This past weekend Roo and I spent the day at Peggotty Beach in Scituate to celebrate a friend’s birthday. Leading up to that point had been a bit worrisome as the birthday girl wanted to spend it at a roof deck pool. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that we were not cast members of The Hills and didn’t have access to such amenities. Suggestions were thrown about via email for a few days, as well as a trend of useless facts (“40,000 Americans are injured by toilets each year,”), but thankfully we found a desirable destination due to Roo.
Roo and I drove down to Scituate together, parking the car at his mother’s house. J was the first to arrive, and we were able to catch up a bit before the birthday girl – driving the rest of the group – showed up. And she did not disappoint. She was actually still in party planning overdrive; spending the day before at KMart and The Christmas Tree Shop, buying practically everything one could think of to bring to the beach. There were beach chairs, towels, coolers filled with drinks, snacks (including a vegetable and a fruit platter) and even an easy-up tent. Hours before we were to leave for Scituate, she called me with concern, wondering if I had a boom box to keep everyone entertained as we lay there in the sun. It kind of made me love her more.
Sunbathing, rummaging through the coolers and not talking about work was how we spent our day.
No boom box necessary.
Only when the sun started to go down and the shore nearly cleared out, that we began to pack everything up.
(photo taken by B)
Today I couldn’t help but think of the salty air, pebbly sand beneath my feet, and the hiss and pops of bottles being opened from wonderfully overflowing coolers. Our third floor apartment is once again hot – and air stubbornly stagnant – despite three fans blowing full blast in the kitchen.
I made another salad.
Like all salads I make, it may not be the prettiest, but it had what I was craving for the day. A salty bite from feta, juicy, just picked tomatoes, and crunch, with a bit of sweet, from toasted almonds, only to be balanced by a lemony herbaceous oregano vinaigrette.
If you’re run down from this heat – that seems more and more inappropriate, like creepy Uncle Stan when he puts his hand on your knee – then take the day off from the kitchen. Salads are the new spa day. Maybe.
Ok, not really, but they’re delicious.
Adapted from Simply Recipes
Serves two generously
One cup cooked quinoa, cooled to room temperature
Quarter to half a head of lettuce (how hungry are you?), washed and dried well, torn or cut into easily edible pieces
A pint of cherry tomatoes, or three beefsteak (or whatever you have on hand that’s ripe) tomatoes, cut into easily edible pieces
1 cucumber (about the length of your hand, from the tip of your middle finger to the wrist), peeled and chopped
3 scallions, thinly sliced (not terribly necessary, just trying to use up my CSA)
One handful of slivered almonds, toasted and cooled to room temperature
Juice from one lemon
Quarter cup of olive oil
1 teaspoon of dijon mustard
1 tablespoon of dried oregano
Sea salt to taste
Cracked pepper to taste
A very sharp knife
A small pan
A salad spinner, if on hand (but it’ll make your life so much easier for only $30!)
A rice cooker or a medium sized pot (can hold up to four cups)
A small bowl that can hold up to a cup of liquid
I find that cooking a half cup of quinoa yields about two cups of quinoa. In a pot add half a cup of quinoa and one cup of water to a boil. Reduce the heat so that the contents simmer for around 20 minutes or until the quinoa opens up. The quinoa will reveal a little curly cue tail (like a spiral) and it will be soft to chew (softer than cooked barley). Drain any remaining liquid and set aside to cool to room temperature. If you have a rice cooker, throw the quinoa in, adding the water to the “white rice” 0.5 cup level, and press quick cook. If you and your dinner guest are absolutely famished, you may want to eat a cup of quinoa each over your salad. I typically serve half a cup of quinoa per person. With the leftovers you can always make quinoa patties.
While the quinoa is cooking, prep the veg. Make sure that your lettuce is absolutely dry so the vinaigrette will adhere to it to make a properly dressed salad.
In a small bowl, juice one lemon. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil into the bowl as you whisk. You should use about a quarter cup for the two to come together, but not all lemons yield the same amount of juice, so keep adding until the mixture is emulsified. Add the oregano, whisk together and add salt to taste. Set aside.
Put a handful of slivered almonds into a small pan over medium heat. Toast the almonds, shaking the nuts in the pan about twice a minute until lightly browned. Keep an eye on it as it can burn quite quickly from the toasted stage. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
To plate up your salad, put down the lettuce as your base. Then add the diced cucumbers, quartered tomatoes, cooled quinoa, and top with the toasted almonds. Sprinkle a bit of feta on top. Serve with cracked pepper.