Lately, I’ve been smiling more, stressing less, and generally looking on the bright side of things. I could, I guess, say that I’m finally making good on those new year’s resolutions, but really, credit goes to the warmer weather and longer days. A symptom of my improved mood is a reinvigorated desire to entertain. I’ve been itching to fête spring’s long-awaited arrival with an outdoor dinner party, complete with fresh, good-for-you foods and bottles of Sauvignon Blanc on ice. Ironically, this leaves me spending more time on my laptop searching for recipe inspiration on Pinterest than outside, enjoying the fresh air. Alas. So, instead of wasting another minute cooped up indoors this weekend, turn off your computer, invite a few friends over, and start making dinner to serve al fresco.
When hosting an outdoor dinner party, I like serving foods that are equally delicious at room temperature as they are piping hot. Grains and pastas hold up beautifully outside, and if you dress them up with seasonal vegetables and herbs, you have a dish that works both as a hearty side or as the base for an entree of charred tofu straight off the barbeque.
While I haven’t yet had the chance to throw a springtime dinner party, I have had several opportunities this week to eat lunch outside, on my front deck, with a book or magazine propped in one hand, fork in the other (bliss!). One of my favorite recent creations – which I plan on replicating once I get around to having company over – is a warm salad of roasted cauliflower, mushrooms and harvest grains. I was rifling through my pantry the other morning and came across a bag of Trader Joe’s Harvest Grains Blend (a mixture of Israeli couscous, orzo, baby garbanzo beans, and red quinoa) and I knew it would make a delicious meal when tossed with warm roasted cauliflower and sauteed cremini mushrooms. A handful of bright green parsley found its way into the mix, as did a squeeze of fresh lemon and a couple glugs of Spanish olive oil. I liked it so much I had it two days in a row, the second time with the addition of thinly sliced roasted tofu on top. The great thing about this recipe is that it’s easily doubled or tripled to accommodate any number of guests, and is a pretty thrifty way to feed a crowd. If you can’t get your hands on the Trader Joe’s Harvest Grains Blend, sub in orzo or wild rice (or a mixture of both!).
- 3 cups cauliflower, cut into small florets
- 3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 cups sliced cremini mushrooms
- 1¼ cups of (dried) Trader Joe’s Harvest Grains Blend, prepared according to package directions (sub olive oil or Earth Balance for butter to keep the dish vegan)
- ¼ cup roughly chopped flat leaf parsley
- juice from ½ lemon
- salt and black pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
- In a medium bowl, toss the cauliflower florets with 1 Tablespoon of olive oil and ½ teaspoon salt. Once evenly coated, spread the florets on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and place in the preheated oven. Roast for 25-30 minutes, or until cauliflower is golden and cooked through.
- In a medium sized skillet, heat 1 Tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil over medium high heat. Add the sliced mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5, or until golden brown. Season with salt, to taste.
- Add the prepared Harvest Grains Blend to large bowl and toss with roasted cauliflower, sauteed mushrooms, chopped parsley, lemon juice, and 1 Tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Season with salt and pepper, if necessary. Transfer to a platter and serve hot or at room temperature.