I’ll admit I was a bit cynical at first. About the 6th Grade Graduation Celebration. For crying out loud, it’s only 6th grade. Is it really such a big deal?
Even as I helped plan the dinner to follow the ceremony for my youngest daughter’s class, I wondered if we parents we were putting in a little too much effort. There was a special DVD being made of the kid’s pictures with their favorite songs recorded onto it, there would be a separate dance night, memory books copied for each child , and batiked scarves made by the students ironed and hung as decorations at the ceremony with the diplomas. And then there was the dinner with each family bringing a homemade dish, a student-led statement of gratitude and a bouquet of handpicked flowers for each student to take home at the end. Wasn’t it all a bit much? Weren’t we being those dreaded helicopter parents?
But it was sometime during the showing of the DVD that I understood. In the darkened auditorium, I felt the goosebumps on my arms and tears coming to my eyes as each child’s picture flashed on the big screen and “Here Comes the Sun” played over the speakers. There were wild whoops of joy coming from the 6th graders. They were cheering for each other, for their special group of forty-five kids, for growing up, for their 12 year-old accomplishments. They felt like they belonged to each other and to their community. They felt proud of their achievements and honored by their families and teachers, ready to move on. And it gave all of us parents a moment to stop driving around for a minute and enjoy it all together. It was a big deal. It was really beautiful.
And so was the dinner. Below is a chicken salad recipe that was perfect for that graduation buffet and would be beautiful served at many a summer gathering. May you always have celebrations in your life and a chicken salad to match the feelings in your heart.
Mediterranean Roast Chicken and Vegetable Salad
This is a wonderful salad to make as the weather warms. It looks colorful on a buffet table and kids like it. My own children pick the olives, beans and chicken out of the bowl as I mix it together (seems to be a pattern in our house!). Enjoy it with a big green salad and a loaves of French bread. Lasts refrigerated for up to 2-3 days. Time saving tip: this recipe is much easier to assemble if you purchase a rotisserie chicken.
Note: This recipe was given to me by a friend and I never new its actual source until a reader did a little research and discovered that it came from one of the many one-topic cookbooks written by James McNair, “Salads,” published in 1991. Still tastes as current now as it must have then.
Serves 6 as a main dish
1 roasted chicken (cooled, meat taken off carcass and shredded or cut into bite-sized pieces)
1 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon herbes de Provence
1 lb new potatoes, halved or quartered
1 lb of eggplant cut into 1-inch cubes
1 large red or yellow onion quartered
2 medium red sweet peppers cut into 1-inch squares
1 head garlic peeled and separated into cloves
1 jar or can of artichoke hearts drained and thinly sliced
1/2 cup of slivered kalamata or regular black olives (pitted)
8 oz green beans cooked tender crisp and cut into 1 inch lengths
8 oz of feta cheese or ricotta salata cubed to 1/2 inch pieces
salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prepare potatoes, eggplant, onion, peppers and garlic. Place vegetables in large roasting pan (or two). Toss vegetables with olive oil and herbes de Provence, salt and pepper. Roast vegetables until tender 30-40 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl. Add chicken meat, artichokes, olives, green beans, cheese, basil and parsley. Toss with 1/2 vinagrette. Taste and adjust seasoning and add more dressing as needed.
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 clove minced garlic
1 tsp sugar
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste
Combine vinegar, garlic, mustard, sugar and salt and pepper. Stir well. Pour olive oil slowly into vinegar mixture and stir well until combined.