It’s not the heat, it’s the humidity.
Well, it’s the heat, too. I have to blame it on something. My brain turning to mush, that is.
Mush, cotton, fluff, stuffed. Stultified. Yes! that’s the word I’m looking for: to diminish somebody’s interest and liveliness of mind by being repetitive, tedious or boring. Or by being just too damn hot.
Really, how can I reasonably expect to be able to figure out what to feed the troops for dinner? That is so taxing. I know I’m not alone here, ladies.
Now if only my impaired brain could remember which days the farmer’s markets near me are taking place. And when I get there, if only I could remember what is in my refrigerator, so I don’t end up with too much zucchini. Oh wait. It is the season of too much zucchini. Zucchini that needs to be cooked, which I do not want to do. I am not a fan of raw zucchini. Nor am I a fan of cooking anything in this weather.
So here it is: my big fat Greek salad. The salad I make when I can’t think of what to make. I am reluctant to report exactly how often, so let’s just say we are practically living on this stuff. If I have the presence of mind to have some feta cheese about me. And that is the one thing I try very, very hard to remember, even in my less than optimal mental state.
If I do forget, not to worry. I live in a feta cheese hotspot. I can buy all the feta cheese, pita and Greek yogurt my heart desires. In fact, I can find myself at any number of Middle Eastern markets in three minutes and collect everything I need for a Greek salad.
If I happen to have some cooked shrimp I can add it to the salad, or serve it with some cold grilled chicken, mixed into the salad or on the side. Grilled chicken does not technically count as cooking since a) it is cooked outdoors and b) not I, but Man of the House takes care of grilling. Ever since we scrapped our defunct gas grill and he insisted on replacing it with a charcoal-eating Weber, I have retired from grilling.
Ha! I won that battle handsomely. First, points for agreeing to “give in” to acquire a messy, fussy hard-to-use piece of outdoor cooking equipment. Second, more points for now never needing to have anything whatsoever to do with said piece of equipment.
This is an authentic Greek salad in that it does not contain lettuce. At least I think it’s authentic. I ate a version of it almost every day on a long trip to Greece years ago. Back in the good old days, before 9/11, before the recession and before my ten-year old turned into a teenager and began to feel less enthusiastic about mommy time. So I eat this salad with more than a little bit of nostalgia.
The basics are cucumber, tomato, black olives, feta and vinaigrette. You can add in other vegetables, like sweet peppers, leftover cooked green beans, or thinly sliced fennel.(as in the photo.) The beans and fennel are not traditional, but you get the idea. Add whatever you want to use up. Just keep it clean, and don’t overdo. You can play around with amounts, depending on what you have on hand.
For about 4 generous servings
1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
4 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 to 2 cucumbers, peeled and cut in 1/2-inch pieces
1 to 2 juicy, ripe tomatoes (cut in same size as cukes) or cherry tomatoes (halved)
1 yellow or orange pepper, seeded and cut in 1/2-inch pieces
1 handful of cooked green beans, cut in 1-inch pieces
1/2 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
About 1/3 cup pitted Greek olives, or to taste
About 3 ounces feta, cut in small cubes
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
1. Whisk the vinegar, salt and pepper together in a large bowl. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Stir in the cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, green beans, fennel and olives. Toss and taste. Add more oil and vinegar if necessary. Gently mix in the feta being careful not to smoosh it too much. Sprinkle with oregano and more pepper if you like. Close your eyes and pretend you are at a Greek taverna surrounded by grey-green hills of olive trees and air scented with oregano and thyme.