flowers

because you are

Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land

When I was single, Valentine’s Day was depressing. This was pre-Galentine’s, so there was no celebrating sisterhood with my lady friends over waffles and mimosas.

In all my relationships before I met my husband, Valentine’s Day was stressful. (He only got me this little box of chocolates? There’s no card? Is this the beginning of the end? Should I break up with him or give him this masterpiece of a handmade, vintage-inspired sweater that took me 80 hours to knit?)

All the years I worked in the restaurant industry, Valentine’s Day was a shit show of trying to cram three hectic turns and a “special” menu into one (hopefully profitable) evening. High romance it was not. 

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

To this day, Beau and I don’t really celebrate Valentine's. No champagne. No hand-dipped chocolate-covered strawberries. And certainly no dinners out. (After all those years in the trenches, going out on Valentine’s Day still spikes a stress response). 

Despite my Grinch-like attitude towards this amorous holiday, there’s one V-Day gesture I can get behind: buying flowers for your special someone. And this year, I propose that your special someone be you.

Image: Olaiya Land
Buy Yourself Flowers-1-2.jpg
Image: Olaiya Land

There’s a distinctive pleasure in receiving an armload of blooms. Flowers are a mood-lifting burst of color wrapped in a parcel of soothing green foliage. With their assorted perfumes, velvety petals and, in the case of edible flowers, subtle flavors, they engage our senses as few other gifts do. There’s something about an artfully arranged bouquet that feels luxurious and, depending on how puritanical your upbringing was, maybe even a little naughty. Flowers are by their very nature fleeting--the precise opposite of a practical investment. The most stunning bouquet will soon wilt and fade. And even dried flowers will eventually crumble to dust.

Image: Olaiya Land
Image: Olaiya Land

Which is exactly why you should get yourself flowers this Valentine’s Day, or any other day for that matter. You should buy yourself this supremely impractical present to remind yourself that you are a magnificent goddess (or god--no gender stereotypes around here!) who deserves to have beauty in your life regardless of your relationship status. 

Gifting yourself flowers is a statement of self-love and thus a small act of empowerment. 

Image: Olaiya Land

And before you start to list off reasons not to treat yourself like a queen this Valentine’s Day, let me say this: beautiful flowers don’t have to be expensive or time consuming. Though you can easily spend well into the three figures on a bespoke bouquet from an artisan florist, you can also spend $3.99 at Trader Joe’s, like I did for the miniature carnations below, and arrange your flowers in a jam jar--with or without some greenery foraged from your yard (or, under duress, your neighbor’s yard). Ten minutes, $4 and voilà--you’re a Valentine’s Day goddess!

Image: Olaiya Land

However you choose to go about loving yourself this Valentine’s Day, the thing to keep in mind is that you deserve it--whether you’re in a relationship or not. Whether you have your dream job and loads of money or not. Whether you’re #winningatlife or not. So before next Wednesday, I want you to gift yourself a bouquet that will brighten your space and make you feel special every time you look at it.

Because you are. 


Bouquet in progress at  The London Plane

Bouquet in progress at The London Plane

If you're in Seattle

My favorite places to buy flowers are The London Plane and Glasswing. Both have a beautifully curated selection of unique blooms and are currently taking orders for Valentine's Day bouquet delivery and in-store pick-up. 

The self-serve flower bar at  Glasswing .

The self-serve flower bar at Glasswing.

chilled spring greens soup with crispy prosciutto

chilled spring greens soup on millys-kitchen.com

Today, I have for you a chilled spring greens soup with crispy prosciutto. I love this soup because it’s easy and delicious and a great reminder of how being wrong can sometimes save the day.

If you’re anything like me, you’re not necessarily fond of being wrong. Especially in front of other people. But, in it’s own serendipitous way, this soup proved me wonderfully wrong on two occasions. 

chilled spring greens soup on millys-kitchen.com

It’s based on a chilled green soup I had at Frenchie in Paris a few weeks back. If you’re not familiar with Frenchie, you might not know that obtaining a reservation here is a major logistical feat. Or that on any given evening, the sidewalk outside is awash with Beautiful People, smoking and laughing and being generally very sexy and French. I’d scoped it out several times before deciding it couldn’t possibly live up to all the hype and striking it off my list. 

To be perfectly honest, I was intimidated by the effort required to secure a table. And all that sexy Frenchness. 

chilled spring greens soup on millys-kitchen.com
chilled spring greens soup on millys-kitchen.com

But when the lovely Sarah Pank, chief miracle-worker at Apartments Actually, managed to snag us a reservation, I wasn’t about to say no. Accepting her gracious offer was one of the smartest things I’ve done recently because, friends, that meal was phenomenal. All seven gorgeous courses of it. Working my way through crisp, seed-crusted cauliflower and silky foie-gras with apple confit and fresh berries with herbed ice cream, I savored every second of having my assumptions overturned.

A highlight of the meal was one of the the amuses-bouches: a tiny earthenware cup of chilled green soup, garnished with edible flowers, crunchy cured ham and creamy feta. It tasted like spring. When Beth suggested we try to recreate the soup as part of a lunch for our retreat guests, I was skeptical. It’s too cold out for a chilled soup. There’s no way we can come up with something as magical as the Frenchie version! Do people even like cold soup anyway?!? 

chilled spring greens soup on millys-kitchen.com
chilled spring greens soup on millys-kitchen.com

Beth gently insisted and I decided it wasn’t worth arguing over. The green soup I ended up making was fresh and bright. A riff on the classic marriage of peas and ham, in a springier incarnation. We garnished it with a few drops of pistachio oil and crumbles of salty jambon de Bayonne from the market. It was my favorite part of the lunch. 

So in addition to being fresh and light and just the sort of thing I want to eat on a warm spring day, this soup serves as a reminder that I don’t know nearly as much as I think I know. And that that’s a wonderful thing.

chilled spring greens soup on millys-kitchen.com

P.S. The Paris culinary retreat sold out in record time. (Thank you all for your wonderful support!) A lot of you wrote me asking about upcoming trips, so I wanted to let you know I've got details on the Portugal retreat headed your way next week. If you're not already on my mailing list, sign up here to get priority notice for all upcoming tours and events. XO!


Chilled Spring Greens Soup with Crispy Prosciutto

Chilled Spring Greens Soup with Crispy Prosciutto

  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • ½ a medium fennel bulb, diced
  • 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt, divided
  • 3 medium zucchini
  • 1 large bunch spinach (about 1 lb), rinsed and tough stems removed
  • ½ cup loosely packed flat leaf parsley
  • 2 cups English peas (from about 2 lbs. unshelled peas)
  • 1 small head green garlic (or 2 cloves regular garlic), thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
  • 6 very thin slices prosciutto (serrano ham, jambon de Bayonne and pancetta are great also)
  • Pistachio oil, to garnish (or good quality extra-virgin olive oil)
  • Edible flowers, to garnish (I used borage, chervil and thyme flowers from my garden)

*Notes: Feel free to substitute herbs for the edible flowers. You’ll want to use more delicately flavored herbs so they don’t overwhelm the soup. Fennel fronds, tarragon, thyme leaves, small mint or basil leaves, or a few snipped chives would work well.

- If you don’t plan to eat all the soup at once, add the lemon juice and vinegar only to what you plan to eat at one sitting. They will cause the soup to lose its color if added too far in advance. (It tastes fine, but looks a little drab.)

- For a vegetarian or vegan version, substitute a creamy feta or some finely-chopped pistachios for the prosciutto.

chilled spring greens soup on millys-kitchen.com

Heat 4 tablespoons of the oil in a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed stock pot over low heat. Add the fennel and half the salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until very tender, about 20 minutes. You don’t want the fennel to brown. Add the zucchini and cook for 5 minutes. Add the spinach, parsley, peas, garlic, the remaining ½ teaspoon salt and 3 cups of water. Raise the heat to medium and cook, covered, until the spinach has just wilted and the peas are tender, about 5 minutes longer. Take care not to overcook the vegetable or the soup will lose its bright color.

Remove the soup from the heat and puree in a blender in batches until very smooth. Take care not to fill your blender more than ⅔ full so the steam from the soup doesn’t blow the top off and burn you. If you don’t have a blender powerful enough to puree the soup very fine, strain it through a fine mesh sieve. Transfer the pureed soup to a large bowl, thin with cold water to your desired consistency and place in the fridge to cool completely.

Remove the soup from the fridge 30 minutes to one hour before serving so it can warm up a bit. (When it’s ice cold, it looses some of it's depth.) Add the lemon juice and vinegar just before serving. Taste and add more salt and/or acid as necessary.

While the soup is warming up, crisp the prosciutto. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil over medium heat in a large sauté pan. Add the ham and cook, turning once or twice until crisp, about 5 mins. Transfer to a  paper towel lined plate to cool slightly.

To serve, ladle the soup into serving bowls and garnish with a swirl of the pistachio (or olive) oil. Top with edible flowers and serve with the crispy prosciutto.

Makes 6 first-course servings.

chilled spring greens soup on millys-kitchen.com

the love list

the love list // millys-kitchen.com

Hello!

I’m writing you this from the comfort of my couch, where I intend to spend the majority of the next 48 hours. 

A nasty spring flu has been making the rounds here in Seattle. It knocked Beau out for most of last week, before moving on to our friends and neighbors. I escaped the worst of it somehow. Which seemed like a pretty big win until I realized that lethargically dragging my tired ass through the week while refusing to believe I was sick was not as huge a “win” as one might think.

So, in an effort to prioritize taking care of myself over conquering the week’s to-do list, I’ve decided to take the weekend off. Not the usual "off" where I may not be “working” but I’m certainly getting shit done. Nope. I mean truly and fully off. I’m going to lie on the couch with my cat and binge watch period films on Netflix (See you soon, Kiera Knightley!) until I feel better. I’m going to read and sleep and maybe--maybe--bake myself the almond cake I’ve been jonesing for all week. The end. 

But before I sign off and enter the blissed-out realm of couch-bound convalescence, I wanted to leave you with a Love List for the weekend. I couldn’t help myself. Plus, the list of things I wanted to share with you was starting to get a little unruly! So here you go:

 

- First up, Rhubarb! I'm working on a new recipe for a flourless rhubarb-almond cake, which means I've been all over the internet looking for inspiration. I've come across so many gorgeous desserts featuring my favorite spring flavor, I hardly know which one to try first. But my love of dense, unfussy tea cakes would put this beauty near the top of the list.

   Photo:  Thea Tillberg

 

Photo: Thea Tillberg

 

- If you've been following along on the blog for a while, you know Beau and I moved into our new house! You may also have noted that I spent a ridiculous amount of time obsessing about how to decorate the house (as a means of coping with home-buying stress, I think). I'm happy to report, I've managed to back away from round-the-clock interior design related pinning. (High five!) Aaaaand, I've also implemented a few Pinterest-inspired design ideas. Starting with these floating cabinets.

the love list // millys-kitchen.com

These, my friends, are Ikea Besta cabinets, mounted to float about 6 inches off the floor. Our 1948 bungalow is diminutive with fairly low ceilings, so I was looking for a storage solution that would keep things neat without taking up too much space. I had originally intended to top these with a salvaged wood top. But I was so happy with the clean lines of the white cabinets against the white wall, I’ve decided to leave them as-is for now. What do you think?

 

- I loved this essay by David Brooks on how the appreciation of beauty is the path to a rich inner life as well as nobility of spirit and is more crucial now than ever. 

 

- As long as we're talking about beauty, I have some homework for you this week: I want you to buy or pick yourself a bouquet of fresh flowers. It's one of the best mood lifters around. A few days ago I discovered that the unremarkable bush lurking in the corner of our front yard is actually a mature lilac, which has now burst into bloom. Today, I picked an armload of fragrant purple flowers for the house. I often forget what a difference such a simple gesture can make. How taking a few minutes to slow down and contemplate natural beauty puts you fully in touch with your senses. And I had certainly forgotten how a bouquet of lilacs can transform your entire house with its delicate, old-fashioned scent. So, you've got your assignment. I want to see flowers in your house by Monday!

the love list // millys-kitchen.com

 

- For those of you looking for some weekend cookbook inspiration, I highly recommend Tara O'Brady's gorgeous Seven Spoons. As usual, I'm late to the party. The food cognoscenti have been swooning over this book since it came out last year. My self-imposed cookbook moratorium meant that I couldn't join in on the swooning. But having fallen in love with Tara's blog, I broke down and got it last week. I don't know how I'm going to shove it onto the shelf with the other cookbooks, but I do know I can't wait to make everything in here! Starting with this beautiful Fattoush with Fava Beans and Labneh. I'll be reporting in on this one soon!

 

- Because it wouldn't be the weekend (or a Love List) without a cocktail, here's a recipe for Orange Spiced Iced Coffee, which I intend to spike with a little rum and drink all summer long.

 

Wishing you a Happy Weekend--whether on or off the couch!

xo,

Olaiya