On Saturday we hiked Fish Canyon Falls, over five miles of breathtaking trails lined with shady oaks, blue agaves, and multi-colored wildflowers carpeting the hillsides glowing with fragrant white sage, located in the Angeles National Forest just thirty minutes from our home. The winding path follows a clear stream, and because of the recent winter rains, it was rushing through the bottom of the canyon, creating a peaceful soundtrack of flowing water nearly the entire time. At the end of the trail, we were greeted by a majestic 3-tiered, 80-foot waterfall that was cascading in full force. It was a beautiful day and we were so happy to discover yet another hidden area of natural beauty so close to the city. After spending the morning hiking through the woods, stumbling upon abandoned cabins, and adventuring in the hills, we came home to find a package waiting for us on our doorstep that we had been anticipating for several months. Our friend Emilie (theclevercarrot.com) just wrote her first cookbook and we were so excited for its arrival, especially after seeing so many other bloggers making beautiful creations from it and posting photos and rave reviews online. Epicurious named The Clever Cookbook as one of “spring’s best cookbooks” and after browsing through this gem and making one dish so far, we clearly understand why. It is filled with inspiring recipes that we can’t wait to try: cauliflower bolognese, chai pancakes with cinnamon butter, banana cloud cake, and the list goes on! Today we are so excited to share this easy zucchini and brown rice gratin from her book that has graced our kitchen twice this week and has already become one of our new favorite dinners.
Regardless of this uninvited heatwave here in Los Angeles—yes, it is literally 90 degrees today—we want to believe or at least pretend that it is still winter. Trust us, we are not complaining one bit, but 90 in February is a little extreme, and it would be nice to experience all four seasons equally. We have a dream! Speaking of balance, we dedicated the first half of this month to making cookies, caramels, and sweet Valentine’s Day desserts, so today we are honoring the yang to our yin and sharing a delicious risotto recipe, adapted from one of our favorite cookbooks, The Veganomicon. And since it is still technically February, asparagus season has officially begun and it is the perfect time to start making some meals with it! This creamy risotto highlights this healthy winter vegetable in the most flavorful way possible: sautéed asparagus tips are cooked separately until golden and crispy while the remainder is sliced and cooked gently with Thai basil, fresh mint leaves, loads of shallots and seasoned with chopped garlic and a spicy serrano pepper for heat. The risotto is simmered with a fragrant homemade broth filled with fresh lemongrass, ginger, crushed garlic, and soy sauce. Even though Mother Nature has hastily decided to pour a glass of Sangria, start eating ice cream bars, and sport a bikini, we are going to sit here patiently and enjoy one of our favorite dishes as though it was winter.
It was raining and windy this weekend in Los Angeles. The rugged San Gabriel mountains are visible in the distance, white and glowing with freshly-fallen snow. The birds are quiet, and the lizards that normally transform our yard into a mini-Jurrasic Park during the summertime are asleep for the winter. Heavy clouds may prevent the sun from shining, but there is a variety of beautiful flowers in bloom whose colors actually appear most vivid on these gloomy days. Deciduous trees scatter fallen leaves throughout the neighborhood while others like the citrus are producing an abundance of fruit that illuminate the landscape and decorate the last few chilly days of January with their vibrant colors and sunny flavors. This cold weather demands comforting things like hot cups of ginger tea, and after-dinner mugs of hot nutella spiked with frangelico. But there is absolutely nothing that says “warm and comforting” like a relaxing bowl of matzo ball soup, and today we are thrilled to be sharing a vegetarian version of this classic that boasts perfectly cooked matzo balls—light, fluffy and buttery—which are simmered in a flavorful broth with chopped carrots, celery, onions, minced garlic, and topped with aromatic sprigs of fresh dill. Brace yourself winter, matzo ball soup is coming.
Cooking with seasonal vegetables is fun and rewarding. In the summertime, we love growing tomatoes and basil in our garden. All year long, we look forward to walking outside and eating sweet juicy tomatoes right off the vine, still warm from the sun. Last summer, we made a burst tomato galette with homegrown sungold tomatoes, and it was so unbelievably sweet, tangy, and delicious that we are still dreaming about it six months later. As temperatures drop in autumn (relatively speaking, this is LA after all!), we begin finding fall fruits like crisp apples and pears at the farmers market, along with cool-weather greens like kale and peppery arugula. In the springtime, southern California is at its most colorful, with plants and trees in full bloom, and we celebrate with fresh, sweet asparagus and artichokes, and ruby-red strawberries for dessert. But here we are, snuggling up in warm blankets, sitting by the fire, in the middle of winter, at the peak of cauliflower season. These cream-colored, delicately-flavored vegetables are at their best in winter, and have always been one of our favorites. In this appetizing soup, fresh seasonal cauliflower is combined with sautéed onions, sweet carrots, and blended with aromatic herbs and spices like coriander, cumin, cilantro, and a few pinches of red pepper flakes, to make a delicious, creamy, and comforting bowl of soup that will keep you warm and cozy until spring arrives.
Although we didn’t get a white Christmas while visiting Portland, we had an unexpected white New Years in Los Angeles. On the first day of January, we traveled above the city where everything is peaceful and quiet and the air is clean and smells like fresh pine. We are so lucky to be just thirty minutes from The Angeles National Forest with gorgeous mountains and countless places to explore, stretching over 1000 square miles of uninhabited land. We found ourselves strolling through icy trails lined with beautiful manzanitas and majestic oaks still dusted with snow from last week’s brief rains. The hike began at 4500 feet, and while we were expecting chilly temperatures, we had no idea that we would be walking in snow! But the sun was out, it was a beautiful day, and we enjoyed peanut butter and honey sandwiches sitting on a boulder on the side of the trail while soaking in the sun’s rays. After a brief drive back into civilization, we came home to put the final touches on an original new recipe, a warm and comforting skillet of tender cauliflower, sautéed leeks, diced tomatoes, bright red chard, and poached eggs nestled between the vegetables, which is topped with deeply toasted pine nuts and a dollop of lime-infused Greek yogurt: say hello to winter shakshuka.