Isn't this a beautiful summer lunch? I've written before about my affection for the kind of simple meals I can picture a peasant eating in an idyllic preindustrial meadow. But for a long time, for some reason, I hadn't bothered to cook any beans, and had been pickily eating no vegetables besides carrots and pumpkins. A diet peasant-like enough, I suppose, especially in its monotony, but not really worth writing home about. So I finally got out my Italian cannellini beans and blanched some seasonal asparagus and green beans. I love the way the cucumber (kyuuri, which is a much better name in my opinion, for this completely un-cumbersome vegetable) ties the white and green colors of the other components of the plate together. Served with bread (and of course followed by dessert), it made a lovely lunch for a summer Sunday.One thing I happened to discover, and ended up eating a lot of, while on my green vegetable strike was this bread, my latest bakery addiction. It's the pain de campagne sold by the delicious and tiny hole-in-a-wall bakery Pointage, not far from my apartment. It comes in a convenient half loaf which they will slice up for you. Note the attractive diamond patterns on the chewy, burnished crust. Inside it's spongy and tangy, a perfect vehicle for camembert, peanut butter, yogurt, or anything else with enough character to stand up to this intensely flavorful bread with its wonderful bite.
The real inspiration for breaking out of my beta-carotene rut was this box of fresh organic produce from Kawakami Farms. One of my co-workers told me about a friend of hers who got out of the Tokyo rat race and went off to Miyazaki Prefecture to become an organic farmer. She mails boxes of whatever she's growing at the moment to her subscribers in the city, and will send out a trial set for free to anyone who's interested. My trial set included onions, new potatoes, the tiniest cloves of garlic I've ever seen, and the green beans and kyuuri that ended up in the picture at the top. I know that supermarket organics don't always taste better than the conventional vegetables, but the vegetables in this box were unbelievably good - the potatoes buttery (even without salt or butter), the green beans sweet, the onions and garlic mild, and the cucumbers indescribable. They were like the vegetables that exist in the alternative universe of Platonic forms - all other vegetables are just shadows aspiring to taste this good. Needless to say, I'm going to subscribe. From now on the pumpkins of Japan are a little bit safer. Except the ones grown at Kawakami Farms.