“Things don’t really get solved. They come together, and they fall apart. Then they come together and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.” -Pema Chodron, When Things Fall Apart
They say all good parties end up in the kitchen…the sad ones do, too. Whether there is a cause for celebration or life has fallen apart, the kitchen beckons me. It is where many of life’s events are deliberated. Like many others, I have found solace in cooking over these past nine months. For me, the act of preparing meals can be extremely meditative. Early on in the pandemic, I would cook and diligently post every food pic on Instagram, then scrolling through my feed to find inspiration from others doing the same.
After the murders of Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd, it felt contemptuous to continue posting food pics as protests surged across the country. Yet, I kept cooking my way through the grief and the apprehension, trying my best to feed my family while supporting local farmers who suddenly found their supply chains disrupted because restaurants were closed (or worse, shuttered for good). Occasionally, I would post a pic here and there but not with the fervor that I once had.
Nine long months of quarantine, not being able to hug my friends or family, combined with the constant barrage against our democracy have weighed heavily on me (on all of us). Then, I lost my job a couple of months ago…a job that was tumultuous from the start, so there is a silver lining in there I’m sure…and it seems as though the kitchen is the only place I feel like I have some semblance of control. Cooking has kept me grounded through the turmoil. When I cook, I always feel that it comes from a place of love, with a sense of hope…that things will work themselves out.
Each morning, I sit down at my computer to write for a little while. Then, I apply for jobs, tweak my resume, write cover letters, read endless rejection letters from the ones I’ve applied to, work on homework, check the news, and by then I feel paralyzed with dread, so I go lay down and watch something mindless on Netflix…like the Great British Baking Show, or Ugly Delicious or Chef’s Table…for an hour or two. Finally, around 5pm I find my way to the kitchen to pull something together for dinner, something that will pull me out of the depression that is looming from all that we have lost.
Inspired to use up some of the last peaches of the season, I threw this no-recipe recipe together, so it’s a little out of a season to share it now but oh well…with the Electoral College votes now finalized, I hope we can all take a collective moment to breathe, to find our sweetness of mind again so that we heal the broken parts of our country and move forward with making it better, safer for everyone.
Sheet Pan Chicken with Peaches and Asparagus (AND GNOCCHI)
- 1-2 lbs of chicken breasts, sliced
- minced garlic (as many cloves as your heart desires)
- Herbs de Provence
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1-2 (not quite ripe) peaches, sliced
- Balsamic vinegar
- Honey (optional)
- 1 lbs of asparagus, trimmed
- Black Truffle olive oil (optional)
Toss the chicken in EVOO, garlic, and spices. If you have time, let marinate for 20-30 minutes. Heat the oven to 375°F. Spread chicken on baking sheet (I cover mine in aluminum foil and spray with more olive oil for easy clean up). Bake the chicken for 15-20 minutes.
While chicken in baking, prep the peaches and asparagus in separate bowls. Peaches get tossed in EVOO, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, and honey (optional) to taste. The asparagus gets tossed with EVOO, salt, and pepper.
Add peaches and bake for another 15 minutes, then add asparagus for 5-10 minutes more until chicken is cooked through. (I like my asparagus to still have some crunch to it, so if you prefer it softer, add the asparagus sooner to give it more cooking time.)
After you remove from the oven, drizzle with more balsamic and black truffle olive oil (optional), toss, and serve.
Bonus comfort food option: While the sheet pan recipe is cooking, you can sauté some pre-packaged gnocchi in browned butter, truffle salt, and black pepper for about 3-5 minutes, then serve together with the chicken and veggies at the end. And lawd knows we all need a little more comfort this year.