Cook seasonally. Eat consciously. Live well.
This has been the slogan for Lilly’s Table since its inception. Honestly, it is a personal mantra for me as well. However, I feel I don’t actually talk about what it really means, why it is important, essential, why I cannot live without it.
‘Healthy eating’ has become this very distorted, confusing, pretty much diluted phrase in my humble opinion. As a personal chef, I interviewed every client prior to cooking for them, I always asked “What is your definition of healthy eating?” It was as unique, beautiful and convoluted as each lovely client. Several of my clients had a balanced sense of what they needed for themselves and their family, even if I struggled to agree. Occasionally, I was jealous of how my clients ate better than me. Sometimes my client’s definition of healthy took both of us on a journey of insanity that looks a bit like the health food industry today– those were exhausting lessons to learn.
It seems, in this information age with it’s plethora of food products, as soon as we are comfortable with one philosophy of eating, the next comes our way. I am specifically referring to the demonizing of macronutrients. The fat-free craze of my teenage years lead to an obsession with white rolls, soda, fat-free yogurts, red vines, and fruit amongst my ballet dancing peers. Today’s fear of carbs has lead to a surge of fat consumption, only the ‘good fats’ mind you. I must say I am happy to be able to indulge in butter & avocados with unleashed abandonment, but what is happening to our bodies as we tip the scales of our plates in these confusing directions.
What are we doing, people!?
We spend so much time considering what we are “supposed” to be eating that we ignore the foods that are truly capable of bringing us joy.
I believe in the philosophy of listening to your inner desires and cravings. This doesn’t mean, as I gleefully subscribed to in college, eating a bag of cheetos just because that sounded yum, not to mention brainlessly easy to grab. But, rather getting a bit quieter with yourself and listening to the place where we all came from, a place that will always nourish us, goodness grown from this beautiful planet.
Recently, I watched this fabulous Netflix series ‘Chef’s Table’. If you are a food geek on any level, I recommend this show. The author of The Third Plate, which was my favorite food book in 2014, is featured in the second episode. Dan Barber’s drive as a chef is to find produce that tastes better & better and that serves the planet as well. Within the search for deliciousness, the nutrients follow. Healthy food can actually be that simple.
In general, I think a lot of people agree that a vine ripened fresh-from-the-garden tomato is just about heaven. And that a store bought version in December is a pale, pathetic impostor. Personally, I have avoided purchasing an out of season tomato for years. There are just too many other plants that taste great when tomatoes are not at their prime… such as dark leafy greens, citrus, avocados and more.
One of my dearest friends and a farmer in Tucson, told me how she has a similar relationship with carrots as I do with tomatoes. She said she has not bought carrots from the store for years. Her husband and her actually grow these carrots that revile candy, so I quickly understood her sentiment as we munched on their goodness and further discussed the possibilities for the leafy carrot tops as well (Pesto? Carrot Top Carrots?). Flavorless baby carrots will never, ever compete.
What if as a collective force we demanded more from our food? What if, instead of looking for out of season shippable year round produce that we proclaim to be so easy on our time & wallets, we demanded vegetables grown closer to home? Vegetables that were breed and selected for their ability to taste as deep and authentically good as their name implies.
Now. That may seem a tall order, but there is an easy way to make this happen.
Simply eat with the seasons. This means waiting for tomatoes. This means gorging on cold weather vegetables in winter. This means coming together to celebrate when food is delicious & abundant, not just shippable & available.
Through Lilly’s Table, we have been committed to the seasonal + follow your taste buds movement for several years. And we are continuing the journey by making it simpler and easier to think about cooking seasonally, eating consciously, and living well.
In the comments below, tell me why you love eating seasonally or where you struggle. It is a balancing act, but the health of our food system, our bodies, our community and our planet collectively depend on the choices we make about what we cook & consume.
To celebrate the ease & simplicity of cooking seasonally, I want to share a soup with you that is as easy as a smoothie, that I make year round simply by changing the shining star ingredient. Since I am writing this in spring, I am sharing our asparagus version. Asparagus holds a beautiful spring memory for me as my sweet father would forage asparagus on the side of the road when I was a child. He would arrive home with a big bundle wrapped in his burlap bag. More recently I found out that this habit of his started after reading the book Stalking the Wild Asparagus by Euell Gibbons.
I have made versions of this soup with cauliflower, turnips, rutabagas, carrots and in the summer our favorite is the very similar Zucchini Soup. A dollop of something creamy is always welcome on these simple pureed soups whether that creaminess is a Homemade Creme Fraiche, store-bought sour cream, a whipped nut cream or the scrapped off fat from the top of coconut milk. Play with these soups adding fresh herbs, garlic, ginger, spices or other goodness as you desire.
1 tablespoon olive oil, divided
1 onion, minced
1 pound asparagus
2 cups broth, such as chicken or vegetable
1 teaspoon salt, more to taste
1 pinch black pepper, to taste
In a saucepan over medium heat, drizzle in half of the olive oil. As soon as it shimmers, add the minced onions and sauté until just translucent, about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, break the tough stems off of the asparagus. Chop into pieces reserving a few of the pretty tips for garnish.
Add in a splash of the olive oil and sauté the asparagus lightly with the onions until it is a brilliant green. Pour in the lemon juice. Transfer to a blender, pour in the broth and blend until smooth. If you want it even smoother, pour through a wire mesh sieve or strainer.
While you blend the soup, lightly saute any asparagus tips in a splash of olive oil, just until bright green.
For hot soup, return the soup to the pot and bring up to a simmer. Taste. Season with the salt and pepper.
For chilled soup, season with salt and pepper. Place in the freezer for 20 minutes, stirring periodically. Alternatively, prepare a large bowl of ice water. Place the smaller bowl with the asparagus soup in the ice bath, stir periodically until chilled. If you are making well in advance it can also chill out in the fridge for 4-6 hours.