Nicholas’ Choice

by Cate on June 1, 2006

The Husband works late every Wednesday and Nicholas and I are left to our own devices for dinner. I asked him what he wanted to do tonight …

“Do you want to make a nice big salad? Pasta? Dinner from the Chicken and Rice Man? Go out?”

“I want to make a big salad!”

God I love this kid. I mean, seriously, give up Kraft Macaroni and Cheese for a salad? Give up dinner from the Chicken and Rice Man for salad? Give up going out to eat for salad? Clearly, we’ve done good!

I had the ingredients for Nigella’s Ultimate Greek Salad on hand, and with the weather being so hot and humid today, nothing sounded better than tucking into an ice-cold salad.

He eagerly grabbed the stepstool and pulled it over to the counter, waiting to be asked to help. I chopped, and he dropped. We make a great team. Until we did the onion part. Poor baby, I forgot about the tearing of the eyes. He quickly reached for his red sunglasses and decided those helped. In just a few minutes, we had thrown together a HUGE, delicious salad and retired to the living room. I negotiated for equal tv time and he let me watch Access Hollywood to catch up on the latest Brad & Angelina baby news, as long as we watched back-to-back-to-back episodes of Tom & Jerry. It’s a deal I could live with.

He devoured two plates of the salad, thinking nothing of chomping down on fennel (fennel!), and even dared to try tomatoes, which he usually avoids, (liked them) and purple onions (didn’t). Washing it down with three yogurt drinks followed by two fruit roll-ups, he was satisfied.

The recipe comes from Nigella’s cookbook, Forever Summer, appropriately enough. The verbiage below is all hers, and anyone who is a fan of Nigella will instantly recognize her unique way with words.

OK folks, all for tonight. Along with this week’s nod for New (to Me) Blogger on the Block Thursday and Rediscovering My Library, we’ll also chat about pantry preparation. Until tomorrow…

A year ago todaycheesecake and creme brulee.

The Ultimate Greek Salad
Recipe courtesy of Nigella Lawson
Whenever I make this, it’s met, at first, with slightly patronising amusement – and then with the most colossal greed. The trick is twofold: first, substitute sliced fennel for the more traditional cucumber (which has the added benefit of not making the salad go soggy on standing); second, let the onion steep, sprinkled with dried oregano, in the oil and vinegar long enough for it to lose all of its acrid, rib-sticking aftertaste. This version is mild, abundant, gloriously summery. If you don’t like fennel, just leave it out, although don’t be tempted to reinstate the cucumber.

Serves 6-8
Preparation time: 20 minutes, plus steeping

Ingredients
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 red onion, finely sliced
Black pepper
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
200ml extra virgin olive oil
5 tomatoes
1 teaspoon caster sugar (regular works fine)
Pinch of salt
1 very large head of romaine lettuce
1 bulb fennel
125g pitted black olives
400g Feta cheese
Juice of ½ lemon

Sprinkle the oregano over the red onion and grind over some pepper. Pour in the vinegar and oil and toss well, cover and leave to steep for a good 2 hours; longer’s fine. You’ll notice, once it’s had its time, that the blooded crimson of the onion is now a luminescent puce. It’s something to do with the acid in the vinegar: don’t ask. You don’t need to be fully conversant with the technicalities to take advantage of them.

But to return to the case in hand: cut the tomatoes into quarters, then cut each quarter into quarters (always lengthwise) again, so that you have a collection of fine segments. Sprinkle the sugar and a pinch of salt over them and set aside. Tear the lettuce into big pieces and put in a large bowl. Slice the fennel and add that, then the olives and Feta, crumbled into chunks, and toss well. Add the tomatoes, the onion in its marinade, and the lemon juice. Toss gently but thoroughly, so everything is well combined. This is addictive: you will find yourself making it all through summer – and beyond.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Claire June 1, 2006 at 3:12 am

This salad looks so yummy! I’ve wanted to try fennel for so long and this may be my first try! I used to have salads everyday when I was in college (the other cafeteria food was NO GOOD), but seem to have trouble getting them on my own. This will be delicious in the hot, Mississippi summer!

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Ruth June 1, 2006 at 11:11 am

Nigella is one of my favorite cooks and this salad is a keeper!

Lucky you that Nicholas loves healthy choices. My daughters didn’t start doing that until they were much older.

Thanks for sharing.

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Erika June 1, 2006 at 12:23 pm

What a delicious salad! And what a treasure you have in Nicholas!

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Catesa June 1, 2006 at 12:50 pm

if it gets warm again this year i will be making this, it looks so fresh and delicious…besides, ive never tried fennel befor either so it would be a good opportunity :) you have such an adventurous boy! bravo to him :D

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Anonymous June 1, 2006 at 1:06 pm

The salad looks great. I never got to comment on the Mexican burgers from Sunday. They were yummy and are sure to be made again. The neighbor (Husband)

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The Cookbook Junkie June 1, 2006 at 1:49 pm

What does she have against cukes?

My Nicholas is a salad eater too. Not really a good thing right now since it keeps him from eating anything more substantial when there’s salad around.

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Jade June 1, 2006 at 6:52 pm

Thank you for sharing the greek salad recipe. This time of year, one cannot have enough salad recipes!

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Cate June 2, 2006 at 2:03 am

Claire – thanks for dropping by! It WAS yummy, and definitely perfect for this type of weather. :)

Ruth – we are definitely very lucky… although he likes to say he’s “full” from dinner, but never too full for a cookie… ;)

Erika – Try it!

Catesa – fennel is definitely an acquired taste, but it’s not very strong in this recipe, so it’s a good way to start.

The Neighbor Husband – weren’t the burgers good? A definite keeper.

The Cookbook Junkie – heck if I know. I always thought cukes were fairly traditional with Greek salad…?

Jade – I totally agree!

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