In recent weeks I’ve started breaking out my cut-off pants, flip-flop shoes and Nalgene water bottle in favor of exploring the Santa Cruz winter through my hibernating summer lens. Turns out my lens doesn’t have to hibernate as much as I thought it did, because the sun is shining and instead of rain, the birds and the bees seem to be saying hello to an early spring… in January.

All I can do is thank whatever earthly force has brought color back to our beach-side city in usually the most dreary of months — and celebrate. Of course, you know what celebrating means: spending an entire day cooking delicious-looking food that takes less than half an hour to devour.

Last Saturday I drove to my friend Rachel’s apartment in Porter, because she has a cleaner kitchen than mine, and we immediately proceeded to grease up the frying pans and chop up a multitude of variable vegetables, creating a rainbow of different colors and scents that tickled the senses and would have make my mother blush with pride.

Photo by Rachel Singer.

We planned on creating veggie mozzarella sandwiches and potato salad — an already enormous meal by itself — but caught up in the colorful trend of our food, we decided to add a drink to the mix: orange juice and Pellegrino with a few frozen strawberries plopped in as ice cubes. It was summer splash with a clear, cool tang.

Drinking those and boiling the potatoes for the salad, we then cut thin slices of mozzarella cheese and pared an eggplant, and cut a yellow pepper and red onion into long strips. We also cut French bread into slices and drizzled a bit of olive oil onto them, preparing them for the grill fryer.

Photo by Rachel Singer.

Once those were set aside, we marinated the peppers, onions and eggplant in an olive oil, salt and pepper paste, and then dumped them in the pan to fry. Those were done and we took them out of the pan, putting the veggies on the sandwich bread, throwing it back on the fryer and hoping the mozzarella would glue the entire concoction together. Luckily, it did, and we ended up with an artfully tempting final product, but we had to restrain ourselves for another minute and finish the potato salad.

The potatoes were boiled, and so we stirred up some dijon mustard, red wine vinegar and olive oil to form the base. We added it to the potatoes, and our dinner was complete.

Photo by Rachel Singer.

However unhealthy and expensive this meal turned out to be, it was worth it to catch a taste of summer. We did have a lot of leftovers, and if you read my fried rice article you’ll know what a fan I am of those.

We may not be playing tennis or swimming in our parents’ pools this week, but through this meal, I caught a glimpse of that distant world of bikinis and barbecues, and I continue steadily to hope for a spectacular Santa Cruz summer.