green beans with peaches, pine nuts and herbs

Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land

Every year, I am amazed that a summer can slip by so quickly.

All those lake swims, melty ice cream cones and dinners from the grill blur into a distant memory of sun-warmed skin and long, long days.

I'm writing you this week from Paris, where summer is stretching very lazily into fall. The days have been golden and warm; the blue skies dotted with only a handful of pleasantly fluffy clouds. But the leaves of the chestnut trees are falling. There's a morning chill that calls forth sweaters and jackets (and even a hat or two). There are perfect, squat little pumpkins at the market waiting to be taken home and roasted.

Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land

I'm not going to lie--I love fall. But I'm not ready to let go of summer just yet. Which is why I have a recipe for you this week featuring some of my favorite late-summer produce.

Before I jumped on a plane for Paris, my friend Liz Pachaud and I teamed up for an end-of-season pop-up supper under the trees in my back yard. Liz made a life-changing pasta dish involving smoked corn, charred zucchini, and tomato confit. She also made an olive oil semolina cake I'm hoping to score a recipe for. (I'll keep you posted.) I contributed a ricotta toast with honeycomb, hazelnuts, mint and black pepper. And this green bean and peach salad with pine nuts and herbs.

Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land

This salad is at once straight-forward and unexpected. It's bright and earthy and, one of my favorite traits in a salad, easy to toss together.

It's a perfect farewell to all the ripeness and sunshine of summer days.

Image: Olaiya Land

Green Beans with Peaches, Pine Nuts and Herbs

  • 1 lb tender green beans, stemmed
  • Kosher or sea salt, to taste
  • 1/2 small red onion, sliced into very thin rounds
  • 2 large, firm-ripe peaches
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
  • 1/4 cup finely minced shallot
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 serrano chile (or to taste), very thinly sliced
  • 1/3 cup roughly chopped or torn mixed herbs (I used basil, parsley, tarragon and mint)
  • 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

Bring a large pot of generously salted water to the boil. While the water is heating, prepare an ice bath by filling a large bowl with ice and water. Fill another small bowl with ice and water and place the sliced onion in it (this step is optional, but it helps take some of the bite out of the raw onions).

When the water comes to the boil, add the green beans and cook until crisp-tender. (The precise time will vary depending on the size of your beans.) Remove the beans from the water with tongs or a slotted spoons and transfer to the large ice bath. When the beans are completely cooled, remove them from the ice bath and lay them out on a a kitchen towel to dry.

While the beans are cooling, pit and slice the peaches about 1/2-inch thick. Remove the onion from the ice water an pat dry.

To make the vinaigrette, combine the lime juice, vinegar, shallot and a generous pinch of salt in a medium bowl. Gradually whisk in the olive oil. Add the serrano; taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.

To assemble the salad, combine the green beans, peaches and half the herbs in a large bowl. Dress with the vinaigrette to taste. Transfer to a serving platter and top with the rest of the herbs and the toasted pine nuts. Serve immediately.

Makes 4-6 servings.

postcards from paris

Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Paris Workshop-3.jpg

The summer’s been a full one. Lots of good things have been happening: travel to see friends, meals on the grill, lakeside walks, tomatoes from the garden, wine with our neighbors in the backyard. Beau and I are also working on a fresh business identity that will bring new features to the blog and more retreats and workshops for you to join. All of which means I haven’t been shooting or posting here as much as I’d like. 

Part of me feels annoyed about this. (That would likely be the small dictator that lives in my head.) The rest of me feels that enjoying time outdoors, chilling with friends and creating even more meaningful work for myself is well worth the trade off. (I think that’s the adult part of me that’s gained a tiny amount of wisdom in her time on this earth.)

Paris Workshop.jpg
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land

Earlier this week I received a bunch of film scans from the photo lab. Most of them were from my Paris trip last May. Which reminded me that I never shared any images of that trip with you! So while I’m working on new recipes, preparing for my upcoming pop-up dinner, shooting more stories (and enjoying the last weeks of summer), I thought I’d send you on a mini-vacation with these Paris images. Bon voyage!

Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land

Hey Paris lovers! There's still 1 spot left for my food & photography retreat in the city of light this September. Click here for the details and to make that spot yours. 

herby lentil salad with smoked mackerel and soft boiled eggs

lentil salad with smoked mackerel and soft boiled eggs // image + styling: Olaiya Land

As you guys know, I aim to keep it real around here. I try to share my failures and frustrations alongside my joys, successes and good hair days. Shooting this recipe for the blog last week was a MASSIVE frustration. 

We’re talking: I’ve-been-working-on-this-for-hours-and-it-still-looks-like-hot-garbage level frustration. 

This-was-one-of-my-worst-ideas-ever level frustration. 

Why-did-I-ever-think-I-could-be-a-photographer-anyway? level frustration. 

lentil salad with smoked mackerel and soft boiled eggs // image + styling: Olaiya Land

This exercise in humility started with me wanting to share this dish I made for my Paris workshop. It is a crazy-good salad. A super-easy, healthy, not-to-be-missed sort of salad. I realized I would be letting you down not to share its deliciousness with you.

And I knew I wanted to try something different when it came to shooting it. Lately I’ve been trying to develop a distinct photography aesthetic: tons of color, hard light, long shadows and minimal styling. The sort of image that looks like it was shot poolside in the French Riviera in 1966. (Oddly specific, I know, but thus are the workings of my brain.)

lentil salad with smoked mackerel and soft boiled eggs // image + styling: Olaiya Land

Because I live in Seattle (which, for all those unfamiliar with this fine city, has no relation whatsoever to the French Riviera), shooting in this style means getting better at using artificial light. I researched for about a gazillion years and then bought myself a fancy speedlight. I read and practiced and watched online tutorials late into the night until my retinas were practically scorched. I was confident I had the basics down.

Then when I set my equipment up and started shooting, everything that came out of my camera looked awful. Overexposed. Underexposed. Weird white balance. Strangely greasy looking. It was a complete mess. 

lentil salad with smoked mackerel and soft boiled eggs // image + styling: Olaiya Land

After multiple hours of trying to coax the shot I’d imagined out of my camera, I was on the verge of tears. (Ok, a few actual tears were shed.) I was contemplating packing up my gear when Beau reminded me of one of my favorite sort-of-joking-but-not-really mantras: “Sometimes the only way out is through.”

To be clear, this is the motto of the doggedly hard-headed (oh, hello!) and not always the sanest of advice. On this particular afternoon, it was just what I needed to hear. I decided I was going to keep going until I created something--anything--I liked. I stopped worrying about pinning down the “perfect image”. Which allowed me to approach the shoot as an experiment. I just tried one thing after another to see what the result would be. 

lentil salad with smoked mackerel and soft boiled eggs // image + styling: Olaiya Land


Once I let go of what I thought “should” work, things started to come together. In less than an hour, I had a composition and lighting I liked. 

I’m not going to lie, there’s a piece of me that doesn’t want to share this story. That part of me wants to post these images, slap up the recipe, wave my hands and pretend it was all easy-peasy and took no time at all. But I know how much I appreciate seeing the creative process of other photographers and artists. And how much a glimpse of the foibles, quirks and insecurities of others reminds me that we’re all imperfectly human and fumbling forward through life the best we can. 


Herby Lentil Salad with Smoked Mackerel and Soft Boiled Eggs

  • 1 ½ cups (315g) dried black or green lentils (I used black beluga lentils)
  • Sea salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 large cloves garlic, smashed
  • ¼ cup (60ml) red wine vinegar, divided
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 medium shallot, minced (to yield about ¼ cup)
  • Freshly-ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) good quality Dijon mustard
  • ¼ cup (60ml) extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup (15g) parsley leaves
  • ⅓ cup (10g) tarragon leaves
  • ⅓ cup (10g) picked dill fronds
  • 6 oz. (170g) smoked mackerel (smoked trout works well, too), torn or flaked into 1-inch (2 ½ cm) pieces

*Notes: I use a variation of this steaming method for my eggs. It has several advantages over boiling: 1) It’s faster. 2) The temperature inside the pot doesn’t go down significantly when you’re cooking a bunch of eggs, so the results are consistent. 3) Eggs peel much more easily when steamed (even super fresh ones!). 

- I used Trader Joe’s smoked peppered mackerel in this recipe and it was delicious. I don’t even really like mackerel that much. But this stuff is great. In Paris, I buy the house brand of peppered smoked Mackerel an Monoprix. 

- The lentils and soft boiled eggs can be cooked 1-2 days in advance of assembling the salad. Toss the lentils with 1 tablespoon of vinegar while still warm then cover and refrigerate. The eggs can be peeled and stored whole in an airtight container in the fridge.

lentil salad with smoked mackerel and soft boiled eggs // image + styling: Olaiya Land

Place the lentils in a large saucepan and cover with 2-3 inches of water. Salt the water until it tastes just a tiny bit briny. You want to taste that salt is present, but you don't want the water to taste super salty. Add the bay leaf and smashed garlic cloves. Bring to the boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and cook at a bare simmer until the lentils are just tender. This should take between 15-20 minutes, depending on the size and freshness of your lentils. Check them often in the last few minutes of cooking and make sure not to cook them until they are mush or falling apart.Drain the lentils in a sieve and run a little cold water over them to cool them slightly. Place the drained lentils in a large bowl and toss with 1 tablespoon of the red wine vinegar. Set aside.

While the lentils are cooking, prepare the eggs. Place ½ inch of water in a medium saucepan and place it over high heat. When it comes to the boil, add the eggs. Cover and cook for 6-7 minutes, adjusting the heat to maintain a gentle boil. Six minutes yields eggs that are barely set in the center and runny in the middle. Seven minutes yields eggs that have more of a gel set. (I think 6 ½ minutes yields a perfect egg.) Immediately drain the hot water from the eggs and place the pot  with the eggs under cold running water for about 3 minutes, then leave the eggs in the cold water to finish cooling. I prefer this to an ice bath because I don’t like my soft-boiled eggs ice cold. You can use an ice bath if you like. Crack the eggs all over on a countertop then peel the eggs under cold running water and set aside.

To make the vinaigrette, place the minced shallot, a generous pinch of salt, about ½ teaspoon of black pepper, the mustard and the remaining 3 tablespoons vinegar in a medium bowl and whisk to combine. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Taste and adjust seasoning.

To assemble the salad, roughly tear about ¾ of the herbs and add to the bowl with the lentils. Toss the with the vinaigrette. Transfer the dressed lentils to a serving platter. Arrange the trout over the lentils. Halve the eggs lengthwise, arrange them over the salad then lightly salt the yolks. Sprinkle the rest of the herbs over the salad just before serving. 

Makes 4 main-course servings.

lentil salad with smoked mackerel and soft boiled eggs // image + styling: Olaiya Land