Monday, October 10, 2011
Rolling with the Punches
R. has had a busy summer. She had a steady gig cooking for a group of teenagers who were in Israel for the summer on an educational program. She flitted in and out of the kitchen. Roasting chicken wings and cooking meatballs. Her daughter would also sometimes come along, griping, the way only a pre-teen can gripe about spending her summer vacation helping her mom, but secretly enjoying it. We would also lend a hand, when we could.
On one particular week she was heading out the door, when she realized that she had completely forgotten to chop the Israeli salad that was meant to be served that day. Within seconds, her daughter grabbed some tomatoes, I grabbed the cucumbers, C. ran for the peppers and minutes later R. was on her way.
One of the things I have learned from both C and R is how to roll with the punches. Because, the punches, they will come. Inevitably, you will forget the salad, your car will stall, you will run out of vegetables, or, if you're me, you'll take a test bite of cookie you made the day before and realize that they really do need to be eaten the day they are made and cannot be sold as such. So, (if you're me) you pull your extra dough out of the freezer and curse yourself for not storing it the refrigerator instead as you hack off pieces with a knife. And everything will work out. An hour and half later, your customers will show up and the cookies will be ready and cooled, and packaged. You give yourself leeway, be prepared to eat your losses and rely on your friends. There's no other way to do it.
But enough about me, and more about Israeli salad. A good Israeli salad is one of the most simplest, purest pleasures there is. In the kitchen it is a mainstay of our little family meals that we eat together between rounds of service. I am always surprised at how much I crave the bright freshness of the salad. After hours of standing on my feet it gives me a little jolt. The king of Israeli salad among our little group is our dishwasher, M. He chops the vegetables almost impossibly small and always somehow achieves the perfect lemon-salt-olive oil balance. It is truly a great salad. My Israeli salad is not quite as impressive but it is still very good. Here are a few guidelines:
1) Use the nicest and freshest vegetables you can find. Tired vegetables make for a tired salad
2) Do try and find Persian cucumbers if you can. Don't peel them.
3) Try and dice the vegetables as finely as you can.
4) I like a lot of cucumber and not so much pepper. Feel free to mess around with the ratios.
My Israeli Salad
2 ripe tomatoes
1 red pepper
1/2 red onion
freshly squeezed lemon juice
good olive oil
1) Cut your vegetables into a small dice and combine
2) Juice half a lemon and pour it over the vegetables. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle on the salt and pepper. Give it a good mix and let it sit for a few minutes.
3) Taste to see if it requires more lemon juice, olive oil or salt and pepper. The salad should taste bright and lemony, but not lip-puckeringly tart. Adjust accordingly. Eat with bread to sop up the juices.