I’ve said before that summer is the season when I love to corral my kids in the kitchen to tackle a meaningful project together: fresh lemonade, bread or a fruit pie, homemade jam, even plain old dinner. What I haven’t confessed is that one of the often surprising by-products of these adventures is how much I learn from them. Perhaps as much as anyone, especially considering I enter the room with a slightly overinflated feeling of mastery and general air of food know-it-all-ness. The person with the ideas and answers. (What? There are others?) Yet I can’t help but take pleasure in the topsy-turvy feeling of being hit head-on by the beautifully simple possibilities that flow through younger mouths. Mouths that know what THEY like to eat, and with taste buds unencumbered by creativity-stifling notions of what-goes-with-what and why. And, I must admit, why not?
This salad is a favorite of guest writer, Lauren Hidalgo, and is delicious when summer fruit is at its peak. If you’ve never used halloumi, you are in for a treat. This mild tasting Greek cheese has a high melting point that makes it perfect for grilling. Look for it at Whole Foods or a market specializing in Middle Eastern foods.
This salad was inspired by my friend Jane and her sneaky tub of pepper-spiked harissa that made the journey all the way from DC to California without too much leakage.
Harissa is a paste made of chili peppers ground with spices, oil and garlic, that’s a wildly popular condiment in North Africa. Here it adds flavor plus a touch of heat to an easy dinner salad. In summer we’ll turn to sweet, juicy raw tomatoes, but in early spring roasted cherry or grape tomatoes are the way to go.
You’ll find harissa and Israeli couscous at Whole Foods or other specialty markets. Harissa varies in strength from one version to another, so be sure to taste and add as much as you dare.
Fresh cilantro pesto brightens up this easy pasta salad. Vary the vegetables as you like or substitute toasted walnuts for the pepitas. Spring asparagus or pea shoots would be a nice addition. Look for Israeli couscous at high-end and specialty markets such as Whole Foods or Gene’s in Saratoga. In a pinch substitute jarred pesto for the fresh. You may not find ready-made cilantro pesto, and if not, basil pesto will do. Add as much as you need to moisten the salad and give it plenty of flavor.
This dish was inspired by my friend, Jane’s trick of puréeing sun-dried tomatoes with oil and vinegar for a bold, flavor-packed dressing that livens up simple lentils. Even those who dislike the chewy texture of the dried fruit will love this zippy salad. Vary the vegetables as you like. Add chopped celery, fennel or radishes, or a handful of fresh herbs such as parsley, basil or dill. Omit the feta for a vegan option. Use brown or green lentils that remain whole with cooking, such as Spanish Pardina lentils or French lentilles Du Puy.