Jessica Battilana: Surrender

Jessica Battilana Repetoire

A few weeks after our older son was born, I ran into my friend Sam Mogannam. I was light-headed from exhaustion, teary from lack of sleep. “You want some advice about kids?” asked Sam, who has two daughters. I figured he was going to tell me what I’d already heard—to sleep when the baby was sleeping or purchase a specific brand of pacifier.

Instead he grabbed my hand, looked straight into my eyes, and said, simply, “Surrender.”

It remains the best parenting advice I’ve heard, and it’s the only tip I share with new parents.

In addition to being a font of wisdom, Sam’s a great cook; he’s co-owner of Bi-Rite Market, a beloved San Francisco grocery store started by his grandfather, and before taking over the family business, he worked in restaurants. This is an approximation of a simple recipe he served me once. Though it’s simple, the devil is in the details. Thin-skinned Persian, Armenian, or Japanese cucumbers, which have few seeds, a snappy texture, and a distinct sweetness, are what make the salad special. In a pinch, European hothouse cucumbers can be substituted, but avoid the typical grocery-store cukes, which are too seedy and wet for this recipe.

Part of what makes this salad so great is the dynamic textures; the cracker-like baked lavash croutons and the crunchy cucumbers and radishes contrast with the creamy feta and soft herbs. I dress this with an especially tart vinaigrette made from equal parts lemon juice and olive oil and serve it right away, before it gets soggy. It would be a great side dish with all sorts of things, but I particularly like it alongside Grilled Tahini Chicken.