Summer vacation. You are on a quiet beach under a cloudless sky, laying on a soft towel, the sun drying you off after a quick dip in the warm ocean water. Behind you is a rugged mountain, lush with tropical plants and towering trees bursting with life, bright neon green from the frequent rains. The only sounds are the gentle surf and native birds singing in the distance as you rest your eyes. Your trip has just begun and your only plans for the rest of the day are to relax on the sand and get ready for tonight’s sunset dinner. You take a deep breath, opening your eyes to find yourself sitting in a plastic lounge chair at your neighbor’s backyard barbecue party. No one is staring at you, and it appears as if just seconds have passed. What just happened? What is in this magical icy beverage you are holding in your hand, glowing a deep amethyst and infusing the air with fresh citrus and mint? How did it transport you to paradise and where can you find more of these? There are lots of unknowns in this world, but thankfully we have the answers to your curious questions.
It is morning. You open your eyes, and for the first few seconds, everything looks unfamiliar. You are not at home. The room tilts slightly to the left and you hear a creaking wooden sound and water beneath you. Ah yes! You are on a private boat in the middle of the caribbean. It is summertime and you are on vacation. You took off work and your only responsibilities are to relax and enjoy the scenery. Everyone is still asleep so you make your way outside for some fresh tropical morning air. You quietly open the sliding glass door and are instantly greeted with a cool, salty ocean breeze while the warmth of the rising sun caresses your face. The sounds of water gently splashing against the sides of the boat and the pleasant rocking puts you in a meditative state and everything feels just perfect in that dreamy summer moment. It is just you, a glowing sun, a deep blue ocean, and a comfortable breeze that cleanses your mind and body from all the nonsense that clutters it from day to day. We look forward to vacations like these for good reason: they allow us to escape our daily reality and experience new sights, sounds and flavors. Of course it would be wonderful if we could just pack up and head to the tropics whenever we want, but this is not always possible for everyone. But there are things we can do to make up for it. And this coconut mojito cake is one of them.
Imagine you are walking barefoot down a private, serene beach at sunset, cool silky sand beneath your feet, with the calming sounds of waves gently crashing on the shore, and the glowing orange sun shimmering on the water as an occasional seagull flies overhead. No one else is around, yet you feel so comforted by the warm sea breeze blowing through your hair. A light ocean mist caresses your face as you admire the first glimmering star in the darkening sky. You open your eyes to realize that you are standing in your kitchen and you just had a sip of your first Granada Sour. It takes you a moment to adjust, as if you just woke up from a pleasant dream. But in reality, you were in the same place the entire time, and only a few seconds had passed. Let us explain.
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.
How is it already the end of December? It feels like just last week we were enjoying pumpkin pie and stuffing at Thanksgiving, and yet somehow 2016 is only a day away. It has been a festive month for us, with holiday sing-alongs, Hanukkah latke parties, and a brief but lovely trip up to Portland to visit family for Christmas. But before the year is over, we have one last recipe to share with you. New Years Eve is tomorrow night, and we have the perfect cocktail for your celebration—a deliciously refreshing drink, wintry, ice-cold, and an aromatic twist on a familiar classic: thyme gimlets.