Yes, it’s been almost 100 degrees around here — but a girl still has to provide grub for her hungry crew.
My solution? Picnics, potlucks, and quick meals that don’t heat up the kitchen but provide lots of flavor and sustenance.
Summer only lasts so long around here and with Oliver out of the country at the moment, Charlotte and I have enjoyed lots of time with some of our favorite ladies in town.
First there was lunch at Nuvrei with Talia and Amy.
The next day we met up with Elena and Maya and had a picnic at Alberta Park. Our friends treated us to a panoply of goodies from Bake Shop (I will tell you about this darling place in a later post).
We played cards, got caught up, and gorged on sandwiches, cookies, Nutella pastries and almond croissants. The latter was so engrossing that I couldn’t help but overeat.
Don’t judge — just take a look at that mother.
It was otherworldly.
Yesterday, we had another picnic at Jamison Fountain with our two A’s: Alicia is a fantastic blogger but more importantly, she is a wonderful pal and I could sit and talk with her for hours on end.
And Amelia might just be the cutest two year old on the planet right now.
It was so fun to watch Charlotte take her momentary role as mother’s help seriously, helping Amelia navigate the rocks, play with her, and ply her with smoothies and snacks.
It was so enjoyable hanging out with a toddler again; you forget how new everything is to them, how even a couple blocks or a smoothie in a cute striped cup is something to ooh and ah over. Amelia’s a doll!
It was a polka dot explosion of fun.
And then there was a blow-out with a couple of Charlotte’s best friends, Audrey and Sophia. They’d been travelling, and there was so much to catch up on.
Summer movies. Charlotte’s drama camp. Newest flip flops and summer nail art.
And working together to get our house ready for the Fourth.
I love girls who enjoy holiday decorating.
And when they were done with all that, they wanted to have dinner outside.
My husband and I enjoyed bourbon cocktails in the comfort of our air-conditioned house but the girls wanted nothing more than to sit outside on the front yard and chat, greeting the occasional pedestrian with a chipper hello.
I’ve learned that shell pasta is even better when tossed with garlic butter and Boursin — and then finished off with Reggiano. Dinner took less than ten minutes of cook time (and didn’t require the oven).
Now don’t get me wrong — I love pasta but I craved something lighter, fresher. Remembering yesterday that I had a block party potluck to go to on the Fourth, I shopped at Whole Foods so that I would have lots of options to play with in the kitchen.
The corn was packed high, and even the ice melting on top didn’t damper the sweet aroma of corn emanating throughout the produce section, a smell both sweet and slightly grassy — a good sign of its freshness.
I love it when a sale coincides with ripeness — these avocados were huge, perfectly ripe and a bargain.
Once I got home, I started pulling the ingredients together.
When we had grilled chicken thighs the night before, I had the foresight to also grill two pounds of tofu. I thought it would be the perfect protein for my block party salad — inexpensive, smoky, and able to sit on a table for hours if necessary without worries of spoilage.
One of the reasons why quinoa is such a great go-to is because it cooks up in no time and plays so nicely with others.
In this salad, corn, avocados, grilled tofu, cilantro and tiny sliced peppers come together with a zingy tahini dressing.
Who doesn’t love a meal that welcomes a little benign neglect?
It’s even better on the second day, and if it sits outside for a few hours, the flavors are given time to co-mingle and are all the better for it.
David and I loved it so much that we had two big bowls of this quinoa salad for dinner last night — and because I doubled the recipe, my block party dish is ready to go. Kitchen is closed for the day.
So for this cook, it’s now all about this.
And, thanks to Bake Shop, this.
Happy Fourth of July!
- For the Salad:
- 1¼ C. quinoa
- 3 ears fresh corn, kernels cut off from cob
- 1 lb. tofu (preferably grilled or smoked), cut into cubes
- 1 C. of sliced, de-seeded bell peppers (large or minis)
- 2 ripe avocados, cubed
- 1 bunch green onions, both green and white part sliced thin
- salt and pepper
- For the Dressing:
- ⅓ C. Tahini
- ½ C. warm water
- ½ C. fresh lemon juice
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp. cumin
- 1 Tbs. sesame oi
- salt and pepper to taste
- Optional Garnishes:
- Cashews or Almonds and Feta
- Bring two cups of lightly salted water to a boil and add quinoa. Reduce to a simmer and cook until al dente -- about 20 minutes. In last minute of cooking, add corn kernels on top and let steam lightly.
- While quinoa is cooking, put tofu, peppers, avocado and green onions to bowl. Salt and pepper lightly.
- Put all dressing ingredients in blender and purée until smooth. Add more lemon, hot sauce or salt to your liking.
- Toss together quinoa, veggies and dressing, and salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve with optional garnishes.