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Nature is flourishing wildly all over New York and I’m flushed with excitement trying to keep up with it. It seems as if both the earth and I are ferociously making up for the brutal winter. I’ve been collecting herbs and flowers to make infusions to throw into spiked, fresh-squeezed lemonades (recipe to come). I’ve been raiding farmers markets to devour fruits and vegetables as fresh as can be and staring at the sea. And in doing so I feel a shift in me. A melting of a wall. A flash of electricity. A loosening of the reigns. And it’s lovely.

July 4th symbolizes the start of summer for me and it came with a gift in the form of a box of vegetables and herbs from my friend’s garden. Arugula, peas, kale, zucchini, lavender, cilantro, dill, basil, borage flowers and leaves–said to gladden the heart. She also picked her onions and turnips prematurely for me, but they are packed with flavor. Along with this, the next day, a different friend of mine who found out that I like to cook, gave me a bottle of olive oil brought home from her small olive grove in the south of France. Oh to be French and own an olive grove. Wistful sigh. These gifts made this city dweller a very happy camper. With a twinkle in my eye and a shudder of delight, I started planning menus from drinks, pestos, appetizers to dessert with these wonderful time-sensitive gifts. The first thing I did was recreate the salad that my friend made from her garden and the dressing, which combines fresh orange juice with the fresh olive oil and a hint of pepper and balsamic vinegar for a tangy punch. It was so good, I ended up taking the spoon straight to the jar and eating it plain after I coated the salad in it. I’ve got recipes lined up for in between bike rides, World Cup games and just sitting outside drinking. I’m hoping to get them up here ASAP so the bounty of summer can be splashed all over this page in the same way it casts its light over all of us.

A little about this stew.  Being from South India, our friends welcomed us into their kitchen and let us taste all of the wonderful things they had brewing, from sambar to fermented rice dumplings. Among their cabinets were mung beans, which rise to the level of sacred to my friend, and puy, French lentils, which I’ve been meaning to find, but hadn’t gotten around to it. Of course, me being me, I sprung into action to make something I’ve been hoping to make for a while. Using the forethought that I cultivated while preserving my lemons (which are so so ready! Add to list…) I soaked the mung beans while at work in order to have a quick, edible dinner later. Boil some vegetable broth, add the beans, the lentils, some spices, coconut milk and fresh veggies from your garden and you’ve got a wonderful, cleansing and filling meal, earthy and redolent with spice. I added tofu for heft and texture, but feel free to leave it out.

Happy summer to all who live in this part of the world. And even to those who don’t.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cups dry  mung beans (Soaked for 4-8 hours)*
  • 1 cup puy, green lentils (no need to soak)*
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 2 tablespoons cumin
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons green curry paste
  • 1 tablespoons freshly grated ginger
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 bunch chopped or pulled malunggay leaves (or spinach or arugula)
  • salt to taste

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Directions:

Boil: Bring the broth to a boil in a large pot. Add the rinsed and soaked mung beans and cook, uncovered, for about 40 minutes total. After about 20 minutes add the green lentils, curry paste and cumin. You want the consistency to be like a very thick soup. Add water if needed, but don’t forget you’ll add coconut milk later.

Saute: Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute the onion, garlic, and ginger in the oil in a large nonstick skillet until soft and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add tofu and saute for about 5 more minutes. Add to the mung pot and allow the mixture to simmer together for a few minutes.

Mix: Stir in the coconut milk and malunggay/spinach/arugula leaves. Remove the pot from the heat. It just needs to be hot enough to very slightly wilt the leaves. Serve over rice or plain, like a soup.

*Note on legume pre-soaking and cooking times: Even though dried beans and lentils are both legumes, because dried beans are larger and have higher amounts of oligosaccharides (long-chain sugars that are difficult to digest) than lentils, the larger beans need to be pre-soaked and have longer cook times. So the larger the legume, the harder it is to digest and the longer the soak and cook time.

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Salad with Arugula and Tangy Orange Dressing

Ingredients:

Salad

  • arugula
  • a few sprigs of lavender
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1 red onion chopped
  • borage flowers
  • sweet peas
  • chives

Dressing

  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 1/3 cup fresh orange juice
  • fresh coarse pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp fresh cilantro, chopped

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 Directions:

Combine all of the garden vegetables and herbs in a bowl. Combine all of the dressing ingredients in a jar and mix. Pour dressing over salad as desired and enjoy.

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