In my imagination, it’s a midsummer evening, 70 degrees in Southern California. I go into the garden to pick some heirloom tomatoes for the rigatoni that night, plenty of basil leaves to sprinkle, and while I’m at it – an armful of dahlias to go to the handcrafted vase that stands in the center of the table outside on the lawn.
Undoubtedly, part of my daydream is the joy of getting friends together after a year without that simple pleasure. But it is also rooted in the idea of doing everything effortlessly, enjoying the creative process and letting go of all ideas in order to “impress my guests”.
I always hope to feel this feeling of lightness and joy when I bring people together at home – although sometimes I am more successful than others. And that’s why I was immediately drawn to Valerie Rice’s new cookbook Lush Life: Eating & Drinking from the Garden next week. Rice lives in Santa Barbara, and her sprawling gardens, chicken coop, and stunning Mediterranean-style house aren’t just straight out of a Nancy Meyers film – they’re the setting for the menus that she brings to life throughout her book. Each recipe feels celebratory – but is simple enough to make any day of the week, proving that a beautiful summer night is reason enough to party on your own. I received an advance copy of the book, and Rice was kind enough to share two of my favorite summer entertainment recipes with us before it was published! Scroll on for her recipes for Blood Orange Margaritas and Avocado Slaw and check out some scenes from her book below. You can pre-order it here!
1 of 6
“Eat and drink whatever is in season and you will never be bored, your menus will be less complicated and everything will taste better.”
It’s Valerie Rice’s motto, and while the seasonal recipes in her book are perfect for family dinners all year round, I’m particularly drawn to her summer recipes for entertainment, paired with cocktail recipes and wine advice.
2 of 6
Her book also sparked my desire to start an edible garden at home – an idea you may remember was in progress last year but was put on hold when we found and bought a beach house last summer and all of our creative endeavors were redirected there. However, Valerie’s gardening tips challenged me to at least get started – maybe I won’t get to my full vision of raised beds this year, but I can at least plant some large pots of herbs to add seasonality and freshness to our meals throughout the summer.
3 of 6
On her inspiration for these signature blood orange margaritas, Rice says, “The tart, delicious, and beautiful blood orange season is something to celebrate … if you live in a warm climate like we have in Santa Barbara (where the days are warm ) and the nights are cool), buy a tree and plant it in your yard. When space is tight, grow a dwarf variety in a large pot. You will know that the citrus fruits are ready to be picked when the peel looks slightly red, as if it has been dusted with rust. “
4 of 6
These blood orange margaritas are the perfect way to celebrate summer (whether or not you have a lemon grove at home). I’ll be mixing them up for Cinco de Mayo next week along with these other summer recipes for entertainment. Click here for the full recipe from Lush Life: Food & Drinks from the Garden.
5 of 6
From Rice: “This coleslaw has been a constant hit in my house for years, whether it’s for a party for fifty or a regular Tuesday night taco at home. You can use any fresh radishes and cabbage you have on hand. I use a hand mandolin to thinly slice the carrots and radishes. You can do it a few hours in advance – I even love it the next day. ” For Lush Life’s Avocado Coleslaw Recipe: Eat & Drink From The Garden.
6 of 6
Pictures and recipes from Lush Life: Food & Drinks from the Garden by Valerie Rice, Prospect Park Books 2021. Photo credit: Gemma and Andrew Ingalls.