summer staple: peach, tomato, basil salad

peach tomato summer salad

The weekend is here again, and I’m cleaning out the fridge in preparation for the farmers market tomorrow.  This week was slow, fun, and spontaneous and I really enjoyed it.  I started working even more deeply on saying “no” to commitments when I felt like it, letting go of attachments to my (self imagined) “expectations” of how my day would go, and saying “sorry” less.  These are a few areas I can really feel pressured in, I’m a total people pleaser and can feel uncomfortable asserting my own needs without feeling guilty.  Can anyone else relate?  Anyway, a huge part of being able to heal from arthritis was learning to say “no” when I needed to, without feeling bad about it.  That means not committing to things that didn’t light me up.  The SPACE that saying “yes” to those commitments was taking up meant there wasn’t room for self care, interpersonal relationships, and forging that deeper, meaningful bond with my kids.  There wasn’t room to be spontaneous, or dive deeper into healing.  Clearing this literally made ROOM for me to heal.  Learning to honor myself and say “no” when I wanted to, was so hard at first.  I felt super guilty about it.  But, as I practiced more and more, it got easier each time I did it, and this lightness came in that I had never felt before.  It’s hard to explain.  I want to encourage you, if you’re also someone that feels pressured or inadvertently says “yes” when your intuition says, “no”- to just be mindful of this tendency of yours.  And if you feel inspired, to practice saying no to something that doesn’t light you up this week.  And if you do, I’d really love to know.

Sooo… the food.  I showed this super simple salad a few times on my IG stories and a bunch of you were into it, so I thought I’d share on the blog for easy reference here.

In summer, I like to make these fruit and veggie combo salads, they’re so good and fresh and highlight the most of these perfect flavors in the juiciest time of year.  Often when it’s hot, cooked food simply does not appeal to me, especially mid day.  So I eat these salads instead.  Sometimes for dinner I’ll make a salad like this + hummus and cucs/lettuce + sautéed shisito peppers + olives for a simple mezze dinner.  Or add some avocado or chickpeas.  Usually for these I just throw together a fruit, a raw veggie, and a drizzle of olive oil, salt, pepper, or chili flakes.  Other great combos: watermelon + cilantro + tomato, plum + arugula, cantaloupe + cucumber, apricot + mint and pistachio, mango + Thai basil + toasted sesame seeds + sesame oil instead of olive.

Lately, I’ve had the most amazing, amazing peaches and nectarines.  Floral, juicy, intensely deep flavors.  They’re so good on their own, but they also pair perfectly with dead ripe, deep red summer tomatoes.  Something about the two together is MAGIC.  Try it and let me know if you think so too.  Since this salad is so simply, use the best, ripest, juiciest fruit you can find.  I like a deep dark unfiltered olive oil here- the unctuous bitterness contrasts sharply and satisfyingly with the sweet fruit- but feel free to leave it out if you don’t do oil.  Same with the salt, a flaky salt like Maldon goes best here although any salt will do.

peaches nectarine summer

simple peach + tomato summer salad

2 peaches

1 large tomato

handful of basil, either left whole or chopped- I used both green and purple from our garden

drizzle of good, deep, extra virgin olive oil

pinch flaky sea salt

cracked black pepper OR fine chili flakes (like gochujaru or aleppo– these varieties are 100% worth seeking out or ordering online, the nuances are so rich compared to a store bought standard chili flake)

Slice up the tomatoes and peaches into similar size wedges.  Sprinkle over the basil.  Drizzle the olive oil and sprinkle the salt and pepper or chili.

staple summer meal: ratatouille

ratatouille vegan

Summertime is here, with its hot lazy days, faces and bodies glowing like full moons with salty sweat, hair wavy from swimming, the deep sweet smell of melons as you walk through the market.  My favorite time of year, I feel like I can breathe again in summer.  Easy warmth, less structure to the days, stretching in a seemingly endless and inviting way.  Possibilities abound.

In summer more than any other season, I gravitate towards easy, easy meals.  It’s hot and I don’t want to spend a bunch of time in the kitchen.  Produce here is at it’s peak, pristine and bursting with flavor, requiring very little to dress it up.  I rely on a few meals that I can make a big batch of and reinvent through the week by adding a component or two.  My line up usually looks like: buddha bowls, a spiced creamy lentil dish with rice, greek salad + dolmas, French style potato salad, Italian style cold pasta salad, and this ratatouille.  We usually have these with whatever other little jewels I pick up at the market: any kind of melon or peaches or tomato, sliced and drizzled with a touch of peppery olive oil, flaky salt and pepper- maybe a few leaves of basil too.  Fresh bread for the kids and Joel, maybe some sautéed padron peppers too.

cherry tomatoes

I remember as a kid turning up my nose at my grandma’s ratatouille.  I especially hated eggplant until last year.  Now it’s one of my favorites, silky and sweet, creamy and tender.  The key is to cook it well- don’t use tons of oil, it will soak it all up and be a greasy mess; and cook it a generous time to allow it to relax and soften.  Eggplant makes a superb “bacon” (marinated with acv, tamari, maple, liquid smoke or smoked paprika) + stuck in a sourdough sandwich with tomato, lettuce, avocado and veg mayo.  I love it layered in lasagna, or sliced thin, rubbed with miso and broiled, charred and pureed into hummus or baba ghanoush.  This recipe I’ve made so many times (sub coconut or other plain non dairy yogurt) and the flavors are amazing…Ottolenghi is one of my all time favorite chefs for how he celebrates vegetables.

carmela ratatouille cooking vegan kids

Carmela making the ratatouille…a great recipe for kids to help with

My favorite recipe for ratatouille is this simple one from Alice Waters, a pioneer in championing farmers markets and local, seasonal food with an unfussy, simple approach to cooking.  I’ve made it more times than I can count, and also have doubled it most times to have leftovers- it’s excellent cold, too.  Freezes well and, like soups, it improves in flavor in the fridge and should keep up to a week.  Best served with crusty baguette, simple polenta, or rice to soak up all the amazing juices.  We usually enjoy it with a very simple fresh green salad and a simple side of fresh cooked chickpeas or this pot of sage garlic cannelini beans.  This time, we did rice, Romano beans, and sweet corn.  Since this recipe has very simple ingredients, seek out the freshest and best veggies you can.

Ratatouille zero waste package free vegan

I made my first ever youtube video of us cooking the recipe.  Sorry for the shaky editing, I’m very much learning, but it was fun to do.

simple ratatouille (slightly adapted from Alice Water’s The Art of Simple Food)

ingredients:

medium or 2 small eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch dice

tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more to taste

medium onions, cut into 1/2-inch dice

to 6 garlic cloves, chopped

1/2 bunch basil, tied in a bouquet with kitchen twine + 6 basil leaves, chopped

optional: fresh thyme, marjoram, or herbes du Provence

1 generous pinch dried chile flakes

sweet peppers, any color, cut into 1/2-inch dice

medium summer squash, cut into 1/2-inch dice

ripe medium tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice (I used 1 whole tomato + 1 cup mixed variety cherry tomatoes)

Salt to taste

1-2 teaspoons red wine vinegar (add one first and mix, then taste and add a second if your tastebuds say so)

method:

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot. Add eggplant to the pan, and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until golden. Add a bit more oil if the eggplant absorbs all the oil and sticks to the bottom of the pan. Remove the eggplant when done and set aside.

In the same pot, pour in 2 more tablespoons olive oil. Add onions and cook for about 7 minutes, or until soft and translucent. Add the garlic, basil bouquet, dried chile flakes, and a bit more salt.

Cook for 2 or 3 minutes, then stir in peppers. Cook for a few more minutes, then stir in summer squash. Cook for a few more minutes, then stir in tomatoes.

Cook for 10 minutes longer, then stir in eggplant and cook for 10 to 15 minutes more, until all the vegetables are soft. Remove the bouquet of basil, pressing on it to extract all its flavors, and adjust the seasoning with salt.

Stir in the chopped basil leaves, the red wine vinegar, and optionally, more extra virgin olive oil, to taste.  Serve warm or cold.

Ratatouille dinner summer vegan

lentil bolognese

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This lentil bolognese turned out so flavorful!  I had some lentils lounging in the fridge that needed to be used, so as usual, I planned my meal around them.  I always like to cook a legume on the weekend to have in the fridge to build meals easily- lentils go so well in grain salads, green salads, soups and more.  They are perfect little gems: gorgeous, easy to digest and packed with protein and iron.  Plus they have a nice hearty texture and can hold their own in this sauce.  Crimini mushrooms and tamari add a little umami, and plenty of aromatics make everything pop.  YUMMM let’s get to it.

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lentil bolognese (serves 4)

INGREDIENTS:

olive oil for sautéing

1/4 cup minced shallot or onion

1/4 cup minced carrot

1/4 cup minced celery

1/2 cup chopped mushrooms

4 cloves chopped garlic

2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning OR 1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon chili flakes

3 cups tomatoes- you can use chopped fresh or canned

1 tablespoon tamari

1.5 cups cooked lentils- I used French green; you can use any EXCEPT red lentils which will turn to mush

1/4 cup chopped basil or parsley + more for garnishing

METHOD:

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan or Dutch oven.  Add in the shallot, celery, carrot, and mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened- about 7 minutes.  Add in the garlic, dried herbs, and chili flakes and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute.  Add in tomatoes and tamari, stir, and simmer 20 minutes or until sauce has reduced and thickened.  At this point I pureed half of it before returning it to the pot; my kids prefer a smoother sauce.  You can do that too or leave as is; up to you!  Add in the lentils and basil and let cook minute or two to heat through.  Toss with pasta or zoodles or spaghetti squash, plate, and sprinkle with more chopped herbs and a generous sprinkle of my crumbly vegan parm .  Yum!  Keeps well in the fridge too.  Hope you guys enjoy it as much as we did!  If you make it, I’d love to see!  Tag me on instagram @mamaeatsplants .  Have a lovely weekend friends! xx A.

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