Summer vacation is over. It was bound to happen at some point. I’m back to wearing real shoes. ”Big girl shoes”, as my co-worker at school calls them. The days of my requisite summer uniform of flip flops and gardening boots, cotton skirts and ponytails are drawing to an end, although one wouldn’t know it, with the hundred-degree weather. I feel it may be inappropriate to complain about the ending of a 2 1/2 month vacation, so I won’t, but allow me to regress, back to the month of July, hot in the middle of prime summertime fun!
Still in the midst of summer vacation, the mister, his mom, and I drove Grand Mesa to visit the aunt and uncle at their summer cabin. I was expecting rustic, but I never thought I’d be in an old forest service cabin from the 1800’s with a wood-burning stove, a claw-footed bubblegum-pink dining room table, and chock-full of antique dishes built up through the years, passed down and added-to by each generation. For my aunt and uncle-in-law, the cabin is a beloved once-a-year get-away–a slowing of pace from their busy jobs in Mercer Island, WA. They looked on with amusement as I snapped away at doorknobs, chairs, and other antiques. For my new eyes, it was a photographic wonderland!
We only stayed for a long weekend, but felt like proud Coloradans, as we managed to bike, hike, row, ride ATVs, and photograph our way around the mesa. At the end of each busy day, we buzzed around the kitchen, cooking on the wood-burning stove, snacking on cherries out of antique bowls. Cornmeal-crusted trout, caught fresh from the lake one night, stir-fry and fried rice improvised from our combined resources the next. The third night, we made Moroccan lentil soup, and a fresh tabouleh salad, made with quinoa (because of my obsession with the grain, and also due to a gluten-free dietary needs in the group).
I first found this tabouleh salad in my Native Foods cookbook, and had a “duh, of course you can make tabouleh out of quinoa” moment. Since then, I have tailored the recipe to fit my tastes. Tabouleh is all about texture. I like my tabouleh with plenty of chopped curly parsley, mint, green onion, and tomato, dressed in lemon, and of course, garlic. After you make it a few times, you won’t really need a recipe. Just throw in a little of this and a little of that, and tweak until your taste buds sing.
My big-girl shoes are begrudgingly on, but can you blame me for wanting to squeeze the last bit of fun out of summer?
Summer’s Not Over Yet Quinoa Tabouleh Salad
Inspired by the Native Foods cookbook
Makes 6 Servings
The art of making salads isn’t an exact science, and I’ve been known to add whatever is fresh and available…a garden cucumber, some diced avocado, or whatever else is around at the time.
1 cup dry quinoa (to yield 3 cups cooked quinoa)
1 bunch green onions (about 6), finely chopped
4 cups chopped curly parsley leaves (about 2 bunches)
1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh mint leaves
1 1/2 pounds tomatoes, chopped (3-4 medium)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from about 2 lemons)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
Rinse the quinoa in cold water and drain well. Place in a medium saucepan with a scant 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Immediately reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 12 minutes, or until a white ring is visible around each grain of quinoa, and the water in the pan has been absorbed. If the quinoa looks cooked, but there is still moisture in the pan, uncover the pan and cook the quinoa over medium heat, stirring frequently for about a minute. Set the quinoa aside, uncovered, to cool to room temperature.
Whisk the lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper together in a large bowl. Allow to sit while you chop the remaining ingredients. The lemon juice will mellow the garlic as it sits.
Place the cooled quinoa, chopped green onion, parsley, mint, and tomatoes in the large bowl with the lemon-garlic mixture. Drizzle in the olive oil, and stir to combine. Taste and adjust salt and pepper to taste.