My career in food began with feeding strangers. For my salad business in Sydney, Arthur Street Kitchen, I stacked my bike basket with salads and delivered them to locals. With this as my foundation, feeding-and eating with-strangers has always been my comfort zone. When I moved to New York City in 2015, during one of the most punishingly freezing cold winters in recorded history, I broke the ice (pun intended) with my new city by inviting strangers into my home. These were friends of friends, as well as like-minded food people who I had become vaguely acquainted with on social media. Many were also transplants from other countries who had similarly found themselves making a new home in New York.
That winter and spring, my dining table became a place of gathering, the focal point of new friendships and long lunches. We usually dined simply yet generously: plates of salad served alongside bread, with small cakes or sweets brought by a guest. And as lunch wound into the late afternoon, we talked and laughed and drank copious amounts of tea.
These long lunches at my house became a tradition, where acquaintances became great friends. A core group formed; over the years, new friends joined our lunch table while others moved away. The one constant was the simple meals of salads and conversation. These lunches are one of the things I missed most during lockdown.
While dinner is usually the meal that is celebrated with a "party," for me, lunch is the greater indulgence. To lunch is to make a statement-work and other tasks can wait, I'm taking time for myself. Entertaining at lunchtime is simpler and freer, without the pressure to cook several courses, to pair with wines, to light candles, or to even set a table. The best thing about lunch is that it is completely casual, free of formalities and expectations.
By doing away with the hours of preparation and cooking, I'm rediscovering the joys of casual dining around my table. This salad is exactly the type of dish I enjoy serving for lunch outdoors or at the park. Egg salad is, of course, a classic sandwich filling, but it is also a wonderful canvas for grilled vegetables. Make it as herbaceous as you wish-upping the dill is perfectly acceptable, while the addition of some chives, basil, or parsley would work well too. Charred broccoli-either cooked on an outdoor grill or on the stovetop with a grill pan-is smoky and earthy, and it pairs harmoniously with the creamy eggs. The chili crisp also brings a lovely heat and complexity to the dish. It is essential to serve the combo with crusty bread or sourdough to mop up all the spicy and creamy eggy mess at the bottom of the plate.
The best part? You can prep this salad's components in advance and just assemble the whole thing moments before serving. The egg salad will keep for a day in the fridge if well-wrapped, while the broccoli can be grilled and left at room temperature until you are ready to eat. This salad is best served at room temperature (as I believe all salads are, with a few exceptions, such as chilled soba noodle salads). Precooking the components of this salad removes the stress of timing, heating, or reheating food for guests, who should always be the focus of your attention anyway.
After a year and a half of constantly cooking for my family, this summer I'm relishing the opportunity to cook lunch for friends once more. Salad days are here again, and we should be truly grateful for them.