My March issue of The Sun magazine included a fascinating article by Michael Pollan entitled “Why Cook.” I have mentioned the publication in the past and urge everyone to take a moment to investigate this literary gem. Pollan’s piece explores what he terms the “cooking paradox” and why it is a defining human activity which sets us apart from all other creatures.
Beyond the obvious; that cooking provides a more “energy-dense and easy-to-digest diet” thereby reducing the amount of time spent gathering and consuming sustenance, Pollan goes on to discuss the meaning of the ritual to society. Indeed, it is interesting to note the recent shift from food preparation as a task mainly performed by women, to the advent of pre-packaged, fast food and our obsession with watching people cook on television. We are participating less in the ritual yet spending more time observing others do the work. From the original TV chef, Julia Childs, we have moved to reality/contest shows such as The Taste and Top Chef. Our fascination with the process is odd given modern conveniences have eliminated the need to perform the task ourselves. As Pollan writes, “…we are not watching shows or reading books about sewing or dancing socks or changing the oil in our cars, three other domestic chores we have been only too happy to outsource – then promptly drop from conscious awareness.”
I have begun to take more interest in cooking due to my association with the store. Every customer asks for recipes or how I would pair certain ingredients. I now think about cooking more as a creative outlet, less as a necessary activity. Cooking for oneself or even just two, is less intriguing then planning a dinner party or feeding a family. It is easy to slip into the convenience of prepared foods. The tricks I am discovering is in taking that convenience and making it healthy and enticing.
With that in mind, I offer a simple, inexpensive, single-serving, meal that the unsuspecting diner will assume you spent hours preparing.
Butternut Squash Ravioli and Salad
One bag of frozen Butternut Squash Ravioli. Boil, adding a bit of EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil) to the water, until they float. Drain.
In the same pan, heat while shaking over a medium flame, Butternut Squash Seed Oil with fresh sage leaves (four small or two large). Add a handful of pine nuts and continue shaking and turning until the pine nuts just start to brown. Add the ravioli and shake a few times then allow to sit.
Salad is baby greens, half a grapefruit, a handful of dried cranberries or fresh pomegranate seeds, a sprinkle of hazelnut seeds and chopped peppers. The dressing is black cherry balsamic mixed 50/50 with lemon OO.