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

Greek Salad with Lemon Chicken

Greek Salad with Lemon Chicken

Great big salads full of contrasting textures, flavours, and colours will always be one of my favourite choices for dinner. After a long day spent chatting with customers and being generally very extroverted I find a half an hour spent carefully preparing a salad and all of its components both calming and re-energizing. I can preoccupy myself with something as tediously minute as slicing a cucumber at uniform lengths or quartering cherry tomatoes and eventually I begin to feel back in my own body again. I’m not suggesting everyone take this long to make a salad at the end of the day, but for me it’s therapeutic. I like to make this salad on a big platter rather than a bowl, as you can layer the ingredients and display them beautifully in an organic presentation. You could make this vegetarian and omit the chicken; you could also add Kalamata olives (with or without pits), large rustic croutons made of day old bread, sundried tomatoes packed in oil, capers, or thick curls of Parmesan cheese.

greek salad with lemon chicken:

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 Tbsp. olive or grapeseed oil

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

1/2 tsp. salt

Pinch of freshly ground pepper

 

1/2 of a red onion, sliced into the thinnest half moons you can manage

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

 

4 cups of green lettuce (I like romaine or iceberg), torn into bite sized pieces

4 cups of spinach, sliced into thin ribbons

1 cup of sliced tomatoes, I often use cherry or grape tomatoes outside of season but any flavourful kind of tomato will be delicious

1 cup of sliced cucumbers, with the skin left unpeeled if possible

1 green pepper, sliced thinly

2/3 cup of crumbled feta

 

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

1/3 cup of olive oil

1/2 tsp. dried oregano

Kosher salt and ground pepper to taste

1. For the chicken: place chicken in a shallow baking dish and cover with remaining marinade ingredients. Allow to marinade for 10 minutes or up to several hours. Bake at 360 degrees for 40 minutes or until no longer pink inside. Set aside while you prepare the salad.

2. Combine the onion and the lemon juice in a separate bowl, allow to sit for at least 10 minutes.

3. Layer the lettuce, spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, red onion, and feta on a large platter.

4. Slice each chicken breast into several pieces and arrange on top of the salad. Whisk together the dressing ingredients and drizzle over the salad and chicken. Allow people to help themselves.

These past 2 weeks have been so happy for me; my mom and my sister have finally moved here from London, Ontario and are starting a very brave and new beginning in Vancouver. The vast majority of their things were shipped across the country in boxes and this included all cooking and dining essentials, resulting in their presence for dinner almost every night. It feels so amazing to have dinner with my family, something I haven’t been able to do in almost 4 years. My sister has been picking the music some nights while I make dinner and this Koop song has been a favourite, it reminds me of a trip hop version of the “To Catch a Thief” score – beautiful and romantic, while slightly dark and creepy.

Koop – Jellyfishes

Watermelon, Feta and Mint Salad

This past weekend I saw people walking around in winter coats and toques; I live a ten minute walk from this pool and I haven’t even entertained the thought of going for a swim since it opened in May- in short, this has been one freezing cold summer so far. Maybe it’s because I lived right under the Golden Horseshoe but I haven’t even come close to buying the same amount of local produce here in Vancouver than I would be in London right now (then again, London doesn’t have that pool.) The green is so absolutely emerald against the red onions turned deep fuschia after a lime bath, the olives and salty feta tasting that much more piquant in contrast to the sublime crunch of the watermelon. A simpler way to say all that would be that this salad embodies an ideal summer – trips to the beach, swimming in a neighbourhood pool, outdoor parties, etc. Make sure that the watermelon is very cold when you serve this, the other ingredients can be at room temperature. This recipe was originally from Nigella Lawson’s Forever Summer cookbook (my favourite cook book of all time I think, as far as visual presentation and readability goes.)

watermelon, feta and mint salad:

Juice of 4 limes

1 medium red onion, sliced into thin half-moons

1 mini watermelon, cut into bite-sized pieces

1 bunch of mint, roughly chopped

1 generous cup of crumbled feta, I use cow’s milk feta but you might like goat or sheep’s milk feta

1/2 cup of black olives, left whole or sliced

3 Tbsp. light tasting olive oil

Black pepper

1. Combine the red onions and lime juice in a small bowl, allow them to marinate anywhere from 1 to 5 hours.

2. Place all of the ingredients in a large bowl or on a platter. Gently toss to combine and let sit for about 15 minutes before serving.

This is a song that I listen to when I’m cooking alone in the apartment; I think it’s perfect in a lot of ways and I like to listen to it without any interruption. A year ago I was terrified about moving, walking constantly around my neighbourhood and trying to absorb everything I could to bring with me across the country. I listened to this song a lot when I walked and when I was just alone at home thinking. So in its own way this song is a summer song for me because it left me grounded when I needed comfort and now a year later I’m listening to it in my kitchen here, really close to pretty much everything I’ve ever wanted in a summer.

Animal Collective – Banshee Beat