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   A Cold Lunch,
   Easy on the Cook
   By Nigella Lawson

  It is something of a cliché that all women turn into their mothers. "That is their tragedy," Oscar Wilde said.

  I would not call my increasing resemblance to my late mother tragic, but I am certainly bemused by it. The strange thing is that these growing similarities present themselves in the kitchen. All of my mother's culinary peculiarities are now mine.

  I "decant" food into ever smaller bowls in the refrigerator. I roast two chickens when I need one, keeping the other to pick at in the fridge. I put white pepper, not black, on cabbage. I complain when people don't use a separate knife for butter — all those crumbs are so irritating.

  And, like my mother, I get annoyed when I am told not to go to any effort but "just make something cold" for dinner. People who don't cook always assume that cold food somehow gets to that readily edible stage without being cooked, when all it means is that you have had to do the preparation earlier.

  But I have put aside that irritation because at this time of year I do see the logic of eating something cold. And the preparation doesn't have to be extensive.

  Luckily, given my two-chicken habit, there is always some cold meat for a salad. Those who don't want to turn on the oven can buy prepared cold chicken that is not too dry and desiccated.

  Even if a salad is no more than a few ingredients, mostly green, combined in a bowl, it doesn't have to be an apologetically cobbled-together affair.

  I am anyway a great believer in the simple summer two-course meal, the sort you can eat in the kitchen or at a table pushed out into whatever outdoor space you might be lucky to have, gratifyingly picking at it while you ruminate on the ways of the world.

  Because a salad necessarily lacks heft, I feel it must be substantial in flavor. The one here, with a base of tangy but still tender baby spinach leaves, is definitely that. I have transferred the major elements of my favorite guacamole recipe to a leafy spinach salad.

  In making guacamole, I replace the customary onions with scallions, and I never use tomatoes. All I want to notice really are the cilantro, avocado and lime. That approach works nicely for a chicken salad (and turkey, too). Chili peppers are optional: some people don't want too much heat. But don't sit on the fence with cilantro — you need all that fresh but earthy pungency.

  If you would like to bulk it up a little, I suggest getting two pita breads, splitting them lengthwise so you have four thin, taperingly oval slices. Toast the slices for about five minutes in the oven. After you cool them, break them into shards and toss them into the salad. I sometimes add a little crunch by tearing up the bright green leaves of a romaine heart and tossing them into the bowl.

  As for dessert, you need something equally simple. I keep true to the maternal line here, too. I am using an old recipe of my grandmother's, something she used to call Barbados cream. It is nothing more than Greek or whole-milk yogurt and heavy cream combined in a bowl and given a thick sprinkled covering of soft brown sugar, light or dark as you wish. I presume the sugar she used came from Barbados, hence the name.

  Anyway, it is the ultimate in a no-cook dessert. You wrap the bowl in plastic and put it in the fridge for 12 to 24 hours to let the sugar turn into a dark bronze liquid, slowly seeping into the cream and yogurt. It tastes like a light, uncrunched crème brûlée, and I might like it better than its rich, fancy cousin.

  When you are ready to eat it, take the cream-yogurt mixture to the table with another bowl filled with blueberries. And then sit down and feel quietly pleased with yourself: you have made the perfect early summer lunch and have not so much as broken a sweat.

  • Recipe: Roast Chicken Salad
  • Recipe: Blueberries and Barbados Cream

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