Pickled Peach, Burrata & Pea Shoot Salad with Creamy Basil Hemp Dressing | On Filling Our Cracks with Gold

IMG_6347-1.jpg
salad1 (1 of 1).jpg
"All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on."
—Henry Havelock Ellis

At certain times throughout our lives, we find ourselves at crossroads. Faced with difficult decisions. To continue or to cease. To cling or to abandon. To stay or to go. We choose what is worth fighting for. In these instances, we must notice the quality of our effort: When effort is required, is it is emerging from a deep, internal drive, or is it forced, not easeful? When moving through the challenge or mending what seems broken, is there possibility of fruit bearing at the other side? 

Letting go is often one of the hardest things to do in this life. Letting go of ideas, hopes, work, people. Things we have cared for, tended to, envisioned for ourselves. We are creatures of connection, of attachment. Oftentimes we keep on keeping on with something that isn't aligned with our greatest good or intentions for self because we feel like we 'should'. Like others—peers, parents, colleagues, society, hell, even our own judging selves—expect us to. Because we think we have invested too much to give up. To release. To relinquish. Because we have become attached to the parts of our identities that have become, in our minds, inextricable from that thing. Yet we fail to realize that sometimes, releasing something from our lives (be it a person, a project, an expectation, a judgment, a story we tell ourselves about ourselves) is one of the most freeing things we can possibly do. One of the most vital actions to create space for whatever the great unknown will bring next; what we will sink into, encounter, find anew to fill ourselves up. What new opportunity, new connection, new compassion or love for self we will find. Ashes have the capacity fertilize our soul's soil and in rich soil, new things grow.

And yet. There is a flip side to this coin. The shadow side of release is running away. Burning as an act of avoidance. A refusal to do the work, pick up the pieces, to stand in the fire; to face the hard truths that may in fact be the things to bring you to and through your evolution. Sometimes, holding on is key. Staying when all the hurt and pain and fear in you wants to leave. To bolt. Wants to make excuses or cut ties or drown yourself in distractions. Showing up to meaningful people or projects or ambitions when they are challenging takes as much courage and vulnerability as walking away. The key is developing the presence, awareness and discerning muscle of intuition to know when to hold on and when to let go. And to trust that even when a meaningful thing seems broken, if you show up with compassion and integrity and a willingness to do the work, there is often great brilliance on the other side.

IMG_6237-3.jpg
IMG_6303-5.jpg
IMG_6293-4.jpg
IMG_6185-6.jpg
IMG_6202-7.jpg
IMG_6312-8.jpg

Kintsugi: the ancient Japanese art of mending what is broken. There is a beautiful metaphor here. In this practice, shattered pottery is restored by affixing pieces back together with a paste of lacquer mixed with powdered platinum, silver or gold. What were initially flawless ceramics, then fractured pieces of a thing once whole, become transformed: whole again yet different, polished clay laced with webs of lustrous precious metals.

This ancient practice of repair operates on multiple visual and philosophical levels. Highlighting the cracks with shimmering metals, it punctuates the history, the once brokenness of the thing. It draws precious attention to its evolution rather than attempting to make the object appear as though it was never damaged at all. Rather than negating its life and transformation, it makes them unapologetically visible.

Kintsugi. This tradition of mending by the weaving of gold also, counterintuitively, elevates the value of the once-broken object: it is made more beautiful, more precious, more valuable, because of the breakage and repair it endured. 

There is no shame in feeling broken. Or in having once felt broken. Or in feeling something you worked to build has broken. Fissures let light in. Our healing and our relationships to our scars help make us who we are.

The founder of modern chemistry, a French nobleman and intellectual named Antoine Lavoiser, once said, "Nothing is created, nothing is lost, everything transforms." This is as true for the world on a molecular level as it is for ourselves, in our lives. The question is how we come to and facilitate the transformations. When do we choose to stay and work through a challenge, an argument, a situation, a project or a relationship that seems—or maybe in some ways is—broken? To embrace what emerges in our lives and hold it tenderly rather than negate or disengage from it? And when do we choose, from our place of centeredness and highest self, to let go? And in both instances, what do we use for our gold?

If ever you're feeling stuck or uncertain about a difficulty in your life, about whether to continue or relinquish, to stay or to go, sit with yourself and your breath for awhile. Simply sit. Let all of the anxiety of the situation fall away. Cultivate internal calm to the best of your ability. Tell yourself you are okay right now. And once you are feeling centered and grounded, just listen. Tune into your heart, your intuition. Notice how your body feels when you think about the difficulty or conflict at hand. Notice what emerges with as much compassion and non-judgment as you are able. Stay with the unfolding so that you can begin to identify what is necessary to move through it. Ask yourself what you (and the situation) need. More self-love. Deeper listening. More empathy, for yourself and for others. Patience. Trust. Vulnerability. Courage. Creativity. A shift in mindset. A release of judgment or expectation. Presence. All of the ways that we can fill our cracks with gold.

And know that on the other side, you will be shifted, changed, grown and transformed, even if in the smallest way. And always ever whole.

arealclose1 (1 of 1).jpg
close1 (1 of 1).jpg
areal1 (1 of 1).jpg

Notes about recipe: Yikes, September! I'm squeezing in this summery salad as the darkness is setting upon our days a little earlier and the evenings are marked with the beginnings of chill. Hopefully you still have peaches at your farmers market or local grocer! (In California, we're spoiled.) This is a truly simple salad that presents itself as fancy AF. The sweet-tang of the pickled peaches plays well off the creaminess of the burrata, crunch of the pepitas and brightness of the sprouts and herb-y dressing. The dressing, made creamy thanks to the small yet mighty hemp seeds, is packed with essential omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids AND contributes complete protein to the dish! Hemp seeds are actually a nutritionally amazing food, y'all. Peaches can be pickled a couple days in advance.

Pickled Peach, Burrata & Pea Shoot Salad with Creamy Basil Hemp Dressing
Serves four

Ingredients
Pickled Peaches
1 large yellow peach, slightly firm, sliced into 12 wedges
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup raw honey
1/2 Tbsp. Kosher salt
1 bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
5 whole cloves
16oz Mason jar and lid, preferably with a wide mouth

Creamy Basil Hemp Dressing
1/2 cup hemp seeds
6 large basil leaves
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/2 Tbsp. cold-pressed olive oil
1/2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 giant pinch salt

Toasted Pepitas (Pumpkin Seeds)
1/4 cup raw pepitas

Salad
1 container pea shoots
2 burrata balls
12 slices pickled peaches (recipe above)
Creamy Basil Hemp Dressing (recipe above)
Salt & pepper, to serve

Directions
1. Make the pickled peaches: In a small pot, combine all the pickled peach ingredients except the peaches. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and stir occasionally until the honey and salt are fully dissolved. Let cool 10 minutes. While the brine is cooling, squeeze the peach wedges in the Mason jar. Pour the brine over the peaches, cover, and let stand at least 20 minutes.*
2. Make the dressing: In a high speed blender, pour 1/2 cup of filtered water and add all the dressing ingredients. Start blending on low, increase to high and blend until all the ingredients have become emulsified and smooth. Taste; add salt if necessary.
3. Toast the pepitas: In a dry frying pan (i.e., without oil), toast the pepitas over medium heat for about 5 minutes, flipping occasionally via shaking the pan. Pull from the heat as soon as they become aromatic and start to make intermittent popping sounds. Transfer to a plate to cool.
3. Assemble the salad: Layer handfuls of pea shoots, torn bits of burrata and a few pickled peaches on each plate. Pour dressing over the salad. Top with toasted pepitas, a pinch of salt and freshly ground pepper.

*Store pickled peaches in refrigerator if you make them in advance or have leftovers.

Summer Stone Fruit, Cherry Tomato & Chickpea Tabbouleh | On Mindful Eating

Ten years, one feature film, and thousands of rave reviews later, I finally conceded last week and sat down to read Eat Pray Love. Okay, fine, conceded isn't actually the word. I asked my oldest friend if I could borrow her copy, interested not in seeing what all the fuss was about but in diving with an open heart and mind into the wisdom that Elizabeth Gilbert might actually have to offer. My friend—whom I had rolled my eyes at the first time she gushed about the book all those years ago (you see, I was a terribly pragmatic-bordering-on-cynical creature in my youth)—squealed with delight at my request, hearing words that she (and I) never would have dreamed I would utter.

My interest was piqued sometime last year when a dear and inspiring friend recommended Gilbert's latest publication, Big Magic. Many months later, I happened to catch a snippet of Gilbert's conversation with Krista Tippett on On Being and was surprised by the thoughtful and intelligent ideas she offered. (Apologies if my surprise about this fact offends any of you.) Not quite ready to commit to actually reading her books, I watched her first TED talk on the idea of creative genius, in which I found her to be not only sharp and insightful, but also charismatic and damn funny. 

So here I am, a mere few weeks later, sitting in bed with a copy of Eat Pray Love by my side. If you hate this book or don't care about this book or are absolutely exhausted by the ten years of hearing about this book, please stay with me for a moment; this post is not actually about Eat Pray Love

...Barring this note: In one segment, Gilbert recounts an experience she had in a busy office building in New York. Upon rushing into an elevator, she caught a glimpse of herself in the security mirror and registered her reflection as a friend of hers, reacting for a fleeting moment with surprise and joy. Gilbert quickly realized her mistake and laughed it off in embarrassment. She shares this story with us readers in the midst of a night in Rome, where she has been living most vivaciously, when she finds herself suddenly overcome with depression and loneliness. Turning to her own self for support, Gilbert thinks back to this incident in the elevator. She scrawls in her journal: "Never forget that once upon a time, in an unguarded moment, you recognized yourself as a friend."

That is what I am interested in. This idea—no, this necessity—that we treat ourselves as our best, most unconditional, most unwavering friend.

But what does that even look like? There are countless ways in which we can be better friends to ourselves. I've already written about some of them. The way things are going around here, I could conceivably re-title this blog "Meredith's Writings on How to Be More Self-Compassionate and Eat Delicious Food While Doing So (A.K.A. the Story of Her Life)." In all seriousness though, this is a real thing. It's a Big Deal. It is arguably one of the most important things we can do in our entire lives: learn to love, value and care for our own selves.

So where does that process begin? I could easily write about combating negative self-talk or expressing gratitude or giving ourselves credit for our achievements or operating from a place of trust and truth rather than fear, which are all super important practices. But that's not what we're going to talk about today. Today, we're going to talk about the practice that sparked the journey of self-care, in truth, for me. We're going to talk about food. 

Or, rather, the way we eat our food.

Mindful Eating, or The Gateway Art of Attentiveness

I first encountered the concept of mindful eating in Michael Pollan's book In Defense of Food (which I highly recommend if you have not read it). He espouses this simple yet somehow radical—in today's overly connected and multitasking world—belief that when you eat you should just eat. Don't eat and scroll through any media or communications on your phone. Don't eat and watch TV. Don't eat and read the newspaper or Bon Appetit magazine. Don't eat while driving. Don't eat straight out of the fridge while making your ritual boredom lap through the kitchen. Don't eat standing up, rushing out the door. Don't eat at your desk, working through your lunch break. Eat and give your full attention to your meal (and your present company, if you are sharing the meal with others). Eat and relish the colors, textures, scents and tastes of your food. Take your time. Put your utensil down between bites. Chew thoroughly. Savor the flavors. Take deep breaths and feel the reactions of your body to your meal. Appreciate the care that you put into preparing your meal, or that someone else put into preparing it. Acknowledge and appreciate the hands that nurtured and harvested the raw ingredients and the wonders of our earth that enabled them to grow. And, while we're at it, also be sure to eat off of proper dish ware, treating yourself like the deserving human that you are. You wouldn't serve your guest breakfast straight out of a blender, a wrapper or a tupperware, would you?

I can hear you thinking, "That seems like a lot of effort." Or, "I don't have time for that." Or, "I won't get to read the paper if I don't do it over breakfast!" Or, "I would feel super awkward eating at a table by myself with no distractions." 

These are all valid concerns, but hear me out. Mindful eating has incredible physiological, psychological and emotional effects. For starters, when we take the time to slow our eating and chew more fully, our bodies actually have greater access to the nutritional benefits of our food. Believe it or not, chewing is the first step in the digestive process. When we chew completely, our teeth essentially liquidize our food, which enables our bodies to digest it more easily and frees up internal resources to focus on absorption. Our saliva also contains digestive enzymes that are necessary to break down the food for optimum conversion into energy. Slowing down and chewing fully means we physically gain more benefit from the food we eat!

When we savor the process of eating, we are also able to tune in to our levels of hunger and satiety, more easily avoiding overeating and feelings of post-meal discomfort (as well as unwanted weight gain and chronic stress on our digestive system). Additionally, as our minds and bodies are constantly in relationship, eating with attentiveness helps us remember the experience of having eaten, which actually keeps us feeling fuller longer. 

And then there's the joy bit. The benefit of pure pleasure that comes from truly noticing and appreciating how delicious your food is, how curious of a sound it makes, how many hands it took to get from the field onto your plate, or how wonderful that even amongst your hectic/frustrating/disappointing/exhausting day, you took time to create something for yourself. By making an effort to eat away from your desk, or off of real dish ware at the dining room table—even if you're by yourself—you are actively showing yourself that you're worth caring for. That, in itself, is something to be practiced, savored and celebrated.

Words really cannot express how radically the practice of mindful eating has changed my life. It has so many benefits and an incredible ripple effect. You start paying more attention to your food and your eating and suddenly everything in your life seems deserving of increased attention, care and even reverence. Trust me. You'll see.

While I encourage you to harness your mindfulness the very next time you eat, this salad is a particularly great dish to practice mindful eating with because it is a total party in a bowl of bright, sweet, juicy, and fresh flavors and textures. This is a very unorthodox take on tabbouleh, which is a Middle Eastern salad composed of mostly parsley, speckled with bulgur, tomatoes, onion and a hefty zing of lemon. In less traditional versions, you may see mint and cucumber thrown in too. But here, as a celebration of the waning summer, I got really crazy. I threw peaches into the mix because they're fragrant and delicious, black chickpeas in the mix because, hello, BLACK CHICKPEAS!?! and because I'm a fan of fiber and plant protein, and swapped the bulgur for quinoa because it's gluten free, so more bellies can enjoy it. There is so much winning in this salad, I can't even.

Summer Stone Fruit, Cherry Tomato & Chickpea Tabbouleh
Serves 4

Ingredients
1/2 cup quinoa
1/2 cup dried chickpeas, black or white (or a can of chickpeas if you don't want to cook your own)
2 ripe peaches or nectaries
2 Persian cucumbers
1 cup cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup minced mint
1/2 cup minced parsley
1/2 bunch chives, minced
1 lemon
high quality cold-pressed extra virgin olive oil

Directions
If you are cooking the chickpeas from dried:
1. The night before, put dried chickpeas in a very large jar and fill it with water and a splash of apple cider vinegar.
2. Once the chickpeas have soaked for 12 hours, drain and rinse them.
3. Place chickpeas in a large pot and cover 2" above with fresh water. You're welcome to throw in some smashed garlic, half an onion, a carrot or celery, a bay leaf, a cinnamon stick, or a sachet with any spices you like to enhance the flavor.
4. Bring the water to a boil, reduce to a simmer and let chickpeas cook until tender, 40-60 minutes. If the water level sinks to the surface of the chickpeas, add more water. If white foam collects on the surface of the water, skim it off with a spoon.
5. When the chickpeas are tender, strain and rinse them and remove any aromatics you added to the pot.
6. Congratulate yourself for cooking chickpeas from dried and marvel in how much better they taste than the canned ones! 

To assemble the salad:
1. Rinse quinoa and place in a small pot with 3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp water. Bring water to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, for 15 minutes. When the time is up, turn off the heat and let the quinoa sit, covered, for 10 minutes.
2. While the quinoa is cooking, prep your produce. Chop your peaches or nectarines and cucumbers into 1/4" cubes. Quarter your cherry tomatoes, making an X with your knife from the top down. Mince your herbs, if you haven't already.
3.  When your quinoa and chickpeas are ready, add a generous drizzle of olive oil, squeeze of lemon and hefty pinch of salt to each. Toss to coat.
4. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Taste and add more olive oil, lemon and salt as needed.

White Peach, Fresh Corn & Shredded Kale Salad | On Coming Home to Yourself

I went back home to Los Angeles last week. The home of my past selves. The home of my elementary and middle school self, who was joyous and carefree and destined for greatness. The home of my high school self, whose mind was ever expanding and whose heart felt perpetually bruised. The home of my post-college self, who had a burgeoning career she loved and a boyfriend she loved and friends she loved in a city she loved. So many selves contained in photos and diaries, coursework and notes passed in class. Selves written into the bedsheets, into the rough and fading dusty rose carpet that has forever cradled that floor, into the piles upon piles of mementos that I can't seem to throw away. So many selves that are intimately familiar, yet so far gone.

It's hard to go back to that house in Los Angeles. To enjoy the things I still love deeply about the city without free falling down the rabbit hole of my past. At 24, I left all that history behind and made a new home for myself in London. The city magnetized me, drew me to it and activated me in ways I could never have dreamed. At times, those two years in London were devastating and inconceivably challenging, yet I somehow managed to show up for myself like I never had before. I built the most incredible home, fell in love with a city, fell in love with food, fell in love with amazing friends and communities and conversations. And then, because of a situation well beyond my control, I had to leave. 

In the two years following my move back to the States, I would often tell people that I left my heart in London. But if home is where the heart is and my heart was 5,500 miles away, where did that leave me? 

There are so many things that can make a place feel like home. Comfort, familiarity, community, ease. Home can smell like pine trees or eucalyptus or mothballs or ocean air. Home can feel like a lover's embrace or the squeeze of a mother's hand. It can be the taste of empanadas or matzo ball soup. It can be the sinking into a well worn armchair or sitting atop a vista overlooking the city where you grew into you. It's strange now to say I'm going home when I take a trip down to LA and then to again say I'm going home when I get into the car to drive back up to the Bay. But that's another thing about home: it is multiplicity, evolving, physical and emotional, transient and eternal all at the same time.

The making and leaving and re-making of homes is one aspect of adulthood that I was definitively unprepared for. No one tells you how challenging and joyous and heartbreaking and perpetual it is. 

Through all of this, I'm coming to learn one essential and not often discussed thing: at the end of the day, the most important home I can make and return to is—surprisingly—within myself. When everything else is in chaos or falls away, if you can sit with yourself, be with your breath, and hold yourself tenderly, you'll ultimately be okay. There are so many reasons to become best friends with yourself and to love yourself unconditionally, as hard as that may be. But listen: if home truly is where the heart is—which I believe it to be—and your heart resides firmly inside your chest, then the best and most important home you can make is with yourself. It's infallible logic, no? And the best part about it is that it's a home you can count on, a home that grows with you, and a home you never have to leave.

All Aboard the Kale Train! (there's a terrible Caltrain joke in there somewhere...)

Kale salads have become a bit ubiquitous these days, which is actually a great thing. Everyone knows that this dark leafy green is mega good for you, but do you actually know how good it is? A member of the cruciferous vegetable family (along with broccoli and cabbage), kale is bursting with vitamin K (promoting bone health, preventing blood clotting, and crucially regulating our bodies' inflammation), vitamin A (supporting healthy vision and skin) and vitamin C (maintaining our immune system, hydration and metabolism).  Kale also contains high amounts of manganesefiber, and calcium (more calcium than milk, calorie-for-calorie!). Of all the leafy greens, kale boasts the highest level of carotenoids, which lowers our bodies' risk of developing certain types of cancers (in the case of kale, this includes breast, colon, prostrate, ovary and bladder cancer).  On top of all this goodness, kale is also super detoxifying, as its high amounts of fiber and sulfur help maintain healthy liver function.* Pretty amazing.

A quick note/advance warning that this recipe also asks you to massage your kale. Yes, you heard that right. Massage. Many of you may be familiar with this technique by now, but in case you aren't: vigorously rubbing raw kale leaves for 2-3 minutes with a drizzle of olive oil, lemon and/or vinaigrette is a wonderful method to use when serving it raw because breaks down the leaves' tough and fibrous cellulose structure, making it much easier to chew and digest. It also mellows out the bitter taste, which I think merits extra bonus points. So wash those hands and get ready to get intimate with your salad! 

I've been on a crazy raw corn kick this summer because raw corn is so sweet and delicious. Succulent, ripe white peaches work alongside the corn in this salad to bring an aromatic sweet note to offset the bitter undertones of the kale, while basil provides the punch of fresh herbs and feta rounds out the plate with its salty creaminess. This salad screams of summer. Maybe not as much as a caprese, but pretty damn close. And it's a lot more creative. So what are you waiting for? Summer won't be around for much longer, better celebrate it while you can!

*Nutritional information from WHFoodsMindBodyGreen, & My New Roots

White Peach, Fresh Corn & Shredded Kale Salad
Serves 4

Ingredients
1 bunch lacinato kale
2 ears of corn, shucked and kernels sliced off cob
2 ripe white peaches, sliced into 1/4"-1/2" wedges
12-15 basil leaves
3 oz. (generous 1/4 cup) feta cheese
1 lemon
2 Tbsp. cold-pressed olive oil
salt + pepper

Directions
1. Remove the stems from each kale leaf. Stack about 8 of the leaves on top of each other into a horizontal pile and roll them together into a long log. Using your fingers to keep the leaves rolled together, slice the log perpendicular to the roll into strips as thinly as you can (this technique is called chiffonade). Repeat this with the remaining kale.
2. In a large bowl, drizzle 1 Tbsp. olive oil onto the kale and massage with your hands by rubbing the strips vigorously between your fingers until the kale has softened and vastly diminished in volume, 1-2 minutes.
3. Add corn kernels to the kale. Squeeze in juice of half a lemon, season with a generous pinch of salt and a crack or two of black pepper and mix gently.
4. Stack the basil leaves as you did with the kale, roll into a log and cut into thin strips.
5. Add basil, peach wedges and crumbled feta to the salad. Toss gently.
6. Taste and adjust dressing and seasoning. If your palette is anything like mine, it may need more oil and will definitely need more lemon. Enjoy!