things you do when you don’t have to do anything & a summer quinoa salad July 12, 2011

When the stress and strain of a very hectic month is being carried around in your neck and shoulders – like you’ve got a 100 pound sack of rice on your back – you load up some bags with produce from the farmers market – whatever looks best and strikes your fancy – and hit the road with one of your dearest friends. 3 days away with minimal outside contact (which turns really minimal when you’re on top of a mountain) and no obligations. you enjoy the quiet repetition of standing at an unfamiliar kitchen counter and chopping all the vegetables you bought. you enjoy the freewheelin’ nature of throwing recipes together and winging it – with the quinoa you happened to pack, of course.

You walk around small towns and peek into every shop because you have time to do that. You admire the simplicity, the overgrown randomness and how old vines take shape alongside the sprouts of something new. You eat kettle corn in your pajamas as a snack one day…and then lightly sauteed local chanterelle mushrooms with some goat cheese on toast the next – both on a porch bed swing overlooking a tree covered valley. Because you can.

After a quiet night and lots of sleep, you notice more of the colors in things. You spend time seeing them. You spend time doing little things…the things you’ve been wanting to do for weeks but made excuses for. You’ve been too busy. You’ve had too many obligations. Time spent paying attention to color, texture, detail – it’s the kind of time you should be putting in at home, as well. You need to stop making excuses. You also eat all of your meals on some of the ugliest plates ever made and you don’t care one bit. Maybe that’s something to take back home with you, too.

One splurge of a lazy, solitary weekend is a dinner out at the nicest restaurant in town. You love the juxtaposition of things there – the same people that are canning their own Habanero ketchup and kudzu honey are cranking out smoked salmon & trout dip timbales…accompanied by buttery Ritz crackers, of course. You’re in the South…and you’re reveling in the slower, simpler, self-sustaining nature of it all. You’re storing it all away to bring back home to share – the jars of goodies, the recipe in your head for that dip and the feelings it’s all giving you.

You have to head back. Most of you can’t wait to get back home to your porch swing and your sweeties. The other small part of you wants to stay to try and bottle this – the lightness you feel, the well-rested-ness, the clarity and focus you have. One final stop for a simple lunch in town brings the emotions and the memories flooding back to you. A tuna salad sandwich (alongside a weirdly delicious mushroom-Brie soup) takes you straight back to your mom’s kitchen. You have a taste of your past and it makes you realize that all this you’re feeling now is always with you – you just have to slow down and allow yourself to feel it more often. On the way down the mountain, you also cherish your friendships with people who will humor you by pulling over (and may or may not have been trespassing – there was no posted sign) so you can take photos of one of your mom’s favorite flowers. Standing in a field of it, you’re so content…balanced…and ready to get home to share how you feel (and the moments of it you captured) with everyone.

Quinoa Salad with Summer Produce and Bocconcini – serves 6 to 8 as a side dish – inspired by a recipe in Quinoa 365

  • 1 1/2 cups pre-rinsed quinoa
  • 3 cups water or lightly flavored vegetable stock
  • 3 cups small cherry tomatoes – halved – the really small ones can just be left whole
  • 1 small zucchini, chopped
  • 1 small yellow squash, chopped
  • 1 small cucumber, deseeded and chopped
  • 1 8 ounce container bocconcini mozzarella – drained and halved
  • 3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 5-6 tbsp. red wine or white balsamic vinegar – you can adjust this according to how tangy you want the dressing
  • leaves from 2 stems fresh oregano
  • 2 tsbp. chopped fresh basil
  • leaves from 2 stems of fresh thyme
  • kosher salt & fresh ground black pepper – to taste

– In a medium sauce pan with a lid, cook the quinoa according to package directions. If using from bulk quinoa, bring the quinoa and water to a boil then turn heat down to low, cover and cook for 20-25 minutes (depending on your quinoa) or until all the liquid has been absorbed. Remove from heat, fluff with a fork, and allow to cool

– In a small bowl off the the side, whisk together the oil and vinegar. You can add salt and pepper to this now but you can also do this at the end.

– In a large mixing bowl, mix the chopped tomatoes, squash and cucumber. Add in the tomato halves and gently mix. Pour over the oil and vinegar and toss to mix and throughly coat. When the quinoa is cool, add it to the marinating vegetable mixture and stir thoroughly. Fold in the halved mozzarella pieces and the herbs and give it all a final stir. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper to your liking. You can serve this at room temperature or straight from the fridge. This will keep for 1-2 days in a storage container in the fridge.


Pam Jul 12, 2011 11:07 am

Lovely post! I was transported for a few moments to my favorite mountain spot. Ahhhh….
Great photos, as usual. Have a wonderful day.

Melissa @ Dash of East Jul 12, 2011 11:07 am

There’s nothing quite like getting away from it all and relaxing with great friends!

Lovely photos and I’m getting hungry looking through that recipe! Mmm..

Kimberley Jul 12, 2011 12:07 pm

I think you and I might like the same things in a vacation. (Packing up a trunk of groceries, cooking simply. Slowing down and taking note.) This sounds like summertime heaven.

MikeVFMK Jul 12, 2011 01:07 pm

Tami, this is what I’m talking aobut. Time away with nothing to hold you back or steer you. Loved the story and the food. Mushrooms on toast is so very British of you, well done.


Alison @ Ingredients, Inc. Jul 12, 2011 01:07 pm

wow what a fabulous post! Your photos are wonderful! Hope your summer is as great as this post!

Chris Jul 12, 2011 02:07 pm

Wow. I haven’t written my post about the weekend yet, so I might just say “See Tami’s Post” or “What She Said”. An amazing weekend, beautifully captured with your words. Thank you for being you.

Averie @ Love Veggies and Yoga Jul 12, 2011 03:07 pm

Tami the images are beautiful…and it looks like your summer is going wonderfully!

Lucy@acookandherbooks Jul 12, 2011 08:07 pm

How did you know I needed a quinoa recipe? Love this. And I especially love Queen Anne’s lace! I’d pull over, sign or no sign, too.

Kasey Jul 12, 2011 10:07 pm

Sounds amazing- your writing is lovely…I have always wanted to take a roadtrip through the South.

Lana @ Never Enough Thyme Jul 12, 2011 10:07 pm

What a beautiful post! Sounds like a lovely weekend relaxing and enjoying good food. As always, the photography just absolutely blows me away.

Kelley @ The Culinary Enthusiast Jul 12, 2011 11:07 pm

Wonderful photos! I am thinking I’ll have to make this salad for my online Seasonal Potluck!

Katie @ Healthnut Foodie Jul 12, 2011 11:07 pm

Your vacation sounded lovely. This summer-y salad with fresh mozz sounds almost as great! So grateful to have found your blog!

Kulsum at JourneyKitchen Jul 13, 2011 08:07 am

What a great post. Loved reading it and I imagined my self in heavenly place which is far from reality at the moment ;-) I have actually never tried quinoa yet and I keep thinking i will! Its time

nicole Jul 13, 2011 07:07 pm

So lovely (and true) …

The salad looks fantastic, too!

Kelly Hartman Jul 14, 2011 12:07 am

Beautiful post. I’m ready for a vacation. Ever been to Vancouver? Looking for good restaurant recommendations for our trip next month.

Kiran @ Jul 14, 2011 01:07 am

That quinoa salad looks amazing! Beautiful images Tami :)

Brian @ A Thought For Food Jul 14, 2011 10:07 am

Whatever that salmon is… I want it…. in my belly. It looks incredible… and so does this marvelous summer quinoa salad!

Quinoa Granola (Vegan & Gluten-free) Jul 14, 2011 11:07 am

[…] recapped the weekend way better than I can at this moment, as I have been met with a bit of writers block. […]

Bec Jul 15, 2011 01:07 am

This is such a beautiful post! Amazing photos, nice story and good looking food. Ah, you just made my Friday afternoon :)

marla Jul 17, 2011 09:07 am

You have transported me with this beautiful post! Will be posting a quinoa salad tomorrow & linking back to yours as well. Looks wonderful :)

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Caryn Oxford Aug 7, 2011 10:08 am

Can’t wait to make this too – always looking for new quinoa recipes in this house. Love the vintage corning ware – I still have mine from a hundred years ago… Gorgeous photos too!

[…] weekend away. Weekends in the mountains of North Georgia. I’ve written about them before – it’s a quick getaway for us here in Atlanta and a much needed retreat for all of us […]