“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.”
― Henry David Thoreau, Walden
When I was in middle school, as I moved the first steps towards a personal quest to improve my art skills, everyone started buying large, beautiful 32-color watercolor palettes. I, who inherited my brother’s half-used pastels and a charcoal or two, looked longingly at those Caran d’Ache’s palettes like a kid watching his teammates from the bench, wishing to join in the game.
One day, my teacher gave me a little case, which turned out to be a 6-color watercolor palette, and posed me with a challenge.
“You only need three colors to make thousands of others. The best artists can make do with what they have.”
Unappealing as it sounded to a 13-year-old back then, I have lived by this rule ever since. That 6-color palette was my first approach to understanding that there is too much we think we need when we actually don’t.
Like Thoreau in the woods in Walden, my decision to go to Portland was driven because I felt like I was making a mess of too many colors and needed to find my essential palette once again, to clear the confusion as to what was essential to my life and what was not – much like when, to test for allergies, they have you remove all possible allergens from your diet to find out what exactly is harming you.
I found my liver poisoned, and my head too light. This time in the woods cleansed me as by the hands of a miracle worker.
It always surprises me how, in spite of our ability to learn and adapt as humans, we constantly need to rid our lives and minds of clutter we accumulate again and again.
The world is full of people who cannot get rid of this clutter, which ends up blocking their ‘light’ – their potential to shine bright, and end up burnt and consumed, and can do no more than blindly answer any dull commands from any external impulse from a colorless world.
But this secret supper, in these woods, with this people, was a rainbow I had hardly ever seen before.
Seeing Eva and Christiann running around like whirling dervishes in their endeavor to paint their world of beautiful colors, were some of the most inspiring people I have ever had the luck to meet. That world of floating beauty, that they seem to bring to life in such an ethereal, feather-light way, yet so real and dotted with beads of sweat for the hard work that it takes to bear on their shoulders, is the world I wish I could paint. They are the colors I wish I could paint my soul with.
Nothing was excessive, yet everything was a feast. All they put together was perfectly balanced.
I need not tell you much about what happened during the day – you can read everything about the great food and menu, the great drinks, and the crazy weather in the recap posts linked above.
But I can tell you that, like Thoreau in the woods, I came to understand many more things about painting life with the little colors that are necessary, but which are exactly the ones you need.
I’ll never be able to thank enough all the wonderful people I got to meet and talk to during this incredible event – Lena, Holly, Maki, Emma, Alanna, Aaron, Alex, Nikole, Dawn, and many others.
I can’t wait to go back to the woods. Thank you for the heaps of dishes, eating leftover ice cream, chatter about the future, warmest welcome one could possibly hope for.
I was about to say that registration for the next supper, ‘Ebb & Flow’ is open, BUT nope, nevermind. Everyone liked this world of beautiful colors so much that tickets sold out in 10 minutes! Mi girls rock! So sign up for the newsletter to be notified when registration opens for future events.
And, after all this beauty, I made a lame attempt at reproducing one of the delicious recipes Mona and Jaret, the awesome duo that catered the event, prepared – a fattoush salad of sorts. Seriously, what they prepared was so incredibly good! So do not take my version too seriously. It is good in its own right, but theirs was perfection.
The fun fact, and the choice to convert this salad to a gluten-free version, derived not only from the fact that I don’t eat much bread and I can’t find pita here anyway, but also that at this dinner I met, for the first time in my life, two people who are allergic to gluten (one of them being Christiann). All of a sudden, gluten-free became a reality. Though I eat very little gluten myself, and I don’t really eat many grains, I know no people who have problems with gluten here in Italy. For the first time, this food allergy became a *real* reality, and now I feel challenged to try even more gluten-free versions recipes like pastas and breads and somehow manage to avoid loading them with white carbs or starches (and on this matter, I am especially proud of the pancakes from my last post).
I love how this fattoush recalls the idea of panzanella (for which you can see my recipe here!), in which the bread soaks up a delicious, slightly tart dressing. I think that the quality of the pita or crackers kind of makes this salad. I am using some delicious seed crackers made my a local bakery.
Also, if you can find those fresh, crispy French breakfast radishes, go ahead and use them. The only kind of radishes I can find here suck. SO scour the stalls of your local farmer’s market and use the freshest ingredients you can find, and you’ll end up with one of the most delicious salads of your life.
I also suggest adding some goat cheese or feta at the end (but leave out if vegan). I had the chance to try Vermont Creamery‘s cheeses, which are all beyond awesome, but I think that their apricot & thyme goat cheese would be a stunner here.
- ½ lb snap peas (I used green beans) , trimmed
- Either 2 whole wheat pitas, or your favorite gluten-free crackers (I used some locally made seed crackers)
- 2 tsps olive oil + pinch salt for the green beans and pitas
- 4 cups mixed greens like sorrel, baby spinach, pea shoots, arugula…
- A large cucumber or 2 medium ones, finely sliced
- A bunch radishes (use french breakfast radishes if you can find them), finely sliced
- 1 cup sweet corn kernels
- 1 cup mixed basil, parsley, mint, finely chopped
- Edible flowers for garnishing
- 2 tbsps extra virgin olive oil, more or less to taste
- 2 tbsps kefir or buttermilk , or low fat yogurt, or plain unsweetened soy yogurt
- The juice from half a medium lemon
- 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
- 2 heaping teaspoons sumac
- 1 scant teaspoon salt
- Pepper, to taste
- Extra, but leave out if vegan: some crumbled goat cheese or feta
- Heat a pan (preferably cast iron, but nonstick will do just as well) with 2 teaspoons olive oil over a medium-high heat. Add the snap peas and a pinch salt - they should sizzle when you add them in. Sautée them until nice and golden, almost slightly charred, for about 5 minutes. They should still be crispy. Transfer to a serving bowl, and let them cool down.
- Brush the pita with a little olive oil and, In a grill, or in the same pan, grill it/toast it until crisped up on the outside. Cut into wedges. If using crispy gluten-free crackers, there's no need to do anything to them - just break them into smaller pieces.
- Add the rest of the ingredients to the bowl except the flowers.
- Add all the ingredients for the dressing to a jar, and shake it well to mix. Pour the dressing on the salad and toss well to mix. Add the pita or cracker pieces to the salad, and let it sit in the fridge for about 30 minutes to let the pita or crackers soak up the dressing.
- Drizzle on some extra olive oil and pepper to taste. Toss and serve immediately.
- You can assemble the salad a day before, but add the pita and dressing only the day you are going to serve it, or it might get too soggy.
And check out Mona + Jaret’s Instagram for some serious salad inspiration!