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cherries + bourbon, two and a half ways

under a cherry tree // the first messwashed // the first messbrown booze // the first messarugula + basil flowers // the first messwashing the greens // the first messpre-grill // the first mess
Gnarly old tree limbs drooping to the ground from the weight of cherries is a potent sign of summer’s start for me. There’s an unkempt little orchard in tall grass near my parents house and you can see the shiny jewels draping from the branches in clusters, even when you’re driving by a little too fast. I walked over with my mum and the pup to take a look-see at the ripeness last week. Standing at the trunks found me under a shady canopy of fruit and leaves just rustling in the wind. Everyone should see a cherry orchard at least once in their life.

If you’re like me, summer’s got you way more interested in feeling things rather than reading about those things on a screen. The pull to the online world just isn’t as strong for all of the obvious reasons. This is mostly just to say that posts for the next couple months might be a bit heavier on images and overall vibe-heavy expression-like things, as opposed to the usual lengthy dribble on life stuff, the ways of food and such and such. Hope you can dig.

So with that, I’ll tell you that I get in phases where my go-to drink is a Maker’s Mark Manhattan served up + totally, totally with those ridiculous maraschino cherries that are basically poison. I’m a stickler for the traditional aspect and accept that not every bar is going to stock hand picked, small batch-processed fruit for my fancy lady drink. Still though, I love the combination with fresh cherries in season when I have the option. So I made a few things to go along with that theme.

There’s a vegan and almost raw vanilla bean cheesecake with bourbon cherries and maple syrup. It’s as good as it sounds, and I realized that the addition of kombucha, that awesome fermented tea beverage, in the batter really amps up the cheesecake-y-ness. Secondly, there’s a salad of grilled zucchini, radicchio, fresh arugula (from our garden..!), cherries, pecans and basil with bourbon vinaigrette. Trying to get y’all hammered from a salad–are you really surprised? Lastly there’s a little half’er of a recipe for a summer imbibe that’s a smash, ice + pour away from total leisure. See you at the beach?

Big hugs,
Laura

vegan + almost raw bourbon cherry cheesecake // the first mess

vegan + almost raw bourbon cherry cheesecake // the first messgrilled zucchini, radicchio + arugula salad with bourbon vinaigrette + cherries // the first messa porch drink // the first messbourbon smushed with cherries, lime + maple syrup // the first mess
1. vegan + almost raw cheesecake with bourbon cherries

serves: 10-12
notes: I like to toss up the cherries right before I serve this, just to preserve the juicy bite. Also if you don’t want to buy kombucha for this, feel free to sub in the same amount of almond or other plant-based milk.

crust:
2 cups pitted medjool dates
handful of dried sour cherries (or a couple extra dates)
1 1/4 cups raw almonds
1/2 tsp sea salt

filling:
3 cups raw pine nuts or cashews, soaked for at least 3 hours
1 tbsp bourbon
1/4 cup plain kombucha
zest and juice of 1 lemon (you want 1/4 cup of juice)
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup maple syrup/raw honey/agave nectar
2/3 cup melted coconut oil

cherries:
2-3 cups pitted fresh cherries, chopped
1 tbsp bourbon
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
1-2 tbsp maple syrup

In a food processor, blitz the crust ingredients until the almonds are ground up small and the mixture sticks together when you grab a clump of it. Press the crust mixture into a parchment lined load pan. Once it’s even and packed down flat, set aside in the fridge.

Combine all of the filling ingredients in an upright blender and blend on high, scraping down here and there, and adding more liquid if necessary. Once the mixture is creamy and smooth, scrape it into the loaf pan on top of the crust. Place the cheesecake in the freezer to firm up for at least 3 hours.

In a medium bowl, toss the cherries, bourbon, vanilla bean seeds and maple syrup. Remove the cheesecake from the pan and spoon the cherries on top, ensuring that you get all of the liquid as well. Serve slices with extra cherries if you like.

2. grilled zucchini and radicchio salad with arugula, cherries + bourbon vinaigrette
serves: 4
notes: Once they’re on, some grilled peaches would be really delicious in this mix.

bourbon vinaigrette:
2 tbsp bourbon
1 tsp hot mustard (or dijon)
2 sprigs of thyme, leaves chopped fine
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
salt + pepper
1 tbsp maple syrup
1/4 cup olive oil

salad:
4- 5 handfuls washed arugula
3 medium zucchini, cut into long slices
1 head of radicchio, cut into wedges with the core intact
olive oil
salt + pepper
za’atar spice (optional)
chopped basil/basil flowers to your liking
1 cup pitted fresh cherries, halved
handful of pecans, toasted and crushed

Combine the vinaigrette ingredients in an upright blender and blend until you have a homogenous mix. Set the vinaigrette aside.

Preheat a grill to medium high. Arrange the arugula on a large platter. Lay the zucchini slices and radicchio wedges out on a baking sheet. Drizzle them with olive oil and season with salt, pepper, and the za’atar (is using). Toss the vegetables a bit to coat. Grill the vegetables until char marks appear on all sides and the zucchini is a bit softer. Remove vegetables from the grill and place on the platter with the arugula.

Scatter the chopped basil/flowers, cherries and pecans on top of the salad. Pour the vinaigrette on top and serve.

2 ½. a summer sipper with bourbon, cherries + maple syrup
serves:
 2
notes: I just crush the fruit in the glass so it can slowly hang with the booze while I sip. But if you want a tidier presentation, I would muddle the fruit in a shaker, add some ice, shake it with the bourbon and strain it onto clean ice in rocks glasses with a little cherry garnish.

2 hefty lime wedges
4 pitted fresh cherries
couple drops of bitters (I used orange bitters)
1/2 tsp maple syrup
ice (I like large cubes with this because they make for more leisurely sippin’)
3 ounces bourbon

In two rocks glasses, divide the lime wedges, cherries, bitters, and maple syrup. Crush the fruit with a muddler or a pestle. Once you have some juice releasing, add some ice to the glasses. Pour 1 1/2 ounces of bourbon into each glass and stir. Sip slowly.

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Melissa03/07/2014 - 5:52 am

This looks absolutely delicious. If I don’t have kombucha what would I use instead? It’s winter here in Australia so summer seems like a lid stance memory.

Kathryn03/07/2014 - 6:07 am

When the images are as beautiful as yours always are Laura, I don’t think anyone’s going to complain about having more of them! Happy summer friend xo

Elzette03/07/2014 - 7:16 am

Oh wow. Have bookmarked this. I need to host a BBQ day where I make exactly all of this in the post, for the day! Like a copy and past effect… ;)
Looks SO good! And lovely photos!

Laura Wright03/07/2014 - 8:05 am

Hi Melissa, you can sub the kombucha with almond or any other plant based milk.
-L

Brian @ A Thought For Food03/07/2014 - 8:06 am

Ok… now I know the two of us would be friends. This has my two favorite things… well, actually, three if we include the cheesecake (I can look past the vegan/raw element because I’m sure it’s incredibly creamy).

mimi03/07/2014 - 9:11 am

Such beautiful photographs. Your grilled veggies with cherries is really intriguing! I just wish I liked bourbon…

Amy @ Parsley In My Teeth03/07/2014 - 9:18 am

Wonderful recipes for the holiday weekend! And your gorgeous photos make them even more enticing. Summer’s off to a great start!

michelle03/07/2014 - 9:44 am

Gorgeous! All of it! I have a giant bottle of Makers Mark that is so ready for that libation this weekend. Also, nice glasses ;)

lynsey03/07/2014 - 10:01 am

I just bought that big ice cube tray and it is my new obsession… those big ice cubes are perfect for summertime drinks. Beautiful recipes!! xo.

Grace03/07/2014 - 10:45 am

I just want to soak this all in. So much beauty and feeling. It all looks wonderful!

sil @ entre jardins03/07/2014 - 10:57 am

That cherry cheesecake is sounds / looks divine, just my kind of dessert! Never used alcohol in my cheesecakes, does bourbon leave a strong taste? *silvia

Laura Wright03/07/2014 - 11:01 am

Hi Sil! Bourbon is a bit strong, but it has a natural sweetness/smoky quality too. If it’s not your kind of thing, feel free to leave it out entirely–it won’t make an absolutely huge difference :)
-L

Claire (Eat Well. Party Hard.)03/07/2014 - 12:05 pm

I am in love.

Christine03/07/2014 - 12:51 pm

Everything you make always looks so beautiful! I am excited to try these, you might make a bourbon-drinker out of me yet!

Kasey03/07/2014 - 3:00 pm

I’m ALL about feeling things this summer. What a beauty! xoxo

Kate03/07/2014 - 4:37 pm

I dig. Times three. Times infinity. Happy summer, Laura!

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Sini | my blue&white kitchen05/07/2014 - 11:38 am

If you have cherries and Bourbon, nothing can go wrong, rigth? Ever so inspiring, Laura! Hope your July started bright and sunny. xoxo

Liz @ Floating Kitchen05/07/2014 - 12:19 pm

Beautiful photos! I’m eating my weight in cherries this last few weeks. So good. This cocktail sounds really great!

Ami@NaiveCookCooks05/07/2014 - 4:21 pm

Girl, this cheesecake, those bourbon cherries and salad are so perfect together. Just what you need to enjoy with some friends!

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Kelly08/07/2014 - 10:32 am

Girl, you are just so effing good. Virtual hugging you right now.

Thalia @ butter and brioche09/07/2014 - 9:58 pm

YUM. awesome flavour combination… thanks for the great recipe and interesting read. glad i stumbled across your website.

Nikki@doctorsliferecipe10/07/2014 - 7:20 pm

Hello summer !! I feel like I’m in heaven !!

Kate @ ¡Hola! Jalapeño18/07/2014 - 4:48 pm

Stunning photos! That drink looks killer, going to pour myself a tall one right now!

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