What comes to mind when you think about summer? Barbecuing in your backyard on a Sunday evening with kids screaming in the pool and parents lingering over appetizers on lounge chairs? Warm sand crawling between your toes (and everywhere it shouldn’t be) as the ocean breeze calls you into the refreshing saltwater? Maybe, if you’re my age, it’s more like using a night out bon-firing with your friends as motivation to push through those last few hours with a smile at your summer job.
While I’ve looked forward to and enjoyed all of those specialties this summer, what I cherished most is the time I’ve spent around good food. And no – that does not make me a bad person. Why? Because that time has been spent alongside people I love most. Absolutely nothing can go wrong when I have smiling friends and family sitting next to me, some sort of picture-taking device (which is my iPhone 6 99.9% of the time) to keep these memories, and something mouth-watering, creative, and authentic on my plate.
I’d choose a candle-lit night like that over a crazy college party any day.
Unfortunately, not every night brings fabulous company. Sometimes, you’re home alone, but quality and quantity don’t always hold hands. Let me explain.
A few nights ago, I’d made plans to hang out with two friends (very special friends whom I’m blessed to have back in my life), but my family wanted to go see a play in an LA park. I had to tell my family to go without me, as I’d already committed to my friends. So much for my favorite summer nights. But hey, it was no one’s fault.
So, I walked my (rather stinky) dog down to our local farmer’s market to sample some fruits and check out the freshest of the season’s veggies. And I found this garlic spread. I put it on everything, and I eat it by the spoonful. Judge me.
When Maggie (stinky dog) and I finally got back to our cool, AC’ed home, I pushed through a quick workout, got cleaned up, and let Jack Johnson sing to me as I prepared this practically gourmet, spur-of-the-moment/I-really-hope-this-tastes-good recipe that I’d created in my head about 5 seconds earlier.
Fun fact: this was my second time ever eating lentils. LOVE ‘EM. And thank you, Trader Joe’s, for selling me this amazingly-easy-to-cook box!
This dinner was a blast – I had two pans heated at once, both at different temperatures and cooking completely different vegetables, while I was chopping cilantro and dipping everything/anything I could into the garlic spread I bought.
The cauliflower looked perfect and the mushrooms and spinach were just soft enough, and then it was picture time. I’ve made a promise to myself to put more effort into all of my pictures from here on out, so I plated everything and went outside to my backyard where the lighting is spectacular for food-photography between 7-8 pm.
Fifteen pictures later, and it was time to devour. Wait, I mean savour – it was time to savour each flavor-filled bite of this indulgent dish. And devour/savour I did.
I even sent a picture to my mom, to which she replied, “Looks yummy! Miss you and wish you were here!” Sure, I missed them, too, and I wished I could have picnic’ed and watched a Shakespeare play in the park with them, but this…
Dude. This. I was totally fine with dinner al fresco that night.
And now, I can’t wait to share it with my friends and family. Summer, I love you.
Makes 4 servings
1 head cauliflower, sliced into ½” steaks
2-3 tbsp. almond oil, for the pan
3 cups organic spinach
3 Portobello mushroom caps, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. almond oil, for the pan
2 cups cooked lentils
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
Cilantro, for garnish
Salt and pepper, to taste
1. Heat the 2-3 tbsp. almond oil in a large pan until small bubbles appear. Carefully lay the cauliflower steaks in the pan and let them cook until browned and crispy around the edges. Remove them from the pan when they are ready.
2. While the cauliflower cooks, heat the 2 tsp. almond oil in a separate pan and toss in the minced garlic. When the garlic turns a golden color, throw in the mushrooms and cook about 3-4 minutes, or until you see a char on the sides. Add the spinach and turn down the heat, careful not to let the spinach over-cook and burn.
3. If you’re using the same brand of lentils as I was, warm them up as directed on the box. Set aside to cool slightly.
4. In a medium-size bowl, combine the lentils, and cilantro and lemon juice. Stir until well incorporated.
5. When you’re ready to serve, lay the cauliflower and spinach-mushroom combo on a plate and top with cilantro lentils. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and enjoy!