When I was a high school freshman, my best friend and I met two boys on Casino Night who were juniors. I'm going to skip the rest of the story, but suffice it to say that the fact that these boys were 16 to our 14 was an enormous deal, and pretty much all we could talk about. "They're JUNIORS!" "I KNOW!!!" "Can you believe they're seriously JUNIORS?" "I seriously KNOW!"
Two years later, when I was a junior myself, I occasionally gave a sophomore a ride to school. I could drive, and he was on my way. And I thought to myself, you know, I am just so grown-up and he is such a young kid, and isn't he lucky to know someone as old as me who has this amazing ability to transport him in a working motor vehicle.
This morning, I had coffee with someone a decade younger than me.
And in two weeks, I'm having coffee with someone born in 1988.
I was not born in 1988.
And yet, somehow or other, we are peers. This amuses me.
My professional circle, like yours (I'm guessing), is vast, broad, and diverse. And the age range is tremendous. Depending on whom I'm with, I either feel like a crypt keeper, or a fetus. It's all relative, and I kind of love it.
Food is relative, too. On sweltering days, hot soup is a death wish. On breezier days, it's just the ticket -- welcome, comforting, and altogether perfect.
Make this on a breezier day.
Recipe for Golden Split Pea Soup with summer squash, tomato, and za'atar oil
Though I know it's summer, try this beautiful, silky soup on a cool evening. Don't skip the lemon or the tomato, but if you can't find or don't have za'atar, simply substitute dried herbs of your choice. And fresh sweet corn kernels would make a fine stand-in for the squash. (Just add them at the end.)
1-1/4 cups yellow split peas
1 medium or 2 small yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons + 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 small onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, smashed and minced
1 large carrot, diced
1/2 large or 2 small yellow squash (unpeeled), diced
2 tablespoons za'atar, divided
1 large, ripe tomato, diced
Salt and pepper
Examine the split peas and pick out any stones. Rinse under cool water in a fine mesh strainer and dump into a medium pot. Add the potatoes, bay leaf, and 6 cups cold water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer steadily (uncovered) until the peas are tender, about 30 minutes, adding 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper towards the end of cooking. Remove from the heat.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet over medium heat, warm 3 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the onion, garlic, carrot, squash, and 1 tablespoon of the za'atar. Season generously with salt and pepper. (Don't skimp.) Saute for 10 minutes, stirring once or twice, until the vegetables begin to brown. Then lower the heat and saute until tender, 5 to 10 minutes longer. Sprinkle the tomato on top.
In a small bowl, stir the remaining 1/4 cup olive oil with the remaining tablespoon of za'atar. Set aside.
Discard the bay leaf. Puree the peas and potatoes. (I use a stick blender right in the pot.) Squeeze in a generous amount of fresh lemon juice, to taste, and correct the seasonings.
To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and spoon a giant heap of vegetables on top. Drizzle with the za'atar oil and spritz with more lemon, if desired.