Friday, July 11, 2014

Herby French Potato Salad w/ Thai Basil & Garlic Scapes // The Art of Doing Nothing (Week 45 & 46)

Last summer, our lives were preoccupied with goals and to-do lists. Exactly one year ago this week, we were one month away from opening our sandwich shop, and we were surviving on too many iced coffees and take-out salads from a bad chain restaurant up the street. No matter how much of our renovation to-do list we tackled every day, by the time we finally made it to our bed we both felt like we'd accomplished nothing at all. There was so much to do -- ALWAYS -- and no time to slow down and enjoy the simple things that you are supposed to enjoy throughout the summer season.

My goal for this season was to do the exact opposite of what I did last summer. That is to say, my goal has been to avoid having a to-do list or annoying reminder messages constantly popping-up on my phone. I just want to enjoy the simplicity of the season: the beauty of a long, quiet morning spent outside reading a book, the pleasure of a guilt-free afternoon at the beach, an afternoon browsing the farmers' market and then stockpiling the freezer with homemade sorbets and popsicles just because…

So I've been doing a lot of that recently, which you already know if you follow me on Instagram (I can't help it…there is no end to my beach pics!). I think that in business, as in all areas of life, it is really important to allow yourself permission to step away now and again. Back in the spring, during a particularly stressful period, Jay and I spent some time talking about just this. We were out to dinner at our favorite Afghan restaurant, and despite the amazing rose-scented rice, candied orange peels and pistachio encrusted meats in front of us, we found ourselves going on and on (and on) about the shop. One of us, I don't remember which, put an end to the conversation and basically said, "This is insane. We're out for a nice dinner, the shop is okay, and we're still here droning on about it and worrying about it when it is totally fine. We need to mentally step away."

That week, we picked up a new meditation CD to listen to in our bedroom in the evenings and we made a rule: from that point forward, unless something catastrophic was about to go down, we were no longer allowed to talk about the shop when out to eat. Or out for drinks. Or out with friends. Or out generally doing something together that qualifies as "enjoying life." It's a good rule, one we admittedly break from time to time. However, I think the most important thing comes from the general root of the rule: the idea that we've granted ourselves permission to periodically step away, to mentally check out and to just enjoy life like a normal, non business-owning couple.

I've permitted myself a similar sense of "mental check out" for this summer. Originally, I had big plans to pump out a ton of freelance work, to get a head start on a bunch of new projects for the shop, and to do about a million and a half things around our apartment. However, instead, I've decided to put it all on hold until after Labor Day. I've given myself permission to spend the fleeting summer season reading books and drinking wine in the daytime and spending as many days as possible in the sun without allowing myself to feel an ounce of guilt. And I have to say, it's been pretty great.

Last week, I woke up on a Saturday morning and realized I had nothing -- glorious NOTHING -- to do. Ahh. Ma. Zing. Rather than call up friends or family and lock myself into time slots and plans, I decided to spend the day alone. I walked downtown to pick up a coffee and sat on a bench to leisurely drink it beneath the morning sun (such a rare treat). I popped by the farmers' market, had a long talk with the woman working at my favorite stand, and then filled my tote bag with an absurd amount of new potatoes and garlic scapes. And then I headed home to an empty house to do whatever I wanted for the rest of the afternoon.

Potato salad is not the type of thing one makes for oneself. That is, typically, one makes potato salad for an event, a gathering, perhaps a summer picnic or a casual dinner with friends. And yet, my tote full of new potatoes looked so lovely that I simply could not resist. I'm not a fan of mayo-based potato salads (or really, mayo-based anything); however, I love the tangy flavor of a mustard-based salad. If you maintain a summer herb garden, this is a great recipe to help you clear out some of your overgrown stash, since you can toss nearly any combination of fresh herbs into the mix -- it's pretty hard to go wrong in fact. This time around, I mixed in a heaping handful of Thai basil leaves, which added a sweet, mildly licorice flavor that worked wonderfully with the subtle garlic notes from the sautéed scapes. You can absolutely make this recipe sans lentils; however, the added protein made me feel a bit more like I was eating a proper lunch and less like I was a girl…alone…eating a giant bowl of potato salad for one.  

Herby French Potato Salad w/ Thai Basil & Garlic Scapes

- 1/2 pound new potatoes
- 1/2 pound red potatoes
- 2/3 cup olive oil, plus one tablespoon
- 1 bunch garlic scapes, roughly chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
- 3 tablespoons chicken stock
- 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon whole grain mustard
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup basil, roughly chopped
- 1/4 cup Thai basil, roughly chopped
- 4-5 thyme stems, leaves removed and lightly chopped
- 1/2 cup cooked brown lentils
- 3/4 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper

Add the potatoes to a large pot of boiling salted water and cook for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small skillet, heat one tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the garlic scapes and sauté for about 5-8 minutes, or until the scapes are tender and gently charred. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside. Drain the potatoes and allow them to cool to the point where they are still very warm but you can comfortably handle them. Slice the potatoes into quarters and add to a medium-sized bowl. Pour the stock into the bowl and gently toss.

In a small bowl, whisk the vinegar, lemon juice, garlic, mustard, salt and the remaining oil in order to make an emulsion. Pour the vinaigrette over the potatoes and gently toss. Add the onion, basil, Thai basil, thyme and lentils. Add the cooled garlic scapes and any remaining oil from the pan. Add the freshly cracked black pepper. Gently mix all ingredients to incorporate.

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