A Taste of Spring With a Hint of Summer by Susan Guillory

About 17 years ago I had a French friend who is an Escoffier-trained chef. As I followed him around the kitchen, into food stores, and shared many meals, he opened my eyes and mind to the true meaning of gastronomic “joie de vivre” (joy of living). In his charming heavy accent he would make remarks like, “that is for the pleasure” or “I am eating this for the gourmandize.” It took me a while before I realized that the French do have an innate understanding of mindfulness which complements Thay’s life-long teachings. Christian lived in the South of France so he taught me much about the healthy, Mediterranean diet that is treasured there.

One evening he surprised me with a simple, nutritious, impromptu soup made with handfuls of spring-green colored foods. Christian took a slow tour of his fridge, collecting the greens from radishes, bits and pieces of green veggies like spinach and romaine lettuce, and—I kid you not—leftover dressed green salad! With a combination of other veggies he used, I have created a recipe that incorporates the green from outside to ease your mind away from the white and gray of the winter months.

A second classic Provençal vegetable dish that Christian made for dinners is a casserole called a “tian.” It is a beautifully prepared dish made by creating a circle of layered zucchini, yellow summer squash, and tomatoes. I find it to be an artistic relief to make the circle of the casserole as it requires a calm focus—a culinary mindful exercise.

Green Spring Soup
Serves 6

1 medium leek, well cleaned and chopped
1 medium or 2 small zucchinis, chopped
1 cup of peas (can use frozen if fresh are not available, edamame can also be substituted)
3-4 cups of green vegetables depending on the types used
5 cups of vegetable stock (cannot contain tomatoes or the soup will be grey in color)
1 T olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

Sautee chopped leek in olive oil for 5 minutes then add zucchini and peas. Cook for another five minutes on low heat. Add stock then greens and bring to a low boil then simmer for 20 minutes. Cool in a separate bowl or pot then place in a blender until smooth. Add salt and pepper, taste and adjust flavor. This soup will taste differently every time you prepare it as it will depend on the types of greens used. It can be served hot or at room temperature, and it is an added artistic adventure to decorate the top. I have used chopped colorful veggies, a coulis of another color, or even edible flowers.


Provencal casserole or “Tian”
Serves 6

1 large white or yellow onion
2 large (2 inch diameter) zucchinis
2 large (2 inch diameter) yellow summer squashes
2-3 medium round tomatoes
4 T olive oil
2 T finely chopped garlic
2 T Provençal herbs or mixture of dried thyme, basil, lavender, rosemary, oregano, savory, sage or whatever combo you have of these
¼ cup water
Salt and pepper to taste

Slice onions in thin half-moons and sauté in 2 T olive oil until translucent for about 5 minutes, making sure they do not brown; add a pinch of salt. Cut all the remaining vegetables in thin rounds while trying to keep them all the same in diameter. Place onions evenly in a 10 -12 inch baking dish. Slowly start on the outside edge and layer one slice of zucchini, a slice of yellow squash, and a slice of tomato. Repeat until edge is finished then make next inner circle. When the dish is totally full and the center is complete, add the splash of water, then drizzle with a mixture of the remaining olive oil, garlic, herbs, salt, and pepper. Decorate the top with any herbs as you wish. Place in pre-heated oven of 450 degrees, after 10 minutes lower heat to 350 and cook until veggies are tender, about 40 minutes. Serve with whole wheat pasta or brown rice.

Enjoy! Bon Appétit!!