Shaved fennel, carrot and quinoa salad

quinoa fennel saladThe past few days we’ve had a heat wave of sorts, with above 80 degree temps that, when combined with the stronger sun we get up here at 6,200 feet, sucks the life out of you.  Or rather me, since I have a five degree comfort zone that does not include temperatures above 73 degrees.

So.  It’s warm.  And we went for the first long mountain bike ride of the season Sunday.  Star Lake Connector to Armstrong via Freel Pass. Twenty nine miles plus 3500 odd feet of climbing coupled with the heat and the fact that it is still sort of early season here meant that we were pretty tired yesterday.  That I managed to make the fatal mistake of assuming that just because a bike shirt has long sleeves it has SPF protection (note: unless it clearly states an SPF number, don’t assume otherwise) only added to the fatigue.

The idea of actually cooking last night was intensely distasteful.  All I wanted to do was to sit outside in a lounge chair in the shade with a cold cocktail.   My laziness inspired dinner.  A salad with quinoa avoids the effort that actually cooking requires.  So I busted out the mandolin – and hand guard, since I can’t seem to even look at this without cutting a finger – and sliced a fennel bulb and a few carrots, added some mixed greens, a handful of pumpkin seeds and some diced mozzarella I had on hand to the quinoa, and tossed the whole thing in lemon vinaigrette.

Both it and the gin martini were a refreshing end to an otherwise un-refreshing day.


For Christmas, my aunt – who is far more artisanal than I’ll ever be – sent us a giant wheel of homemade feta.  It’s far creamier than any commercial feta I’ve had, with a mild briny flavor. While delicious on its own, I decided to start using it in recipes, including a lentil salad suggested by my mother (who also received a wheel of goodness).

Artisanal feta

The recipe I used was the result of me culling through lots of recipes online.  I opted for simplicity – a cup of dry lentils (rinsed, soaked & cooked separately), a cucumber, a red pepper, half a pint of organic cherry tomatoes, a cup (or so) of feta crumbled over the salad, topped with a simple lemon vinaigrette (juice, olive oil and a smidge of salt & pepper).

Lentil-feta salad

While I have plans to use the feta in a slew of other dishes, including a shrimp & tomato number that my mom’s made numerous times, this lentil salad was tasty enough to make again very soon.  Even N, never a lentil fan, was scooping it onto tortilla chips.

Girls Night In

Last night my pal K had me and a couple of her friends round for an al fresco dinner in her backyard, which overlooks Lake Tahoe.  On the menu, fresh pacific oysters, a selection of cheeses from Trader Joe’s, my farmers market salad and baked figs with goat cheese and honey.  And some chardonnay and prosecco to get the party started.

Pacific oysters al fresco

I’ve not had raw oysters in awhile, and had forgotten about the work required to release the suckers.  K, being from the Maryland area, had it down, and the rest of us tried to follow her lead, with mixed results, and a lot of laughter. Dining outside on a lawn watching the sunset over Lake Tahoe is pretty special, made all the more fun because we weren’t at a restaurant, but a private home.

My attempt at baked figs tasted fine, but they had been baked too soon, so ended up looking a bit shriveled and unhappy by the time we got to them.  While they were ok, I think next time I’ll add a bit more honey or let the goat cheese really melt, as it wasn’t the gooey sweet delight I had anticipated.

Baked Figs with Goat Cheese and Honey
Fresh figs, halved
Soft (rindless) goat cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Arrange figs cut side up on a pan, place a small dollop of goat cheese on each one.  Drizzle with honey and bake about 10 minutes, until the figs are warm throughout and cheese is soft.  Serve immediately (I learned the hard way).