I hate when you click on a recipe from a blog and have to scroll past a long, stupid story to get to the ingredients, but I'm about to make you do it anyway. My cooking was terrible when we first got married. It went beyond burned dinners- I actually served food with glass and rocks in it. My pasta tasted like toothpaste. Once I made a meringue that looked perfectly nice on the outside, but when you bit into it, dripped out raw, runny, yellow egg. This is almost entirely my mom and grandma's fault. They're renowned for beautiful meals, whether serving our family of ten or a crowd of 300+ at one time. I often watched people starve themselves on the the eve of one of their famous luncheons. "Don't you want a snack?" I'd say, mid-morning, as I feasted on three double Whoppers with the buns removed. "Nope, your mother is cooking today," they'd reply. "We need as much room in our stomachs as possible."
In the 90s, my grandma was all about Taste of Home, Atkins, and elaborate Korean dishes- lots of chopping and glazing and spiralizing, before spiralizing was a thing- but when I entered middle school, she embraced gluten-free cooking, detox diets, and clean eating, lightyears ahead of Pinterest. My mother's ouevre couldn't be more different. Her food luxuriates in gravy. If my grandma's cooking is a vigorous day at the spa, my mom's is a leisurely swim in a chocolate river, followed by a comforting, enveloping hug from a stick of butter. They tried to pass on their skills, but I never felt the need to learn. I moved away and got a job where all meals were catered and free. When I cooked for myself, I had turkey burgers smothered in mayonnaise and ketchup, imagining that was healthy. I don't remember how I survived as a vegan. I think I ate out a lot, or had black bean patties covered in nut cheese that never really melted, but just kind of spread out over dense, meaty carbs in a wholly unsatisfying manner.
Then I started going to markets, and something clicked. "Comment ça se prepare?" I'd ask. Their instructions were simple. They taught me to pick the smallest fruits and vegetables for the biggest burst of flavor, and how to select items for consumption today, tomorrow, and next week, so I didn't waste produce. Forget fancy slicing techniques- they told me to cut lengthwise, twice. When produce is good, you don't have to drown it in stuff like umami or ghee. A little olive oil, a little garlic, fresh herbs and lemon juice are all you'll ever need. Incidentally, I hated huile d'olive before moving here. I cooked everything in coconut oil, because Pinterest.
Not following recipes improved things immensely. I relied on what I saw my mother and grandmother do growing up, and cooked by instinct. Now my husband looks forward to coming home for dinner. He can invite friends over without worrying I'm going to dish out platefuls of amorphous silica. If I miss the farmer's market, I despise cooking that week, but at least I can return to Cleveland and serve meals that make my mother proud. My patience is limited, so recipes must come together quickly, with no more than ten minutes active prep time. It can't require a lot of chopping and dicing, and seasonings must be easily available and accessible. If I'm really organized, at the beginning of the week I'll wash produce and prepare beans, hummus, etc., but since this takes so little time, I find myself completing these tasks on weeknights. To minimize what I need to drop off at the compost site, I try to buy food I can use every part of.
Because I don't measure, you'll have to rely on your own sense of taste for a lot of ingredients. All the produce was local, which isn't necessarily a good thing- for instance, organic local avocados, pineapples, and mangoes consume more energy and are more difficult to grow than imports, and farmers outside Paris contaminate the water supply and threaten the bee population. That's why it's crucial to visit only market stands where growers are present and talk to them so you can learn about their methods!
Simple Summer Recipes
25-30 pods borlotti beans
3 tablespoons or more olive oil
5 tiny tomatoes, halved
Garlic cloves, to taste
Place fresh beans, olive oil, tomatoes, and garlic in pot and cover by one inch with water. Add herbs, to taste, if desired (I sprinkle in dried lemon basil or herbes de provence). Bring to boil, then reduce to medium heat and simmer half an hour. Add water, a few tablespoons at a time, to keep beans submerged, until stripes disappear and beans appear tender and light pinkish-brown. Drain and keep the remaining liquid for broths or stir-fries. Beans can be made at the beginning of the week, then stored in a Weck jar for use, up to seven days. Season with salt and pepper, if desired.
Recipe from The River Caf Classic Italian Cookbook by Rose Gray, Ruth Rogers Michael Joseph 2009 Copyright Rose Gray, Ruth Rogers 2009, Reprinted in Bon Appetit.
500 grams unshelled beans
Olive oil to taste
Shell fresh beans and boil ten minutes or steam 15 minutes. Drizzle with olive oil if desired. You can also eat garbanzo beans raw, in the pods, and lightly salted or steamed, like edamame.
I don't have a food processor (here's a plastic-free one), so I make hummus like mashed potatoes- boil the chickpeas first, then run through a Moulinex to grate; mash slightly, add tahini, lemon juice, garlic, and olive oil. You can also sub avocado for tahini. Use 2 cloves garlic, 2 tsp tahini and 3 tablespoons olive oil per every 200 grams chick peas, plus a good squeeze of lemon.
400 g chickpeas- if you don't have a food processor, boiled, drained, grated
20 g chickpeas, grated into a flour-like consistency
1 small onion, grated finely (unless you have a food processor)
Garlic cloves, pressed, to taste
Cumin to taste
Coriander or parsley, grated finely, to taste
Olive oil (optional), enough for drizzling
Combine chickpeas, garlic, cumin, onion and parsley. Form loose balls and drizzle with olive oil, if desired, then bake 15 minutes at 225° C, or until golden (you can flip them for a more even brown, I do not and when I bite into the falafel, they're pleasantly green inside). Can be kept up to a week. To reheat without a microwave, bake 5 minutes at 225° C. Save onion peel for broths or dyes.
Fine bean, nectarine, and cherry salad with potatoes and warm cabbage
225 grams fine beans
6-10 fingerling potatoes
Half an avocado
1 cup purple cabbage, torn or roughly chopped
One small onion
Olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper to taste (optional)
Halve cherries and fingerling potatoes lengthwise, slice nectarine and fine beans. Toss with lemon juice, olive oil, and pressed garlic. Sauté with one half of chopped onion, three to five minutes on medium high heat. Remove from pan and cook cabbage with remaining onion on residual heat until onions look translucent, about five minutes. Skip this step if you prefer raw cabbage. Otherwise, add a splash of balsamic vinegar and stir quickly before serving with half an avocado. Add a few almonds or walnuts, if desired. Season with salt and pepper to serve. I topped this salad with roasted beets (30 minutes in a glass pan, skins and tails on, drizzled in olive oil, without aluminum foil, at 225° C).
Recipe from Keili's nectarine, bean, and cherry brunch
Optional for omnivores: Pulled pork with apple BBQ sauce
I added goat cheese and pulled pork for my husband. Place pork shoulder in a large pot (I don't have a slow cooker) with olive oil, chopped onions and pressed garlic to taste. Cover with water. Bring pot to high temperature, then simmer overnight (or wrap in wool and place in a wicker basket, to save energy). Drizzle leftover juices over cabbage and save for broth. Alternately, roast in oven, six hours at 140° C, flipping occasionally.
To make apple barbecue sauce, boil and mash 1/2 cup apples with two large tomatoes. Combine with cider vinegar, sugar or maple syrup, mustard, garlic, paprika (optional) and salt and pepper to taste. I also added a squeeze of lemon juice.
Mango, tomato, and avocado salad with vegan baked falafel
One small onion
Vegan baked falafel (see above)
Peel mango and reserve pit for homemade mango butter and skin for jellies / eating, if not allergic. Chop tomatoes, mango, onion, and avocado roughly. Toss with lime juice to taste, then serve with falafel. You may add blueberries and coriander to this recipe, substitute raspberries for mango, or balsamic vinegar for lime. Save the avocado skin and pit for dye projects.
Basil, strawberry, and olive salad
The recipe is already completely in the description. I saw Keili made this at her gluten-free brunch at Causses, so I picked up some black olives, strawberries, and basil leaves off the plant and tossed with a little lemon juice and pepper. Pairs nicely with creamy avocado and hummus.
I made a raw mini courgette and tomato salad with kale, onion, cabbage and garbanzo beans this week, but forgot to take a picture before eating. Désolé!
Squash blossom bean stirfry
A dozen courgette fleurs with mini squash still attached
200 grams each borlotti, peas, butter, and fava beans (save pods to eat raw or fried)
One small onion
Garlic to taste
5-8 mini tomatoes, halved
Lemon juice, salt and pepper, olive oil to taste
Boil shelled fava beans and submerge in cold water to remove the waxy outer coating (I always skip this step, but I don't know if the coating is good for you). Separate squash blossoms from mini courgette. Chop courgette and onion. Sauté with tomatoes, pressed garlic and beans (butter beans and peas can be raw) in olive oil on medium heat, seven to ten minutes, or until onions look translucent. Add squash blossoms and coat lightly in oil and juices, about three minutes. Serve immediately. I reheated this before taking a picture so the blossoms don't look as nice as they did originally- bear in mind if making for guests!
Butter bean strawberry stirfry
200 grams each butter and white beans
10 small strawberries
1/2 cup cabbage
Four mini courgette, sliced lengthwise
1/2 yellow squash
Optional: Kale or beet greens, for color
Chop onion, kale / beet greens, and cabbage roughly, slice squash, combine with beans, and sauté in olive oil seven minutes. Slice strawberries (or leave whole) and add to mixture, cooking three minutes before serving. I leave strawberry leaves on, but you can remove them and save for tea.
I love beet greens raw, in juice, parboiled, steamed, or sautéed in olive oil and frequently eat roasted beets on a bed of greens with hummus and squash. Unfortunately all these meals were moche mais bon, but you can ask me for photos if you want to shatter any wrongly-held illusions of my qualifications as a blogger.
Strawberry stuffed sweet potatoes
Two sweet potatoes
100 grams each kale, cabbage, beet greens, butter beans, strawberries, onions, squash
Pierce or score sweet potato several times. Drizzle in olive oil and bake in a glass pan, 30 minutes at 225° C. Slit open and stuff with raw kale, cabbage, beet greens, butter or green beans, strawberries, avocado, onions, and sliced squash.
Green curry potato salad
500g fingering potatoes
1 cup chopped cabbage
1/2 cup sliced mini radishes
1 cup fine beans
1 small onion
1/2 small chile pepper, sliced
About 15 pea pods (I eat the pods raw, I don't really know if you're supposed to do that)
Three tablespoons green curry paste (see below)
Slice fingerling potatoes lengthwise. Boil three minutes in salted water, drain, then combine all ingredients. You can drizzle this with lemon or lime and olive oil or vinegar, cashew cream, and mayonnaise. For curry paste, combine green or red chiles to taste with vinegar, finely chopped onion, salt, sugar (optional), basil, coriander, garlic, and lime juice or lemongrass in a mortar and pestle. Add galangal, ginger, turmeric, cumin, and shrimp paste, if desired. My tandoori paste is just garlic, tamarind, cumin, ginger, coriander, chilies, salt and lemon juice with a mortar and pestle. If you don't have the time to prepare pastes once or twice a month (they keep a long time), Causses sells delicious, authentic tasting pastes in reusable glass jars.
Lastly, I love baked sweet potato with roasted or raw beets, avocado, nectarine, and cherries or blueberries on a bed of beet greens. Sprinkle with lime juice and eat. This post contains ShopStyle affiliate links. If you click on them, I may make a small commission. Thank you for your support!