August 31, 2012

lime mock-a-rita

My favorite margarita to make at home comes frozen, with five ingredients: fresh lime juice, a simple syrup of sugar and water, tequila, and triple sec. At Chuy's restaurant, where we often ate when we lived in Austin, we were introduced to the fancier sangria margarita, frozen, with a swirl of sangria mixed in. For our less-fancy home version, we simply stir in a shooter made with fruity red wine and peach schnapps.

Sometimes, though, it's nice to have a non-alcoholic version to suit anyone who likes the margarita's lime-y sweet taste, but prefers it without the extra baggage, so to speak. What you'll have instead is basically a sophisticated slushie. A fun trick is to use an electric ice cream maker to create the slush, but if your kitchen is sans ice cream maker, you can create that same texture with a very similar approach to making granita. The only difference in technique is that instead of shaving the ice as it freezes to create a fluffy texture, you stir the liquid as it freezes to create a slushy texture. To get the hit of extra flavor that the red wine shooter adds, I reduced pomegranate juice to a syrup and layered that with the slush just before serving. If left in the freezer indefinitely, the slush will freeze to a hard consistency. Just remove the hardened slush from the freezer, let it warm up for a bit, stir to loosen it up, and it'll be ready to go again.

As margaritas go, this one's on the sweetly acidic side, so be sure to balance the drink with some creamy chili con queso or chunky guacamole, and you'll be on your way to a little taste of what we call "Tex-Mex" around these parts.

August 24, 2012

lime, mint and coconut oil scones

As summer begins to wind down and school schedules start to wind up, it's good to take every opportunity you can to enjoy what's left of it and the flavors that suit it. Perfect to make for a weekend breakfast, the inspiration for these scones, adapted from a recipe in the King Arthur Flour Baker's Catalogue, comes from the Cuban cocktail known as a mojito. With freshly ground soft spring whole wheat flour as a background, the scones have the double hit of fresh lime and mint, with a generous sprinkle of sugar topping, and really are reminiscent of the refreshing drink. Serve with a side of scrambled eggs to round things out, and enjoy what's left of the lazy days of summer.

August 17, 2012

stuffed cherry tomatoes, three ways

A few months ago, we bought three healthy, thriving tomato starts from a vendor at a farmer's market. We planted, fertilized, and watered them, but alas, juicy, sweet, home-grown tomatoes from our garden were not to be this summer. We really haven't had much success at all with growing tomatoes, aside from a few scant cherry tomatoes last summer. I'm mystified as to why, though it's probably no mystery to more experienced gardeners than me. For tomatoes, I guess I'll have to depend on local farmer's markets until that lucky season when we successfully harvest our own.

Tarragon and Lemon

If you are one of those fortunate tomato gardeners, and you have a surplus of cherry tomatoes, this recipe is a versatile appetizer that won't require much cooking with heat other than hard-boiling the eggs. For more depth of flavor, take a couple of minutes to make your own homemade garlic mayonnaise, also known as alioli, using this virtually fool-proof immersion blender method. I've included three suggestions for combinations of flavors and a simple ratio for the egg base below so you can make as many or as few stuffed tomatoes as you want. Most everything can be prepped ahead of time if you need to; let the finished egg mixtures sit for awhile before scooping onto the tomatoes and serving so the flavors come together thoroughly.

August 10, 2012

strawberries with sweet orange liqueur & cardamom

Here in the United States, the month of July was the warmest on record, and the heat doesn't appear to be subsiding yet. What's needed is a little relief, something cool and easy, and I think some simply dressed fruit is perfectly appropriate. Since this recipe is the type you throw together by feel and taste, it hardly needs an explanation, or even an exact amount for each ingredient-just make as much or as little as you want. I really did just throw it together the other night after dinner, and as hoped, the flavors played very well together for a light, refreshing finish to the meal. The liqueur and cardamom-coated strawberries, especially when left to soak for awhile, go beautifully with vanilla ice cream, too. Serve in a bowl to share, or if you're concerned you won't get enough, make a bowl all for yourself.

August 3, 2012

keeping herbs

During the month of July, our house was filled with Southern home-grown fruit. From our own garden, we had ripe cantaloupe and plump figs, and from the South Florida farm of a neighbor's relatives, we had platanos burros (bananas), Russell avocados, and the national fruit of Cuba, mamey. From the surplus of fruit I made fig jam, figs filled with gorgonzola and wrapped in prosciutto, fig tarts with honey, cantaloupe wrapped with prosciutto, guacamole, avocado remoulade, an adapted version of plátanos maduros (fried sweet plantains) using the bananas fried in coconut oil, banana cookies, banana muffins, and a smoothie. I also experimented a little with the mamey, puréeing and flavoring it with the same ingredients as this sweet potato dish. We ate some of all that fruit plain and simple too, most often for breakfast. It was a good month.