the peace of my years in the long green grass

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Summer is the season of minimalism. It inspires me. I like to wear the least amount of clothing to be considered decent but still feel cool, to keep the essentials within arm’s reach to be ready for a day at the lake or an impromptu trip at a moment’s notice. I like to live with less, generally, and in the summer time it becomes a necessity. Not every day is like that, of course — there are still appointments to keep, jobs to attend, chores to finish and the like that never seem to end no matter what the season. But summer allows for a little shirking of those responsibilities, I think.

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The long weekend truly felt like summer to us. On the hottest of days we stayed indoors and watched movies and ate homemade ice cream with slices of local peaches and homemade (gluten-free) shortbread cookies. One evening we trekked down to the river to watch the fireworks show with friends, sitting on our blankets on the banks, getting soot and ash in our eyes and drinking Dark & Stormies out of plastic cups. On Independence Day we went to a cookout with friends and spent the evening eating watermelon, smoking cigars and talking outside late into the night to the tune of junebugs and popping fireworks overhead. Another day was spent in the sun, and then we made ridiculous quesadillas and memorized the words to Mackelmore’s “Thrift Shop” just because we could (and because we might be a little obsessed with the song). The next day was full of swimming and playing volleyball out in the sun at another cookout, and we passed the rest of the evening on the lake, learning how to waterski and watching the sun set. It was the most compressed version of all things summer in a four-day span, and it was glorious.

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In those moments I cared less about my lengthening to do list and more about how to soak up every joke, every sunbeam, every bit of stillness. I relaxed, didn’t comb my hair, lived in the same pair of cutoff shorts and the same breezy sundress and felt truly free — physically free, emotionally free, free from the hold my possessions have on me, free to take advantage of the days off and not worry about tomorrow.

I’m trying to bring a little bit of that freedom feeling into the workweek, as I approach deadlines and the start of what promises to be a couple of chaotic months before we move. When it all starts to seem like one big swirling mess, I hope I can stop, slow, breathe, and remember that smooth water in the channel at the lake.

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Tucked between two little weedy islands, the water shimmered like a pane of broken glass, still and yet with ripples of energy just below the surface. The sun was low in the sky but still bright. The wind drowned out every other sound and left my ears feeling dully full of air, so much so that it sharpened my other senses — the smell of the lake water and the trees, the taste of sweat and sunscreen, the copper glare of the water and the low buzzing of the boat lulling me to sleep, lulling me to peace.

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Shrimp and Zucchini Quinoa Pasta with Yogurt, Peas + Chiles

Inspired by Orangette and Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

1 pkg. quinoa pasta

1 lb. frozen peas

1 lb. wild-caught shrimp, peeled and de-veined

2 ½ cups whole-milk yogurt (I used some fabulously tart Bulgarian yogurt)

2/3 cup olive oil

2 medium cloves garlic, crushed

Kosher salt, fresh pepper

8 oz. soft cheese (I used Saint Maure goat’s cheese from my farmers market)

3 small zucchini, chopped into coins

red pepper flakes

small handful of nuts, toasted (I used Brazil nuts and pecans)

small handful of fresh mint leaves, torn

In a large pot, boil water with a generous handful of salt and a glug of olive oil. When rolling, add in quinoa pasta; cover and cook until getting soft. Add in thawed shrimp and let cook until the pasta is tender and the shrimp is pink. At the last minute, throw in two-thirds of the bag of peas to thaw completely. Drain and let rest.

In a moderate oven, roast zucchini coins in a drizzle of olive oil and a bit of salt until soft and slightly caramelized. These will be finished cooking by the time every other component is done.

Meanwhile, in a food processor, pulse the toasted nuts until crumbled, with a meal-like consistency. Reserve. Combine yogurt, remaining peas, crushed garlic, salt and pepper, and olive oil in food processor and blend until smooth and light green.

Toss pasta-shrimp-peas with yogurt sauce. Sprinkle generously with nut meal, chili flakes, roasted zucchini coins and bits of soft cheese. Garnish with plenty of fresh mint and enjoy immediately.

This makes an immense amount of food and is wonderful cold (or warmed over) the next day. However, for a dinner party or a picnic it would be excellent with some chilled white wine and nothing else.

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