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Margaritas

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Time: Depends on how many you’ve already had

Inspired by: My love for Mexico.. and tequila makes all parties rock! While I already enjoyed Tajín® Clásico Seasoning, in numerous ways, my surfer friend Nicole was the one who suggested it as an alternative to salt for rimming a margarita glass. There is NO BETTER WAY. And I also thank her for this picture. We surf together every November (my birthday month) in Southern Mexico. She makes margaritas for us each night, while I make dinner. Her job (squeezing all of those limes!) is much more difficult. The picture above is the gift she made for my 49th birthday. Nothing could have been more perfect 🙂

Supplies: Margarita shaker, plate wide enough for dipping/salting the rim of the glass, and margarita pitchers if you are making these in larger batches

Ingredients:

  • 3 parts reposado tequila
  • 3 parts fresh lime juice
  • 1 part Cointreau
  • Tajín® Clásico Seasoning, salt, or salt with a bit of Cayenne mixed in to rim your glass

Preparation for One Glass:

  • Moisten the rim of your glass with a lime wedge and dip it into the Tajín or salt
  • Add to shaker: tequila (3 shots), lime juice (3 shots), Cointreau (1 shot), ice cubes, and shake well
  • Put some ice cubes into the glass
  • Pour the shaker contents into the glass while straining out the ice, then add additional ice as needed
  • Garnish with a slice of lime

Notes:  I do not like sweet margaritas – I prefer to really taste the tequila and the fresh lime. If you prefer yours sweet, add additional Cointreau or a dash of Agave syrup.  Fresh lime juice is the only way to go and rimming with Tajín is the final perfect touch to me. In case you are not familiar with the salty/chile/limey flavor of Tajín, I included a link above. These are pretty strong margaritas, but they rock! If you plan to be drinking them like they are going out of style, you might consider cutting the tequila quantity back just a bit!


Prickly Pear Cactus Sorbet

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Prickly Pear Cactus Sorbet

Time: 30 minutes to prepare (chill overnight); 10-20 minutes in sorbet maker.

Serves: 6 – 10 single small scoops.

Inspired by: My long time friend Emmett Lynch brought some goodies from nearby orchards. One bag he said was “dangerous” and not to stick my hands into. I peeked inside and saw those beautiful prickly pear fruits that I grew up with in the Arizona dessert! I had a dinner planned with some friends with multiple courses, so decided to use them to make a beautiful deep purple sorbet with lots of lemon and lime. My plan was to serve it as a palate cleanser, or as a transition between the last dinner course and dessert, so I made it a bit more tart than sweet.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5-2 pounds of large prickly pear fruits
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1-2 teaspoons Cointreau (optional)
  • 3-4 tablespoons lime juice
  • 3-4 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon or lime zest
  • Pinch of salt
  • Fresh mint for garnish

Preparation:

  • Make a simple syrup by simmering the 1/2 cup water with the 1/4 cup sugar.
  • Cool mixture in refrigerator.
  • Use tongs to hold the fruits over an open fire (gas stove) and burn off the needles (without burning the fruit).
  • Cut off the outside layer of skin and preserve as much fruit as possible. Use a non-staining plastic cutting board and gloves if you don’t want purple stains on your hands and board.
  • Put fruit in blender with the simple syrup, pinch of salt, zest, and half of the lemon and lime juices. Puree well and taste.
  • Add additional lemon and lime juice until you get your desired level of acidity.
  • Strain through a fine mesh sieve to remove seeds and any pieces of skin.
  • Chill in refrigerator overnight if possible – or at least for several hours.
  • Run this through a sorbet maker. Freeze for a few hours if you would like a harder consistency.

Spiced Cashews

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Spiced Cashews

Prep Time: 5-10 minutes

Inspired by: I’ve always loved cashews and almonds, but my favorite is when they are salty and spicy. I was headed out to a party a few nights ago and thought it would be fun to try my spice blend on some cashews. We loved them.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound bag of unsalted roasted cashews
  • 1-2 tablespoons Spice it Up …by Karen™
  • 1 teaspoon of melted butter (I used unsalted because the spice already has salt, but if you like salty go for the salted butter)

Preparation: Set the oven to about 200 degrees. Toss the cashews in the melted butter – just barely coat them. Then toss with the spice blend until they are covered well. Spread on a cookie sheet and put in the oven for about 5 minutes. Watch them carefully – they will brown very quickly with the butter. This gives them a slightly toaster look and taste and dries the butter out a bit.

Notes: I think anything salty and fatty is fabulous with wine – so these are perfect to nibble on while sipping wine!


Traditional Red Sangria

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Traditional Red Sangria

Time: This shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes for one batch, but if you are making multiple batches for a party, it can be time consuming to cut up the fruit. It’s also best if you make it 24 hours or so before drinking.

Serves: This recipe yields 6 large wine goblet sized glasses, or 10 smaller glasses.

Inspired by: My visit to Barcelona, Spain in the early 1990’s to visit my friend Georgia when she was living there. We had fabulous sangria with fabulous friends. I think the fruitiness/sweetness of sangria goes well with many of the spices and garlic used in some of the typical Spanish tapas. I don’t make this often, but now and then it’s fun and festive for a party.

Ingredients:

  • 1 bottle of red wine (wine suggestions in the “notes” below)
  • 1/2 cup of orange liqueur (I prefer Grand Marnier to Cointreau but both are better than triple sec)
  • 1-1/2 cups of orange juice
  • 1 orange sliced into thin rounds
  • 1 lemon sliced into thin rounds
  • 1 lime sliced into thin rounds
  • 1 apple cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 nectarine (or other stone fruit – peach, plum, mango) cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1/4 cup sugar (optional)

Preparation: Put the wine, orange liqueur, and fruit into an airtight container (ideally something easy to shake). Refrigerate it overnight and then taste it to decide if you’d like to add some sugar to sweeten it a bit. If you do, first dissolve the sugar in 1/4 cup of boiling water. Let it cool to room temperature and then add it and shake up your sangria well. You might even want to add a little bit at a time so you can taste it before you add too much.

Notes: Most sangria recipes call for at least 1/4 cup of sugar per one bottle of wine – but I often feel this makes it way too sweet. Sweetness will depend a bit on the type of wine, liquor and orange juice you use, and it is also just a matter of personal preference. Don’t waste your fine wine on sangria, but don’t use 2 buck chuck either!  You can usually get 1.5 liter bottles of a basic Mondavi or Woodbridge Cab or Zinfandel at BevMo for $10 and that is a good enough base. You can blend different a couple of different varietals too.


Gazpacho

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Gazpacho

Time: 15-30 minutes to prepare; I prefer to prepare this a day or two ahead of serving so flavors can meld.

Serves: 6 (I typically make 2-3 batches at a time for a party and fill up a punch bowl).

Inspired by: My mom made this when I was growing up. This is very similar to her original recipe. I’ve had many different versions of gazpacho over the years and love them all.  If you have access to really flavorful tomatoes, this is fabulous.

Ingredients:

  • 1 firm medium cucumber (2-3 cups chopped). I prefer English or Persian cucumbers so I can leave the skin on.
  • 6-8 medium to large ripe, red tomatoes, quartered with white cores removed (this recipe is all about the tomatoes so pick really yummy ones!). I leave the skins on.
  • 1-2 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2-4 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 1-2 tablespoons Tobasco
  • 1 small piece fresh Jalapeño (optional for extra heat)
  • ¼ Bermuda or other sweet, white onion cut into a few pieces (optional – I skip this because I’m not a fan of raw onion)
  • ¼ – ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 -3 cups organic tomato puree  – this is optional, but boosts the flavor and red color
  • Optional garnishes: garlic croutons, blue corn chips, chopped cucumbers, parsley, cilantro, green onions

Preparation:

  • Chop the cucumber into large chunks and pulse in the food processor. I prefer keeping the cucumber a bit chunky and crispy instead of turning it into white puree or foam. I think it improves the texture and color. White puree can make red soup turn pink. Remove and put into a separate bowl.
  • Use food processor on pulse mode again to combine the rest of the ingredients. You can stop pulsing when it is still a bit chunky or you can blend it smooth. I prefer it a little bit chunky. It’s best to do this in batches if your food processor isn’t that large.
  • Taste, and if needed, add additional salt, chili powder, Tobasco or Jalapeño to your preference.
  • Pour into large bowl and hand mix in the chopped cucumber.
  • Refrigerate to chill and blend the flavors.
  • Serve at room temperature or just slightly chilled.
  • You can garnish with chopped parsley, spring onions, cilantro, or with something crunchy such as blue chips or croutons.

Mango-Nectarine Sangria

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Mango Nectarine Sangria

Time: This shouldn’t take more than 20 minutes for one batch, but if you are making multiple batches for a party, it can be time consuming to cut up the fruit. It’s also best if you make it 24 hours or so before drinking.

Serves: This recipe yields about 5 large wine goblet sized glasses, or 8 smaller glasses.

Inspired by: I went to Joya in Palo Alto with my good friends Christine and Kristi a couple of months ago to celebrate Kristi’s birthday. The bartender gave us a taste of their peach sangria and it was yummy! It was the first time I had white sangria. I hosted a Spanish themed-party last night and finally got a chance to try something similar. Peaches aren’t in season right now, but I did find nectarines and I love mangos so decided to give that a try with ingredients similar to my red sangria recipe. We all thought this was really yummy. The flavors of the fruit really came through!

Ingredients:

  • 1 bottle of white wine  (see notes below)
  • 1/2 cup Grand Marnier
  • 1 mango, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 2 nectarines, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 lime, cut into thin circles (optional – good to include if the wine is a very low acid wine)
  • ¼ cup mint leaves
  • ¼ cup sugar (optional)

Preparation: Put the Grand Marnier, wine, mango, nectarines and lime in an airtight container (ideally something easy to shake). Refrigerate it overnight and taste it the next day. If you’d like it to be a bit sweeter, dissolve the sugar in boiling water, let it cool to room temperature, add it to your sangria and shake it well. You might want to add a little bit at a time and taste it until it reaches your desired sweetness. A few hours before serving, stir in the mint leaves. Serve chilled.

Notes: Viongier or Torrontes seem like great options for this sangria because of their fabulous aromatics. However, I’ve even tried this with a fairly rich chardonnay and surprisingly, that worked just fine too. Most sangria recipes suggest adding sugar when you combine all the initial ingredients, but I thought it turned out a bit too sweet when I did this the first time. The type of wine and fruit you use will influence the sweetness, and sweetness is also a matter of personal preference. This is why I’ve suggested waiting to add the sugar after it sits overnight so you can get it to your desired sweetness.


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