August 20, 2019

A Recipe to Savor Every Minute

My birthday is this month, and while I’m thrilled to have made it through another year relatively unscathed, in February my mind always turns to a little review of the past 12 months.

I suppose it’s a natural impulse to want to press rewind and recognize some mistakes and victories in order to brace yourself for what’s to come. As the years have gone by, I’ve realized I have fewer minutes to waste. Time takes on more meaning when you have less time ahead of you than the time you’ve spent.

The good news is that each year of life presents us with 525,600 minutes for change. We’re told that even the smallest change in thought and action can have a profound impact on our happiness potential each day. Even if about 150,000 of those minutes are spent sleeping, we still have more than 375,000 minutes to fill with positive intentions and action.  


Sorry to startle you. That’s the shouted mantra I always hear from the ripped, microphoned drill sergeant who leads the early morning spin class I take when I’m in New York City. Recently, as she repeatedly hammered us with that phrase throughout the 50-minute session, it occured to me how much of human experience is shared. As much as we think we are special individuals and our problems are exceptional, most of us fall prey to the same drives, desires and routines. What makes us unique is how we choose to parse and process the information that impacts our lives.

Isaac Asimov, one of the most prolific science fiction writers, once wrote: “If my doctor told me I had only six minutes to live, I wouldn’t brood. I’d type a little faster.” While writers may spend more of their time living in their heads, allowing them to feel sheltered in the little worlds they create, the pursuit of happiness for most of us may boil down to living in the moment as often as possible and learning to appreciate the struggle.

If you think about it — the 100 relatively effortless minutes you spend baking these beauties will make at least a few hundred other minutes enjoyable to the loved ones with whom you share them.

If only we could just buy happiness. Actually, if there’s anything a decade in Africa has taught me, it’s that it’s very possible to have all your needs satisfied on a material level and still be unhappy; some of the poorest people I’ve met here are some of the most joyful.

While most people on the planet desire a life full of meaning and purpose, it seems like a cultural imperative for Jews. After all, from childhood we are taught to ponder the unthinkable — all the Jewish lives that were denied their full existence. We learn how much audacity went into creating a country like Israel, an unreasonable dream and a downright miracle of obstinance and chutzpah. My maternal grandparents struggled beyond belief to make sure their children survived the war. I think I best honor their memory by creating as much joy in the world as I can and by appreciating the fact that, because of them, I have the opportunity to struggle through life’s ups and downs. After all, if I was born with the DNA of people who faced the ultimate hardships and still persevered to make a life in a country like Israel was in her infancy, well, I won the lottery. 

Although I’m hardly a planner, this year I broke down my minutes so I could try to figure out how to spend them wisely. The results are surprising. If I spend about 110,000 minutes cooking; 45,000 minutes writing about cooking; 22,000 minutes exercising; 22,000 minutes eating (to offset the exercising); about 5,000 minutes making plans; 10,000 minutes traveling; 50,000 minutes with family and friends; 22,000 minutes shopping, cleaning, primping, doing chores, paying bills, filling out spreadsheets and slogging through miscellaneous drudgery; I’m left with almost 90,000 minutes to spare. (As a chef, I’m fortunate that many of my cooking minutes are folded into my work minutes, so I don’t need to pick between working and cooking. This was intentional.)

I want to spend those 90,000 minutes helping people, training, tutoring, volunteering, taking cooking classes, reading, listening to music, watching movies, making new friends, nurturing old relationships, sinking into time-honored Jewish rituals and — if I haven’t already — consistently challenging myself.

I’m hoping, for your sake, that you spare some time to enjoy these remarkable roasted beet galettes, a recipe from Eva Barnett, chef/owner of the wonderful Café Adella Dori in the Catskills and the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors.  I can hardly think of a better way to use 100 of your minutes, precious as they are. 

If you think about it — the 100 relatively effortless minutes you spend baking these beauties will make at least a few hundred other minutes enjoyable to the loved ones with whom you share them.

Oh, and while you’re baking these … “GET OUT OF YOUR HEAD!”  

Eva Barnett’s Roasted Beet Galettes

For the dough:
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting work surface
1 teaspoon kosher salt
¼ cup fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 cup (226 grams) unsalted butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes and chilled until very cold
½ cup ice water

For the filling:
1 ½ pounds raw beets, peeled and cut into ¼-inch-thick slices
1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ cup extra virgin olive oil + 1/8 of a cup for brushing
1 cup feta or goat cheese (I prefer goat cheese to feta in cooked preparations)
1/8 cup chopped fresh herbs — thyme, rosemary, sage or a combination

Preheat oven to 400 F. To make the dough, put flour, salt and rosemary in a food processor. Pulse to combine. Add very cold butter cubes to the processor and pulse until dough forms pea-sized clumps. Add ice water ¼ cup at a time and pulse just until the dough is combined. Do not over-process or dough will be tough. Turn out dough onto work surface and knead gently into a smooth disk, working quickly so as not to melt the butter. Cover disk with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator while you cook the beets (about 1 hour — I prefer to do this a day ahead.)

Peel and clean beets. Slice each in half, and with the flat side down on a cutting board, cut into ¼-inch slices. Toss with ½-cup olive oil, salt and pepper until thoroughly coated. Spread beets out in a single layer on a baking tray and roast until tender — about 40 minutes. 

When beets are completely cool (room temperature) take the chilled dough out of the refrigerator.  Divide dough into 6 equal portions and roll each portion into a ball (this may take some gentle kneading but do not overwork the dough.) On a lightly floured work surface, use a rolling pin to roll out each ball into a flat circle until approximately 1/8-inch thick and 6 inches in diameter. Transfer each disk onto a parchment-lined baking sheet (you may need two) and pop back into refrigerator or freezer to chill for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, remove dough from refrigerator and fill the center of each disk with beets, leaving a 1 inch border uncovered. Brush beets with remaining olive oil and crumble cheese over top. Fold in the sides of the circles to partially cover the beets, leaving them uncovered in the center. Sprinkle with chopped fresh herbs. Bake for 40–45 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

Makes six, 6-inch galettes.

Yamit Behar Wood, an Israeli-American food and travel writer, is the executive chef at the U.S. Embassy in Kampala, Uganda, and founder of the New York Kitchen Catering Co.