Just wait until you try this sauce.
A couple of months ago, things around here had begun to go so wildly awry that my husband was moved to ask me incredulously, as I struggled to pull a one-inch splinter out of the bottom of my foot using a sewing needle and a pair of tweezers, “how could you possibly have so much bad karma?”
It’s a question to which there is no real suitable answer.
Still, because I take deep solace in food during times of adversity, that period was one in which many great meals were consumed in my house.
And a fair number of them involved this sauce.
It started out its life as a component of what I would loosely define as an Andean-ish potato dish, but I had far more sauce than potatoes on that particular late-spring evening, so it morphed into the kind of catch-all condiment that could improve the (forgive me) karma of just about anything that was thrown its way.
Almost an entire season later, it is still in heavy rotation.
In the photo you see above, I tossed it with some sauteed peppers, but that was just because they were what happened to be laying about. I would highly recommend it with the little local potatoes that my husband keeps bringing home by the basketful, and I can’t even tell you how blissfully it pairs with corn on the cob.
(I have mentioned before, probably at just about this time of year, that I do not find summertime cooking to be especially inspiring: the grill and I don’t have a relationship to speak of, and I am largely fine with that. There are a lot of fun things that happen outdoors at this time of year, but for me, cooking is not one of them. I like my kitchen.
Still, I bet you could slather this sauce on whatever thing you just pulled off the barbeque, and it would redeem even that.)
What can I tell you? It’s just that good.
A Sauce to Redeem (Almost) Anything
adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian
1 egg yolk*
1c whole milk
500g feta cheese, crumbled
1/2c olive oil (not extra virgin)
2 fresh hot yellow or green chilies, de-seeded and de-veined and finely chopped (leave in a few seeds for a spicier sauce)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp flour
* I would consider the egg yolk optional if you are feeding a pregnant woman, young children or anyone whose health may be compromised. If you opt not to use the yolk, increase the flour slightly.
Combine egg yolk, milk, and feta in a blender and blend until smooth. Leave in blender.
Place olive oil in a heavy saute pan set over medium heat. When oil is hot, add chilies, garlic, and turmeric to the pan, and saute, stirring frequently, until softened and slightly golden, about 2 minutes. Add flour to pan and stir well. Reduce heat to low and add feta mixture from blender to the pan. Cook, stirring, until sauce is thick. Using a rubber spatula, pour and scrape sauce back into the blender and blend until smooth.
Add a little milk, if necessary; sauce should be the consistency of heavy cream.
Makes about 2 cups, enough to dress about a pound of cooked baby potatoes and still have plenty left over. Refrigerate leftovers promptly.
I use the term “my garden” fairly loosely, since it will soon belong to someone else – which is why it is so overgrown.
I have no complaints about the mint and chives, though – they are two of my favourites, and I am happy to have them in abundance, at least for the time being (my new garden is lovely and lush, but also very well-ordered; so, for this growing season, anyway, there will be no invasive herbs running amok).
Between the mint and the heat, our meals have been largely inspired by the Mediterranean – a lot of grilling, quite a lot of olive oil and garlic, some rosemary, some lamb.
I am now at the point of almost constantly fantasizing about my new kitchen and all of the things that will happen in it: long, lingering conversations, slow cooked dinners, multi-course breakfasts (really!).
But until we get there, the order of the day is meals in minutes.
I am aiming generally for luscious, robust things that will fill me and cheer me, and can be made in the amount of time it would otherwise take to scoop some ice cream into a bowl.
I found this dish fit the bill admirably.
Lunch in minutes
I used a grilled eggplant leftover from a previous meal, which is why this took so little time for me to cobble together; but if you don’t happen to have any leftovers on hand, the grilling only adds a few minutes to your prep time.
1 medium eggplant, sliced crosswise and grilled
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh chives
3 tbsp finely chopped fresh mint
1/4c extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp wine vinegar
100g feta, crumbled
Cut grilled eggplant slices into cubes.
Combine all ingredients in a large salad bowl , toss gently, and serve.
Serves 4, as a side dish
She and I are in similar circumstances: our kids are the same age, and neither of our husbands is often around during the dinner hour. We are also both, at the moment, living without air conditioning; and it has been very, very hot and humid in our city these past couple of weeks.
We were discussing the indignity of having to get dinner on the table when it’s 30 degrees both inside and out and you’re outnumbered by your children, and our conversation went something like this:
Me: You know, I am so tired and hungry by that point in the day that I can’t cope with making a salad. And I refuse to turn on the stove. I’m embarrassed to tell you how many nights we’ve had the cereal supper in our house this past week alone.
My Friend: I know, it’s too much. Although I will eat a salad, as long as it has lots of cheese in it.
Me: Oh, I love cheese in a salad. And croutons.
My Friend: And nuts.
Me: And a side of sausage.
As grateful as I was to learn that I am not the only one who struggles with the dinner hour these days, I do recognize that, heat wave or no, the cereal supper is not something every mother would like to commit to on a long-term basis.
(I’d like to mention at this point that I used to love hot weather, and I have not had air conditioning my entire adult life. Hot weather, for me, used to mean cold bubble baths and dinners that consisted of drinks on ice.
Since having my children, though, I find that when the heat is on, nobody in our house sleeps well through the night; we move through the days with our energy sapped; and we find excuses to spend time in our climate-controlled car.
In fact, these days, I find that too much hot weather makes me a little angry.)
However, I think I may have come up with a reasonable alternative. Since discovering this recipe (thank you, Sara!), I have made it three times, varying it a little each time. The one you see here is my favourite so far – side of sausage optional.
Adapted from Culinerapy
1/2c red wine vinegar
1/2c extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground pepper to taste
2 bunches asparagus, trimmed
1c roasted walnuts, chopped
1 1/2c crumbled feta
In a large bowl, whisk together vinegar, oil, and salt & pepper. Chop asparagus crosswise, and add to bowl along with walnuts and feta.
Refrigerate a couple of hours before serving.
We all joke that discussing the forecast is one of our national pastimes, and I’ve noticed lately that I actually am one of those cliched Canadians whose conversational gambits often begin and end with, “Isn’t it a [insert appropriate adjective here] day?”
It’s not the worst thing to talk about, but I could do with some new subject matter.
The trouble is, I have not been keeping up well with the news lately; I know nothing about sports; and my taste in music is both un-current and probably a little pedestrian to anyone who might actually like to talk about music with me.
Of politics in my city I know shamefully little, and I am late to register my daughter for school in the fall, so I avoid that subject at all costs.
I do love to shop, but the various vintage treasures that I’ve unearthed at bargain prices may not be of interest to everyone I meet – and besides, I have declared a pre-move moratorium on acquisitions (and how that is going for me is the stuff of a whole other epic conversation).
So you can see why, at a loss for small talk, I drift back to my old reliable, the weather.
Aside from the polite innocuousness of weather-related chat, discussing the forecast also offers the opportunity to segue into my absolute favourite topic, which is, as you have no doubt realized by now, what I am going to eat next.
And today, because it is a beautiful May day, that happens to be the salad you see here.
adapted from Food and Wine
I actually made this over the weekend, but it makes quite a bit and it tastes better every day.
1 1/2c pearl barley
1c roasted almonds, coarsely chopped
5 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/2c olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tsp lemon zest
1c packed Italian parsley leaves
1c crumbled feta
Cook barley in a large pot of boiling, salted water until tender, about 20-25 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water to cool. Shake out excess water.
Meanwhile, whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and lemon zest in a large bowl. Add barley, parsley, and feta and toss gently. Stir in chopped nuts, toss again, add some salt and pepper if desired, and serve.
Serves 4-6, depending on your desire for leftovers