I had the pleasure of meeting Laura through her blog over the summer and was instantly captivated by her honesty, authenticity, and food philosophy. There is a light about her too, the kind you gravitate to, the light that makes your heart feel full. I’d like to call her a friend in real life, one day. At her blog, The First Mess, Laura shares seasonal recipes that are accessible, and full of gratitude. When she sent over the writing, recipe, and gorgeous photos for today’s guest post, I had to resist an urge to make a second trip to Whole Foods for the day and pick up some dill for this recipe. This is the kind of thing I could eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Thank you, Laura, for sharing your passion and light in this space…
Throughout my adult life, food has been there. I would say it’s been a driving force of empowerment; rather than just simply “there”. I grew up with a local produce market as the family business. It was my first job as a teenager. We always had giant tomato plants and greens in the garden in the summer and beautiful preserves to brighten the cold months, to remind us of preparation, knowledge, hard work and its virtues.
In university I began to examine virtue in depth. Along with it came gluttony, suffering, thirst, the danger of mono-crops, cultures that live and breathe with the land, famine, commodities, freedom and community feeling. In college I learned how to poach an egg, make pie pastry, clean and filet a whole fish, sharpen a knife and how to convert ounces to grams.
Working in restaurants tends to develop ones education greatly, regardless of the seeming triviality of any given task. I’ve learned that no one is ever too good to slice a pear or scrub a pot. Your reasons for pursuing the industry? To serve others, to fill their bellies and delight them completely. Repetitive, lower skill set tasks are a bit part of that dining room experience. It’s never about you, not even for a second. If serving others means something to you, and it pays your bills, do it well.
I still learn things all the time. When I started assisting with a youth program that focused on empowerment through food education, I realized how unusual my own upbringing was. The constant presence of fresh food, the every-night family dinners, a big garden in the summer and a jammed cellar in the winter, a job, a sense of community at the table, everything. It made me incredibly grateful and hopeful at the same time. I was awe-struck by these kids reaching for all of the built-in facets of my upbringing on their own because they could see and feel the inherent good in all of them independently.
You know what else blew me away? This amazing grain salad that I learned how to make when I was there. It’s more of a technique that you develop and work with according to the season as opposed to a prescribed recipe. A handful of dill one time, cilantro for the next batch. Walnuts and chopped fennel or mango and sesame seeds, whatever you like. As you develop your own take, share it with others and enjoy it over time, you will definitely start to feel quite mighty. I promise.
Mighty Grain Salad
Created, photographed, and shared by Laura from The First Mess
- 2 cups cooked grain (I used bulgur)
- 2 cups finely diced vegetables (I used shallots, carrots and fennel)
- 2 cups beans or lentils (I used red lentils)
- 2-3 stalks of leafy greens, chopped fine (I used lacinato kale)
- 1 heaped handful of chopped fresh herb (I used dill)
- 1 handful of toasted nuts or seeds (I used walnuts)
- 1 handful of dried fruit (I used currants)
- 1 handful of crumbled soft cheese (I used sheep’s milk feta)
- ¼ cup oil (I used extra virgin olive oil)
- ¼ cup acid (I used a mix of orange juice and apple cider vinegar)
- salt and pepper to taste
- optional: 1-2 tsp ground spices (I used some ground coriander)
Combine the grain, vegetables, lentils, chopped herbs, leafy greens, nuts, dried fruit and cheese in a large bowl. Mix the oil, acid, spices, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Pour mixture over the grain and vegetable mixture and toss to combine. Taste for seasoning and serve.