I’d thought that things were going well enough that I could pull off running into the store quickly with the kids. They’d been so cute all morning: reading books together, playing in the playhouse in their nightgowns, helping me drop off lunch to their Dad, picking out stamps at the post office. But that’s the error, right? Thinking you can squeeze in that one last errand even though it’s getting close to lunch time.
It started to go downhill the minute we entered the store. Both kids decided that it was boundary testing hour. They really went through the whole repertoire. They whined, they didn’t listen, they cried when I said, “No, we are not buying Minion underwear.”, they ran away when I asked them to come along. I should have just quit. I should have set down my basket and walked straight out of the store, but I persisted because we were almost done shopping by that point and coming back to the store another time would be impossible as I’d sworn in the midst of all of this to never, ever, ever, go to the store again, ever.
That hope vanished on the food storage aisle. It vanished because I got the Ziploc bags from the shelf and shoved them in the basket instead of letting Lulu do it. “I wan’ do it me-self!!!!”, she wailed… and wailed… and wailed. I employed all my patience, knelt down at her level and informed her that she was welcome to do it herself after she calmed down and asked nicely. “NO! I’m throwing a fit!”, she hollered… and hollered… and hollered. Just then a woman walked by me and said, loudly enough to warrant a quick kick to the shins, “That looks like payback from something…”. Payback? Payback!? If I weren’t such a good mom with all my eye contact and efforts being poured into my pissed-off-over-sandwich-bags-two-year-old that woman would have gotten a serious earful.
It took all my unoccupied brain energy to keep from turning around and releasing my mom-rage on her in the form of a speech that would have begun with, “Do you think that’s helpful, lady?!” Instead I scooped up my screaming toddler from the floor of the store, pinned her under my left arm, and marched her and her crying sister out of the store, strapped them into their carseats, and headed home. By the time we got home Gigi had calmed and had apparently decided to be “normal” again, but Lulu was in a rage. I set her in a quiet spot in her room and let her throw her fit. Lu’s tantrum lasted for a full hour. 11:00am until 12:00pm. I checked on her from time to time but the moment she could hear my feet padding down the hall she’d add, “NO MAMA! GO ‘WAY!”, to her diatribe of curses she was hurling at me. The tantrum was varied, it was epic, it was actually kind of impressive. She lost her voice! I mean, I have to on some level respect that kind of commitment.
While she wailed and cried and kicked the wall I made meringues. I chose meringues because I’m working on a recipe for a magazine, but also because they employ the use of the mixer at high speed for several minutes… which means I only had to listen to about 43 minutes of Lulu’s tantrum, rather than the full 60. By the time Lu had calmed the meringues were in the oven, well on their way to becoming crisp, fluffly, pillows of sugar and caramel.
I love recipes that require minimal time to whip up, in the case of meringues that is quite literal… and espeically one that also turns down the volume on a tantrum! That one goes right to the top of the list. Of course, it wasn’t until after she calmed down and allowed me to enter her room that I realized that her windows were open. Sorry, neighbors. I’ll make you all some more meringues as an apology.
After I made the meringues, I turned my attention to making another minimal prep dish: Greek Orzo Salad. I’ve made it a handful of times this summer and I keep coming back to it because it’s healthy, simple, and can be made ahead on hot days. It’s exactly the kind of recipe I’d quickly explain to a friend over coffee, and she could zip home and whip it up without a second thought. What I love about it, aside from it’s ease, is the combination of flavors: briny olives, salty feta, sweet and smoky bell peppers, grassy parsley, sweet tomato, and slightly spicy shallot. Come to think of it a little peeled, seeded and diced up cucumber would be nice in this salad as well! All of these flavors are bound together with a bright, acidic Greek-style salad dressing.
It’s the type of recipe I gravitate towards; the type that requires that you pay attention here and there but doesn’t call on all your time and energy. I love roasting peppers at home, they crackle and sizzle as the skin blackens, leaving the flesh bright and transformed, but you could also purchase pre-roasted bell peppers if you prefer. The whole salad takes about half an hour of semi-involved cooking time, and the result is a light, satisfying main or side course. We’ve had the salad on it’s own, served alongside grilled chicken, and also with grilled sausages. Next time Lu exerts her two-ness in the above described manor, maybe I’ll lean towards something savory like this salad to get me through it.
GREEK ORZO PASTA SALAD
16oz box Orzo pasta
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow or orange bell pepper
1 small shallot, very thinly sliced
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
6oz feta, crumbled
1 cup roughly chopped flat leaf italian parsley
12 kalamata olive, pitted and roughly diced
1 tablespoon preserved lemon peel, very finely diced (optional)
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
several turns freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Roast the bell peppers over open flame (I do this on my gas stovetop), rotating occasionally, until the peppers are completely black. This should take about 15 minutes. Once blackened and charred, transfer the bell peppers to a bowl and cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let them cool to room temperature. Once cooled, run them under cool water, rubbing them to slip off the blackened skin. Core the peppers and dice the flesh. Set aside.
Soak the sliced shallot in a small bowl of cold water for about 10 minutes to mellow the sharpness a bit. Drain and set aside.
In a small bowl, whisk together the vinegar, mustard, salt, pepper, and oregano. Slowly, while continuously whisking, drizzle in the olive oil until the dressing has emulsified.
Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the Orzo and cook until al dente. Strain and rinse with cold water to cool the pasta.
Transfer the pasta to a large bowl. Add in the peppers, shallot, tomatoes, feta, parsley, olives, and preserved lemon to the bowl with the pasta, pour in the dressing and toss everything together until coated well with the dressing. Enjoy immediately or cover and set in the fridge for up to three hours.