In a world of so much variety it is still somehow easy to get stuck in a rut. Whether to save time or reduce the risk that comes from experimenting many of us have a certain leaning towards the familiar. To some extent, these likes and dislikes are what form the etchings of our identity. My certain love of vegetables, a penchant for puns and wordplay, my unending quest to develop and redevelop a methodology for composing the world’s most organized grocery list, a distinct urge to fill my closet with clothing in varying shades of grey and brown – these may be some of the things that come to mind when friends and family think of me.
These interests, likes, and dislikes piece together to form about a kindergarten level understanding of who we are. And its strange to think but we still so often rely on these identifiers to build bridges with new people. We may bond over a shared love of blues music, rock climbing, wood oven pizzas, vintage clothing, or old trucks and develop relationships with newcomers that largely revolve around these shared interests and activities. All of this is good and well, and really perfectly normal, but the problem is that as we change, and our likes and dislikes shift and morph and we evolve as individuals we experience a good deal of churn. There is often a turning over of acquaintances as we give up old hobbies and shed bits and bobs of our face value identity.
About 6 months ago Dustin and I stopped climbing. It was less of a conscious decision and more of a natural shift, we moved to a new house, took on new hobbies and found new athletic pursuits. And just like that our new identities formed adding new badges to our identities sort of “Brownie” style, an iron on patch for distance running, a sticker for gardening, pins for milestone achievements in weight lifting, a new sash for woodworking. These pursuits became our new topics of discussion, our new bonding points with passersby, something to talk about while standing in the grocery line or while waiting for a bench at the gym.
On the grand cosmic scheme of things, stopping climbing really changed nothing at all about Dustin and myself. We so quickly found new activities to fill our time, new ways to self identify, the old badges were put aside – maybe to be revisited, maybe not. But for larger, shape shifting changes these voids are not so easily filled. For all of my friends and family who have struggled to overcome addiction, to put the pieces back together after an illness, or job loss, who have suffered through depression – to pull through these crises of identity takes an enormous amount of soul searching. Pulling through each dreary day, each setback requires that you get real with yourself and search for that deeper kernel of identity that many never have the will or need to reach for.
This weeks dish is made up from some truly simple ingredients. The earthy radish, the humble bean, peasant greens and a scant smattering of nuts, cheese, and lemon pull together to create a nourishing meal. Lemon, Parmesan and garlic are flavors that I love, that can elevate even the humblest ingredient, and that bring me comfort. Like us, strong, basic ingredients need little embellishment to shine, at their core, simple, “whole” ingredients have the integrity to stand alone. This simple meal is a great staple to turn to for a rainy day. If you are willing to take on the time taking project of soaking, rinsing, cooking and rerinsing your own beans, I suggest you do yourself a favor and cook a double batch, the remaining beans can be frozen for a later use. Alternatively this dish can be made with cooked beans, I suggest buying the largest ones you can find, the giant limas are nice as they are about the same size as the halved radishes and make for a really attractive plate of food, but smaller white beans like navy, cannellini or even chickpeas would work well here.
Kale, Radish, and Giant Lima Sautee with Almonds
This dish was inspired by “Pan-Fried Corona Beans & Kale” from one of my all time favorite bloggers, Heidi Swenson, you can find the original here at 101cookbooks.com.
1 1/4 Cup Large Lima Beans (Dried) Soaked Overnight in Water
2 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 Cloves of Garlic, Minced
2 Bunches of Kale, Washed Well (about 400g) Stems Separated and Chopped Finely (1/2″ Segments), Leaves Chopped (1″ Pieces, Strips are OK.)
1/2 lb (226g) Radishes, Washed (May Need to Be Gently Scrubbed If Very Dirty) and Halved
1/4 Cup (about 30g) Walnuts, Chopped and Toasted
1/4 Cup (about 28g) Parmesan Cheese, Grated
Zest of One Lemon, Minced
2 TBSP Lemon Juice
Salt and Pepper to Taste
Start the recipe the night before (actually, for all of the advance planners out there – this step can be done 2 or 3 days before, in fact, you can easily double the amount of beans you prepare here and do your future-self a favor by freezing one half of the beans for later use.) Place the beans in a medium sized bowl and cover with about 6 cups of water. Cover the bowl with a towel (I typically slip a rubber band around the rim of the bowl to secure the towel lest any of our insect friends get curious about the bowls contents.) Leave the beans overnight to soak. Drain the beans and rinse well. Place in a saucepan and cover with water, the beans should be covered by about 1 – 1 1/2 inch of water. Put the pot over medium high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce the water to a simmer and cook for about 40-45 minutes or until just tender. Be careful not to overcook the beans or they will disintegrate when they are pan fried later. Drain the beans, rinse again and set aside to dry.
Once the beans have dried place a large (preferably non-stick) pan over medium high heat. Add the oil and heat till shimmering. Add beans to the heated oil and sautee, tossing every 2 minutes for about 6 minutes or until lightly golden, add the radishes and sautee for another 4-5 minutes, tossing regularly. Add the garlic and sautee another minute. Add the kale and sautee until just wilted. Remove the pan from the heat and add the walnuts, parmesan, and lemon (zest and juice.) Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed and serve.
Readers, I apologize for the lapse in posting. I can’t believe its been almost three weeks since we told you all about the insane amount of tomatoes we have been slogging through here in Nashville. I can tell you that the tomatoes are still rolling into the kitchen (occasionally hopping off the counter and trying to flee back from whence they came.) But luckily for us the season has started to change – and thank heavens, the tomato crop is finally slowing. Our cherry tomato (monster) plant has gone from producing overflowing pints each week, to putting forth a mere handful of mildly acidic cherries, which we are able to dispatch with easily. Yes indeed, the summer season is coming to an end, and as that door closes a window opens into the world of fall vegetables to include the beautiful little carrots and breakfast radishes pictured below.
There are many reasons to love fall, the heat and exhausting pace of summer start to abate, the cool crisp air is so inviting, welcoming a slew of leisurely outdoor activities. For many people, fall is a time to slow down, to savor the gentle season and to rejoice in the fruit of past seasons labors. For me Fall is full of many good memories. It was the beginning of a cool crisp September when Dustin and I first met, and began to delve into each others worlds, discussing likes and dislikes, hopes and dreams. In fact, as of this week it was exactly five years ago that Dustin and I began this journey together. And oh what a journey it has been.
After five years it is amazing how much, and yet how little has changed. I am proud to say we still spend, what many would classify as “way too much time together.” And yet it suits us just fine. To me, (and hopefully to Dustin as well) it’s nice to have someone around that shares so many of my oddball interests. Not many people share our same zeal for old blues music, get excited about countertop fermentation, never tire of tv crime drama, enjoy discussing the on goings of the little friends we have milling about in our compost pile and get really excited about watching Chris Sharma Climbing DVDs. Yep, I’m pretty sure I’ve met my match.
Speaking of shared interests, boy oh boy have we had some culinary adventures in our years together. Some endeavors were admittedly more successful than others. Luckily we have experienced more “hits” in the kitchen than we have had misses. And the good times (and “interesting” times) just keep on rolling. As we have begun to shape our own identities and our life as a couple, we have also developed a cooking “personality” of sorts which weaves in each of our likes and dislikes. Approaching each others quirky affinities with open minds has allowed us to explore and learn to love foods we had never really explored. And then there are the dishes, like these pickles, that were totally foreign to us both, but like with some many things we embraced them and just enjoyed the ride.
1/2 Pound Carrots, Cut Into Thin Coins
1/2 Pound Radishes, Cut Into Thin Coins
1 C Water
1/2 C Sugar
2 TBSP Salt
2 Star Anise
2 TBSP Minced Ginger
1 C White Wine Vinegar
Fill a canner with water, set aside lids, and screw bands and boil 3 pint jars to sterilize.
Lay out a clean cutting board and cover with a clean dish towel.
In a large non-reactive saucepan, combine vinegar, water, salt, sugar, and ginger. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat until sugar and salt are dissolved.
Add the carrot and radish to the pickling liquid. Allow the veggies to cook for one minute before removing from the heat.
Remove the jars from the water and place them on the prepared (towel covered) cutting board.
Place a star anise pod in each hot jar. Using a funnel, pack vegetables into hot jars leaving staying under 1/2 inch from the top. Ladle hot pickling liquid to cover vegetables, leaving 1/2-inch headspace.
Using a paper towel, wipe the rims clean and apply lids and rings.
Place jars in the canner, ensuring they are completely submerged. Bring to a boil and process covered for 10 minutes. Remove the lid leaving the jars in the water for 5 minutes before removing jars. Leave the jars in a cool place (not cold) and don’t touch! 24 hours later remove the bands and check the seals. Store in a cool, dark place for up to a year.