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Living Well, Eating Well: A Culinary Journey to Inspiration

For me, living well lives at the intersection of many things. This past week, it was the intersection of a good book and a great dinner. I had been reading a lovely novel called The Final Days of Cafe Leila by Donia Bijan, which is mostly set in pre- and post-revolution Iran. Food is definitely a character in this wonderful read, and it inspired me to invite a few friends over for dinner and make something Persian.

After doing a bit of online research, I landed on a recipe for Persian Pork Stew with Tamarind and Apricots. The stew combines the sweetness of dried apricots with the tangy tartness of tamarind. The result is a dish that is complex, satisfying, and totally delicious.

As I began prepping and cooking, the kitchen filled with enticing aromas. I sautéed onion, garlic, along with ground coriander, cumin and turmeric, smells that hinted at the layers of flavor to come. When I added the pork, the meat caramelized into a deep brown crust. Then came the dried apricots and tamarind, rounding out the medley of savory and fruity notes. The stew simmered away, allowing the flavors to meld into a harmonious whole.

When my friends arrived, the stew was fall-apart tender and bursting with taste. We sat around the table, stew ladled over a bed of basmati rice in my favorite serving platter. The first bite was an explosion of sweet and tangy, meaty and fruity - absolutely perfect.

As we savored the meal, the conversation flowed. There were "mmms" and "ahhs" and requests for second helpings. For me, a dish like this represents the joys of cooking and friendship. It warms both belly and heart.

The aroma and taste took me back to the pages of the novel. Food has a way of not just satisfying physical hunger but our deeper need for connection. Cooking and sharing a meal is an act of love, whether it's for family, friends, or even yourself. Making something delicious is meditation - you clear your mind and focus on the tasks at hand, surrendering to the alchemy of simple ingredients combining into something wonderful.

Persian Pork Stew with Tamarind and Apricots

Serves 4-6

What you need:

- 2 lbs boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch chunks

- 2 onions, thinly sliced

- 6 garlic cloves, crushed

- 1 tbsp ground cumin

- 1 tbsp turmeric

- 1 tbsp ground coriander

- 2 bay leaves

- Three tablespoons of tamarind paste

- 1/2 cup dried apricots

- 1 cup chicken stock

- 2 tbsp tomato paste

- Salt and pepper to taste

- Toasted almonds and chopped cilantro to garnish

How to make it:

Season the pork all over with salt and pepper.

In a large pot or Dutch oven, brown the meat in batches over medium-high heat until crispy and caramelized on all sides. Transfer to a plate.

Reduce heat to medium, add a drizzle of oil if needed, then cook the onions until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and spices and cook 1 minute more until fragrant.

Return the pork and any juices to the pot. Add the tamarind, apricots, stock, tomato paste, chicken stock and enough water to cover the pork.

Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 1.5-2 hours until pork is very tender.

Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Serve over basmati rice, garnished with cilantro and toasted almonds.

The stew was a labor of love, and the perfect intersection of a delicious meal shared with dear friends and the inspirational story behind it. Food has a incredible power to connect us through the senses. The meals we cook and eat together nourish our bodies, our relationships, and our souls.

Living well includes all of these elements - good food, good company, and good books. It’s about being present with the people and activities you love, and appreciating the small moments that make up a life fully lived. What inspired you today? What will you cook, read, or do to live well? Follow your inspiration, and find joy in the journey.


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