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Here it is July 2nd already. June required several new drawings as more and more produce is becoming available. The color palette is opening up, which, in addition to beautiful meals, also means a larger variety of vitamins and minerals. An Eat the Rainbow post is soon to come that explores the range of antioxidants in the many colors of foods, and their benefits.

If you’re new here, visit April and May produce logs for an introduction to my yearlong project to track my fresh produce dollars. You can download each one as a PDF. Here is June.

Even those of us who cook often find ourselves stymied by what to do with our market or garden loot. The pressure to be creative or break out of eating ruts can conspire to overcomplicate what can be simple. Most foods that grow in the same season go well together. Foods that are fresh and seasonal don’t need much fussing. Instead, let the real taste of the fruit or vegetable sing. Two great sites I refer to often are Culinate, which posts wonderful food stories and seasonal recipes, and Epicurious, which is my go-to recipe source. Instead of trying to figure out what to cook for the week, I simply buy what looks good and is in season. Then I plug in what I’ve got into the search field and modify recipes if I don’t have an ingredient the recipe calls for.

How did I eat this month’s produce?

Artichoke: I lamented to chef Kathryn LaSusa Yeomans of The Farmers Feast that I preferred the versatility of baby artichokes and had lost my interest in basic steaming of large artichokes. She suggested tucking chopped fresh herbs like basil, mint and parsley and chopped garlic into the leaves. For a dipping sauce, I melted a little butter and added slivered garlic, fresh lemon juice, salt and pepper. Wonderful! But I await the baby artichokes to make one of my favorite dishes, a Roman stew called la vigniarola, with fava beans, pancetta and peas. See my artichoke piece in last year’s farmer’s market newsletter.

Kohlrabi: Veggie Borg, I like to call it. A truly bizarre looking vegetable. Kohlrabi has a nutty, fresh flavor and is wonderful shaved onto salads or cut into sticks and used for dip. It reminds one of jicama.

Cabbage: The reason for all this cabbage? Homemade sauerkraut, which is brewing in the kitchen. It smells, like, well, sauerkraut…in a good way.

Zucchini: Though many say baby zucchini are tastier than large ones, they can be expensive. I’d rather get more bang for my food buck. Summer squash is great grilled or slow sauteed in a skillet till they caramelize. Just add a squeeze of lemon and a sprinkle of fresh herbs and crumbled feta. See my piece on summer squash in last year’s farmer’s market newsletter. I’m also making refrigerator zucchini pickles. Here’s a recipe from the Zuni Cafe, but I’m cutting down on the sugar and may add other herbs. You don’t need to do special canning. They’ll keep in a jar in the fridge. Pictured is Deborah Madison’s recipe for zucchini circles. Saute on low heat for a long time till zucchini starts to brown and the sugars caramelize. Squeeze some lemon, sprinkle crumbled feta and chopped herbs like basil, parsley or mint…or all three.

Farro Salad with Roasted Beets and Peas: I roasted chioggia beets, and cut them into cubes for a farro (substitute any grain like wheat berry or quinoa) salad. Fresh shelling peas were added along with spring onions, a lemon and olive oil vinaigrette and fresh dill and chives from the garden. Stay tuned for a post about grains and how to incorporate them more into your diet.

Farro (or Quinoa) Salad with Zucchini and Peas: Another great grain salad, but rather than use zucchini raw, grill or saute it till browned for extra flavor, then chop and add it to the grains. A can of chick peas makes this a complete protein—great for your vegetarian friends. Add the herbs, lemon/olive oil vinaigrette and crumbled feta or goat cheese. You can use shelled fresh peas or cut sugar snap peas.

Please share! More to come. Happy 4th!

Everything is temporary, so make it beautiful and then make it disappear completely. —Tarin Towers

A recent thought to reflect on, given in yoga class, was to consider three qualities of yoga: discipline, self-study and surrender. We were asked to consider these three qualities in our practice and in our daily lives.

Did we experience them in equal amounts? And if not, did we notice any patterns in their fluctuations?

As often happens with these reflections, I both wince and smirk, as if my hand were caught in the spiritual cookie jar. My inner witness no longer allows me to get away with complacent thinking. These three qualities are woefully out of whack…most of the time. Chief among them is surrender. I need more self-study like I need a hole in the head. Discipline waxes and wanes—I berate myself for its lack, and at other times I fail to recognize my discipline because I take the activity for granted. But it is in surrender that I fall short.

As Eckhart Tolle points out, surrender does not mean giving up, being a door mat or never expressing your opinion. It means not resisting against what is. It’s our resistance that causes suffering, not the thing we are resisting. This all sounds rather lofty. But it’s a simple concept, profoundly difficult to apply. Some of us see surrender as loss of control. Instead, surrender is the embodiment of control (the good kind) because outside forces aren’t able to sway our thoughts and feelings. Often we stay stuck in non-surrender mode because we are righteously attached to a self-image.

For example, a person with a self-image of a caretaker may have difficulty letting go of control over every element of a holiday dinner. They may well be caring, but more likely, there’s an unexamined fear going on in the background—like the loss of their over-identification as a caretaker. Who would they be without the image?

A client, whose project is a rush, fails to reply to your emails. You break a leg before your tropical vacation and are forced watch others frolic. Your outdoor wedding is hampered by a downpour. Your succulent seedlings are attacked by slugs. You can’t sit down to paint or draw because you’re plagued by fears of not good enough. While resisting in these situations can result in frustration and disappointment, true surrender can elicit a sense of freedom. It may even reveal an otherwise missed opportunity.

Many creative types are too attached to results and so, they don’t bother creating. This made me think of the many types of temporary art where surrender is a built-in ingredient. From Andy Goldsworthy‘s work in twigs, sand and ice, sidewalk chalk art, to sand sculptures—they all disappear because of the elements. Some temporary art is deliberately destroyed, like Burning Man sculptures, Tibetan sand mandalas and even gorgeous cakes (I tried to get permission to post a Goldsworthy photo but this is better). Though indulging in this last one doesn’t count as difficult surrender! A high-school friend and artist at heart, with little time to create, is making Daily White Board drawings and erasing the results. When I asked her what was appealing about this process, she said, “Erasing reminds me that life is fleeting… move on, enjoy the moment…” Indeed.

(Clockwise from upper left) Tibetan monk erasing a mandala, a DaVinci sand sculpture, a cake in homage to Andy Goldsworthy, sidewalk art in NY city.

I love white beans and always keep them handy. Their white color contrasts nicely with colorful veg like carrots and greens. I prefer the small white beans, which you can get in bulk at most grocery stores. Bob’s Red Mill carries at least three types of white beans (It’s worth a trip to their store.). Here, I use their small white beans. But you can also use navy beans or the larger cannellini beans.

This is a nice hearty soup that can be made into many variations. You can skip the fennel and add thin strips of kale (my favorite is lacinato, also known as Italian black kale) when you add the beans and water. The point being that soup has room for experimentation. For example, if you like a soup that has a strong fennel flavor, add more fennel seed. If you aren’t sure, either skip it or use a little less. The fennel bulb on its own won’t emit as much fennel flavor, which is why I’ve added the fennel seed.

The Recipe

Ingredients
1 cup dry small white beans, navy beans or cannellini, soaked overnight
1 bay leaf
1 sprig thyme
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, slightly crushed
Small pinch of red pepper flake
2 T olive oil
1 carrot, chopped small about 1/8 inch size
1 celery, chopped small about 1/8 inch size
1 onion, chopped small about 1/8 inch size
1 small to medium fennel bulb, halved and halved again, thinly sliced
3 canned plum tomatoes, chopped
8 cups stock or water
salt and pepper to taste

Preparation
1. Chop all vegetables. Heat oil in a stock pot. Saute vegetables, a pinch of salt and herbs for about 10 minutes on low to medium heat, slightly covered. This will sweat the vegetables.
2. Add the tomatoes and saute another minute. Add the beans and stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer, partially covered for about 1 1/2 hours, or until beans are tender. Add salt to taste towards end of cooking.
3. Puree in a blender about 1/3 of the soup. Add pureed soup back to the pot.
4. Optional: drizzle with a little good olive oil before serving. Serve with a rustic bread and salad.

Notes: The red pepper flake just adds depth and rounds out the flavor; the soup is not meant to be spicy. Use what herbs you have. Add more or less stock or water depending on desired thickness of soup.

Download the White Bean Fennel recipe as a PDF.