A Culinary Journey to Begin Anew in 2024

I’ve enjoyed settling into the new year like a cozy bed with a side of warm cookies and a tall glass of hope, but with springtime right around the corner, I continue to find myself pondering on the things that bring me comfort: family, good food, connection, time for self, and … did I mention good food? Although we are on the other side of the holidays—thank goodness—I still feel like I haven’t had much time for rest. Cheese and crackers, I need more time! What I need is mindfulness and to connect to my craft by honing in on a few kitchen resolutions. Springtime is the best time to wake yourself up and bloom with eagerness to cook fabulous meals. 

To start, trade your “I don’t give a darn” card for one that turns your kitchen into a serene sanctuary of self-discovery and creativity. This is the time to set intentions for what’s important to you! Do you feel that fire I’m throwing your way? Find the ember in your life, and feed it fuel! For me, my ember is a pilot light, forever waiting for me to ignite its potential. And it’s waiting to dance, baby. So, put on some music and let’s boogie with ingredients, careful consideration, and personal connection. 

Connect to Yourself 

Start your mindful cooking journey by connecting to yourself. Pause, breathe and let go of the day’s hustle and stress. Yes, I know—someone left the idiot bag open on the streets, but you made it home. Big breath in through the nose and out through your mouth. Engage your senses in the present moment as you cook. Feel the textures, inhale the aromas, and revel in the visual symphony of colors you’re creating in your kitchen. 

In the winter, I crave dimly-lit dinners, 1940s music, nostalgia and a slow meal. We’re still within that season, so to capture this comfort-food essence, I imagine a softer texture like smooth parsnip potato mash with a drizzle of white truffle oil and a scant sprinkle of fleur de sel. I envision the aromas of cinnamon, cardamom, clove and
garlic wafting through the air. The colors on my plate are oranges, muted reds and caramelized browns. Do you feel all of that? Connection engaged. 

Connect With Others

Ah, my favorite. Mindful cooking isn’t a solo act, it’s a social dance. Invite loved ones to join you in the kitchen. Share stories, laughter and the joy of creating something together. Strengthen your bonds through the experience of cooking with one another and savoring the fruits of your labor. I’m going to say it again: stories, stories, STORIES! Breaking off a piece of yourself and handing it to another passes on your love, joy and reminiscences. It is so important to this equation. I’m a sucker for food memories and the beautiful stories they’re always wrapped in. 

Injecting Creativity

If there’s anything you take away from my words, let it be this: Cooking is the canvas for your culinary creativity. Recipes are cool and all, but now and then, let intuition be your guide as you prepare a meal. Experiment with flavors and play with various herbs and spices. Your kitchen is your art studio. 

There are times when I spend hours perfecting a dish in my kitchen. The flavors must be spot-on. The way I arrange the food on the plate in the right light and the utensil I choose to eat my meal are all taken into account. Trust me when I say it all matters. 

The recipe I’ve included here, Roasted Winter Fruits and Vegetables, was a delight for me to cook. I craved earthiness, sweetness, saltiness and all the warm, rich colors of a past fall. Yes, I miss fall! This simple dish brings it back. 

Self-Discovery Through Ingredients

You have stories to tell, as do your ingredients. Dive into the narrative of your produce, herbs and spices. Let their origin and journey to your kitchen inspire your cooking. The more you know about your ingredients, the deeper your connection to your culinary creations. 

I know I’m about to sound super nuts and maybe a little half-baked, but I hear me out: Ingredients are characters, weaving their unique tale about their provenance and the very hands that cultivated them. Aromatic spices release the cultural sagas of their distant lands into the air you breathe as they simmer in a soup on the stove. Sizzling garlic in hot oil—its hissing steam unfolds a new chapter of flavor—a beautiful metamorphosis all just for you, honey. When I describe ingredients this way, does it make you want to cook a stellar meal?

As you navigate your culinary landscape this year, let mindfulness be the guiding star. Dive into those kitchen resolutions, connect with yourself, infuse creativity into every dish, discover the stories within your ingredients, and strengthen bonds with those who matter. And remember, kids, cooking isn’t just about meals; it’s a journey of self-discovery and connection, one mindful bite at a time.  

Roasted Winter Fruits and Vegetables    

This recipe makes for a beautiful side dish or can be enjoyed all on its own. Add crusty bread and a drizzle of balsamic glaze, and you’ve got a cozy winter weeknight meal. 

One bunch orange baby carrots 
One bunch purple baby carrots 
Two bunches baby beets (golden, red or candy) 
One acorn squash, halved, seeds removed, and sliced 
Red grape cluster, on or off the vine 
Olive oil for drizzle 
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste 
Fresh thyme and rosemary, roughly chopped 
½ teaspoon cinnamon 
¼ cup light brown sugar 
¼ cup unsalted butter 
One Honey Crisp apple, seeds removed and sliced 
Two slices prosciutto, torn into small pieces 
1 (8-ounce) container pearl onions, skins removed 
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar 

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Rinse carrots, beets and grapes under cold water, removing dirt. Dry with a paper towel and set aside in a large mixing bowl. Add sliced acorn squash, olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme, rosemary, cinnamon and sugar; toss lightly with your hands. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, spread the fruit/vegetable mixture evenly onto the sheet, and roast for
30 to 45 minutes. 

Meanwhile, heat an iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add butter and sliced apples to skillet and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, or until the edges are brown. Remove apples from pan; set aside. Reduce the heat to medium. Add prosciutto and pearl onions and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in apples, apple cider vinegar, a pinch of kosher salt and pepper, and then remove from heat; set aside. 

Once the fruit and vegetables are roasted to perfection, remove from oven and transfer to a serving platter. Carefully add sauteed apples, prosciutto and pearl onions. Sprinkle with fresh thyme and serve.

Makes 2 to 4 servings

Author

  • Ruthie Martinez

    Ruthie owns Black Fig Food catering and is proprietor of the online cooking platform Elevated Plant Plate. Learn more at blackfigfoodprograms.com and blackfigfood.com.