Recently, I attempted to roughly outline the parameters of the gap between the recipes you see here on this site and what I might have made for dinner last night. In the first category, we’ve got words like aspirational and exceptional or unusual and best in category or just seriously we all need to make this right now. It’s fun, noteworthy stuff. Sure, it’s also our dinner, you know, on the days such exciting things come to pass in my kitchen, but it’s the second category — staples, comforts and easy wins, things that miraculously make all three people around the table happy at the same time — that dominate our table the rest of the time.
Now, I was perfectly content to keep this dull stuff to myself — workaday salads, breaded thigh cutlets, flatbread with whatever vegetable needs to be used up first — but you asked. And while at first I resisted because I just thought you were being polite in a “We’d love to hear every precious new word your kid used incorrectly this week” or “No, please tell me more about how web analytics work,” kind of way, I’ve since concluded that this is silly. Everyone needs dinner inspiration. Maybe something here could be yours. I hope it will be.
[Clockwise from top-left: Broccoli toasts (a riff on this, sans anchovies and simplified), a cabbage salad I am still fussing with and roasted potatoes. Crispy chicken thighs, broccolini and wild rice, mostly off-stage. Baked Chicken Meatballs, this salad, but with the dreaded romaine lettuce for bulk, green beans and Simplest Potato Gratin (even simpler, recipe needs an update), mostly off-stage. Pasta with Garlicky Broccoli Rabe, tomato salad, green beans, an apple that a 3 year-old decided to relocate to the table, and my husband’s iPhone, which I’d encourage us bust him for if I hadn’t taken this photo with my own.]
We make Greek salads a whole lot around here, in part because we are feta junkies, and in part because while my 3 year-old hasn’t exactly taken to the whole mixed-baby-greens-with-a-light-vinaigrette yet, he will usually happily pick away at tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers if they’re put out before him. The Greek salad, in its purest form — no romaine lettuce, red wine vinegar, garlic or Dijon or, heaven forbid, basil — is the ultimate summer dish, and as the tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers will only get better as the weeks get warmer, a great thing to have in your repertoire. My favorite way to eat them is with a big slice of feta on top (the way I remember having them in Greece, uh, 15 years ago) that I break up with my fork, ensuring that no bite misses out on a crumble. Lemon juice and olive oil are all the dressing you need, and I have been assured by a Greek friend that even the olives are optional (she says it was more common to have them on the table than in the salad growing up) if they’re not your thing. If you can find or grow fresh oregano, I like a sprig of it minced on top above all else. But mostly, my favorite thing about this is that, uncluttered by lettuce and a heavy dressing, it’s all crunch and colors and brightness, and we can get the ingredients from fridge to table in less than ten minutes. Most nights, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?
Showed you mine, now show me yours: My single favorite question to ask anyone about cooking is “What’s in your dinner rotation? What are your go-to meals, the things you make, again and again?” It’s not a test; I am not here to look down my nose at your (delicious) frozen tortellini and skillet turkey burgers, but shamelessly digging for cooking inspiration. So, now I’m asking you — share away!
One year ago: Vidalia Onion Soup with Wild Rice and Tzatziki Potato Salad
Two years ago: Rhubarb Streusel Muffins and Strawberry Summer Cake
Three years ago: Mushroom Crepe Cake and Braided Lemon Bread
Four years ago: Almond-Raspberry Layer Cake and Asparagus, Goat Cheese and Lemon Pasta
Five years ago: Cornmeal Cherry Upside-Down Cake and Mushroom Streudels
Six years ago: Baked Eggs, Chive Biscuits and Blood Marys and Homemade Oreos
Greek Salad with Lemon and Oregano
Serves 2 generously, 4 as starter or side
1/2 a large, seedless English cucumber (about 6 to 7 ounces), chopped
1/2 a green bell pepper, chopped
1 cup (about 6 ounces) cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup kalamata olives (you can also serve these alongside)
1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 lemon, halved
2 to 3 ounces feta (Bulgarian or French, if you can find them, are my favorites), in thick slices
2 tablespoons olive oil, or more to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 sprig oregano, leaves minced
Toss cucumbers, pepper, tomatoes, olives (if using) and onion in a shallow bowl or deep plate. Squeeze half a lemon over it. Arrange feta slices on top. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper and oregano. Serve with a slice of feta on top of each serving, and the second half of the lemon for those that like their salads punchier.
* If you’re concerned about the pungency of the raw onion, you can squeeze the lemon juice on top of it and let it sit for a while in a dish before adding both to the salad. It will mellow and soften it.