Filtering by Tag: philosophie

Musings: little indescribables

Morning at Oz Farm

My (limited) experience so far in life has taught me that my own ideas of what I should expect or what might happen cannot possibly comprehend what will actually present. I'm especially ready for that element of mystery these days as I continue to make weighty life decisions with very little to go on besides my gut. Rebecca Solnit describes this well in A Field Guide to Getting Lost when she says “Leave the door open for the unknown, the door into the dark. That’s where the most important things come from, where you yourself came from, and where you will go.”

I have a love affair with little indescribables - the meandering paths and chance encounters and surprise coastal weekends - those things that are beautiful and, well, indescribable in their way of brightening your senses and making you really notice the path you're on. Like any love affair, they don't come along through pursuit. They present. Unexpectedly. Breathlessly.

Perhaps this is why I so enjoy cooking with new ingredients and re-imagining flavors in unexpected ways. I'm always looking for herbs, flowers, spices, and produce that I've never seen before; hoping to be able to capture that moment of surprise and intrigue from a diner. Whether it's the grassy flavor of a Californian olive oil lacing a cake or the scent of orange water on your salad, these subtle details are the ones that make you notice and slow down. They're the ones that make you question what you're experiencing, rather than just shoveling it down.

5 varieties of heirloom apples from the farm with coriander, a little brown sugar, lemon juice, flour, and a pinch of salt. Later topped with an oat streusel and baked for breakfast.

A "mise en place" of sorts

The photos in this post are from Oz Farm, an organic apple farm just north of Point Arena in Mendocino County, California. I found myself there after a series of interconnected events led to me agree to help a new friend feed everyone at his birthday weekend celebration. The entire weekend was somewhat of an unexpected indescribable special thing - you know the type - with interesting people, much laughter, and approximately 947 million stars dabbed across the sky; the milky way cutting a rainbow through it all.

With this theme in mind, here are some "surprise elements" I used while on the farm:

  • Coriander: inspired by Heidi Swanson, I've begun sprinkling ground coriander in my fruit dishes. Especially perfect in stone fruit or berry salads, it lends a complex and earthy citrus note. Despite having tasted coriander thousands of times in savoury dishes, it still tastes totally new to me once combined with something sweet. Just don't confuse it with cumin...
  • Lemon Balm: Also known as Bee Balm, Lemon Balm is a lemony mint (more lemon than mint) with a delicate flavor. It goes well in fruit salads as well, and can also be added to teas and juices (or cocktails!). I've also infused it into heavy whipping cream for panna cotta - it's excellent with berries. I found lemon balm growing all over the Oz Farm property. Plant some in your backyard!
  • Olive oil: My favorite budget-friendly olive oil is Corto. I only buy olive oil from California (it's just so much better) and this is my favorite I've found in terms of diversity. It works especially well in sweets because it lacks the peppery, bitter zing of some other olive oils.

I recognize that most of our life is not composed of these special flavors or moments or feelings. How could it be? Our routines and patterns and habits make the little indescribables that much more special when they happen, because they break us from the myopic vision we've had of the path below our feet and hint at a bigger, wilder world of exploration. Cheers to embracing that feeling when it happens.

Ottolenghi's Lentils with Asparagus & Watercress (boosted!)

I'm just returning from ten days off the grid at Camp Grounded, a magical place where adults disconnect to reconnect. Ten days of play, music, deeply spiritual conversations, leaning into discomfort, great food, dancing, and commune with the California redwoods - what a blessing! Above this scene, the moon waxed until she reached a glorious fullness on the very last night - a fullness I too felt.

Back at home, I've been allowing myself to slip back into my tech-fueled reality slowly - sipping, not gulping; cooking meals for myself and going to bed early each night.

Here is a recipe I found in Ottolenghi's Plenty - one of the humble ones without a picture, filling only a half page. I made it as part of a private dinner for the recruiting team at Airbnb, choosing it for the watercress, which I am convinced will be the next kale (it's far more nutritious), and for the asparagus, which is nearing the end of its season. The next day, the leftovers (with a few boosts) made a complete meal - the simple, nutritious, one bowl kind I'm totally satisfied with these days.


Wash one cup of green lentils (I used de puy lentils) in fresh water and pick over for any small stones. Cover lentils in a small pot with water and bring to a boil, reducing heat to simmer and cooking for 15-25 minutes (time will depend on what type of lentils you use). They should hold their shape.

While the lentils cook, pulse 2 cups of watercress (big stems removed) with one big handful of parsley, a half cup or so of olive oil, a big swig of red wine or sherry vinegar, one garlic clove, and a hefty pinch of salt and pepper in a blender.

When lentils are done, drain them (don't rinse) and return to pot. Pour watercress dressing over the lentils while they're still hot and mix together.

Snap the woody ends off one bunch of asparagus and either sear them in a super hot pan or blanch them in boiling salted water (3-4 minutes tops).

Mix asparagus and 2 more cups of watercress into lentils. Salt to taste (you will need it).

This salad is wonderful with pecorino or manchego grated over it. I did so and also added a half cup of quick pickled shallots, some chopped toasted walnuts, and sliced avocado. A drizzle of walnut oil (if it's available) and a squeeze of lemon take it over the top.

Eat mindfully.