No brisket or matzo ball soup for me.
I'm making Butternut Squash and Apple Bisque. Rice Salad with Roasted Red Peppers, Chickpeas and Feta Cheese.
No family coming home for this midweek Yom Kippur holiday.
I'm celebrating with friends who have become family.
Am I depressed?
No, I'm grateful. Let me explain.
Sometimes you just have to transform the traditional. Holiday fare doesn't always have to be brisket and matzoh ball soup. Holidays can't always be celebrated with your family. You can transform humble fare like rice, beans and squash into something truly spectacular. And if your family lives out-of-town, your friends can be transformed into family. "Find a way to be grateful for what you do have."
On Monday at the gym I worked out on the weight machines & listened again to Rabbi Sharon Brous' High Holiday interview with Krista Tippett on "Speaking of Faith".
Here's what I remember most:
Think about what you have, not what you lack.
Rabbi Brous: So many people walk around in life so aware of what they don't have, what they long for: the love that they haven't found yet,the absence. They're so aware of the absence and what Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel says to us is, 'Look at the presents and figure out what you do have. Look at the world with awe and wonder, and the amazing miracle that your skin holds the blood inside your body.' That nature works the way that it works, that the world is as extraordinary as it is--because there are so many things wrong--but there are so many incredible blessings around us. And part of our spiritual challenge he says, "is to understand that it is gratefulness that makes the soul great." And so, find a way to be grateful for what we do have because it's simply not fair to live in a world and only be conscious of what you do not have.
Think about what's really important in life.
Rabbi Brous: Unetane Tokef--this incredible climactic prayer that comes in the High Holy Day services, is kind of pushing us to engage in the reality and possibility of our own death---who will live and who will die. I mean, what this prayer basically says is: Realize that you cannot control if you will live or die, but you can control the way that you're going to live over the course of the year--and that's not some big amorphous ambiguous statement, like "feel good." But it actually means: go out and do these three things:
- Build a spiritual life for yourself.
- Fix your relationships.
- And fight for justice in the world.
Because ultimately those are the three things that matter in life.
Yom Kippur comes in the middle of the week this year--as it does on so many years. My family is spread across the country and as much as we'd all like to be together, it's just not possible this year.
The same goes for my friends and their families. We're empty-nesters. Our kids are out-of-town--our parents have passed away or live out-of-town. Our siblings live in other cities. But for many years now we've shared the holidays with each other, taking turns, and including each others' family when they are in town. My friends have become family and the circle just seems to grow & expand in interesting ways.
My high school friends + college friends + our friends' friends + Fran's work friends + friends I've met through volunteering + Joyce's assorted friends + our relatives + our children (& their friends) when they're in town + each other's neighbors. The guest list always changes, except for the core--my friends who have become family.
Last March I wrote about friendship and included this excerpt from an article from the New York Times, written by Sally Friedman and sent to me by my dear NY college friends.
Friedman writes about a group of college friends who have been getting together for the Rutgers Homecoming every year since 1961, and "How sweet it is."
"We had hit the stage of life when friends become family, something you may have to live in order to understand.
We needed one another more than ever. Our parents were all gone, our children were far-flung, and some of us had even lost easy contact with siblings who had moved to places with lyric names in Arizona." (note to my sib & sibs-in-law: this does NOT apply to you!)
RICE, BEANS, AND SQUASH TRANSFORMED - Here's what's cooking in my kitchen for Yom Kippur.
Butternut Squash and Apple Bisque - from Laura Samuel Meyn
1 medium butternut squash (about 2 1/2 lbs) (my shortcut: buy the precut butternut squash at Trader Joe's
1 TBS olive oil + 2 TBS (to saute the onions)
1 medium white onion, peeled and chopped.
1 1/2 cups chopped carrots (my shortcut: use pre-shredded carrots)
2 medium Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and chopped
1 TBS chopped peeled fresh ginger
4 cups vegetable broth
2 cups water (or substitute 1 cup apple cider for 1 cup of water)
2 TBS dark brown sugar
1/2 cup fat-free cream or soymilk creamer
2 tsp garam masala (available in the spice aisle of many supermarkets) (add more if you like)
1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cut butternut squash in half lengthwise. Using a spoon or melon baller, remove seeds and discard. Place squash halves, cut side up, in large baking dish. Brush cut sides of squash with olive oil. Roast squash until tender, about 1 hour. If using the precut squash, mix with a tablespoon of olive oil & roast until tender, could be as quick at 15-20 minutes.
2. Heat up remaining 2 TBS of olive oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add onion and saute for 5 minutes. Add carrots and saute vegetables until tender and beginning to brown, about 8 minutes longer. Add apples and ginger; saute 2 minutes. Stir in broth, water (or cider), and brown sugar (may want to omit if using cider). Using a spoon scoop roasted squash from the rind & add to the soup. Cover soup and bring to boil; uncover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until apples and all vegetabls are very tender, about 20 minutes. Cool slightly.
3. Working in batches, puree soup in blender (or use an immersion blender). Return to pot. Stir in 1/2 cup of the cream. Stir in enough water to thin soup, to desired consistency, about 1 cup. Return soup to simmer. Stir in garam masala. I use a lot--but add slowly & keep tasting. Season soup to taste with salt and additional brown sugar or garam masala. Soup can be made up to a day ahead.
Yield: 8 servings
Rice Salad with Roasted Red Peppers, Chickpeas, and Feta Cheese- from Jeanne Lemlin's "Simple Vegetarian Pleasures".
2 1/2-3 cups cold cooked brown rice (Made from 1 cup rice boiled in 2 1/4 cups water)
1 (16 oz.) can chickpeas, rinsed well and drained
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
2/3 diced roasted red peppers, store-bought or freshly roasted
1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
3 scallions, very thinly sliced
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
Generous seasoning freshly ground black pepper
1/4 Cup olive oil
1. Combine the rice, chickpeas, feta cheese, peppers, parsley, dill, and scallions in a large bowl & toss well.
2. Combine all the dressing ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake vigorously. Pour the dressing on the rice mixture and mix thoroughly. Let sit at least 1 hour or up to 8 hours before serving. Serve at room temperature.
Yield: 4 main dish servings.
Wishing You All A Happy Healthy Long Life