Fannie Farmer's Oatmeal Bread
Melissa Clark's Excellent White Bread

Cooking for Hugo: Avocado Cucumber Salad

Avocado cucumber salad

Hugo turns five this summer. Five! Wasn't he just born? Sunrise! Sunset! Sigh.

A silly little story: We still wake Hugo before we go to bed to take him to the bathroom one last time for the night, even though he doesn't need it anymore, even though he gets up by himself in the middle of the night if necessary and puts himself back to bed too. We can't bring ourselves to stop, I guess. Old habits die hard.

This has been Max's job since the early stages of my pregnancy with Bruno, but the other night, Max was away on a business trip so it fell to me to do it. A year ago, I could still lift Hugo easily into my arms. His legs still clamped easily around my waist and his head fell into my shoulder just perfectly. He was heavy and I wouldn't have been able to take a leisurely stroll holding him, but it wasn't ridiculous for me to pick him up. The other night, though, was a wholly different story. I was trying to pick up a boy, not a toddler, and I couldn't get a handle on his lanky limbs or his weight. It suddenly felt like I was trying to lift a horse. I awkwardly staggered to the bathroom with him and back, practically grunting with effort, rather than doing that cozy, capable, motherly nighttime glide. It was both funny and heartbreaking.

And not for the first time since January I found myself thinking, thank God I still have another baby.

But onto the matter at hand: I've long stopped cooking specifically for this practically teenaged Hugo, unless he's feeling out of sorts and in need of a steadying bowl of pastina before bedtime. (Whenever this happens, Max comes home from work, sniffs the broth in the air and promptly proclaims he'd like some too, go figure.) And Hugo's mostly a good eater. Left to his own devices, of course, he'd eat a diet consisting solely of cookies and chocolate, with Tic-Tacs thrown in for good measure (he's obsessed with them). He likes to complain about weird things like lentil soup and tomato sauce. And a few months ago, he specifically and solemnly asked me never to make polenta again. (Huh?) (I feel the need to clarify: I'd only fed it to him twice in his short life! But I guess when you hate something, you hate it.) But when I make Swiss chard* or salad with romaine hearts or boiled spinach with olive oil and lemon for dinner, Hugo proclaims that that's the food he'd like to eat every day for the rest of his life and devours three portions. (Not. Even. Kidding.) So largely we're in a good place.

The biggest slam dunk in recent months, though, has been the discovery of this little salad - a mixture of cubed avocado and cucumber, dressed with plain yogurt, lemon juice, dried mint and salt. It recently joined Hugo's other favorite vegetables in the hallowed three-portions-in-one-sitting pantheon. Actually, he can work his way through almost an entire bowl of this stuff. I found the original recipe, which includes mayo and scallions and Sriracha for a far more "grown-up" concoction, on Deb's site, and she, in turn, got it from Julia Turshen's Instagram. One night, when we had little in the house in the way of green vegetables besides a cucumber and an avocado, the reminder of that salad flitted across the nether regions of my brain. That night, I left out the Sriracha due to Hugo and the scallions due to Max and the mayo due to myself, plus I added the dried mint, because I'm having a love affair with it right now (more on that in another post!) and upped the yogurt, which, when you give the salad several good stirs, turns a gorgeous celadon hue. And lo and behold, we all went nuts for it.

Since then, it's graced our table weekly, even with the dire avocados us poor Berliners are subjected to (the rule seems to be that for every good avocado you get, you've thrown at least three rotten ones out), and Hugo and Max regularly battle over who gets to eat the last spoonfuls. It's funny, because I would have been deeply suspicious of this salad as a child, due to the creamy dressing, but all the elements really are very child-friendly - and the combination of them is pleasing to both grown-ups and little ones.

You hardly need a recipe, but here goes:

Avocado-Cucumber Salad
Serves 2-3

Take one firm-ripe avocado and cube. Cube half a peeled English cucumber. Combine both in a bowl. Add several large spoonfuls of whole-milk plain yogurt, the creamier, the better. Add a healthy pinch of salt, 1/2 to 1 teaspoon dried mint and the juice of 1/2 lemon. Stir well and serve.

*European Swiss chard seems to be, on the whole, sweeter and tastier than U.S. grown Swiss chard, so keep that in mind. Also, besides tasting good, the ritual of dousing boiled green vegetables in good olive oil (we decant it into a pretty glass cruet) and freshly squeezed lemon juice seems to add to the appeal to children.