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.
Peanut butter and banana is one of the best combinations. We both grew up enjoying it on sandwiches, and it’s still one of our go-to lunches when we go hiking. It is delicious on pancakes and waffles, and makes a healthy and indulgent smoothie. Recently, we even made an incredibly rich banana chocolate chip cake with peanut butter frosting for a friend’s birthday. We just can’t get enough! So when we were brainstorming simple dessert ideas for Valentine’s Day, we decided to take this classic combination and turn them into cookies! We took our favorite four-ingredient, one-bowl peanut butter cookie recipe, indented the middles like thumbprints, placed a thick slice of banana in each one, and sprinkled the top with turbinado sugar so they caramelize in the oven and come out glistening like sweet amber-colored jewels. These chewy, moist cookies are full of rich, creamy peanut butter flavor and the sweet glazed bananas are the perfect addition. You can whip up this easy-to-follow recipe in less than 30 minutes, leaving you a long romantic evening to spend with your Valentine.
Mediterranean restaurants are a vegetarian’s best friend. From tangy cabbage salads and fresh tabbouleh, to stuffed grape leaves, deeply spiced falafels, and smooth hummus and muhammara, you will find far more meatless items on middle-eastern menus than in most restaurants, making them a popular choice for vegetarians and vegans. The cuisine is light and healthy, and since it is often served family-style with a selection of small dishes, you can order a variety of plates, and sample a little of everything. The recipe we are sharing today is fun to make, and involves roasting a whole eggplant on the stove, directly on the flame, until it is charred, blistered, and blackened, resulting in an irresistibly smoky flavor and creamy texture. Combined with fresh lemon juice, raw garlic, chopped parsley, creamy tahini, and a few pinches of cumin and cayenne pepper, this tangy, smoky, garlicky dip makes a deliciously healthy snack and is the perfect dish to serve with some warm pita at your next party. Let us introduce you to the Levantine delicacy known as Moutabal.
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.
One of our favorite places to eat in Los Angeles is Western Doma Noodles, a quaint little Korean restaurant located in a tiny strip mall in the middle of Koreatown run by Baik, the sweetest lady in the world who makes everyone feel welcome. Although she doesn’t speak much English, she greets us every time with a warm smile and remembers that we are both vegetarian. It’s a special place for us. We had a lovely meal there for Ryan’s birthday in November before seeing the touring production of Beauty And The Beast at the Pantages. We always order the bibimbap, a signature Korean dish of seasoned vegetables served atop a sizzling-hot stone bowl of white rice topped with an egg and mixed with a generous spoonful of spicy chili paste. One of the best parts of Korean cuisine is the delicious banchan, small side dishes set in the middle of the table for everyone to share. Baik is so considerate and brings us an assorted vegetarian selection that is slightly different each time we visit. There are usually at least ten dishes to sample including Korean-style potato salad, steamed and marinated vegetables, pickled cucumbers and radishes, sautéed tofu, seasoned seaweed, and of course kimchi, an essential banchan for a traditional Korean meal. We were recently discussing fermented foods with our dear friend Christine at Yommme, and she mentioned to us that she had a delicious recipe for vegetarian kimchi that was easy to make. We fell in love with her roasted tandoori cauliflower that we wrote about in November, so we were eager to give this a try. We just made our first batch last week, and from the very first taste it was clear: this is, without question, the best kimchi we have ever had!