It’s time to leave profanity and veganism behind—and enter the gingham and sunshine realm of The Lemonade Cookbook.
To those of you outside L.A., this might sound like an exhaustive guide to the much loved, summertime-in-America drink. The Lemonade Cookbook definitely includes lemonade recipes—Old Fashioned, Blueberry Mint, Pineapple Coriander—but it is, thankfully, so much more.
That’s because the cookbook is a collection of recipes from Lemonade, one of the best local eateries to come to The City of Angels in years. Founded by Chef Alan Jackson, the first Lemonade café sprang to life in West Hollywood in 2007; eight years later you can visit branches in Pasadena, Downtown, Culver City and even the ground floor patio of MOCA.
Jackson refers to his cafés as “modern cafeterias,” which is like calling opera a bunch of songs strung together with warbling. Sure, hungry patrons get in line, grab a tray and then slide along a little metal track before case after case of food. But instead of finding gray meatloaf with congealed gravy there’s seared tuna with green apple slaw. In place of wilting iceberg lettuce, there’s Israeli couscous with mushrooms. And no, there won’t be any rice pudding in an unbreakable little bowl at the end. Rather, you’ll find mini cupcakes, blondies, macaroons, and a lineup of those intoxicating lemonade varieties. Good luck choosing.
Reading the introduction, I learned that Jackson is the cooking genius behind a restaurant called Jackson’s in Hollywood (never ate there) and The Farm in Beverly Hills. I used to love to visit The Farm’s outpost at The Grove, a shopping mecca in Mid-City, before seeing a movie or, actually, shopping. Then I moved east, had a child, stopped shopping, and discovered Taco Spot. But I miss The Farm—especially its unbelievable grilled artichoke.
Jackson’s philosophy about food is refreshingly Californian. A native Angelino who grew up eating artichokes and avocados before the rest of the country discovered them in the 1980s, he celebrates the state’s almost countless ethnic cuisines and relaxed culture. “As a chef, I appreciate the fact that heavy, overwrought dishes have little place in today’s diet,” he writes. Rather, food “must be alive and interesting enough for people to actually enjoy eating.” As an eater, I appreciate that fact as well.
Jackson co-wrote The Lemonade Cookbook with foodie and author Joann Cianciulli. St. Martin’s Press published the book in 2013, and I unwrapped it on my birthday earlier this year. Lemonade has one of those trendy, full-color, matte hard covers—and enough rich photography to meet your daily caloric intake. Best of all, it has recipes for some of my favorite Lemonade dishes: the broccoli salad with ricotta and champagne vinaigrette; the soba noodles with kimchi vegetables in a creamy sesame vinaigrette; the heavenly peach ginger lemonade.
After years of eating at the downtown locations, I’m going to love seeing whether I can replicate some of these recipes.