May has been a whirlwind month. My busy summer season at work is now well under way (hey, wasn’t I just swooning over the start of spring?) and writing this post is pretty much all that’s keeping me from skipping my lunch break.
Last week I had my first summer Friday off from work, and I celebrated the best way I know how—with food and friends. First, I had a glorious morning of sleeping in until ten and then actually making myself breakfast. It was an absolutely ordinary egg, cheese, and tomato sandwich, but it reminded me just how long it’s been since I made time to eat breakfast on a weekday.
In the afternoon, I found myself in the vicinity of the office since I couldn’t very well miss my Chicago-bound coworker’s farewell happy hour. He’s one cool dude and I’ll certainly miss him. (The silver lining, though, is that his departure indirectly led to me getting promoted, so thanks, Eric!)
After a quick mid-day beer, I was off to grocery shop for double date night. I spent the day getting the apartment gussied up and cooking up a storm. All the while, an actual storm started and grew heavier and heavier by the hour. It eventually caused a mysterious leak in our kitchen, sending me into a tizzy, since it was nearly dinnertime and Megan and Mark were already on their way over. Fortunately, the leak stopped as quickly as it started, and Jon reminded me to start breathing again. Thanks, kite string.
Finally, after driving nearly two and a half hours and basically sailing across the lake that had formed on the LIE, our dates arrived with a bottle of wine and a slamming dessert that I can only describe as a delightful culinary experiment tucked into four ramekins and a squeeze bottle—more on that later.
Along with some grilled vegetable skewers and a heaping tomato and fresh herb salad, this dinner was a golden opportunity for my monthly Nigel Slater recipe. This month, I chose spiced lentils with labne and minted potatoes. The potatoes are actually a component from one of his lamb dishes, so really, I made a recipe and a half this time. The lentils filled our apartment for hours with the smells of onion, ginger, chili peppers, and spices like turmeric, coriander, and garam masala. The recipe called to me as soon as I saw the words “mint” and “labne” side by side. You don’t have to tell me twice. We served the lentils with wild rice and warm flatbread.
Hardly an attractive dish, but the taste is what really matters, right? Well, if my own opinion wasn’t proof enough, I knew for sure we’d nailed it on taste when Megan went for seconds, and thirds, and fourths.
Tying in with the mint labne, I also made Nigel Slater’s “minted potatoes.” To start, the recipe called for boiling the potatoes, but I threw them in the oven instead. Waiting for water to boil was out of the question, since we were down to the wire and I almost decided not to make them, but then, thank goodness the rain and traffic granted us the time to make these. Pan-fried in butter and chopped fresh mint, these simple spuds just about blew my mind. Omitting them would have been criminal.
Speaking of mind-blowing, it wouldn’t be a Megan meal without an amazing dessert. Knowing Jon is a vegetarian, she actually took the time to research ancient Italian cooking practices to see how panna cotta was made before gelatin was used. Apparently, there was some manner of egg white magic involved, and, bless her heart, she worked that magic for us. The result was a homemade sweet corn (corn!) panna cotta topped with (I repeat, homemade) dulce de leche. It was a triumph.
Turns out a few hours of good food, good company, and the sound of rain through our open windows were exactly what I needed.