a birthday, bittersweetness & black quinoa salad August 24, 2011

I love birthdays. I love my own birthday – I’ve never been one to cower from turning a year older. So much so that I’ve instituted Birthday Week(tm), which some years manages to get extended into Birthday Month depending on how many of my fellow June babies are in proximity – we do love our celebratory dinners. When it comes to being able to celebrate someone else’s birthday, we’re all in. Our dear friend Mark hit the big 3-0 a few weeks ago and, as the culmination of much plotting and planning (mostly on his wife Jessie’s part), a group of us gathered to welcome them back after a particularly rough extended vacation and the arrival of good news and another year.

Any birthday party with its own bartender and a cocktail menu is really the soiree you want to be, right? Their friend Andy, who is a great photographer with a serious mixology streak, served up cocktails throughout the party. In the effort of quality control, most of us felt compelled to have one of each of them. From what I can remember, the Blinker was my favorite.

There was also cornhole. Apparently the Midwest folks think that the South got this from them and vice-versa (from what I gathered on Twitter). Whatever. Whoever made it up wasn’t as good as this guy. Sean is The Ringer. He made these cornhole boards, brought them on a plane from Colorado and then proceeded to kick everyone’s ass…and he did it looking like the most recent post on The Sartorialist. Well played, sir – in all meanings of the word.

We got to see friends we don’t get to see nearly as often as we should – like Jeremie (left) and his wife Jennifer (who seems to avoid the camera). We got to see friends we see almost as much as we should…like Anne. She always looks so chic and so interesting – I’m always so envious of her die hard vintage style and how she carries herself. I’m also a sucker for big sunglasses.

Talking about friends, how absolutely tolerable the weather was, and the oh-s0-delicious cocktails is really just a ploy to distract you from the 62524343 photos I could potentially be posting of this little muffin. Olive loves the camera…and she knows how to use it to woo you and crush your heart and bore a hole into your soul. I wandered around the party snapping photos of her every chance I thought I had. Somehow, she was always onto me.  Olive is a quite the heart-breaker. I can keep talking about her incessantly because her name is also the name of a food, right?

She’s got great personal style, gets on well with people, she’s frikkin’ adorable and probably the most beautiful baby I’ve ever seen. You know why? Because these two people are her parents. Mark and Jessie are awesome and therefore…so is their kid.

The salad table inside was a sight to behold, folks. There was this really awesome edamame & corn salad, watermelon sprinkled with mint (an amazing touch Jessie added that I’d never thought to do), creamy Feta with olives and herbs. Oh – an insanely addictive green bean salad with wild greens and Manchego cheese. That stuff was so fresh and crunchy but sharp from the cheese. I had more than one spoonful of it.

There was also this. To celebrate Mark’s birthday, the boys of the group got together and went in on roasting a pig. A half pig. A half of a whole. Split down the middle. This is a vegetarian blog so this isn’t the sight most folks want to see…but I’m proud of folks for dealing with meat and animals in their natural state and not on Styrofoam squares. This went on for hours and, as I noshed away on things from the side table, folks tore into the crispy skin and went on and on about how delicious it was. I have no doubt. Oh look – cupcakes!

We have nights like those and – even if we’re just quietly sitting in chairs, staring at the stars and swishing around the ice in our drinks by the end of the night – I always feel really thankful and fortunate to have made friends through friends through friends. Josh and Kristina (here) through Jessie and Mark….and Anne….Keith….Ben and Megan…the list goes on and on. The web is happily very intertwined and we’re so lucky to have all these people in our lives…and in the case of The Weavers…to have happened upon a house 2 blocks away from them.

Turning 30 was one of the best years of my life, personally, regardless of what was happening in my life with my folks and the loss that was about to ensue. Being in that space, feeling like you’re your own person, ready for big steps, big changes. You turn 30 so you can do those things and make those decisions – I wouldn’t go back to my 20’s for anything in the world. Mark turned 30 with a rash of life events and changes that is going to take him and his family – our friends Jessie and Olive – permanently to New York. He’s got a new job and they won’t be our neighbors anymore…and while that night was bittersweet for a lot of us…we’re all so thankful for you guys and the time we’ve had here in Atlanta. Don’t you worry, we’ll be harassing you once you get settled in and we’ll see you only slightly less than we do now. We love you guys and, well, we’re gonna miss you.

My contribution that night was a quinoa salad that sort of came together out of vegetarian and gluten-free necessity. It was in the cabinet. There was produce from the farmstand. There was a little Cypress Grove cheese in the fridge. Tossed together with a little simple dressing – just enough to flavor everything but not get it too wet – it was a huge hit that night. I’ve made it a time or two since then and it’s such a versatile recipe. I’m giving you the base recipe here and encourage you to play with what you have in the house. Crunch, tang and salt mixed with the quinoa are your main points – from there…add whatever you want.

Black Quinoa Summer Salad – serves 10 to 12 as a side dish

  • 1 1/2 cups black quinoa, rinsed and drained
  • 3 cups water or lightly flavored vegetable stock
  • 1 small cucumber –  peeled, deseeded and diced
  • 1 small red onion, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 pint small cherry tomatoes – whatever color you have will do – halved. you can leave the small ones whole.
  • 3 ounces Cypress Grove Lamb Chopper cheese, finely diced
  • 4 tablespoons good quality balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons avocado or extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped herbs – any mixture of oregano, chives, basil, parsley, tarragon will do
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste

– In a medium pot with a lid, bring the water or vegetable stock to a boil. Add the black quinoa and bring back to a boil. Turn heat down to low, cover and cook until the quinoa is tender. This depends a bit on the age of your quinoa but this took 25-30 minutes for me. Fluff and set aside to cool to room temperature.

– In a small bowl, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, oil and mustard. Set aside until you compose the salad.

– In a large mixing bowl, combine the halved tomatoes, diced cucumber, diced onion, and diced cheese. Add the room temperature quinoa and stir together. Drizzle over the dressing and stir again until evenly coated. Taste and adjust salt and pepper to your liking. Throw in the chopped herbs and give it one last toss together. This can be served at room temperature or refrigerated. Just take the chill off before you serve it. It will keep tightly covered for 2-3 days, as well.


Cookin' Canuck Aug 24, 2011 11:08 pm

The love for your friends just seeps through the page, Tami. What a wonderful evening! That little Olive is an absolute and it looks as though she might have a mischievous streak to her.

Barbara | Creative Culinary Aug 24, 2011 11:08 pm

Ah…the birthweek. I know it well. My youngest is almost 28 and already planning weekend adventures both before and after the big day. I say better to celebrate big than not at all. Ignoring does not mean it doesn’t happen right?

All great photos, Olive included (she is adorable). All great foods too…and then you mentioned Cypress Grove. I love their cheese. Truffle Tremor, Humboldt Fog…music to my palate!

Funny…I never once thought of this as a vegetarian blog…no matter; I love what you do.

tea_austen Aug 25, 2011 12:08 am

Weavers are good people, I should know!

That little girl is the first baby I’ve ever seen who models for the camera. Amazing and adorable.

And how important are nights like these, when the people of your life gather close to laugh and celebrate. It sounds lovely.

Your photos: always lovely. xox

Kimberly Aug 25, 2011 12:08 am

Sounds like a perfect celebration and fun times that your friends will remember as they meet new neighbors in NY. Oh, and I had to laugh at your transition to the cupcakes. ;-)

JK Tasty Mayhem Aug 25, 2011 12:08 am

Wonderful post! The salad looks fantastic, but it was this quote that made it for me “…and then proceeded to kick everyone’s ass…and he did it looking like the most recent post on The Sartorialist.” I was thinking EXACTLY that as I was scrolling down to read that section.

Alex Aug 25, 2011 12:08 am

I do believe that 30 was a good year for me as well… since that was the summer that we first met and got to know each other. Glad you had such a memorable night with friends!

Benthe Aug 25, 2011 02:08 am

This looks all so good! And Olive is so adorable. Those eyes!

Kathryn Aug 25, 2011 04:08 am

Beautiful pictures – you’ve really captured the sense that it was a very special evening.

marla Aug 25, 2011 06:08 am

Tami, this post is stunning and full of life. Beautiful people creating and sharing wonderful memories. Thanks for sharing with us.

Winnie Aug 25, 2011 07:08 am

Love the way you captured the evening both in photos and in words!

merry jennifer Aug 25, 2011 07:08 am

What a beautiful gathering of friends. Friendship is such a special thing – a thing to be treasured and honored. You all did that with the party, and you’ve done it again here in this post.

Jeanette Aug 25, 2011 07:08 am

What a beautiful post to remember your friends by, gorgeous photos and memories of your last evening together. These intimate get togethers are what meld friendships.

Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite Aug 25, 2011 07:08 am

I love this post Tami! Yes, Olive is an adorable baby and wow – how lucky you are all to have each other, and BLACK quinoa? Love the idea of this salad.

Snippets of Thyme Aug 25, 2011 07:08 am

That pig roast was impressive indeed! What a wonderful party you shared with your close friends. Thank goodness for things like facebook/twitter, etc. It will be so much easier to stay in touch with them.

SMITH BITES Aug 25, 2011 07:08 am

a good life Tami, and a life that is well lived . . . people should take lessons from you . . . one more thing? life gets even better as more birthdays pass . . . this i know for sure; and you’re absolutely right . . . wouldn’t take my 20s back for all the tea in China . . .

Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga Aug 25, 2011 08:08 am

What a lovely celebration and glad you had this special time with friends and fam!

Nelly Rodriguez Aug 25, 2011 09:08 am

Looks like a fun party!! I think that quinoa salad looks amazing, I love things that come out of what I have on hand and nor necessarily had to go shopping for!

Rachel @ Not Rachael Ray Aug 25, 2011 09:08 am

That looks like such a fun party! Olive is adorable! And the salad looks fabulous!

Elizabeth Aug 25, 2011 10:08 am

Beautiful party, gorgeous people, delicious food…cute babies. Seems like my kinda place! My Mr. is turning 30 in one month and I am terrified of planning it. I want it to be perfect for him, but I also want it to be fun and low key and so many other things.

There are just too many choices and I am completely overwhelmed. Something as understated as a party like this in our backyard just sounds so perfect though, especially with half a pig! He would love that.

And I would love this salad…black quinoa, my fav.

Kiran @ KiranTarun.com Aug 25, 2011 02:08 pm

Beautiful photos, baby, wonderful friends and delicious foods. Nothing can be better than all these blessings Tami :)

Chez Us Aug 25, 2011 03:08 pm

Tami, what a lovely party. The photos really bring one in to experience the venue. And that PIG! Have been dying to try my hand at roasting one, but we just don’t have the space with city living. A very happy post; exactly what I needed right now. Thank You!

Soma Aug 25, 2011 07:08 pm

The baby is delicious and I keep scrolling up and down to look at her.. what blessings you have Tami, great friends, great good and your own genius in photography! i still never saw black quinoa but this can be made with the regular one – seriously good.

Broderick Aug 26, 2011 09:08 am

Beautiful post all around! I’d love to try some of those drinks

Wendy Aug 26, 2011 03:08 pm

This is what life is really all about – magical moments made up of the right people in just the right place. Love it.

Black Quinoa Salad | Celiac Safe Oct 21, 2011 08:10 am

[…] This recipe is from Running With Tweezers. […]

Jaye Feb 24, 2012 07:02 am

I brought some black quinoa the other day and found this recipe via pinterest. I made a version of it tonight! Totally yum!!! Thanks for sharing :)