There’s something graceful and relaxing in the wide, soft Charlottesville mountains that change colors with the weather in kaleidoscopic form. This place, it’s a retreat for the soul and the mind. I often find myself begging my closest friends to come sojourn with me here, sip coffee with me while walking the curving old bricks at the university, slip in and out of hiking trails where we pull wild raspberries from unkempt spiky tangles, sit on my front porch and eat ice cream from the tub. I like to quietly watch the sky change colors in the evenings. Notice the hundreds of tiny praying mantis that have burst into life in our flouncy multi-colored azaleas. I feel I keep this place close to my body like a protective gemstone, keeping out all of the negativity and suffering of the world with its natural magnetic force. I love offering that feeling to my friends, if only for a little while.
This is home, though I’ve lived here only a little longer than two years. I have a painful, heartsick feeling of missing it whenever I’m gone for too long. It’s the feel of the air, the smell of the massive old boxwoods, the soft pastel light. This place is romantically simple. It paints a perfect backdrop for the raucous roller coaster that is day to day life. I love having friends visit because it gives me the opportunity to look at the city with fresh eyes, to paw at it gently and see what stirs. It makes me slow down and marvel at my little abundant plot of land full of fruit trees and perennial gardens. It takes me away from all of the responsibilities of freelancing and heaviness of keeping up with adult things.
It helps me simplify my mind. Simplicity is a secret key to contentment. Like black coffee, if you focus on getting the best stuff out of life you’ll enjoy all the qualities of the experience without adding a thing. Less is more, as they say. Logan is always reminding me that I don’t have to make our meals anything more than a simple salad or steamed vegetables. He’s happy with whatever. He’s the minimalist in our relationship. I think he could be happy living on the road and eating pb & j’s for every meal as long as we got to be together, play music, and catch a sunset every once in a while. I’m always the one to over-complicate and clutter. I like pretty details, although I strive to keep my penchant for collecting material things to a minimum. So I often get all of my inspired over-complicating jollies out via cooking. More so with baking, probably. But I’ve been known to make one too many sauces and way too many servings.
Soups are my happy place when it comes to striving for perfect simplicity (that and ice cream!). It’s all about spicing, balancing flavors, and bringing out the best in the ingredients via method. No need for complex whisking terminology (is there whisking terminology btw?) or multi-tasking. This is the kind of soup you can step away from. You might even be able squeeze in some yoga or meditation while it’s simmering!!! (Cue audience groan: “Oof… Virgos….”) Or maybe you could pop open a bottle of wine and put your feet up! (“That’s more like it!”)
- 1 tablespoon ghee or coconut oil
- ¼ cup shallots, minced
- 2 cups vegetable stock, unsalted
- 2 cup water
- ½ cup dry rose or white wine
- 1 cup cashews, soaked overnight or a minimum of 8 hours
- 4 cups broccoli florets
- 2 cups shelled fresh english peas
- large handful of fresh oregano, de-stemmed & chopped roughly
- 1 teaspoon dried porcini mushroom, minced finely
- 1 teaspoon maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon coriander, ground in a mortar
- 2 teaspoons Celtic sea salt, + more to taste
- ½ teaspoon black peppercorns, freshly ground in a mortar + more to taste
- *Optional: yogurt (goat, coconut, cow all work), creme fraiche, or coconut cream to swirl overtop
- Heat a large soup pot on a low burner, adding the ghee or coconut oil when it's hot.
- Add the shallots and cook 3-5 minutes, until they become glassy and just start to brown, stirring frequently.
- Add the vegetable stock, water, wine, cashews, and broccoli florets and cook on low heat for 20 minutes. You want the broccoli to be fork-tender.
- Add the peas, oregano, porcini, maple syrup, and coriander. Cook 2 minutes more, then cut off the heat. Let cool 5 minutes before blending.
- Using a metal immersion blender set on low to start and fully submerged beneath the liquid, pulse the soup to start. As the soup begins to blend and thicken, you can gradually blend on high. I suggest moving to the higher setting only when your soup is mostly blended. It just helps get a finer texture.
- Once the soup is creamy and uniform in texture, add the salt and pepper. Taste, add more according to your liking.
- Serve topped with swirls of yogurt (I used goat yogurt, but coconut & cow yogurt, creme fraiche, and coconut cream are all excellent alternatives!). Enjoy!