If you are subscribed to our Newsletter, you will already know that I have chosen these three months of summer as a season of change. It took just a few weeks to understand that this really will be a time of evolution and new awareness. A newly rediscovered instinct pushes me to let go, to simplify my life. I have set ambitious goals, too. I decided to abandon past resentments that belong to another life, old insecurities, a few extra pounds accumulated for laziness and tiredness, counterproductive habits and addictions. I kicked off this process with the Social Media Cleanse program launched a few weeks ago by Nicole Gulotta.
I would continuously reach for my smartphone to check Facebook and Instagram without even realizing it, endless times throughout the day, first thing in the morning with sleepy eyes and last thing at night while I was already half asleep. The two days of Social Media Cleanse have been amazing beyond all expectations. I felt more receptive, more focused. The commitment I put to control my Social Media addiction poured also into my eating style. A sense of deep respect for my time and my energies led me to take into account also other aspects of my daily life, first of all my pantry management.
I am a hoarder of grains and pulses and I tend to stock ingredients, as you know, winter is coming. Perhaps the fact of living in the countryside without a supermarket nearby had already influenced me, but my job pushed this tendency to the extreme.
I’ve decided to use everything I have in my pantry before buying more, limiting my weekly grocery shopping to fresh food and to the few extra ingredients I would need for cooking classes and assignments for magazines and clients. As it often happens, the imposition of limits and constraints, instead of curbing creativity, has strengthened it, giving me a new feeling of freedom.
I started checking the expiration dates of all the ingredients and cleaning up spices that had a faded smell. Then came the time to deal with open bags of cereals and legumes. You don’t want to know how many open packagings of farro I found at home. I’m also checking una and mackerel cans, caper, anchovy and olive jars, forgotten slices of cheese, dried fruit and frozen berries from the last season. Mixed salads, smoothies and soups are my way out to give a respectable end to any remnants of food.
Even the shelf of teas and infusions faced my strict inspection. This made me rediscover the cold tea infusion. In the evening I pour a few tablespoons of loose leaf tea in a bottle of water and stash it in the fridge overnight. In the morning I filter the tea and have a refreshing drink to sip throughout the day. Since I have to finish many bags and samples, I can enjoy a different tea every day.
The perks of my pantry cleaning is a renewed desire to invite friends over for dinner, unwitting witnesses of these new creative restrictions: a carrot, ginger, sesame seed and sunflower seed salad, a refreshing celery salad with walnuts, preserved lemon and Parmesan cheese, a rye salad with feta, swordfish, eggplants and capers… I guess they enjoyed this mix and match approach to cooking.
French bean salad with hard boiled eggs, olives and anchovies
Salads meet all my new expectations: lightness, cleansing and mental clarity. Even the smallest residue of nuts or cheese finds its balance in a salad.
Leafing through the last issue of Saveurs I had earmarked a salad of French beans and hard boiled eggs that proved to be providential to empty an open jar of anchovies in oil and a can of green olives I had bought for a photo assignment.
The only problem is that I will be forced to buy more olives and anchovies, failing to meet my plans, as this dish debunks the myth that all salads are boring. It fills you up and has a heady basil smell. But above all, it is vibrant in its summer colours: the olives wink among the French beans and the eggs add substance. Do not omit the anchovies, they will make a difference.
Add a plate of ripe tomatoes, some bread croutons and a fruit salad and you can easily feed a bunch of friends you have invited over for dinner. If there are any leftovers, or if you’ve been so far-sighted as to put some away, you’ll also have a ready lunch to bring to the office or to the swimming pool the next day.
- 400 g of French beans
- 4 eggs
- 100 g of olives (I used an Italian variety called leccino, you can substitute them with Kalamata olives)
- 6 anchovy fillets in oil
- A few basil leaves
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Red wine vinegar
- Black pepper
- Top and tail the beans, rinse them and cook them for about 10 minutes in a pot of boiling salted water. Drain them when they are al dente and cool them under cold water: this will stop the cooking and will keep a bright green color.
- Now make the hard boiled eggs. Fill with water a saucepan that you can comfortably fit the four eggs and put on medium flame. Cook the eggs for about 6 minutes after the water starts to boil. Drain the eggs and put them in a bowl of cold water - add some ice cubes, too - so it will be easier to peel them.
- Collect the French beans in a bowl, add the olives, the anchovy fillets, the peeled and halved eggs and a generous handful of basil leaves.
- Season the salad with extra virgin olive oil, salt, ground black pepper and a tablespoon of red wine vinegar. Toss to mix and stash in the fridge for about half an hour before serving.
2017 Saveur Blog Awards
It is again that moment of the year when my dreams of glory make me hope that it may be the right time to be selected by Saveur for their Saveur Blog Awards, the most prestigious international awards for food writers and food bloggers. I’ll be grateful as always if you would nominate Juls’ Kitchen among your favourite food blogs for 2017.
I’ve been thinking a lot about which category I feel I belong to, as you should point one, and I think Most inspired weeknight dinners might best reflect the spirit of this blog: homey, daily and reliable recipes which make a difference and give an authentic Italian twist to your weeknight meals. This salad, the stuffed eggplants or the minestrone, aren’t they the proof of it?
So if you want to cast your vote, follow this link.
And before hitting today’s link love, bursting with so many interesting readings that I have saved during our few days on the coast, let’s talk about these beautiful purple French beans that faded into normal green beans while cooking. I planted them in the garden and patiently waited for them for weeks, just to see them fading in the water! Do you have any tips to preserve their colour?
But let’s move to the links.
- Constraints can breed creativity + Limitations can create freedom. The reading that inspired today’s reflection on the constraints in the kitchen as a way to reach freedom and creativity.
- 7 Important Reasons to Unplug and Find Space. One of the articles that pushed me to control my use of Social Media. It made me reflect on loneliness, envy, jealousy, and fear of being left behind.
- Follow This Formula, Make Meal-Worthy Salads with Just This & That. Speaking of salad, a formula to create new balanced dishes.
- Two Kitchens: an exclusive extract from Rachel Roddy’s new book, part one. Rachel Roddy’s new book. So excited about it!