Sabbath Feasting

Hazelnut Chicken Breasts with Cranberry Cherry Sauce

Prepare the sauce at least 3 hours ahead.  For the cranberry cherry sauce, bring 2 cups marsala wine and 1/2 cup dried tart cherries to a boil in a saucepan.  Simmer about 8-10 minutes to reduce the liquid.  Stir in 12 oz cranberries (fresh or frozen) and 12 oz cherries (fresh or frozen), 1 cup light brown sugar, and 2 teaspoons fresh minced rosemary.  Reduce heat to medium, cover and simmer for about 8-10 minutes while sauce thickens, stirring occasionally.  Let cool and refrigerate.

At least two hours ahead, prepare 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts by spreading them on both sides with dijon mustard, and sprinkle both sides with 1 tbsp each fresh chopped oregano and thyme, salt, and pepper. Cover and refrigerate.

Preheat over to 450 degrees.  Coat a baking dish with oil.

To make the hazelnut crust:  get three dishes out.  In one dish put 1 cup flour, in another dish put 1 beaten egg with 1 tbsp milk, and in the third dish put 1 cup finely chopped and toasted hazelnuts.  Dip each chicken breast first in the flour, then in the egg, and then in the hazelnuts.   Put the breasts into the baking dish and bake about 15 minutes until cooked through.

Serve with the sauce poured over! 

Adapted from Celebrate the Rain: Cooking with the Fresh & Abundant Flavors of the Northwest by the Junior League of Seattle.

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One of the Sabbath practices my husband and I both really enjoy is hospitality and breaking bread with friends.  Because this has been a busy fall we haven’t been planning ahead as well lately to do this, but generally we like to invite a couple of friends over (sometimes new ones and sometimes longtime ones) for dinner usually on Saturday night as a way to mark the beginning of our Sabbath time.  This weekend it ended up being on Sunday and a closing to Sabbath for us.  I really enjoy cooking, but don’t always take the time when it is just the two of us.  Cooking moves me out of my head for a while and into the pleasures of textures, smells, and tastes.  These dinners are an excuse for me to play in the kitchen and participate in the sacred act of nourishment. 

I am trying to explore new recipes, so thought I would begin to share the ones here that seemed to work well.  Tonight was the delicious chicken recipe I posted above, with a side of mashed yams (peeled, chopped, and boiled for 15 minutes, then whipped with a bit of milk, butter, and salt), and our guests brought a salad of mixed greens, walnuts, crumbled gorgonzola, and raspberry vinaigrette.  It all went together beautifully.  After dinner we lit a fire, drank tea and nibbled ginger shortbread cookies as we shared conversation and dreams.

As I peel and chop, stir and simmer, I offer prayers of thanks for the abundance in my life, I give gratitude for the beauty of each food, and remember those who go hungry.  I pray that the food may be an offering to nourish our bodies to continue to do good work in the world, and I celebrate the companionship that nourishes our souls to inspire us to keep on.  These meals are an act of communion for me, a bringing together of what I hold sacred.  They are a doorway into a deeper awareness, a practice that affects how I approach my eating the rest of the week as well.

Do you enjoy the pleasure of preparing food?  Is the act of eating a sacred act of nourishment for you?  Do you make time to enjoy a meal with family or friends?

-Christine Valters Paintner

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