Roasted Veggie Chopped Salad

Untitled

I have Jenga Fridge. If you pull one thing out, the whole thing topples. 

My mom's fridge looks the same way. Bits of salad dressing, 4 different kinds of greens wrapped up in paper towels and  in various stages of disintegration, the smallest ends of cheeses, big tupperwares of cooked beans, and 13,000 different condiments. I guess this is the blight of the cook, and it must bring me some kind of security. 

One good problem is that I have too many veggies right now. My solution is almost always to roast them. They become so much more interesting.

Today, it was mushrooms and broccoli, going into a salad that my friend Willow and I ate together at my kitchen table, sun streaming in. It was luxurious to take a big fat break right in the middle of the day and to cover all the topics we covered--friendship, God, kids, food, the trials of self-promotion. 

More and more, I'm not identifying with the "foodie" label. Yes, I love food. I like talking about it, cooking it, even shopping for it sometimes. And I know that's not necessarily normal. But what I'm really into is what happens when we slow down enough to cook something, and what happens when we are intentional enough to invite someone to share it with us. I heard someone say recently, "I find that I don't talk much anymore about what I'm doing. I talk about what I'm noticing." That describes my stance perfectly.

Today, I notice the sun coming out after some epic grayness. I notice the sounds of Loretta and her friend Caleb talking and laughing. I notice that my dog has taken up residence right beside me, as usual. And I notice that I'm alive! There's a million things I'm doing imperfectly or incompletely. I notice that, too, and it's okay.

Roasted Veggie Chopped Salad with Tahini Dressing
As with practically every recipe I ever offer, this is an idea, a template, a suggestion. The point here is winter veggies and how they can be transformed. And how you'll be high on fiber and flavor afterward. Serves four as a main course

For roasted veggies:
1 lb. broccoli florets
1 lb. mushrooms, halved if they're big
2 Tb. olive oil
1 Tb. reduced balsamic vinegar
salt
pepper

For salad:
1 head crunchy romaine, chopped
3 big stalks celery with leaves, chopped
big handful parsley, washed and chopped
3 large carrots, julienned
big handful toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped 
1/2 c. crumbled feta
2 avocados

For dressing 
Juice of one lemon
2 Tb. tahini
salt and pepper
tsp. za'atar (or toasted sesame seeds + dried thyme)
1/4 c. olive oil

To roast veggies, preheat oven to 425. Toss them with olive oil, vinegar, and salt and pepper, and lay them out in a single layer on a piece of parchment. Roast till beginning to soften and crispy in places, about 15 minutes.

To make dressing, whisk all ingredients together, adding more of anything to taste.

Toss first 5 salad ingredients together, adding cooled roasted veggies. In a couple batches, lay the salad out on a cutting board and cut all of it together so everything is a similar size. Put back in the bowl and add feta and dressing.

Arrange it in 4 bowls (I use my hands.) Arrange avocado slices on top and grind a little pepper or put some more toasted sesame seeds on top.

Quinoa, Kale, and Corn Mexi Salad

IMG_4001

I ate this salad with 9 amazing women last week. Standing around with paper plates and maybe wiping a few tears from our eyes.

My colleague Janet Ott and I just finished leading a six-month leadership course for executive women, and we had lunch together after our last session. Some things I was reminded of as we learned together:

  • The world will always need good leaders. And specifically, good managers make an incalculable difference in the lives of their employees. 
  • All the little daily things we do or don't do, say or don't say, have an even greater impact when we're in decision-making roles. We can either embrace that influence and be intentional about it or not. 
  • When we're not leading from a deep place of "okayness" with ourselves, we can do damage. We focused together on the spirituality of leadership--leading from love instead of fear, choosing awe and wonder over urgency and people-pleasing. I can't help but smile when I think about these 9 women and how much more effective and aware they've become in our time together. And how that will translate to their relationships with employees.
  • How gifted all of us are and how listening to one another unearths those gifts.

As usual, I happily took on the challenge of bringing something simple, filling, portable, and gluten-free for lunch. And I promised the recipe.

Here's to you, leaders, and all the good you're unleashing in the world.

Quinoa and Corn Mexi Salad
This makes a huge bowl--enough for 10-12 people to have big portions. It will keep all week in the fridge, but you can also halve it. With cold grain salads like this, they are best served room temperature. If you put it in the fridge, you'll probably want to add a little more salt, lime juice, or olive oil when you pull it out as the grain will soak up everything up as it sits. If you want to add cheese to this, feta or queso fresco would be my choice. You could also serve it with diced avocado on top. Yum. You know how I feel about avocados.

For dressing:
Juice of two limes
1/2 c. olive oil
1/4 c. canola oil
1 Tb. ground cumin
lots of salt and pepper
1 small red onion, very thinly sliced

For salad:
8 c. cooked and cooled quinoa (1 lb. uncooked). I cook mine in the rice cooker.
2-3 large bunches black kale, washed and coarsely chopped
2 c. frozen or fresh corn kernels, briefly sauteed in olive oil (I use the frozen roasted corn from Trader Joes)
1 large red bell pepper, diced
1 large yellow bell pepper, diced
1 bunch cilantro, washed and coarsely chopped
Pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
1 poblano pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 c. sunflower seeds
handful of fresh herbs (oregano, mint, basil, or more cilantro)

For dressing, combine everything but onions in a large measuring cup or bowl. Whisk to combine, adding more of anything to taste. Add onions and let marinate while you make the rest of the salad.

With your hands, gently combine all salad ingredients (except for sunflower seeds and herbs) in your biggest bowl. Pour dressing over, reserving a few of the marinated onions for the top. Scatter sunflower seeds and chopped fresh herbs over the top with onions. Taste again for salt.

Orondo Ruby Bliss

Harvest

In Washington's Wenatchee Valley, there are lots of orchards. Pears, apples, apricots. And cherries. Bing, Rainier (what used to be my favorite) and my new favorite, Orondo Ruby. The family growing Rubies invited some food writers to taste and see. I cleared my schedule because I can't think of anything better than standing in an orchard with my camera around my neck, pulling sun-warmed cherries off the tree and into my mouth. Twist my arm.

Wenatchee Valley

IMG_3957

About 10 years ago, Marcus, the orchardist, noticed one of his Rainier Cherry trees that was not like the others. He had it tested and, sure enough, the cherries were genetically different. They had gone and done their own thing, and the rest is history.

We were shown graphs of the sugar content in Orondo Rubies (high) and the acid content (high), which makes for a magical pop in the mouth. I didn't need the graphs, though. I had 4 pounds of them in the car when I hit the road for home, and hardly enough left to make anything with when I pulled into the driveway!

Rubies on trees

We had a progressive dinner at Pybus Market, an old steel mill turned permanent farmer's market. (So inspiring to see what reclamation of space can do for a community.) Orondo Ruby salsa and martinis at South, pizza with goat cheese, cherries and buckboard bacon at Fire, crispy pork belly with pickled cherries at Pybus Bistro. And the next morning, breakfast on the farm with bowls of cherries everywhere.

IMG_3922

IMG_3932

This time of year, I always find myself so thankful for farmers and so in awe of all the work, care, and risk that puts such bounty on my table. Every little detail of these trees is fussed over all year long for three furious weeks of harvest. While I'm sleeping in or taking a little summer vacation, farmers everywhere are losing sleep, crunching the numbers, monitoring each tree or plant or vine for health, readiness, and deliciousness. When I think of how much bandwidth goes to the three tomato plants I have on my deck, I'm even more amazed. I've heard recently of the agrarian imperative, the idea that acquisition of land for farming is in our genes, and that farmers are the only ones left (it used to be all of us) that are still responding to this imperative. And it's stressful! They take risks the rest of us wouldn't because they're driven by that imperative. I adore cooking. I adore being in my kitchen. But none of that is in a vacuum. Everything I chop, saute, or braise comes from somewhere, and it's another reason to know where it comes from and to feel good about my part in the cycle.

Okay. Down from soapbox. I really hate to do much with cherries besides eat them cold from the fridge. But I adored them on wood-fired pizza. And you know me--salad. I did not plan this recipe. It happened because I had a few precious cherries left and I wanted salad for lunch. Thank you, Orondo Ruby folks, for such a fabulous tour. I hope you get to rest soon!

IMG_3990

IMG_3997

Bitter Greens with Grilled Haloumi and Orondo Ruby Cherries
Serves one, but of course just throw in more of everything if you want more.

For salad: Heat a heavy skillet up. Lightly brush two thick slices of haloumi with oil oil. Grill until golden and warm in the middle. Set aside. Toss greens of choice (I used endive and kale) with slivered radishes, slivered proscuitto or cooked bacon, and a handful of halved cherries. Set haloumi on top.

For vinaigrette: Combine 1 Tb. white wine vinegar, 3 Tb. olive oil, salt and pepper, and 1 tsp. fruit preserves (I used strawberry). Add salt, pepper, and a haldful of halved cherries. Let macerate for a few minutes, then pour over your salad.

Curried Basmati Rice Salad

Curried Basmati Rice Salad

If I had t-shirts with all my slogans on them, we'd have to rent a storage unit.

This week's t-shirt would say, "Put it all in one bowl!" I'm a fan of cramming as many colorful and crunchy things as possible into a bowl and then eating off it for as long as possible.

Today, it was a curried rice salad with toasted coconut and almonds, candied ginger, and veggies. I brought it to Amber's School's Out! party, and we sat on her deck drinking gin and tonics, snacking, and crying about our 5th graders moving on to middle school. Wayne, my father-in-law, couldn't believe how sentimental I got at Wyatt's 5th grade graduation. I told him that if they had these events when Yancey was 11 and they played a 6-song slideshow that included Chariots of Fire, he'd cry too.

As Wyatt and Loretta get older and we all keep being present to the ups and downs of parenting, I am so, so thankful for the community of mothers in my neighborhood who help me laugh instead of cry, who watch and watch out for my kids, who remind me that my best is usually good enough. Liz, Elizabeth, Breeze, Amber, Kristen, Michelle, Debi, Kristy, Joy, Jen, Kelly, Teri, Cameo, Kate, Tracy and so many more. It's good to be together.

Curried Basmati Rice Salad
You could add so many other things to this--chopped raw or roasted broccoli or cauliflower, shaved carrots, currants instead of raisins, Asian basil, diced red onions or chopped green onions.

4 Tb. butter or coconut oil
1 c. finely chopped onion
2 minced garlic cloves
2 Tb. finely minced fresh ginger
2 Tb. curry powder
2 c. basmati rice, rinsed
1 c. raisins
2 Tb. sugar
1 English cucumber, diced
1 bunch cilantro, washed and coarsely chopped
handful fresh mint, coarsely chopped
1 red jalapeno, seeded and diced
1 c. toasted unsweetened coconut flakes
2 c. toasted slivered or sliced almonds
1/4 c. chopped candied ginger
salt
juice of two limes

For rice: In a heavy medium saucepan, melt butter or coconut oil. Add onions, garlic, ginger, and curry powder and saute until melded, about 5 minutes. Add rice, 4 cups water, sugar, and raisins and stir. Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer, cover and cook for 20 minutes. Turn off heat after 20 minutes and let sit covered for 10 minutes. Remove the lid, fluff with a fork, and pour into a big shallow salad bowl, stirring to release heat and separate the grains.

To assemble the salad: Add cucumber, cilantro, mint, jalapeno, coconut, almonds, and candied ginger, saving a little of each to garnish the top. Mix with salt (keep tasting and add plenty!) and lime juice. Top with reserved ingredients.

P.S. To make this heartier and serve it for dinner, grill some chicken or roast some tofu to go on top.

Quinoa and Walnut Lunch Bowl

IMG_3661

All-Points Bulletin: Do yourself a favor and cook up some whole grains on Sunday! Brown rice, quinoa, barley, or bulgar. Stick them in the fridge and use all week--tossed into salads (my favorite), cooked on the stovetop with coconut milk in the morning and topped with toasted nuts, stirfried with veggies, or added to soups.

When I make "grain" salads these days, I tend to use mostly vegetables with a little bit of whole grains to help the whole thing stick together. In addition to being healthier, they're also more colorful.

My friend Jordan is always begging me to be more explicit about my salads. It drives her crazy that I say, "Oh, a little of this, a little of that." So here's another one for you, Jordan. The only thing better than a working lunch at home would be lunch with you.

P.S. If you're an Instragram user and are either a Seattle resident or have plans to travel there, Jordan has an instragram feed (@local_trove) that's becoming the best guide to sweet Seattle spots that I know of. Restuarants, parks, farmers markets. Beautiful photos, helpful descriptions.

Quinoa and Walnut Lunch Bowl
This serves one, but if you're serving more, just get out a big bowl and fill accordingly! In a bowl, combine a handful of cold grains with lots of chopped kale/greens/herbs. Here, I've used black kale, mint, chives, mustard greens, Italian parlsey, and lovage from my garden. Plain old romaine would work too--you just want something with crunch (versus red or green leaf lettuce). Add a handful of toasted walnuts (or other seeds/nuts, like sunflower seeds, pepitas, or almonds), some salty feta, shaved carrots (here, red carrots shaved with a vegetable peeler) and toss with a big squeze of lemon juice, salt, pepper, and a glug of olive oil. I used juices from my preserved lemon jar, but lemon juice, olive oil, and salt are a fine substitute.

Spring Sprout and Farro Salad

IMG_3019

The Bellingham Farmers Market opened last weekend. Nettles, kale, radishes, the traditional throwing of the cabbage. (By the mayor, no less. Did you know I have a thing about celebrity sightings? Unhappily for me, the mayor of Bellingham is my lone conquest.) And lots of Bellinghamsters geeking out over local everything.

market sign

Though I'm not disciplined or resourced enough to do all my shopping at the farmers market, going and spending whenever I can is fun and helps me feel more connected to the hard-working farms around here. My parents and I gathered a little picnic of aged Ladysmith cheese and a round of herbed focaccia from The Breadfarm. Even though it was gray and rainy, I couldn't help but feel more Spring-y. And radish-y.

My mom and I couldn't resist the big bins of sunflower sprouts. Here's what I did with them today:

Spring Sprout and Farro Salad
Serves two. Take 1 1/2 c. of cold, cooked grains. I used farro, but you could use lentils, barley, brown rice, quinoa, etc. Toss them with a giant handful of sunflower (or other) sprouts, some chopped greens (I used dandelion greens), shredded carrot, a Tablespoon of capers, crumbled feta, toasted walnuts, a big squeeze of lemon juice, a little lemon rind, fresh ground pepper, and a big glug of olive oil. Taste before you salt it since capers and feta are so salty. I had some proscuitto around (my secret weapon these days) so I fried a couple slices and tore them over the top.

Kale Salad with Crispy Chorizo

kale and chorizo salad

Sometimes, Yancey and I are at home together during lunchtime. On a weekday.

Among the activites that sometimes commence (wink wink), salad-making is one of them.

He'll be absorbed in a project, and food will be the last thing on his mind. I have no idea what that is like. I wish I could leave more brain space free for other ponderings. Like making the world a better place, marketing my consulting practice with more aplomb, or getting my yard to look less like an abandoned junkyard. (I've heard somewhere that you can't be a reader AND a gardener. I take solace in that.)

But no. I wake up thinking about the three meals in front of me and how to make something with whatever is in my fridge. And Yancey benefits. I'll say, "I'm making a salad. Do you want some?" He'll answer, "Umm....I guess so." He doesn't feel hungry, necessarily, and if I weren't around, he probably wouldn't eat lunch. He'd have an apple at 3:00 and call it good. 

But if I'm home working during the day, I love the opportunity to get some vegetables in. At the hospital (where I'm doing a lot of consulting these days), I grab a sandwich or a cup of grapes from the cafeteria. It's a treat to make a mess and eat something interesting.

This time, it went like this:

Fill a medium salad bowl with washed and chopped lacinato kale (or other greens). Mix in julienned carrot, thinly sliced red onion, roughly chopped green olives, and chunks of smoked mozarella or feta. Then heat up a heavy skillet and pour a big glug of olive oil in. Add some big chunks of fresh crusty bread and a handful of chopped chorizo and fry them together with salt. Everything will turn crispy and a little bit orange. Dump that hot mixture in with your greens, and toss the whole thing with white wine vinegar, olive oil, and salt. And if you're lucky enough to have a cutie husband around, give him some too even though he says he's not hungry. Don't believe him.

P.S. A giant THANK YOU to everyone to voted in Saveur's contest and who called, texted, or commented to say congratulations. What I got out of the whole thing (no word on the winner yet) is that 1) I am loved and appreciated and 2) This blog is going to be around for a long time. 

How to Eat More Salad

New Year's Salad

Happy New Year, friends! Yancey keeps saying 2013 is going to be The Year. For me, I'm willing it to be The Year my back stops hurting, The Year I get stronger and run a race, The Year I stop being afraid of success, The Year I try some things that scare me, and the Year of Salads. (My apologies to those of you that couldn't give a #$* about resolutions. December 31 rolls around and my resolution engine gets fired up. I wish I could shut it down sometimes.)

Clearly, the salad resolution is easier than the others. If you know some tricks, that is. One thing I'm proud of is that my friends and family report their salads have gotten progressively tastier and more interesting as a result of being around me. A girl has to leave some sort of legacy, right? That's mine.

Now that I'm sitting here thinking about it, I guess I have a lot of opinions and tips when it comes to salad. Are you ready for this? 

You don't need lettuce to make a salad. The one pictured here is curly kale and a couple huge handfuls of sprouts (which I'm really into right now and am growing on my kitchen counter.) No lettuce. In the winter, cabbage is often the base of my salads. It's cheap, lasts FOREVER in the fridge, and delivers a lot of nutritional bang for your buck.  

Purchased salad dressing is a racket. A big one. Loaded with calories, expensive, and usually not very tasty. Often, I don't mix up a salad dressing. I just toss my whole salad with a big squeeze of lemon (or lime or vinegar), coarse salt and pepper, and a glug of olive oil. Just pour them right in the bowl and mix gently and well with your hands. If you're going to make dressing, the general rule is 1 part acid to 3 parts oil, plus salt (and pepper if you're a pepper person.) Of course you can endlessly variate this--honey, apple cider vinegar, olive oil and garlic. Cilantro, sesame and vegetable oil, miso paste, and soy sauce. Find a favorite combo, make a big batch, and use it all week.

A little bit of fat or protein goes a long way, especially if you make a "chopped salad" (as opposed to layered or composed.)  Some finely chopped almonds, a little bit of salami,ham turkey, bacon, or tuna, 1/2 a hard-boiled egg, a bit of crumbled feta or blue cheese, a handful of canned chickpeas, or a couple minced olives or anchovies are all you need to make your salad feel like a substantial meal. You can, of course, leave these things out, but I like finding those little nuggets in the tangle of veggies.

Make your salad components uniform in size. There's nothing worse than negotiating a giant chuck of carrot right next to some delicate greens. If you want chunky, make everything chunky (think Greek salad or Salad Nicoise.) A chopped salad (my favorite lately) means you can get a bite of almost everything in one forkful. It also means you're likely to eat more vegetables since they are hospitably cut.

Veggie prep on the weekends makes salad-eating a lot more likely. Otherwise, you'll end up eating cheese and crackers all week. When I'm being good, I wash a few different kinds of greens and wrap them up in paper towels. Then whatever else is cheap and relatively in-season, washed and ready to go. In the winter, it's broccoli, cauliflower, red onions, green onions, radishes, hothouse cucumbers, cilantro, parsley, avocados.

Nuts. And other pantry luxuries. Almost everything is a salad possibility. I'm currently into smoked almonds. When you finely chop them (you just need a few) they taste like bacon in your salad. Some other favorites: olives, pepperocini, capers, raw sunflower seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds, sun-dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, pumpkin seeds, poppy seeds, any kind of canned beans. Be careful with fruit--canned, dried, fresh. Often it's delicious in salads, but you have to be a little more judicious with your combos. I wouldn't advise grapefruit with kidney beans, for instance. Oranges, walnuts, and red onions are a favorite combo. Or blue cheese with apples or pears and dried cherries or cranberries.

Cooked grains will make you feel so proud of yourself. At the beginning of the week, cook something up--brown rice, quinoa, farro, bulgur. Drain, toss with a bit of olive oil, and refrigerate. The possibilities are endless, including tossing cold grains with whatever salad you're making. 

Don't limit salads to a side dish. Eat them as main dishes, and make them just for yourself. I don't mind a plate of celery or carrot sticks, but you're likely to eat a lot more vegetables if you make them interesting. 

What are your favorite combos? What are you planning to do in 2013 that will make you stronger and healthier? 

 

What I Bring to Potlucks

IMG_4112

I feel two ways about potlucks. On one hand, they're the only sensible way for a big group to gather and eat together. In all my magazine-reading (have I mentioned how much I love magazines? The paper kind?), I often come across "Easy Do-Ahead Party Menus!" that look atrocious. More work than I have ever put into having anyone over in my life. Maybe each step is technically easy, but you'd still have to be unemployed (or have a kitchen staff), hyper organized, and LOVE cooking to pull it off. So potlucks solve this problem.

However, *&%$#!. Sometimes too many potlucks stack up in one week, and I find they are just as much work (or more) than what I would have made for my family that night. And I have occasionally cursed potlucks, though please don't tell anyone. Puget Sounders are supposed to love them. Always.

I adore people that bring a hot, main dish to potlucks. People with crockpots (I gave mine away as it was suffering from disuse), people with those handy Rubbermaid sets with thermal jackets. If you're one of those, thank you! Keep doing your thing!

As for me and my house, we will supply the salad. It's usually something like this one--brown rice and kale salad with cranberries and pecans. Here's my reasoning:

  1. It's vegan and gluten free. And I label it as such. 
  2. It's filling. Though I'm not a Main Dish Super Hero (God bless you!), it's conceivable that someone could eat a **#load of this and feel fairly satisfied.
  3. It's delicious. Have I ever let you down? (Don't chime in if I have. I know readers have slaved over some recipes and been ruinously disappointed. I'm sorry!)
  4. It is best served room temperature (Potluck Royalty!).
  5. It can sit in its vinaigrette forever and just get better. You don't have to worry about it getting soggy.
  6. Crazily, I usually have everything I need for a version of this salad--grains, greens, homemade vinagrette. If you wash and dry kale and put it in a ziploc bag in the fridge, it lasts a really long time. (Though it gets gobbled up around here. Along with a latte and Triscuits, it's the food I eat almost every day.)
  7. It looks bright and beautiful with the macerated cranberries and the green kale. There's never any left.

And for those of you that have been following this blog since its inception almost 4 years ago, you might remember the very first recipe I posted was something similar--Barley and kale salad with dried cherries and blue cheese. I had taken it to my Mom's birthday party and been accosted with requests for the recipe. I prided myself on always delivering recipes (handwritten and cobbled together from memory) to people who asked for them, but had the idea of putting it online to save my fingers from so much work. I made up the name on-the-spot, and I've always been glad I didn't think it about it much. Otherwise it wouldn't have happened. (I have a couple dear friends who are contemplating--and contemplating some more!--the idea starting a blog. Just get out there. We'll all be better for it.)

Happy Week of Giving Thanks. As always, I'm thankful for you.

Kale and Brown Rice Salad with Cranberries and Pecans
You could use white rice, barley, quinoa...so many other grains here. The important thing is that it's had a chance to cool down a little bit so the grains can separate. If you can't cook it ahead of time and chill it, just spread it out in a very shallow layer, drizzle a little bit of olive oil over it, and stir it occasionally to release the steam.

4 cups cooked grain (I made brown rice in my rice cooker the day before)
1 large bunch curly green kale, de-stemmed, washed, dried, and coarsely chopped
1/2 c. toasted pecans, coarsely chopped
2 Tb. honey
salt and pepper
2 garlic gloves
4 Tb. apple cider vinegar
1/4 c. olive oil 
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced 
1/2 c. dried cranberries

For dressing:
Combine honey, salt and pepper, garlic, vinegar, and olive oil with an immersion blender. (Or with a whisk if you use a garlic press.) Add more of anything to taste. Drop the sliced onions and dried cranberries into the dressing to marinate.

To assemble salad:
In a large bowl, combine rice, kale, and dressing. I use my hands. Make sure everything is covered with the vinaigrette. That's what makes this salad. Scatter the toasted pecans over the top and maybe a little more coarse salt and pepper. 

Summer Salad Series: Grilled Squash with Preserved Lemon

Roasted squash

At the end of a busy week, all I feel is blessed. I feel a list coming on. Thank you, Loving One, for:

  • Rich, Mary, Oscar, Milo, and Sebastian being with us for the week and our precious friendship that's endured a move
  • Liz and her amazing Lego Camp and how much delight it brought Wyatt, Oscar, and Milo every day
  • Walking with my aunts and cousins in the Relay for Life and remembering my uncle's battle with cancer
  • My new meditation pillow and the (surprising) discipline with which I've been using it
  • Falling asleep in the sun
  • Privileged time with clients doing good work
  • Pandora summer stations
  • My cousin Josh and his girlfrend Jamie coming up from Seattle to see us
  • Volunteering in the Roosevelt Elementary garden and harvesting golden beets, kale, snow peas, lettuce, and broccoli
  • Walking with my family and Bellingham First Congregational in the Pride Parade this afternoon. When our pastors walked in front with their robes and stoles on, I cried. Indeed, God loves everyone.

And a little meandering at the Bellingham Farmers Market where I bought a couple pounds of the World's Most Beautiful Summer Squash. Smooth, bright yellow, thin-skinned, firm, small. Just completely perfect.

We slathered grilled bread with pesto, laid some thick slices of French feta, then piled this salad on top of that. That was dinner, and there were groans of delight all around the table.

To make: Cut several small summer squash lengthwise into 1/4" thick strips. Grill with olive oil and a bit of salt. Toss the grilled squash with a few tablespoons of smashed preserved lemon (pulp, peel, and juices), olive oil, pepper, and lots of parsley leaves.

Summer Salad Series: Steak Salad with Corn Salsa

 

I'm serious. It's a blazing 72 degrees in Bellingham. I always joke that when the sun is out in The Ham, it's like you just handed everyone a $100 bill. People are so stinking happy.

Yancey is home recovering from knee surgery, and we're happy, too. The surgery went without a hitch, it was overdue, and he's mending nicely. And we've had the strangest couple days--just hanging out, doing puzzles (him, not me--I have ZERO attention span for puzzles), lolling about with the kids, family dropping by to bring food or say hello. I can't resist philosophizing here--it's too bad it takes a surgery for an unplanned weekend! We're pretty good about saying "NO!" to things, but still. I resolve to do LESS in the future. It's pretty great. Yancey's sister Kelly is here today kicking #%$ on the puzzle. Look at this sweet photo.

IMG_4063

The biggest news around here might be that Wyatt is now riding around the neighborhood on his bike. Alone. And the shoes I just bought him are a size SIX. Get out. He is suddenly giant, witty, independent, and more engaging than ever. He took his bike out this morning and went garage saleing with his allowance. He bought a puzzle and a foot massager. He would grimace at me calling him cute, but God. He's cute. And mine. That is what's so crazy. He came from me.

I suppose I should get around to the food here. This site was down for a week (please say you noticed!) because of some technical glitches, and I'm all chatty now that it's up again. Sometimes I think, "Maybe In Praise of Leftovers has run its course." Then things happen to change my mind. Like it disappearing and me missing it. Or Jenny and Dusty bringing me cocoa nib shortbread from The Breadfarm and writing me a card about how much iPol has meant to them. Or Janie sending me an email and saying it's made her gluten intolerance so much more bearable. Or Emily saying, "Where did it go? It's a community service!" Ah. Happy to oblige.

Okay. Really getting around to the food now. Our new thing around here is salad bar. I cook, chop, and whisk some things, set them in the middle of the table, and wash a lot of dishes at the end. If you're into One Pot Meals, this probably isn't your thing. My Mom and I have always been into Thousand Pot Meals. Ask our husbands. 

There are going to be so many salads this summer that I can't see myself recording every single "recipe" or proportion. (Okay. I can see it. I just don't want to.) The great thing about salads is they're pretty hard to screw up. So I've decided to give myself a break and just post the ingredients, and by the end of the summer, you'll have lots of good ideas and you'll be proud of yourself for winging it.

For this salad, assemble something like this:

  1. Salsa of cooked corn kernels (fresh or frozen roasted corn from TJ's), tomatoes, cilantro, basil, salt, olive oil, and lime juice
  2. Avocado
  3. Pickled or fresh red onions
  4. Crumbled feta, cojita, or queso fresco cheese
  5. Roasted or fresh poblano chiles
  6. Greens (romaine, kale, beet greens, arugula, etc.)
  7. Thinly sliced grilled steak or chicken (or leave meat out alltogether)
  8. Dressing of lime juice, cumin, garlic, olive oil, and salt

Set everything out and let the fam or guests assemble their own. Mysteriously diappear when it's time to clean all the bowls. How I adore my home office.

Happy Summer, friends. I like being here with you.

Vietnamese Cucumber and Melon Salad with Peanuts

IMG_4053

When I got home from my retreat last week, the fridge was bare. The kids and I had to go out for breakfast on Sunday morning for lack of fruit, bread, milk, or eggs. Amazing! Monday I could hardly close the fridge!

Once the grocery shopping is done, I often spend a good 2 hours in the kitchen--cleaning the fridge, consolidating boxes of crackers, freezing overly ripe bananas for smoothies, and washing veggies for the week. If I don't make time for this task (which, crazily, I actually LIKE), I am sure to be frustrated and impulse-eating by Wednesday. A giant bunch of unwashed kale taking up a whole shelf in the fridge isn't nearly as likely to be sauteed with eggs in the morning as a neat like bag of washed and chopped kale. I overestimate myself if I think otherwise.

This week, I cut up a cantaloupe and a pineapple. I washed two big bunches of cilantro and a head of lettuce, roasted a head of cauliflower, made a big batch of brown rice, and rescued half a head of radicchio that looked past its prime but actually just needed a little trimming.

I was famished by the time I was done. And of course, inspired by handling all those beautiful fruits and veggies. This salad is what I made for lunch. My goodness. It's not summer here in the Northwest, but this salad tricked me. Juicy, sweet, spicy, sour, crunchy. A delicious little number to bring to a potluck or BBQ and infinitely more fascinating that the other salads that might be sitting on the table. (I'm always looking for a chance to be popular. At least I admit it.)

Vietnamese Cucumber and Melon Salad with Peanuts
Gently combine about 1 c. each of thickly sliced cucumber, pineapple, and cantaloupe in a medium bowl. Add a good portion of cilantro (I used stems and all), mint leaves, celery leaves, thinly sliced red onion, and fresh chile if you wish. Add 1 Tb. sugar, a good jigger of fish sauce, salt, juice from half a lime, and about 1 Tb. of sesame oil. Combine gently with your hands, and scatter chopped salted peanuts over the top. Serves 1 famished Household Coordinator or 2 more petite eaters. Eyeball it for a crowd. 

Kale Caesar with Rye Croutons

Kale Caesar

This one is for Emily. Apparently it's possible for someone to love kale more than I do.

We met her for lunch yesterday at Skillet Diner. We split lunch, and she wisely chose the Kale Caesar instead of fries as our side. I was a little wistful--I've said no to fries maybe one other time in my life. But love demands sacrfice, so I went along.

Of course, it was no sacrifice. Curly, bright green kale with garlicky caesar clinging to the ridges, every forkful a hit of winter vitamins. I made the kids a giant vat of white rice for lunch today and got busy making this for myself. (White rice is like crack to them. If they have enough of it, I could probably sneak out of the house, go for a sauna at the Y, and come home before they'd notice.)

I'm tracking my calories lately, and apparently a plateful of this salad will deliver over 800% of your daily vitamin A. I know you don't need that fact to entice you, though.

P.S. I want this t-shirt. Kind of a friendly way to get up on one of my soapboxes?

 Kale Caesar with Rye Croutons
Serves 4. These days, I often have a bag of Trader Joe's washed kale around. When the farmers markets open, I'll commence with washing it again. If you have dino (aka lacinato) kale around, that's even more delicious here, but more expensive and a little harder to find. (Have I mentioned that our house in Bellingham is 5 minutes from Trader Joe's? It's rough.)

For salad
1 large head kale, washed, spun dry, and chopped
4 slices dense rye bread
olive oil
Parmesan or manchego cheese, shaved off with a vegetable peeler

For dressing:
1 large clove garlic
2 anchovies
1 Tb. dijon
1 Tb. worchestershire
1 Tb. mayonnaise
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 c. olive oil 
freshly ground pepper
pinch of kosher salt 

To make dressing, put all ingredients into a beaker and stick your immersion blender in there. (Or use a food processor.) Add more of anything to taste or thin with a little water if it's too thick.

To make croutons, heat a castiron griddle or pan over medium-high heat. Brush bread with olive oil and fry until golden brown on both sides. Cut into cubes.

Toss kale with croutons, cheese and dressing (maybe not all of it), saving a bit of everything for the top.

Wheatberry Chicken Salad

wheatberry chicken salad

Have I devoted some space to my beloved pressure cooker here yet? If not, it's high time. I love that big, hurking thing. I got it at a garage sale last summer. Otherwise, I'm not sure I would have paid the $150. It takes up a lot of cupboard space, and I probably only use it 3 or 4 times a month. But if you eat a lot of beans and grains and you trip over a cheap one, grab it.

Soaked beans (pinto, navy, black) take 15 minutes to cook, and things like barley and wheatberries take 20 (instead of 50 or 60!). The steam is mighty loud and you shouldn't be doing 50 other things at the same time you're clicking the safety lid into place. Safety first in my kitchen. (Ha! Yancey would beg to differ, as I burn or cut myself nightly.) Not only do things cook quickly in a pressure cooker, but they stay perfectly separate--nothing sticking together or getting mushy. Dreamy. 

I'll often cook up a big batch of grain, use some of it right away, then put the rest in a Ziploc bag in the fridge. Then I can add a handful of barley or brown rice to a taco, toss it in a green salad, or eat it for breakfast with brown sugar and milk. 

For Monday night dinner with my parents we went on a sunset picnic, and my goal was to make dinner without going to the grocery store. One peek in my fridge and you'll see this isn't that hard in my house. It's always stuffed to its poor little gills with bits of this and that. I always have various grains in the pantry, usually chicken in the freezer, and bins of vegetables waiting for attention. This is a great one-dish meals, and leftovers can be packed in lunches the next day. 

Wheatberry Chicken Salad
Serves 6 as a main course. You can easily leave the chicken out of this salad if you're veggie, and sub brown rice or quinoa if you're GF. And don't let not having a pressure cooker keep you from making it. A big vat of boiling water works just as well.

For dressing:
2 cloves minced garlic
2 tsp. kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
4 Tb. honey
4 Tb. red wine vinegar
1/4 c. olive oil
1/2 c. dried cranberries
1/2 c. thinly sliced red onions

For salad:
2 c. wheatberries (or other favorite grain)
shredded, cooked meat from 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (I roasted mine in the oven)
several handfuls fresh, washed spinach leaves
2 large carrots, peeled and grated into large shreds with a vegetable peeler
1/2 c. crumbled feta
large handful fresh whole basil leaves 
1/4 c. pumpkin seeds

To make dressing, combine all ingredients except for cranberries and onions and whisk, adding more of anything to taste. Drop cranberries and onions in, stir, and let marinate while you make the rest of the salad.

Cook wheatberries according to pressure cooker instructions OR in a big stockpot with lots of boiling, salted water. (If you don't put enough water, they'll stick together.). If you boil them, they'll take about 50 minutes until they're tender. Either way you cook them, drain them in a colander when they're done, rinse them with cold water, and drain again, shaking the colander to remove excess water.

Combine cooked wheatberries with all the other ingredients except pumpkin seeds, mixing gently with your hands. Pour dressing over, again using your hands to mix the salad and coat everything. Top salad with pumpkin seeds and serve room temperature or cold.

Strawberry Hazelnut Salad with Sesame Dressing

Strawberry hazelnut salad

Oh, how I love June strawberries. I've got my kids trained, too. Driving through town this week, Wyatt said, "Mom! Pull over! There's a strawberry stand!" We've just been eating them fresh--out of hand, over yogurt, in smoothies. They are so yielding and RED. The very definition of red.

I had lunch alone today. Yancey and the kids were running errands, which seems like all we do lately. Run errands, unpack, take yet more $%# to Goodwill, and sign paperwork. We are awash in paperwork over here. Turns out, if you sell and buy a house in the same month, the entire universe requires your signature. So we have disclosed and been disclosed to, locked in interest rates, and become best friends with our insurance brokers. I'm not complaining--all of this is a giant gift. But I'm ready for things to slow down.

And lunch alone at home is my favorite, as you probably know by now. I like it better than making mac and cheese for kids (surprise) and even like it better than going out. I've never lived alone (What?! Yes, it's true) so I have to fake it every once in awhile and please just myself.

In this case, it was bounty from Joe's Garden--pointy spinach leaves, big leaves of Italian parsley, sweet shelling peas, toasted hazelnuts, sheep's milk feta, sliced strawberries.  For the dressing (this serves one), mix 1 Tb. of honey, kosher salt, pepper, thinly sliced green onion, sprinkle of sesame seeds, and 1/2 Tb. of red wine vinegar. Whisk in 1 Tb. of sesame oil and 1 Tb. of olive oil, and add more of anything to taste. Happy Alone Time!

 My big girl

BLT Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing

BLT salad

This is the first meal I made in our new (summer) home. Nothing revolutionary, but easy, delicious, and just right for when the temperature climbs to a blistering 70 degrees around here. To celebrate, we went for a dunk in Lake Whatcom, which happens to be right outside our door.

Some other tidbits about our move and our new life in Bellingham: 

  • There are deer everywhere up here.  At first, I was incredulous when my Mom suggested Wyatt pursue them with his slingshot.  Then, after noticing they had eaten all my pots down to nothing, I'm reconsidering.
  • Wyatt climbed up in the cherry tree while the moving van was idling in the driveway of our Seattle house. I told him he could have a few last minutes up there. He sobbed so loudly he could be heard down the whole block. It was heartbreaking, but I love that he feels things so deeply. 
  • The Bellingham Farmers Market is indeed amazing. Wyatt got a lavender lemon popsicle and I bought some kale. Of course.
  • Our rental (and the fixer we purchased down the hill!) are right on an interurban trail system. We are in heaven, going for lots of bike rides and spending an inordinate amount of time outside.
  • In spite of not being unpacked yet, in the last five days I have managed to make basil shortbread, a giant platter of carnitas, rhubarb crisp, and have people over for dinner twice. There's some pent-up cooking energy going on, for sure.

This morning, at the kitchen table, the kids chattering in the living room and Yancey still asleep, my parents' cat meowing at the front door, I feel complete. We have landed, and it is good.

BLT Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing
Serves 4. I've given instructions to make one big bowl, but you could plate the salad up individually. 

For salad:
1 large head lettuce, washed and torn
1 bunch watercress, washed and stems (mostly) removed 
2 c. fresh bread cubes
olive oil
salt and pepper
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 lb. bacon, cooked until crispy and coarsely chopped
1 large avocado, cubed 
4 hard-cooked eggs, sliced into wedges 
handful of crumbled feta 

For dressing:
1 medium avocado
juice of one lemon
1/2 bunch cilantro, washed 
salt and pepper
one garlic clove
water to thin 

To make croutons, heat 2 Tb. of olive oil in a heavy skillet.  When oil is hot (but not smoking), add bread cubes, salt, and pepper. Saute until bread is crispy on all sides, but not hard (about 5 minutes). Set aside.

Arrange greens in a large salad bowl. Lightly toss with 1/2 of other ingredients--avocado, feta, bacon, eggs, and croutons. Arrange the rest of ingredients on top of the salad.

To make dressing, combine all ingredients in a food processor or with an immersion blender. Thin with water to desired consistency.

Drizzle dressing over salad.

Everyday Salads

IMG_3613

I bring or offer to bring salads wherever we go. If it were up to me, my minivan would have the following features:

  • A built-in car seat that converts as kids grow, can be removed later, and frees me from the guilt of buckling it in wrong.
  • A little composting bin for orange peels, apple cores, and compostable coffee cups.
  • Hell. While we're at it, a spigot for coffee.
  • A long mechanical arm that reaches back to pick Loretta's lip gloss off the floor when she drops it or takes away a toy that's being fought over.
  • And yes, a hollowed-out, covered, and secure slot for my favorite salad bowl so I can take it everywhere without worrying about spillage.

In the sixteen years we've lived in Seattle, I wish I had tallied up all the potlucks we've been to. I've spent many hours pulling over to check on a full pot of soup sloshing around or balancing a cake on my lap while Yancey takes corners. But I usually bring green salads because:

  • I almost always have the ingredients to make them.
  • They're easy to transport.
  • I am never, ever without ingredients to make salad dressing.
  • Salad isn't hummus (ubiquitous at every Puget Sound gathering).
  • My salads are better than anyone else's.

Did I really just say that? It's not true. Lots of my friends can make salads as good as mine, but they learned from me. There. How's that? My salads aren't fancy, but I've learned lots of tricks throughout the years that make them deliciously foolproof every time. Here is yet another bulleted list. I think it might be long. Don't let that scare you. I just have lots of opinions.

  • I'm a fan of the pre-washed cello bags of greens. They make lots of things easier. But they're expensive. If you're bringing unwashed greens home, wash them right away, lay them out on a length of paper towel, roll the towel up, and put the whole bundle in a ziploc bag. They'll stay fresh for well over a week and be ready for salad-making whenever you are.
  • My basic dressing is kosher salt, freshly ground pepper, one part white or red vinegar or lemon juice, and three parts extra virgin olive oil. So that, I might add some dijon or fresh herbs. Or maybe garlic or smoked paprika, depending on what kind of salad I'm making. If you want to make a creamy dressing, add a teaspoon of mayo (it doesn't take much) and you'll get a beautifully clingy dressing.
  • When my herbs are growing, they all go in (except sage). Right now, I am putting big, soft mint leaves in everything. I use them like I would a lettuce leaf. Same with celery leaves, beet tops.
  • Color! I work as hard to make my salads colorful as I do to make them tasty.
  • Toasted nuts are almost always in my salads--walnuts, almonds, pecans. If you're allergic to nuts, sunflower seeds, pepitas, or homemade croutons.
  • This one might be most important. I try to think of a forkful of salad and being able to get every ingredient in one bite. That means no giant, thick rounds of carrot or big wheels of cucumber. So I'll use a vegetable peeler to shave carrot into the salad or cut my cucumber into matchsticks. You want everything cut to manageable--not necessarily uniform--size. 
  • The bowl you pick is important, too. Try to use something shallow that just fits the ingredients so you can see everything and it looks abundant. A little pile of chopped vegetables in the bottom of a narrow bowl never made anyone feel like eating healthy.
  • Protein. Not always, but most the time there's something else in there--cheese, hard boiled egg, chickpeas. And if I'm really feeling ambitious or it's a main dish salad, maybe bacon, bits of crispy chorizo, or some roasted chicken or smoked salmon. 
  • Toss everything in your dressing right before serving, using your hands and mixing very gently. This will coat everything and ensure that you don't use too much dressing.

We're entering salad season, which I'm thrilled about. Let's get to it!

Everyday Salad
For the salad pictured, use about 6 cups of washed greens to line a shallow bowl. Whatever ingredients you add, keep a tiny bit separate so you can garnish the top. Add a handful of toasted walnuts, a couple handfuls of mint leaves, half a thinly sliced red pepper. With a vegetable peeler, shave one large, peeled carrot and some parmesan into the greens. Toss gently with your dressing (see above) and garnish with a few of your reserved ingredients. Happy Spring!

Firsts and Lasts and Rice and Bean Salad

rice and bean salad

Two events this week--one that feels major for our little family, and one that's devastating for lots of people in my community.

First, Wyatt and I are separated for five days. He's staying with my parents and going to camp. He's having the time of his life, calling every night with reports of going pedal-boating, eating ring pops from the camp candy store, and being spoiled by his grandparents. I opened my Mom's fridge to find a cup of blackberries with this note sticking out the top. I've never been away from him this long, and it's made harder by the fact that I'm especially infatuated with him right now.  I miss his helpfulness, his little routines around the house, standing over his bed and watching him sleep. This is ridiculous. He'll be home Friday night.

do-not-eat

And my dear friend and colleague Bud passed away on Sunday night. I can't really get my head around it yet. My heart aches for his wife and my friend Kathy, for all of us that loved and knew him. I'm so grateful for his life, for the love and generosity he showed to me, and that his community will be together soon to celebrate him.

Bud's death has made these last few days seem especially poignant and fragile. I haven't wanted to let Loretta out of my sight, and dragged myself to my meetings today. What is this life, if not precious? We are all born to die, but I manage to skirt that reality quite a bit most the time. Right before I got the dark news, Loretta asked, "Mom, how do persons die?" And tonight she said, "Well, that's okay if you and me die. We just won't have bodies anymore." But right now, we have these bodies, and the only thing to do with them is love. I plan to do it more fiercely than ever.

Postscript: Here's a salad I've made twice this week. Once for Jordan's homecoming picnic, and today to drop off for Kathy. Comings and goings, firsts and lasts. Chalk another one up for the comfort of the kitchen. At the very least, it's something to do with our hands when nothing else makes sense.

grilled zucchini

Rice and Bean Salad
This salad is great to take to potlucks or to grieving households. It's vegan (though you could add some crumbled feta or queso fresco), gluten-free, and quite sturdy. It can sit in the fridge and be picked at for lunch or dinner, or can be piled on top of greens with some grilled chicken for a main dish. Or you could deliver it with some torillas, shredded romaine, and chipotle crema to make roll-ups. It might not garner a bunch of oohs and ahs at first glance, but the garlicky cumin dressing will hook people. This makes a very large bowlful. Halve it if your life is slightly less full of potlucks than mine has been.

2 1/2 c. brown basmati rice
2 15 oz. cans black beans
4 small zucchini
2 c. fresh corn kernels or Trader Joe's roasted corn, (sold frozen)
couple big handfuls chopped Italian parsley or cilantro
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
1 orange bell pepper, diced
1/4 c. raw pumpkin sides for garnish

For dressing:
1 Tb. coarse salt
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ancho chile powder
Fresh ground pepper
Juice of two limes
2/3 c. extra virgin olive oil

Cook your rice. I do mine in a rice cooker, then let the whole batch cool in the fridge overnight, breaking up clumps when I dump it into the bowl. However you do it (lots and lots of water on the stove would be another way), your grains should emerge separate, not all stuck together, and you'll want the rice down to cool down a bit before proceeding.

Grill the zucchini (I used my grill pan). Cut each zucchini in half crosswise, then cut each half lengthwise into four 1/4" flat strips. Toss the strips with a bit of olive oil and salt, and grill for about 2 minutes/side. Cool a bit, then dice.

If you're not using Trader Joe's amazing frozen roasted corn kernels (my new favorite thing), you can just use raw corn if it's really sweet and fresh. If it doesn't fit that description, toast it in a skillet with a tiny bit of olive oil and salt for a few minutes just to take the raw edge off.

Gently toss rice, zucchini, corn, and all other ingredients together.

To make dressing, combine first four ingredients, then whisk olive in to emulsify. Gently toss salad with dressing, and top salad with pumpkin seeds.

Shaved Beet and Fennel Salad

beet salad

This week has turned out drastically different than I planned. Yancey fought a huge fire on Tuesday night, which meant I had to cancel three meetings on Wednesday. Aimee's daughter fell and broke her elbow. I'm in limbo with work that may or may not be coming down the pipeline. And my dear friend Jordan's in town! I've wrangled being able to see her three times already, which has been an unexpected blessing. I reminded a friend this week that "Life is lived in the in-between times." I'm reminding myself, too. When things don't follow the nice little linear route we've laid out, we can either freak out or be present. I hope I'm getting closer to a 50/50 ratio.

Though they're more common than they used to be, raw beets are another unexpected tidbit. I love them roasted as much as the next person, but Seattle is experiencing a rare 95 degree weekend. No roasting around here. I also happen to have a mandoline, which shaves things paper-thin. I got it at a thrift store years ago, and it seems indispensable in the summer. Jenn and I were at the farmer's market last week and we both bought bunches of chioggia beets. They are stunningly gorgeous. Whenever I find them, it's impossible to resist their sprirograph trance. I advised Jenn to try them raw. She emailed me late at night, asking if there were any ailments that resulted from consuming too many beets. They are that good.

Shaved Beet and Fennel Salad
Serves two as a side dish. Wash two chioggia beets and peel them with a vegetable peeler. Wash one large or two small fennel bulbs. Using a mandolin, a very sharp knife, or a (thin!) slicing blade on a food processor, slice the beets and fennel bulb as thinly as you can. Put them in a medium bowl. Very finely chop a Thai chile or serrano chile and add it to the bowl. Sprinkle a generous amount of coarse salt over salad, squeeze half a lemon, and pour a glug of good olive oil. Gently mix with your hands. Using a vegetable peeler, shave some parmesan over the top.

Potato and Green Bean Salad with Loads of Herbs

green bean salad

There are lots of days when I think, "My life is a piece of cake." Then there are others when I stand outside myself and observe, and I think, "!#$%*. I'm exhausted." Today was one of those. One of my biggest pet peeves is when we use the phrase, "I'm so busy!" as some kind of currency that validates our importance, even our very existence. So I'm not into that. All the things I'm doing I have chosen. BUT (you knew this was coming), sometimes I wonder at the extraordinary amount of presence, energy, and coordinating prowess it takes just to live one day in the year 2010. Congratulations. You and I are still here at the end of another day.

And my garden is still growing. I've been a little mum about it this year, but my sweet little plot is thriving. Kale, two kinds of arugula, radishes, spinach, hot peppers, tomatoes, carrots, bush beans, romaine, herbs. My relationship to it has grown healthier over the 4 years I've had it. It used to be that when something got neglected or overgrown, I would either ignore my whole garden for the rest of the summer or rip the imperfect object out. (Lord! Someone take that girl aside and talk to her!) Now, I'm discovering that five minutes of weeding or pruning  goes a long way. I don't need to devote tons of discrete time to it. I just need to notice and engage periodically. Tons of lessons and metaphors in there.

Today, I looked closer at my beans and saw the overnight bounty. Since the beans are exactly similar in color to the bush, I've found I can miss the moment. Really, what is better than reaching down, finding that long, soft pod, and pinching it off?

This (or some version of it)  is my go-to salad for summer potluck and BBQ's. (I said that about this salad, too. I'm allowed to have two.) The potatoes make it hearty and gluten-free, the green beans make it crunchy and beautiful, and the olive oil dressing satisfies the mayo-haters of the world. (God bless 'em, I just can't relate.)

Wherever you are tonight, I hope something in your life is growing--your garden, your children, your sense of purpose or the amount of time you spend focusing on beans instead of weeds.

little gardener

Potato and Green Bean Salad with Loads of Herbs
Serves six as a side dish. There are lots of other things you can add to this salad--toasted walnuts or pecans, feta, chevre, thinly sliced red onions. VERY IMPORTANT: Don't toss salad with the dressing until right before serving, as the beans will react with the lemon juice and turn brown if they sit too long (like more than a couple hours).

2 lbs. small, tender potatoes (I used some darling little Yukon Golds from the market)
1 lb. green beans, trimmed
2 large garlic clove, minced
zest and juice of one large lemon
1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
Couple handfuls of fresh herbs--I used oregano, lemon thyme, and mint

Wash and boil potatoes until just tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and cool.

Blanche green beans until just tender--1 minute if they're very thin, 3 minutes if they're beefier. Immediately drain in a colander and run cold water over them so they stop cooking. Don't space out here. Mushy green beans will wreck this salad.

To make dressing, combine garlic, lemon juice and zest, salt, and pepper. Whisk olive oil in a stream until emulsified. Dump half your fresh herbs in and whisk a bit more.

Right before serving, combine potatoes, beans, and dressing, tossing gently with your hands. Scatter remaining herbs over the top and serve at room temperature.