Sunday, June 8, 2014

Asparagus & lavender salad, a bad day & an anniversary

Yesterday was the blog’s 2nd anniversary, and I had a crappy day.

I felt obligated to force the gratitude out, for all the things I’ve learned, all the ways I’ve grown, all the wonderful souls and talents I’ve come across, all the joys I’ve had, thanks to this blog. And I will come to that, because that’s real and true.

I read Tina Payne Bryson’s piece on the parenting of hall of shame, and the fact that while we all sometimes lose it and have awful parenting moments, but remain silent about it, never sharing these times with other parents. Yet this happens to all of us, and bringing it out in the open is sometimes the acknowledgement we need to move on.

Yesterday, the morning plans got screwy, my mind was set on the negative switch, and thinking of this anniversary reminded me of all the things I haven’t found the time to do, the irregularity of my posting schedule as of late, all my shortcomings. Sitting at my laptop to write this post, I found myself browsing other blogs, comparing myself and feeling like everyone else was so much better than I am. A bit later, I started making a summer fruit crostata. I insulted my dough, my rolling pin and my cutting board, got frustrated with sticky dough, and felt just so incompetent and discouraged. It was one of those days. To be ok with those days.
T’is a new morning. Two years (and a day) ago, I planted a seed with this blog. It was part of an effort to reclaim my life, to listen to myself, find my voice.
There’s been sun and warmth, drizzles, downpours, fog and mud, frosts and storms, burning droughts and blizzards since then. 
That seed has sprouted, grown, at its nonlinear pace, and is now showing some buds. The prospect of writing a book, of giving consultations, of teaching workshops. The prospect of a whole new direction.

"It’s not just about creativity, it’s about the person you’re becoming while you’re creating." Charlie Peacock  (Thanks to Janet Lansbury for sharing this inspiring quote on FB)

So the blog is where it is, I do my best and will keep at it. But most importantly, I am grateful for the personal growth it has allowed, the internal doors it has opened. The practices it has encouraged me to turn into habits, foundations: taking time in, acknowledging, balancing out in order write; seeing and looking for beauty, learning from others in order to photograph; being in the moment, connected, creating opportunities for connection (to loved ones, to the natural world) and well-being, opportunities for community too, while cooking and enjoying meals of real food.
The integration of these elements have become consistent pillars of my life for the past two years. How thankful I am for that.

I am equally thankful for your loyalty and support, coming back to this space, for your comments, questions and feedback. Whenever my words resonate with you in some way, whenever this blog can be a resource, can be helpful or motivating, it is deeply gratifying and fulfilling. 

Now this salad... was the result of a strange sense-storming. I found these lovely purple asparagus in Seattle. A few days after I returned, I used a few to make an asparagus tart, which we had with a lovely lavender sauerkraut from Brassica & Brine. I guess it was a flavor and color connection... Asparagus salad, lavender dressing.  

I have grown to love the flavor of lavender, lovely in dessert (do you remember the peach lavender custard from a couple of summers ago?), but also in savory dishes. And as our herb and vegetable garden has been thriving, especially our shiso bush, I've been putting shiso in all kinds of salads. Pablo munches on it straight from the plan! The subtle but powerful aura of shiso and lavender seem to open up the senses somehow...   

Herbed asparagus, smoked salmon, new potato salad with lavender dressing

Serves 3-4 people

Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes (simultaneous)

Age for babies: 8-12 months + cut up in very small pieces, you could just do asparagus and potatoes if preferred.

One bunch of purple asparagus (green asparagus will do just fine too!)
A dozen small new potatoes
3-4 small slices of smoked salmon
A few leaves of shiso 
2-3 sprigs of fresh dill

Two options for the dressing:

1. Using lavender infused olive oil (which you could purchase here)
4 tbsp lavender olive oil
2 tbsp regular olive oil (or vegetable oil)
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
salt & pepper

2. If you don't have the oil, this dressing is delicious also. Original recipe here.
6 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp dried lavender blossoms
(Blend all ingredients in blender or food processor)

Place the washed potatoes in a pot of salted water, bring to a boil, and keep cooking until the potatoes are just tender (time depends on size of potatoes, mine were quite small, about 15 minutes)

Peel the stems of the asparagus of its outer strings and cut off the tough ends. (Simple tutorial here if you need it).

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the asparagus gently and boil for about 20 minutes, until soft.
(We rarely have crunchy asparagus in our household.)

Meanwhile, prepare one of two dressing options above. Wash the herbs and chop them, keeping a few leaves intact for garnish.

When the potatoes are cooked, rinse in cold water and let cool for a while (This can be done a day ahead). Peel them, cut in half or quarters depending on size.

When the asparagus are done, rinse in cold water and let cool for a while. Cut them in bite size pieces.

In a bowl, place the potatoes, chopped herbs and half the dressing, and toss.

In salad plates, place the potatoes, the asparagus, and salmon on top. Place a few leaves of shiso and dill, and drizzle the remaining dressing on top. 

This is good cold, but also delicious if the potatoes and/or asparagus are slightly warm.

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  1. Whatever the frequency, it is always a pleasure to read a new post. And it's an invitation to revisit older posts, which never fair to give me a much-needed boost in the kitchen or at the keyboard.

    1. Thank you kindly, Lisa :-) Your encouragement has helped me along more than you know.

  2. "which never fail to give me a much-needed boost…"
    You can tell naptime is ending by my hasty typing!

  3. Happy anniversary, Helene! I am thankful for your kind voice in the blog world. I also understand what you're saying so openly here -- and the thing that has helped me a lot is the same thing you're saying: to view blogging as a creative outlet and a way to grow for me, even just by myself at my blog screen, rather than looking at it as a world to compete in. There's so much joy and fun in just making things and sharing them, and I hope I never let my own fears or doubts stop me from experiencing that. Rooting for you as ever! -s

    1. Thank you kindly, Shanna, I have learned so much from your work, writing, photography, blogging, cooking... I am very grateful. You have been and remain an inspiration for me, truly (in spite of my terribly poor consistency in leaving comments on your lovely posts :-()

  4. Dearest Helene,
    Happy Anniversary! This post moved me to tears...a very good thing for me! Your writing has always resonated so deeply with me....your honesty and ability to express your vulnerabilities inspires me always. The photography is stunning! Asparagus is one of my favorite foods and the only time I've had lavender in food was in a sugar cookie and it was so subtle and divine. Thank you for keeping this blog, and as the other commenter said above, I come by to visit previous posts, mostly to read your words...but I am cooking a bit more theses days.
    Sending big Hugs to you, P and D. xoxoxo. Elizabeth Shahbazi

    1. Thank you Elizabeth, you are such a wonderful generous champion, I so appreciate it :-) Big hugs to you from all of us!

  5. I never would have thought to use shiso and lavender together. FUN!
    Nitasha :)

  6. It was your blog that gave me back my inspiration and drove me to the kitchen again. So I'm thrilled with every post that comes out of your fingers!

    1. What a great compliment, thank you :-) Good for you for finding your way back to the kitchen, it's not always easy! Happy cooking to you.

  7. Happy Anniversary, Helene! I started reading your blog shortly after you started and I wasn't a mother yet.. after having my son 7 weeks ago I've found myself reading back through the archives with a fresh burst of appreciation! Honestly, I know I care more about quality of posts than frequency. I appreciate that you only post when you have something to say, and either way your blog is full of useful and interesting things to peruse!

    I agree wholeheartedly on the deliciousness of lavender.. Have you tried lavender infused lemonade? It's perfect to sip ice cold on a hot summer night as the sun is setting and the crickets are coming out. It tastes just like summer should to me anyway!

  8. This sounds divine!! I often make risotto with asparagus and fish or salmon (just made some a few days ago) but I've never thought to make a salad with these ingredients. It's like a modern twist on the traditional Nicoise salad. And by the way, I LOVE the addition of the lavender ;-)

  9. Dear Helene,
    the frequency is not important to me. I love your ideas and the motivation, which lead you to write your blog in the first place. Keep on, I'll be looking forward to it!

  10. This looks delectable. Thanks for creating this wonderful post :)

  11. what an interesting flavour combination. love the purple asparagus. thanks for the awesome ideas.


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