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
– 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.