When we first arrived in Tanzania (a lifetime ago!) I put an email out on the Meat King list serve (Meat King was an expat owned butcher shop that maintained a listserve for other expats) asking if anyone had recommendations for a reliable, trustworthy nanny. Rebecca responded saying that she had a woman who worked for her that she would ask, and added that she had a daughter who was about Eleanor’s age and if I was interested in a playdate I should let her know. I was skeptical – it had been a long time since I had to make new friends and making them over a butcher’s list serve seemed especially foreign – but with little prospects (at the time) of meeting anyone else I emailed her.
Turns out she didn’t have a daughter that was about Eleanor’s age, she was exactly Eleanor’s age (just 3 days older, to be accurate) and my choice to meet her was one of the best decisions I’ve made because Rebecca was awesome. And her husband Roger wasn’t bad either (wink, wink). Like me, she had days her days free, but unlike me she knew where to go to have fun in the city. We became fast friends. And despite a short 9 months of knowing each other, we’ve stayed that way.
Rebecca and her family now live in Cambodia. We live in rural Virginia. And despite that we’ve maintained a friendship (to the extent that one can over such a vast distance). We even started another blog together – to document our love of food (and occasional hatred of preparing it). So when Rebecca told me that they were coming home to DC for leave and they’d like to make the trek to see us, I was thrilled. We were going to be in the same kitchen, but now we had a blog on which we could share our cooking exploits. What do you prepare for an occasion like this? Something that remniscent of our time in Tanzania like ugali with vegetables and goat meat followed by marathon cookies (which were made for our excursion to Engipaata) or that delicious roast pumpkin and cheese salad from Picasso cafe? Something that is distinctly American like…UM…? A mixture of Cambodian and Southern cuisine, like Mango smoothies (other typical foods here) and collard greens cooked in fat back?
My answer: what I had already planned for our weekly menu that night. Fish or something for the grill with a summer squash and red quinoa salad. I decided that the time with our friends was too short to spend it all in the kitchen and sometimes the best thing to serve good friends is a great bottle of wine, good conversation, and your undivided attention. It was a little difficult to give the latter with 5 kids “running” around the house I’m pretty confident we delivered on the first two.
Summer Squash with Red Quinoa & Walnuts
- 1/2 cup red or other quinoa, rinsed in a fine-mesh sieve, drained
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt plus more for seasoning
- 1 pound assorted summer squash
- 2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan plus 1/4 cup shaved with a peeler
- 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon Sherry vinegar
- 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves
- 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
- 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, torn
Bring quinoa and 4 cups water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Season with salt, cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until quinoa is tender but not mushy, 12–15 minutes. Drain; return quinoa to hot saucepan. Cover and let sit for 15 minutes. Uncover; fluff with a fork and let cool.
Cut squash into 1/8″-thick slices, some lengthwise and some crosswise. Transfer to a large bowl, season with 2 teaspoons salt, and toss to coat. Let sit until slightly wilted, about 15 minutes. Rinse under cold water and drain well. Pat dry with paper towels.
Whisk grated Parmesan, zest, juice, and vinegar in a medium bowl. Gradually whisk in oil. Season dressing with salt and pepper.
Combine squash, quinoa, parsley, walnuts, and basil in a large bowl. Pour dressing over; toss to coat. Garnish with shaved Parmesan.