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Olives, farro, and chocolate — with a side of Radical Rest

The holiday season can be a time of joy and celebration, but it also comes with an abundance of stresses: finding (and affording) the perfect gifts, navigating challenging social situations, balancing a bursting social calendar with the ongoing demands of work and family life, and serving that picture perfect holiday meal. For women, who shoulder the majority of the cooking, the cleaning, and the child-caring at home (as COVID-19 reminded us), the labour of facilitating festivities at this time of year comes on top of an already long list of to-dos. Add to this a (yet again) accelerating global pandemic and the sense of hopelessness and unease inspired by the year’s news headlines, you’ve got yourself a recipe for social, emotional, and physical fatigue.

Wound up in a capitalist system that tells us that our value stems from our ability to be constantly productive, it can be difficult to find time to get the rest required to overcome this fatigue – especially during the holiday season. I for one am finding it hard. I can’t remember the last time I stopped to breathe. Grappling with the low-level anxiety that for me manifests in constant list making, and the thrumming guilt that makes me feel like despite being on the brink of burnout, I’m still not doing enough, got me thinking about rest as something radical.

Black feminists, like Audre Lorde, have have offered particularly powerful insights into self-care as a tool to fight oppression. More contemporary feminists of colour such as Tricia Hersey, the founder of the Nap Ministry, have taken the idea further arguing that rest can be a way to fight burnout culture, capitalism, patriarchy, and white supremacy. Hersey argues that through these systems, bodies are commodified and our ideas about rest (who ‘deserves’ it) are distorted. Through naps (and rest more generally) she posits people can begin to reclaim their bodies and their “divine right” to rest. Liberation, equality, and justice, cannot be achieved from the exhaustive state caused by grind culture. A new system — one that fosters invention, imagination, creativity, disruption — will need to be grounded in rest. Although as a white, cis, straight woman, I cannot claim to understand the multiple burdens of exhaustion inflicted by intersecting systems of oppression, I find the idea of rest as a form of resistance compelling.

In the spirit of rest I am sharing three quick and easy recipes that will be accompanying me to holiday parties this season. If you, like me, tend to favour more elaborate culinary feats, consider giving yourself a break. Try something simpler and free up some time to close your eyes, plunge yourself into a hot bath, or do a little day-dreaming. I know the idea may harken back to housekeeping magazines of a bygone era that were filled with time saving tricks for the perfect housewife, but I hope they will be received less as ideas for cooking you have to do, and more as suggestions to take part in the tradition of making and sharing food while also finding time to engage in radical rest.

- Zoë

Recipe: Roasted Olives 

Adapted from Michael Chiarello’s 'Casual Cooking'

2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

6 large cloves garlic, unpeeled, lightly crushed

5 or 6 sprigs of fresh herbs (thyme or rosemary work well; you can also used dried, just use a little less)

1 tsp chile flakes

black pepper

1 orange, zested

1 ½ pint (about 2 cups) mixed olives (e.g., castelvetrano, oil-cured black olives, nicoise)

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F.

2. Cook the olive oil and garlic cloves in an ovenproof skillet over moderate heat until the cloves begin to sizzle and caramelize lightly. Add the herbs, chile, and a pinch of salt and let them sizzle in the oil for about 30 seconds. Add desired amount of black pepper. Add the olives and stir until they are hot throughout, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the orange zest.

3. Transfer the skillet to the oven and bake, stirring occasionally, until the olives start to soften, 5 to 8 minutes. Serve warm (although they’re good cold too!)

Recipe: Farro Salad 

Adapted from Melissa Clark’s recipe in New York Times Cooking

1 cup farro

½ cup apple cider

½ cup apple cider vinegar

2 teaspoons kosher salt, more as needed

2 bay leaves

6 oz (approximately) of broccolini

9 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 tsp black pepper

Pinch of chile flakes

½ cup fresh mint (or dried, but if using dried then use a bit less), roughly chopped or torn

½ cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped or torn

¾ cup halved cherry or grape tomatoes

2 cups arugula or other greens

70 grams (around ½ cup) Parmesan cheese, shaved with a vegetable peeler

70 grams (around ½ cup) chopped, roasted pistachios

Maldon or other flaky sea salt, for finishing

1. In a pot, combine farro with apple cider, apple cider vinegar, bay leaves, and salt with 2 cups of water. Cook until farro is tender (according to package instructions). The farro should absorb most of the water but should not be allowed to dry out. If all the liquid evaporates before the farro is done, add a little more water. Remove the bay leaves and let the farro cool.

2. Toss broccolini with 1 tbs olive oil and a pinch of salt. Roast in a 400°F. oven for around 10 minutes or until blackened on the edges. Let cool.

3. In a large bowl, put the remaining 8 tbs of olive oil with the lemon juice, pepper, chile flakes, mint, parsley, and tomatoes. Toss in the cooled farro and broccolini.

4. Serve on a bed of arugula or other greens and top with pistachios, shaved parmesan, and a sprinkle of flaked salt.

Recipe: Mousse au Chocolat 

From Mireille Guiliano’s 'French Women Don’t Get Fat'

4 oz dark chocolate (80% cacao)

1 tbs sugar

3 egg yolks

5 egg whites

1. Melt the chocolate in the top of a double boiler set over a pan of simmering water on medium heat.

2. Remove the chocolate from the wheat and add the sugar. Stir well and add the egg yolks one at a time.

3. Best the egg whites until stiff, glossy peaks are formed. Gently fold the whites into the chocolate mixture until well blended.

4. Pour the mousse into a serving bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.

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