I took to the open road. California was calling and so I drove across the moon-like expanse of west Texas, through Tucson in a heat wave, to the salt-soaked groves of redwoods on the California coast. I went to the dry, high altitudes of the Sierras and the rolling gold hills of Sonoma. Ojai, Los Angeles, the vast Pacific, all these places of my childhood. From there I headed east again, through Navajo country where everything–the sky, the earth, wooden signs for save-your-soul churches, cracked buildings and picked over animal bones–is bleached to the same colorless sere. In northern Arizona I slept beside a fluttering grove of Aspen trees, woke to birdsong, did not see another person for so long that I realized it had been nearly 12 hours before I spoke. I visited mesas in Colorado–great islands in the sky with ancient dwellings carved into the sandstone. Further east, still, from there I drove, my heart aching for the west as soon as the Rockies were in my rearview mirror, as the oceanic flatness of the plains spread before me. Clouds gathered through Kansas, Missouri, the first humidity I’d felt in weeks, a gauzy filter casting the corn, the red barns, the bursting silos, in sweet, pastoral light. Into the sticky heat of the northeast, the scenery suddenly close, a protective tunnel of thick forest and tightly packed brick cities. And then, at last, Maine.
Now, as I take a much-needed break from my wanderings for a few weeks, I find myself slowly coming back to the kitchen, to the grounding ritual of making my own food and eating it from a plate rather than from my lap with one hand on the steering wheel. Being in Maine in the summer allows for the pleasure and privilege of letting the garden inspire a meal. After a morning of gleaning unharvested broccoli & cauliflower from Four Season Farm with my brilliant cousin Hannah on one of her work visits, I came home with a stack of velvety green broccoli leaves. You don’t find broccoli leaves at grocery stores or even at most markets, but they are similar in taste and texture to collard greens and packed with all the nutrition you find in the head of broccoli itself. During the hot months especially, I like to pack big green leaves like these with crunchy vegetables and hummus or smashed beans to make a plant-based burrito of sorts. Today’s wrap was gussied up with cumin and garlic-spiked goat’s milk yogurt from a local dairy, and enjoyed after a post-harvest plunge in the pond on the farm. Use collard greens, kale, swiss chard or even lettuce leaves if you like. If you grow cabbage, cauliflower or broccoli, harvest the medium-sized leaves and use those. Leave them raw or give them a quick blanche. Any vegetables you have on hand will do, and always add something creamy–bean mash, hummus, avocado, a dollop of fresh cheese.
The call to wander will come again, as it so often does. In the meantime, I am relishing the staying put and the daily wonder of being in a place I know as well as the back of my hand, but which I never stop seeing anew. I hope your summer is feeling equally bright!
Big Leaf Veggie Wrap with Spiced Yogurt
makes 2 wraps
2 big green leaves (broccoli greens, collards, kale, swiss chard, lettuce)
1 cup cooked black beans (or chickpeas or other beans, or hummus)
1 small tomato, sliced
1/2 English cucumber or 1 Persian cucumber, or other crunchy vegetables, thinly sliced in matchsticks
1/2 small, ripe avocado, sliced
3 or 4 fresh basil leaves or other fresh herbs, torn
1/4 cup goat’s milk yogurt
1/2 t finely chopped serrano peper
1/2 t cumin
2 T olive oil
juice of one lime
1 small clove garlic
sea salt and pepper to taste
-Grate the clove of garlic into a small bowl. Stir in the yogurt, cumin, and a pinch of salt. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Set aside.
-In a medium sized bowl combine the serrano pepper, lime juice and olive oil. Add the beans and a pinch of salt. Use the back of a fork to mix and mash the bean mixture until you have a semi-pureed texture with some beans remaining whole. Taste and adjust seasoning/spice as needed.
-Rinse the green leaves and trim the bottom of the stem off if needed. If the stem running up the leaf is very thick, use a paring knife to carefully shave the stem as flat as possible without tearing the leaf.
-Spread the bean mixture in a strip down the middle of the leaf leaving an inch of space at the top and the bottom. Layer the avocado, tomato, crunchy vegetables and herbs on top of the bean mash. Season with salt and pepper. Fold the top and bottom of the leaf towards the middle and, while holding the ends in, wrap one long side of the leaf towards the middle and roll towards the open end like a burrito or spring roll. Repeat with the second leaf.
-Cut in half or leave whole, as desired. You can dip the wrap in the yogurt or spoon it on, bite-by-bite.