It’s hot outside, and that means turning on your oven is a nightmare. It also means that eating anything hot feels like extra work. Why make macaroni and cheese when you can eat a giant bowl of cherries while sitting in front of a fan? Why wouldn’t you just dump a bunch of chili powder over a bowl of watermelon slices that you got from the deli and eat that while watching television? These are sensible snacks at most, best enjoyed sitting in the dark on a stoop somewhere, with a joint in one hand and a sweaty glass of ice water within arms reach. But guys, even though it’s summer, you need to eat dinner. Everyone — literally everyone — needs to eat dinner.
I know a recipe is good when it sticks with me for longer than a day or two, or when I make it once and then can’t stop thinking about it, like a crush or the pack of cigarettes I left at home on my dresser when I meant to throw them in my bag. It sticks with me. Right now, it is about one million degrees outside. This salad is a dinner for one. It is what I will make when I go home.
Go to the grocery store, and don’t complain about it. It’s hot outside, yes, but the grocery store is very cold. Get the following items.
- One package of skin-on chicken thighs.
- Some arugula — however much you want is fine.
- Some white peaches. They’re sweeter than yellow peaches, and they are best, in my opinion, when sliiiightly underipe, so they are still toothsome and slightly crunchy.
- Cheese that you can fry. If you can find halloumi, it will cost you more money than you want to spend, but its delicious and also worth it. If you can’t: queso freir works in a pinch. Or, if you live in a food desert/place that isn’t as bougie as my horrid neighborhood in Brooklyn, sub in something salty, like feta.
- some of those cute little Italian eggplants — the baby ones, the ones that look like the eggplant emoji.
- Lemons, if you don’t already have them.
- Garlic, if you don’t already have them, too.
- If you’re feeling crazy, some green onion is nice in this.
You’re going to have to turn your oven on, but don’t worry, it will be worth it. Preheat that thing to 425, aim a fan at your kitchen and crack a window. Drink some water.
Then, take the chicken thighs out of their slimy little package and dry the shit out of the with some paper towels. Plop ‘em on a tin-foil covered sheet pan and let them come to room temperature.
Take the garlic you bought and give it a good whack with the heel of your hand or your knife. Let loose the little cloves and smash them once, then tuck them under the skin of the chicken, like really scoot ‘em in there. Salt the shit out of the chicken. Be aggressive.
When the oven is too hot, like hot enough for you to want to not be in your kitchen, it’s ready. Scooch the chicken in there and wait for 45 minutes.
The salad is the easier part. First, cut all of your shit up. Dice the peaches and cut the green onions up however you like to eat them. Cube the cheese. Slice the eggplant as thinly as you can manage it. You only need about half the eggplant here, so just save the rest and, if you’re feeling fancy, sprinkle some salt on the eggplant and plop em in a colander.
If you’re really ambitious, you can arrange your salad now and put it in the fridge. To do that, put a handful of arugula in your preferred salad vessel, then some peaches, then some green onions.
Now, go watch some TV or something. Smoke a joint. Whatever. You have like, a good half hour to go before you have to do anything else. Relax, it’s too warm to be moving, anyway.
When the chicken is done and the timer has gone off on your phone, take ‘em out and tent the whole thing with aluminum foil.
Now it’s time to use the stove. Pour a good glug of olive oil into a pan — preferably non-stick– and get it good and hot. When the oil is shimmery, slide the halloumi into the pan. Stand back. It might splatter. Keep an eye on them, and flip ‘em around for a good five minutes or so. Things are good when you see brownish, crispy, blistered spots on the lil’ cheese snacks. When you’re good with how they look, slide them on top of the salad you’ve already prepared.
Now, the eggplant. Pat them dry with a paper towel; they should’ve released a lot of liquid which will hopefully prevent any secondhand burns when you slide them into the pan. Important to note: don’t crowd the pan. Let the little ones breathe. Give them about five minutes or so on either side, but that’s generous. Just keep an eye on them. When you see them getting crispy and brown, flip ‘em and then take them out. Slide them right on top of your salad.
If you want to make an actual dressing, go for it. I don’t think it needs more than just a splash of olive oil and some lemon. Toss that salad like you’re employee of the month at Chop’t.
Enjoy with wine or water or iced tea or whatever it is that’s very cold and readily available. Eat in front of your fan, your AC or in the dark on your roof. Happy summer.
Original by: Megan Reynolds