This is not a 30-minute meal.

There’s a lot of chopping involved. A fair bit of mincing. A little measuring, and the merest whisper of whisking.

There’s considered layering of ingredients. There are precisely staggered roasting times designed to tease out flavors and textures.

This is not a 30-minute meal. It’s not even a 45-minute one. You’ll spend at least an hour getting this dinner to your table.

But I ask you: In this era of nonstop texting,  6-second Vine videos and 140-character tweets, is that bad? Might it not refresh the soul to do something that slows us down? That makes us pause … 

… and …

… just …

… breathe?

Please don’t misunderstand. I know how hard it is to juggle dinner with sports practices and play rehearsals and study schedules and night meetings. I crash through the kitchen daily, whether it’s trying to get five dinners prepared for my clients or one dinner on my own dining table before the big boy has to leave for study group and the little boy and husband have to leave for basketball. I am a fierce fan of pre-cut onions, pre-roasted beets and pre-steamed lentils.

But every once in awhile, I want to slow down. I want to consciously chop my fennel; deliberately peel my potatoes; quietly core my tomatoes. I want to bask in the presence of the prep work, knowing that I’m working with pristine ingredients that will feed my family both body and soul.

There’s something therapeutic about preparing a meal. The ritual of cooking creates community — whether it’s the old hearths in town squares that drew bread-baking villagers throughout the day or my son coming into the kitchen and asking if he can chop the celery. Perhaps that’s why I love holiday dinners so much. Those long, slow, multi-coursed meals create a camaraderie that rotisserie chicken and instant potatoes could never approximate.

So, no. This is not a 30-minute meal.

It’s so much more.

Chicken With Fennel, Potatoes & Tomatoes

(Adapted from Gourmet Today)

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  • 2 medium fennel bulbs
  • 1 1/2 pounds small red-skinned potatoes
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 14 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 4 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 8 plum tomatoes
  • 1 cup Kalamata olives
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons rosemary

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

Cut off the fennel stalks and discard them. Cut each fennel bulb in half, then slice each half into 4 long wedges, cutting through the root so the wedges remain together. Place in a large bowl.

Cut the potatoes into fourths. Place them in the bowl with the fennel.

Toss the fennel and potatoes with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread onto a greased roasting pan. Place in the oven and roast for 20 minutes.

While the fennel and potatoes are roasting, finely mince 4 garlic cloves. Place them in a bowl with salt, pepper, the lemon juice and the remaining 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Whisk to combine.

Place the chicken on a plate and brush it with 2 tablespoons of the garlic/olive oil mixture. Set aside.

Halve each tomato, and scoop out the insides. Place the tomatoes in a bowl.

Thinly slice the remaining 10 cloves of garlic. Transfer them to the same bowl as the tomatoes. Add the olives, the rosemary and 2 tablespoons of the garlic/olive oil mixture. Toss well.

When the fennel and potatoes have roasted for 20 minutes, remove the roasting pan from the oven. Add the tomato mixture, and carefully stir to combine. Place the chicken breasts on top of the vegetables. Roast everything for 15 minutes.

Brush the chicken with the remaining garlic/olive oil mixture. Roast for an additional 15 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are tender.

Serve the chicken with the vegetables, spooning the juices over the meat. This recipe generously serves 4.

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