the (almost) end of summer & field pea salad September 1, 2011

Lasagna. Fettuccine. Hot Dogs. Shrimp Cocktail. Pumpkin Pie. Turkeys. It’s been a month of solid food styling…and one of the perils of the Food Styling Calendar ™ is not really knowing what season it really is. I was so steeped in cranberry sauce and cornbread dressing last week that I honestly didn’t know what day (or month) it was. There have been days where I get to the studio when the sun is just barely up…and I leave when the sun is just barely still up. It’s what we do sometimes to do what we love. I’m happy that even when I’m styling three different turkey photos on the same day – not an easy feat – I’m still in love with my job.

That having been said, I’m going through a stretch that’s a little hard to talk about. Hard to admit. I’ve sat down here and tried to find an elegant way to express it…but the fact of the matter is…I’m burnt out. Desperate meals of spinach dip blobs on almost stale bread. Consuming more coffee to muscle through than one person should be medically allowed. The continuous and raging foot pain. A solid week of styling food is physically grueling without even factoring in the mental Olympics and the politics of pasta twirls…so imagine how this 30-something year old body feels after a month. Folks don’t realize how tough it is. Let’s be real here – I’m not digging ditches, building houses, or curing cancer here. I know that…but the make-it-pretty television cooking show image that folks have in their head isn’t the reality. My job is about smoke and mirrors. Suspending reality…and it’s often hard work. Sitting here, finding the words to say… I’m not a machine and not a styling robot… is also hard work.

So I’m doing something I haven’t ever done before. I’m giving myself a break. I’m saying no. I’m allowing myself a week or two to recover. Recharge. Rejuvenate. The voice of the nagging self-employed person keeps chirping “What are you DOING!? No work means no money!”. The tired, uninspired part of me just keeps swatting it away with nary a peep. I love what I do…and I want to to be at my best for the people that hire me. My work is a reflection of me and, right now, that reflection is a little out of focus. I’m taking a short little sabbatical to do the things that make me happy and be with the people I love. There will be some boating with friends. My first haircut in four months. A much needed pedicure. Maybe a day trip to the museum. Playing around with the new lens.  A week long trip to Portland – more on that later. Coming back refreshed and ready to get back to work.

There will also, of course, be some cooking.

On Sunday, I woke up at my usual shoot day scheduled time and headed to the farmer’s market. Being outside – the morning feeling just a touch cooler than I remember a few weeks before – was wonderful. Seeing the late summer produce that I’d missed out on was pretty inspiring…and I came home with bags full. Tomatoes. Ground cherries. Peppers. Filet beans. Field peas. As soon as I got home and laid everything out on the counter, I started thinking about this salad. An (almost) end of summer salad.

While it’s a little unorthodox to pair mozzarella with peas and beans, the texture combination really works. The creamy, mild cheese with the just-barely blanched produce is a great match. I love the color & texture of mixing the filet beans & field peas but use wax beans, green beans, lima beans, green peas – whatever you can get your hands on. A little thinly sliced celery for brightness and crunch goes a long way here, too. To dress the salad, I made a quick anchovy vinaigrette – the earthiness amps up all the crunch and the smoothness of the cheese. If the thought of salty fishies freaks you out, a quick squeeze of lemon and some olive oil is also nice.

Mozzarella and Field Pea Salad – serves 2 as a hearty side salad or light entree salad

  • 2 small anchovy filets from a tin packed in oil
  • 1 tbsp.  good quality olive oil
  • juice of 1 large lemon – you’re looking for about 1/3 of a cup
  • 1 8 ounce container of fresh buffalo mozzarella ovoline – this is usually two small balls of mozzarella
  • 1/2 cup fresh shelled field peas
  • 1 cup filet beans (or a big handful of green beans & wax beans) – ends trimmed
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced celery
  • salt and pepper – to taste – be careful here as the anchovy in the dressing is naturally salty so you may only need to add pepper
  • celery leaves – optional – as garnish

– In a food processor or high powered blender, whiz together the lemon juice, anchovy filets and oil. Set aside. You’ll need to whisk it together or give it a pulse right before you drizzle.

– Bring a small pot of water to a boil. Throw in the peas and beans for 1-2 minutes. You want to just cook them a bit to make them tender without cooking them through. Scoop out and dump in a bowl of ice & cold water to shock them and stop the cooking process – a minute or two. Drain and allow to dry.

– Slice the mozzarella into 1/4″ to 1/2″ slices and arrange in the middle of the plate. Evenly scatter the sliced celery,  field peas and filet beans (or whichever bean you’ve chosen to use) on top of the cheese. Drizzle with the dressing, top with celery leaves and a grind of fresh pepper (and salt if need be). Serve immediately.


Liz @ Southern Charm Sep 1, 2011 03:09 pm

This looks amazing!! So fresh and light. Lunch is over, but suddenly I’m hungry again!

Kimberley Sep 1, 2011 03:09 pm

Yes yes yes yes yes! I’m at the tail end of a break myself, a break from everything, and I cannot even begin to tell you how rejuvenated and relaxed and refreshed I feel. Before I left, I felt exactly the same as you, especially that third paragraph. I wanted to cry everyday, I was so overwhelmed/overbusy/uninspired. Now I am ready to tackle it all anew. Hope your break is equally nourishing, Tami.

Angharad Sep 1, 2011 03:09 pm

Good for you for seeing that you need a break! I have a strongly held belief that time off is essential for good, productive work and happy workers (yes, I’m European ;)
Also that salad looks lovely! Peas + mozzarella = two of my faves.

Melissa | Dash of East Sep 1, 2011 04:09 pm

This pea salad looks so delicious! Cooking with fresh goodies from the farmers market is the best.

Enjoy your time off – it’s always good, and healthy to take the time and rejuvenate. Even more difficult to do so if you’re self-employed because of that little nagging voice at the back of your mind :)

Can’t wait to read about your upcoming trip to Portland!

Janet Foster Sep 1, 2011 04:09 pm

Enjoy your time off. Everyone needs time to rejuvenate.

Miss T Sep 1, 2011 05:09 pm

How beautiful!, we are just coming into summer and I cant ‘weight’ (sic) to get back into salads and cool stuff – literally and metaphorically.
Miss T x

barbara Sep 1, 2011 07:09 pm

Know that feeling Tami. I went thru it during my career when in my 30’s. I sold up the little business I had and we took a long train trip across America with our children. When I finally returned to work I was more aware of taking time out. Enjoy your break.

Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga Sep 1, 2011 09:09 pm

Congrats to you for being able to REALIZE you need to take a break, regroup, and recenter so that you can continue on doing what you love and in a way in which you are proud…breaks are great. Being able to say hold on here a minute, I think I need one…now THAT is a true thing of beauty and not just try to keep charging on, no matter what.

Thanks for keeping it real, Tami!

Kimberly Sep 1, 2011 10:09 pm

Throw in a manicure, too! That way, if the nagging voice tries to take over, you can remind it that you can’t ruin your fresh manicure. A woman’s gotta have priorities! ;-) Enjoy your time off!

Nicole Franzen Sep 2, 2011 01:09 am

yum!!! I want this now please. love fresh bean salads and mozzarella. I am super hungry now, thanks ;)

Reem | Simply Reem Sep 2, 2011 01:09 am

So healthy and fresh, this salad screams goodness…
Now I am hungry again.

myFudo Sep 2, 2011 04:09 am

This looks nice. Haven’t had a decent meal for quite a while now, would be really great to have your salad right about now :) Sep 2, 2011 06:09 am

I always fall to the same old tomato and mozzarella salad. I really like the peas and beans addition!

MikeVFMK Sep 2, 2011 08:09 am

Tami, happy to hear you’re taking a break for yourself. Everyone needs time to recharge and focus. Love this salad and all the beautiful shots. And I dig that chalkboard!

Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite Sep 2, 2011 08:09 am

Good for you Tami. Saying NO is one of the hardest lessons we need to learn but it’s so important. Good for you. I am currently taking a (probably permanent) break from my PhD and am thrilled to be so free again!

Jeanette Sep 2, 2011 10:09 am

Everyone needs a break once in a while to recharge – hope you find time to just be still. I will be missing the summer vegetables too, and am trying to make the most of them now. Gorgeous salad!

Lana @ Never Enough Thyme Sep 2, 2011 11:09 am

Everyone needs a break now and then. Enjoy yours!

DessertForTwo Sep 2, 2011 11:09 am

You totally deserve a break. It’s so nice to read about your job. I really enjoy it. And I’m in awe of you & how hard you work!

I love when you say “mental Olympics” and “politics of pasta twirls.”

Thanks for being YOU (so inspiring & amazing) :)

Denise @ Creative Kitchen Sep 2, 2011 06:09 pm

I’m glad you’re giving yourself a well-deserved break :) It’s allowed…and recharging is good for the creative soul!!


Tara @ The Butter Dish Sep 2, 2011 09:09 pm

This looks delicious but what really catches my attention is the top and bottom pictures of the straight down shot – even on my computer screen they look 3D.

They’re so beautiful and very cool to look at.

Sarah B. / Lemon Fire Brigade Sep 4, 2011 12:09 am

Gorgeous and genius combination. Beautiful. I love your blog, oh so so much! Also, couldn’t help but to notice, but I hope you had a lovely day cruising over the water. Special moments I’m sure. I hope all the peace in the world was with you today Tami :)

Jessica Sep 6, 2011 01:09 am

Wow! You really know how to make something so fresh and simple look absolutely stunning. Can’t wait to meet you at Food Blog Forum in October!

Magic of Spice Sep 6, 2011 10:09 pm

Oh I agree, the texture combination is lovely…the entire dish is wonderful in fact!
Sounds like you do need a well deserved break…hope you enjoy :)

joey Sep 9, 2011 10:09 am

This is such a lovely salad…and delicious too I am sure!

Everyone needs a break now and again and you certainly deserve one. And yes, we need to refresh ourselves to keep doing what we are doing well. Recharge and enjoy!

Cookin' Canuck Sep 12, 2011 01:09 pm

Everybody deserves a break, Tami and completely removing oneself from the daily schedule for a couple of weeks is sometimes all it takes to recharge the batteries. Enjoy yourself – you’ve earned it.

emiglia Sep 12, 2011 04:09 pm

Sounds like a good time for a break and an amazing opportunity to recharge your creative batteries… mozzarella and beans? Love!

David @ SaladPride Sep 16, 2011 12:09 pm

love it!

bea at La tartine gourmande Sep 22, 2011 09:09 pm

Enjoy the time. It’s key. And you deserve it.

Lovely shots too that make me hungry, once again.