Stepping Stones to Freedom

 HOLIDAYS and FESTIVALS


The question as to whether the Last Supper was actually the secret celebration of the Stepping Stones Spring Festival will probably never be fully resolved.

However, the issue as to whether Leonardo DaVinci was a Stepping Stones’ Grandmaster appears to at long been settled. Recent advancements in X-ray scanning have revealed that Leonardo did embed many of his works with secret codes referencing Stepping Stones to Freedom. Modern scholars are avidly researching many of the Masters’ works for clues. It is believed that these clues may at long last lead to the discovery of the fabled Holy Freedom Grail, one of Stepping Stones’ most sacred relics.

 
Recent X-ray studies of Da Vinci’s “Last Supper” corroborate the long suspected belief that the Leonardo embedded many of his works with secret codes that refer to Stepping Stones to Freedom. For example, “Passo di Pietra” translates into English as “Step of Stone”.


As with all major spiritual movements Stepping Stones has several important Feast Days. These Holy Days are not to be found on specific days of the Gregorian calendar. The actual celebration often varies from year to year and more or less occurs with the appropriate season.

Below is a listing of the Stoner’s festival highlights throughout the year.
 

The Festival of the Holy Brisket



Certainly one of the great highlights of the year for all Stoners is this tasty holiday. Occurring generally in late September or early October, we gather together to celebrate the Autumnal equinox, the beginning of school and the culinary depths of secret recipes for brisket that have been passed down for generations. The synergy of spirit, food and elevated conversation is a hallmark of Stepping Stones events.

Recommended Dish: Beer Braised Brisket

Ingredients:
    4 pounds beef brisket
    1/2 teaspoon pepper
    1 cup sliced onion, separated into rings
    1/2 cup chili sauce
    3 tablespoons brown sugar
    2 cloves garlic, crushed
    12 ounces bottle beer
    2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
    1/2 cup water PLUS
    2 tablespoons water
    Black pepper (optional)
    Halved tomato slices (optional)
    Fresh parsley sprigs (optional)

Directions:

Trim fat from brisket; place in a 13- x 9- x 2-inch baking dish.
Sprinkle top of brisket with pepper; arrange onion rings over
brisket. Combine chili sauce and next 3 ingredients; stir well,
and pour over brisket. Cover and bake at 350 deg for 3
hours. Uncover and bake an additional 20 minutes or until
brisket is tender. Place brisket on a serving platter, reserving
cooking liquid. Set brisket aside, and keep warm. Pour 1-1/2
cups cooking liquid into a small saucepan. Place flour in a
small bowl. Gradually add water, blending with a wire whisk;
add to cooking liquid. Bring to a boil, and cook 2 minutes or
until gravy is thickened, stirring constantly. Serve gravy with
brisket. Sprinkle with pepper, and garnish with tomato slices
and parsley sprigs, if desired.

The dish is served best with a dusky 1998 Merlot from the vineyards at Saint Bureaux. The aromatic tannins mix well with the beer beef stock providing a sublime counterpoint to this tasty meat dish.


Thanksgiving


Giving thanks is one of the core tenets of Stepping Stone philosophy. Thus our version of Thanksgiving explores gratitude in spirit, feeling and action. Needless to say we do not neglect the thanks we give for the hearty meal we partake of during this celebration.

Recommended Dish: TURKEY

Ingredients:
    1 whole 12-15 lb. fresh turkey
    salt and pepper to taste
    1 onion
    3-4 T. unsalted butter, melted
    2 c. chicken stock
    1/4 c. maple syrup
    cranberry-bourbon relish (recipe follows)

Directions:

Preheat oven 350°. Rinse turkey inside and out thoroughly. Season cavity and the outside with salt and pepper. Place onion in cavity, close with skewer and tie legs together. Place turkey breast-side up on rack in a large roasting pan. Brush half melted butter over turkey. Pour 1/2 c. stock into pan. Roast turkey for 15 minutes per pound or til meat thermometer registers 180° in the leg and 170° in the breast (about 3 hours). Baste turkey with pan juices and add 1/2 c. stock to pan every 45 minutes. Combine remaining butter with syrup and brush over turkey the last half hour of cooking.

Recommended Dish:  CRANBERRY BOURBON RELISH

Ingredients:
    2 c. bourbon
    1/2 c. minced shallot
    zest of 1 large orange
    2 (12 oz.) bags fresh cranberries
    2 c. sugar
    1 t. fresh grated ginger
    2 t. ground black pepper

Directions:

Combine in a non-reactive saucepan (not aluminum) the bourbon, shallots, ginger and orange zest. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer til it reduces to a syrupy glaze (about 10 minutes). Add cranberries and sugar, raise heat and bring to a boil stirring to combine. Lower heat and cook til cranberries start to burst. Remove from heat and add pepper. Cool and refrigerate til needed. (serves 8-10)

This meal is always consumed with a range of fine spirits beginning with Spanish Cognacs from the vineyards near Seville followed by appropriate Tuscan Pinot Grigios and finished with fine cordials from Southern France.


New Year/Winter Solstice



Acknowledging the longest night of the year and the need to break the gloom of midwinter, Stepping Stoners gather in January to explore the more reflective aspects of the soul's journey, as they celebrate the return of the Sun, longer days
with plentiful food and grog.

Recommended Dish: Roast Goose with Currant Stuffing

Ingredients:
    1 large yellow onion (chopped)
    1 large tart apple (chopped)
    1/4 cup lower-sodium chicken broth
    6 cups toasted fresh bread crumbs
    1/2 cup currants or chopped raisins
    1/4 cup slivered almonds (toasted)
    1/4 cup minced parsley
    1 teaspoon dried sage leaves
    1/4 teaspoon each salt and black pepper
    1/3 cup lower-sodium chicken broth
    1 goose (7 to 8 pounds), giblets removed

Directions:

Step 1:

In a small saucepan, combine the onion, apple, and 1/4 cup
broth. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 5 minutes or
until onion and apple are tender.

Step 2:
In a large mixing bowl, combine onion mixture, bread crumbs,
currants, almonds, parsley, sage, salt, and pepper. Toss 1/3
cup broth with bread crumb mixture.

Step 3:
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Rinse goose; drain, and pat dry.
Prick the skin on the lower breast, legs, and around the wings
with a skewer. Stuff and truss goose. Then, place goose,
breast-side up, on a rack in large roasting pan. Insert a
roasting thermometer in its thigh without touching bone.
Spoon remaining stuffing into a lightly greased 1 1/2-quart
casserole; cover and refrigerate.

Step 4:
Roast goose for 2 to 2 1/2 hours or until the thermometer
registers 175°F, drain fat often. Bake the covered casserole of
stuffing alongside the goose during the last 30 minutes of
roasting. Let the goose stand for 15 to 20 minutes. Carve
goose; discard the skin.

Needless to say The New Year’s Festival requires large quantities of the finest French Champagnes, though in recent years a few California vintages have compared quite favorably and are considered excellent substitutes if the originals are not available.

 

Death Day



The end of February brings us to one of the most striking of all Stepping Stone events—Death Day. Acknowledging that we must all confront this underlying unknown, Stoners create a special time and place to understand their own perceptions and feelings regarding death. All this intense introspection engenders a hearty appetite and thus a grand meal and good time is had by all.

Recommended Dish: Knockwurst and Sauerkraut

Ingredients:
    1/3 cup chopped onion
    2 slices cooked bacon, cut up
    1 cup beer
    1 cup water
    2 tablespoons cornstarch
    2 tablespoons coarse-grain brown mustard
    2 tablespoons molasses
    2 teaspoons caraway seed
    1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
    1/4 teaspoon pepper
    1 large rutabaga, peeled & cut into 1" cubes
    1 pound fully cooked knockwurst,
             bias-sliced into 2 to 2 1/2-inch
pieces
    2 medium cooking apples, cored and cut into 8 wedges each
    1 16-ounce can sauerkraut, drained and rinsed

Directions:

In a Dutch oven or large pot cook onion and bacon until onion is
tender but not brown; drain fat. Stir in beer. In a 2-cup glass
measure combine the water, cornstarch, brown mustard, molasses,caraway seed, allspice, and pepper; stir into bacon mixture. Cookand stir until thickened and bubbly. Add rutabaga; cover and cook 15 minutes. Stir in the knockwurst, apple wedges, and sauerkraut. Cook, covered, 15 to 20 minutes more or until apples are tender.

Typical Bavarian malts and beers are the preferred beverage for this festive occasion, used mostly to dispel the gloom of the preceding rituals,


Spring/Easter/Passover


The grandest celebration of all is Stepping Stones' Spring/Easter/Passover gala. Acknowledging the underlying truth of all religious and spiritual paths, Stoners gather in a unity of cultural cuisines and rituals. Jew, Christian and Pagan joins hands in a fulsome cornucopia of delicacies, both spiritual and culinary.

Recommended Dish: LAMB and SQUASH

Ingredients:
    3 cups water
    1 1/2 cups uncooked white rice
    1 pound ground lamb
    1 cup finely chopped onion
    1 clove garlic, minced
    1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
    1/2 teaspoon dried basil
    1 teaspoon ground mustard
    1 acorn squash, halved and seeded
    salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS:

In a medium saucepan bring water to a boil. Add rice
and stir. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
In a large skillet over medium high heat, place the
ground lamb, onion, garlic, thyme, basil and ground
mustard. Cook until the lamb is evenly brown and the onion
is soft. Stir the rice into the mixture. Stuff the acorn squash halves with the ground lamb mixture. Season with salt and pepper.
Place stuffed squash on a medium baking sheet. Bake in the preheated oven 30 minutes, or until the squash is tender.

Recommended wines are the lightest Chablis and Burgundies. A good choices might include 2001 Faintan Margeritte and the rare and priceless 1999 Chateau de Borbon


Midsummer's Eve Bacchanalia


With the coming of the Summer Equinox, Stepping Stones exults with an outdoor event providing opportunities to gambol with the spirits of forests, flowers and other inhabitants of Elysian Fields.


Recommended Dish: Bacchanalian Health Salad

Ingredients:
For each serving:
    One generous handful of any of the following, or a
combination: arugula, watercress, mustard greens, dandelion greens
    1 tablespoon snipped fresh chives, dill, or mint
    1/4 cup fresh raw peas or frozen, thawed
    1 radish, thinly sliced
    2 asparagus spears, lightly steamed, cut into 2-inch pieces
    3 ripe strawberries, sliced


Directions:

1. Lightly toss the ingredients together and place on a pretty
salad plate. Sprinkle with a splash of olive oil, a squeeze of
fresh lemon, and a pinch of salt.

Recommended wines include sweet Spring and Dessert Muscatels from the Rimbaud Vineyards from the sunny side of the Slovenian Alps.