Summer Quinoa Salad
Great travels always involve great meals for us. And this summer has been no exception as we ate our way through Jamaica, Buenos Aires, Martha's Vineyard, London and Ireland. Jamaica and Martha's Vineyard are old haunts for me, and I settle right into my routines: In Jamaica it's eating the traditional breakfast of Achi and Saltfish before lounging poolside with a stack of magazines and a good book. In Martha's Vineyard it's early morning horse-back riding, swimming in the ocean and cooking with friends. I've always loved London, and this is the first time I've been with Jeff, which made me love it even more. My niece Hannah is in art school there, and we enjoyed a couple of fun dinners with her. Buenos Aires and Ireland were new to the roster. Both amazing, exciting and delicious places.
I love learning about new cultures -- experiencing their food, cityscapes and people. While we carefully select each restaurant, there's a heavy burden on the last meal of any trip. As my friend Mara Davis's mom said to me when I met Jeff - you don't want to "fuck it up." In Dublin we ended the trip with an incredible dinner at Etto, which earned a coveted Bib award from the Michelin Guide honoring less fancy restaurants with great food. In Buenos Aires it was a yummy lunch at a café in Palermo Soho, my favorite shopping area, where my stepson Eli and I snuck out so I could buy a crazy pair platform shoes that we'd seen on the fashionable feet of the city's hipsters. London was dinner at NOPI, Yotam Ottolenghi's Soho eatery, which was sublime. In Jamaica it was the Achi and Saltfish. And on Martha's Vineyard it was a family lunch before the memorial service for Jeff's 101-year-old maternal grandma. Jeff's mom, Linda, is a force. She had organized everything, including lunch in her home for 20 guests. Still - with all of her great planning, I wanted to contribute. I knew she had a lot on her plate but she never lets on - she just ferries ahead as always . Still, I persisted until she acquiesced and asked me to make a salad. I knew it wasn't easy for her to delegate a dish, and I didn't want to "fuck it up." So I headed out to Morning Glory Farm to get provisions to make the best salad ever.
Martha's Vineyard is rich with farmland. Being on an island makes me uber aware of my ingredients, how far they traveled to find me and what to do with the scraps. To that end, I try to shop local and not waste a thing. Morning Glory offers a bounty of their own produce and an imported array and fruits and veg from the region and across the nation. For the salad I went straight for the local kale, carrots, tomatoes and cucumbers. I grabbed a couple of boxes of quinoa and some local feta cheese. The lemons found their way from California and the olive oil from Italy. I had most of the salad prepped before I got to Linda's house. I cooked the quinoa, cut the kale into a chiffonade and massaged it with olive oil. I cleaned all the vegetables so that there was just a bit more chopping before I assembled the salad. I packed it all up and headed down to Linda's a couple of hours before the guests arrived. I peeled the carrots and chopped everything into bite-sized chunks tossing each ingredient in olive oil, salt and pepper before putting them in the salad. My sisters-in-law had some avocados and cashews which I heisted - toasting and chopping the nuts and peeling and cutting the avocado right before I served the salads.
Summer salads should be as bright and beautiful as they are delicious. And this one didn't disappoint. A quinoa salad is great because it's got staying power - you can eat some now and save some for later when guests pop in and out of the house as they do around memorials. While parting with our friends and family on Martha's Vineyard always makes us sad, leaving them with a great salad makes it just a little sweet.
Summer Quinoa Salad
2 boxes quinoa
2 bunches Lacinto Kale cut in a chiffonade and massaged in olive oil
I crate cherry tomatoes cut in half
3 cucumbers peeled, cut lengthwise in quarters and then chopped into bite-sized pieces
5 carrots peeled
1 square feta cheese crumbled
2 avocados peeled and chopped
1 cup cashews chopped and toasted
One handful each of chopped basil, mint and parsley
Juice of 2 Lemons
This is a salad that requires layering of flavors. Start by cooking the quinoa as directed, flaking it with a fork, putting it into a big, beautiful bowl and then covering it in the refrigerator. You can do this overnight and make the salad the next day. Then chop the kale in a chiffonade, toss it in olive oil, salt and pepper and massage it for a couple of minutes to break it down and throw it into the quinoa. Toss the tomatoes and cucumbers in olive oil and salt and pepper and throw them in the quinoa. Throw in the carrot peels. In a separate bowl whisk olive oil into the lemon juice and add salt and pepper to taste. Pour dressing over salad, toss and add the chopped, toasted cashews and avocado.