Cucumber, Tomato, and Avocado Salad with Lemon, Feta, and Chilies

An orange plate full of cucumber, tomato, and avocado salad on a bright pink and blue tablecloth. The salad is garnished with chilies, feta cheese, and scallions.

Even just a cursory glance at my blog will expose my adoration for pretty little salads. My need for introverted activities that I can conduct as a mindfulness exercises are very real, and I find the exercise of composing carefully cut up fruits and vegetables an essential part of refocusing and staying present during my week. A long day, a tedious bus ride, and the fact that it was a rainy Thursday led me to this evening’s salad. You can use more or less of any ingredient, or omit one of them if you don’t have it immediately available. Use less or no chilies if you’re not as keen on the heat, my love for it knows no bounds so I like to use a whole chili pepper per recipe, which conveniently is exactly enough for one person.

cucumber, tomato, and avocado salad with lemon, feta, and chilies:

(makes one lovely salad for one lucky person)

1/2 English cucumber, partially peeled and sliced into thick half moons

2 small tomatoes, cut into wedges

1/2 an avocado, thinly sliced

1 red chili pepper, thinly sliced

1 oz. feta cheese of your choice, crumbled

1 scallion, thinly sliced

Half a lemon, zest and juice

1 Tbsp. olive oil

Freshly cracked pepper

Pinch of kosher salt to taste

Arrange the cucumber, tomatoes, and avocado on a plate or shallow bowl. Scatter the chili pepper, feta cheese, and scallion over the salad. Drizzle over lemon juice and olive oil, top with lemon zest, freshly cracked pepper, and salt to taste. Admire your work and then enjoy immediately.

It’s the first day of September, which means I can now start playing all my favourite fall music (even though officially I should still be sticking with summer playlists).  Fall and winter music is the best music, in my opinion, and Mazzy Star is the best way I can think of to usher in the first hints of fall (Hope Sandoval’s solo work is more summery, come to think of it). I was so happy with Mazzy Star’s newest album, it’s just as broody as their older work and just as eerily melancholy.  More than anything, I want to switch from my rotating stock of sundresses into one of the many velvet versions I secretly favour.

Mazzy Star -Seasons of Your Day

Kitchen Sink Salad with a Creamy Avocado and Greek Yogurt Dressing

Broccoli, chickpeas, grape tomatoes, pickled peppers, cucumbers and a creamy feta and avocado dressing on a bed of lettuce.

I have some really nice memories of Sunday nights with my family that involve kitchen sink salads. My sister and I would often spend the afternoon outside, our outdoor activities depended on the time of year (destroying piles of raked leaves, making picnic table forts, pretending the hammock was a pirate ship, or constructing little houses out of sticks for toads). We’d come inside and clean up, maybe draw or read, and my parents would always be listening to music as they figured out dinner (yes, I was an early inductee into the world of music with dinner). Sometimes, our Sunday night supper would be a kitchen sink salad – a large wooden salad bowl filled with chopped broccoli, mushrooms, sweet peppers, little diced pieces of cheese, and whatever else needed to be used up in the fridge. That’s the magic of kitchen sink salads, you have the freedom to add whatever you want! I have such a soft spot in my heart for iceberg lettuce, I almost always have some in my crisper and I have so many memories of reading in bed with my mom and sharing a head of lettuce. We’d slowly peel the lettuce leaves away, crunching contentedly while totally absorbed in a book. Of course, I know that I’m looking at these memories through the lens of nostalgia, but they hold such a special place in my heart it’s hard not to experience them without it. Being a kitchen sink salad, the “recipe” part is really only used as a series of gentle suggestions. Think outside your fridge, too, and look in your cupboards or pantry. I’m a big fan of beans (canned or dried), roasted red peppers in brine, capers, grains, pickled hot peppers, and anything else that looks like it would be at home in a salad. This creamy avocado and Greek salad dressing is one of my favourites, but again, use what you love and whatever is convenient.

kitchen sink salad with a creamy avocado and greek yogurt dressing:

1/2 avocado

1/4 cup Greek yogurt

2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

2 Tbsp. olive oil

Juice and zest of half a lemon

1 large bunch of fresh basil, parsley, and/or cilantro

Kosher salt and freshly cracked pepper

1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 head of broccoli, segmented into small florets and blanched in boiling water

12 grape tomatoes, cut into halves or quarters depending on their size

1 cup of cucumber, cut into thick(ish) half or quarter moons

3 scallions, finely chopped

2 Tbsp. pickled jalapeno or pepperoncini peppers, finely diced

About 1/4 cup of crumbled feta or fresh goat cheese

Iceberg lettuce (or any other crisp, sturdy lettuce)

Put the avocado, Greek yogurt, red wine vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice and zest, and fresh herbs of your choice in a food processor and blitz until smooth. Taste and add salt and pepper to taste, giving it a final blitz when you’re happy with the seasoning.

Place all of the remaining salad ingredients in a large serving bowl. Pour over the dressing and toss to coat. Enjoy a giant bowl of this salad, feeling good that you’ve found a use for all the odds and ends in your kitchen.

I grew up in a Leonard Cohen household and this song is a fitting tribute to childhood Sunday dinners. I still think this song is as mysterious and hauntingly beautiful as I did when my mom and dad would listen to it while making supper. This song especially makes me think of dark winter nights, clean crisp sheets, the smell of our fireplace, feeling anxious about Monday at school, my parents before they divorced, reading Tintin in bed, and my beloved childhood pet cat Peter.

Leonard Cohen – Famous Blue Raincoat

 

Avocado Toast with Pomegranates and Chillies

Toast on an orange plate topped with avocado, pomegranate seeds, and red chillies.

This particular version of avocado toast is such a bright and happy way to start your day. Outside was a solitary sheet of grey today, it was raining so hard that large pools were flooding at intersections all of the leaves that were left in the trees are now firmly littered all over the street. I try to keep my writing space and general home environment sunny and I’m a huge fan of big pops of vivid colour to bring a certain radiant ambience to an otherwise neutral room. Meals like these are an extension of that design principle, they serve to bring light into a dark day. The chillies are what really make these flavours all come together, its addition was inspired by one of my favourite fancy cheese condiments (the Pomegranate Hot Pepper Jelly from Artisan Edibles). Don’t skimp out on the salt either, you need it to complete the holy trifecta of sweet, salty, and spicy!

avocado toast with pomegranate and chillies:

Really simple: mash one avocado and spread it over two pieces of toast (I like whole wheat because it’s nutty and sweet on its own). Scatter a generous amount of pomegranate seeds over the avocado and finish with dried red chillies and kosher or sea salt (Maldon salt is particularly nice to have for this one). Press down lightly so that the pomegranates don’t roll off as you’re trying to eat it. Enjoy right away while the toast is still warm.

Stack of colourful crochet blankets.

I was so sad to hear about Carey Lander’s passing. I’ve always loved Camera Obscura, ever since I first heard their debut album Underachievers Please Try Harder. Her voice was so clear and luminous, like a shining projection of happiness over an underlying sadness. This remains one of my favourite songs ever; it’s so simple and hopeful, a moving tribute to the future that lies ahead.

Camera Obscura – Eighties Fan

Another Rainbow Salad

Rainbow Salad

After a day of way too much strawberry ice cream I needed a meal that was ridiculously, obviously healthy; there is no way this salad could be misconstrued as anything but colourfully nutritious. I have cucumber, radishes, strawberries, yellow sweet peppers, grated carrot, avocado, romaine lettuce, edamame, parsley, pepitas, chia seeds, and black sesame seeds. I made a salad dressing out of dark sesame oil, rice vinegar, soy sauce, minced garlic, 1 tsp. brown sugar, and grated ginger (basically, raiding my pantry for ingredients that would work well together). I dressed the salad and let it sit for about 10 minutes to get the crunch out of the chia seeds and because, well, I just happen to like my salad on the soggier side.