Last week I came across a great sale on strawberries at the local grocery store. I bought several packs with the intention to make a quick dessert out of this gorgeous ruby summer fruit. A couple of days passed though, and I was out of ideas. I wanted to make something quick yet also meaningful – a dessert which told a story about me and my culinary experiences, but also celebrated summer and one of its best fruit offerings. Finally, my memories came to the rescue: I was going to recreate the strawberry mousse I used to eat as a child.
This is a dish I grew up with as a child, and I absolutely love it. I remember my mother and my aunt making this regularly during the summer months, and freezing lots of eggplants in plastic bags for the winter. Back then, we did not have a food processor or a blender, and my mom used to spend a lot of time mincing the roasted and peeled eggplants with a knife, in an attempt to turn them into a puree. The process was time-consuming and the result was far from perfect: despite my mom’s best efforts, the salad usually had lumps in it. Thankfully, modern kitchen gadgets make this dish a breeze to prepare.
When I lived in the UK I used to be an avid watcher of cooking shows – Ready Steady Cook, MasterChef, Nigella Express, Saturday Kitchen, and many others. It was one of these shows that introduced me to a strangely looking vegetable I’d never seen before: the artichoke. I read more about this veggie and was not sure it was worth the bother, so for years I steered clear of artichokes, intimidated by their appearance and by the supposedly complicated preparation techniques involved. Fortunately, in time I have learned to control my “fear” of artichokes, and nowadays I often use marinated artichoke hearts to make panini.
I love eating salads in the summer. As days are getting warmer I like to feel my skin breathing through its pores in the sunshine, and I crave easy, colorful meals to match the lightness of the world outside. My body – exhausted by the comfort food of seasons past – is screaming for relief. I give it salad. Lots of it.
There is something really comforting in eating cheese on freshly sliced bread. To me, it’s simplicity at its best – and it’s also the symbol of many happy memories. I love this combination because it reminds me of my childhood and of me eating feta cheese with white bread and juicy red tomatoes alongside my parents. Back then we used to travel quite a bit in the summer, and being on the go and on a tight budget meant that we didn’t care much for fancy restaurants. It was all about improvisation – improvisation with a few simple ingredients, bought from local producers who sold their fruits and veggies on the side of the road.