Tumblr.com is my new social media addiction. It’s not quite as addictive as Twitter or Facebook, but its slowly gaining popularity. Similar to my early experiences of using Twitter, it was quite boring. Now, I’m beginning to follow relevant people or organizations, such as Newsweek, NPR, MNBC.com and so forth. There are a few food blogs of interest. Last November, someone, who I wish to remember his or her name, recommended a book, The Gastronomy of Marriage by Michelle Maisto, who is a food blogger at The Market Report.com. The title sounds like an Italian Renaissance painting. The beauty is in the writing. To some, whose attention span is on par with today’s pop culture of instant trends coming and going in millisecond timeframes, Ms. Maisto is a relaxing read.
The author’s memoir about her relationship with food and planning for a wedding absorbs my attention span rather quickly. It’s a gratifying intellect’s chick book for a foodie. Her household is a familiar story to my present life. I relate to her chapters about combining households, and learning how comfort food is defined differently to everyone. It’s true; everyone we meet brings a soulful meaning to our lives. She’s forced to reexamine her parent’s relationship, and especially her mother’s influence about the ideal marriage being based on Christian philosophy.
“The meal is an odd smorgasbord, but there’s a cozy sense of having accomplished something together….”
In the end, the book left me hungry for more. Perhaps, I’m being too greedy? I wanted to read about the day of her wedding and the details about her dress. Was her sister’s house, the location of the wedding ceremony and reception, renovated in time? How did their friends, who were guests at dinner parties, enjoy the wedding? How did his Asian and her Italian family get along? There are many questions that linger.
What I’ve learned from this book is the art of being patient in a relationship. Beautiful relationships rarely develop at the speed of today’s instant trends. They’re best when simmered over a low flame for a long period of time. I’ve known such lesson for a while, but every once in while, there’s a good book serving as a reminder to enjoy the present timeline.
Roast Garlicky Butternut Squash with Chicken and Wheat Pasta
While reading Ms. Maisto’s book, I learned a simple trick of roasting garlic underneath a winter’s squash’s cavity.
1 butternut squash; cut lengthwise in half; peeled and seeds discarded (or toasted for a snack later on)
2 large heads of garlic; top end trimmed
Salt and fresh black pepper; to taste
Crushed red pepper; to taste (not too much)
White balsamic vinegar
1/2 lb. skinless and boneless chicken breast; cut into 1/2 inch pieces; seasoned with salt and fresh black pepper, fresh minced garlic and rubbed with olive oil (If time permits, let marinate for a few hours)
1 tbsp. butter
1 medium onion; roughly chopped
2 to 3 celery stalks; diced
1 small garlic clove; minced
1/4-cup fresh rosemary; minced
1/4 tsp. Spanish smoked paprika
8 to 10 oz. white button mushrooms; cleaned and quartered
1/2-cup white wine
1/2-cup low-sodium chicken stock
8 to 10 oz. wheat penne pasta; cooked al dente according to the manufacturer’s directions
Garnish: Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and olive oil
1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Season both halves of the butternut squash and the garlic bulb with olive oil, salt, pepper, crushed red pepper and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Line a cookie sheet with foil (for easy clean up). Place both garlic heads on top of the foil lined baking sheet. Place the cavity of the butternut squash over a head of garlic. Repeat with the other half of he butternut squash and head of garlic. Place in the oven and roast for 45 minutes to an hour, until the garlic is mushy soft. (Note: as the squash and garlic are roasting, prep the rest of the ingredients) Afterwards, let the roast vegetables cool. Remove and discard the butternut squash’s skin, and roughly chop the flesh into 1/2-inch pieces. Mince (or smash) the garlic. Place butternut squash and garlic aside.
2. Preheat olive oil and butter over medium-high heat. Add the chicken breasts and cook until golden brown. Remove chicken from the skillet and place aside.
3. Add the onions and celery to the skillet. Cook until the onions are soft and translucent. Add the 1 small garlic clove, rosemary, paprika, salt and pepper. Stir for 30 seconds, and don’t let the garlic burn.
4. Stir in the mushrooms for 3 minutes. Add the chicken, wine and chicken stock. Cover to bring the mixture to a simmer. Continue cooking for 15 minutes, or until the chicken is done.
5. Turn the heat off. If skillet is large enough (otherwise, place chicken and mushrooms in a large bowl), stir in the roast squash and garlic. Gently toss in the pasta.
6. Spoon Roast Garlicky Butternut Squash and Chicken Pasta into individual bowls. Top with grated or shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, fresh black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.
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