbed up into the pear tree, and all the birds- the sparrows, the chickadees, the bright-stomached hummingbirds, the jays and four spectacular green wild parrots- come out in furious concert to yell at the intruder. I know that the flowering plants and some of the herbs probably won't survive the winter, but there's nothing I can do about it, and I won't be able to replace them until next September. What will this garden look like come spring, I wonder. I'm giving it over to the wild. It's out of my hands.

I don't know how to say things, to wish things, about the coming year. It's come too early. The war's cold fingers are still digging themselves into my ribs and it's hard to shake them off, to see clearly, to have a plan. I'm going into this one with my eyes shut tight. I'm laying down seeds and hoping.

Two recipes for the new year:

Roast Chicken and Potatoes with Silan (Date Honey)

Adapted from Lisa Rubin

1 whole chicken
4 tablespoons of silan
about half an inch of fresh ginger, grated
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup olive oil
a good bunch of thyme
3-4 potatoes, peeled, sliced and parboiled

1. If you have time, season the chicken with salt and pepper and let sit overnight. If not, preheat the oven to 400 F. In a small bowl, mix together the silan, ginger, garlic and olive oil. Toss the potatoes with some olive oil, salt and pepper, and then place them at the bottom of a crock or dutch oven (enameled cast iron is best for this). Take a handful of thyme and place over the potatoes. Place the chicken over the thyme breast-side down. Pour the silan mixture over the chicken, rubbing it under the skin and into the cavity. Stuff the cavity with the rest of the thyme. Roast uncovered for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the internal of the chicken temperature reaches 160 F.

Apple-Celery Salad with Pomegranate-Mustard Vinaigrette

This is not so much a recipe as it is a list of instructions. Do as you like

Roast a handful of almonds, allow to cool and chop. Dice an apple (or two) and a fewish stalks of celery. Slice some red onion thin, thin thin. Wash some lettuce, if you'd like, or leave it out if you don't.  Pour some vinegar into a small bowl, add a good pinch of salt and wait for it to dissolve. Add a grind of pepper, a few good glugs of pomegranate molasses, more if you like things tart, a nice teaspoon or more of Dijon mustard and some olive oil. Whisk to combine. In a large bowl, mix together the apples, celery, red onion, almonds and lettuce, if using. If you'd like add some nice, mild cheese, but it's totally optional. Dress with the vinaigrette. Eat.

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