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I discovered mojo a long time ago. I don’t remember when exactly, I just remember that I liked it. A lot. What is mojo (pronounced MO-ho)? It’s a garlicky, citrusy sauce that’s often used as a marinade and a finishing sauce. It’s Latin-based and it’s always amazing, especially when served on or with pork. While you can buy the sauce at plenty of Latin markets, it’s super easy to make. All you need is some garlic, some fresh orange juice and some spices. It’s really that easy.

I said the mojo sauce is often used when preparing or serving pork and maybe even chicken. What I’ve never seen though is it used as a salad dressing. America’s Test Kitchen changed all that. They made the marinade and then took half of it and used it for a simple salad of jicama and orange slices. This is why I’m such a fan of America’s Test Kitchen. They introduced me to something that I ended up loving.

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See, whenever I go to their site or cookbooks I always learn or discover something new and this recipe was no different. I was thrilled to discover that mojo can be used as both a marinade and a salad dressing. (Just make sure you separate them first. After all, you don’t want to dress your salad with the same sauce your raw meat has been soaking in.)

But what really got me excited about this recipe is that it can be used any time of year. It’s great during the winter months, but it’s also ideal during the spring and summer. See, while the mojo works well no matter how you cook your protein, my favorite way to eat is when the protein is grilled. That way you not only get that delicious garlicky, citrus flavor, you also get some wonderful smokey undertones that make the meal even more complex, and thereby more satisfying.

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Mojo Pork Chops with Orange and Jicama Salad

Ingredients:

  • 2 oranges
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1/2 jicama, peeled and cut into matchsticks
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro, minced
  • 4 bone-in pork chops

Directions:

  1. Cut away the peel and pith from the oranges. Holding the orange over a bowl, slice the membranes to release the orange segments. Set aside a 1/4 cup of orange juice.
  2. Heat the oil in a small saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the garlic and cumin and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Transfer the oil mixture to a bowl and whisk in the lime juice, sugar and reserved orange juice. Let the mojo mixture cool.
  3. Preheat a grill to 300°F.
  4. While the grill heats, place the jicama, orange segments and cilantro in another bowl. Add a 1/4 cup of mojo and toss to coat.
  5. Add the pork chops to a third bowl with another 1/4 cup of the mojo sauce and coat both sides of the chops. Sprinkle the chops with salt and pepper.
  6. Grill the chops until the edges turn opaque. Flip and continue grilling until cooked all the way through, about 5 minutes. Transfer the chops to a platter and let rest for five minutes.
  7. Drizzle the remaining mojo sauce over the chops and serve immediately with the orange salad.

Demerera Dry Float

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One of the most common fruit juices used in tiki cocktails is pineapple. This has always been a problem for me because I’m allergic to pineapple. So, I’ve always either tried to find a drink without pineapple in it or I’ve asked that they substitute passion fruit. Luckily today’s drink doesn’t have pineapple in it. It does have passion fruit though and plenty of rum.

I love passion fruit juice. Since I’ve been to Hawaii and Mexico several times, I’ve actually enjoyed the juice in several cocktails. Until this drink though, I’d never tasted the fruit fresh out of its shell. It was amazing! The fruit is tart and sweet all at the same time. It’s totally tropical and absolutely wonderful, especially if you can’t eat pineapple. There’s one small problem though: there’s not much juice. I cracked open half a dozen of those little purple fruits and only got an ounce of juice in total. Luckily an ounce was all I needed to make the Float.

While I got the recipe out of the awesome new tiki book from Smuggler’s Cove, neither I nor Smuggler’s Cove came up with the recipe. That honor goes to Don the Beachcomber who opened up his bar shortly after Prohibition ended. He supposedly created this cocktail in 1941 and it’s definitely stood the test of time.

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What makes this cocktail special, isn’t just the passion fruit juice, it’s the fact that it’s “served with a side of danger”. Yes, my curiosity was piqued. What in the world was a “side of danger”? Turns out it’s a super high proof rum. The original recipe called for 151 Demerara Rum which as I’m sure you’ve guessed, is rum that’s 151 proof. While that shot is still served with the drink, it’s up to you whether you want to sip (or shoot) the shot first, or float it on top of the fully made cocktail. I chose to float it on top. (I mean, if a cocktail is called a float, I might as well do what it says.) It definitely makes for a stronger cocktail, but the good news is it doesn’t take away anything. In fact, I’d say it only enhances the drink. And don’t worry if you can’t fine Demerera rum, any good, strong, dark rum will work for this cocktail.

So, if you really like rum (especially strong rum) and you want tropical but are over pineapple, the Demerera Dry Float is the tiki drink for you. I loved it and can’t wait to make it again, only this time I’m going to get twice as many passion fruits.

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Demerera Dry Float

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 oz. high proof rum
  • 2 oz. lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 oz. passion fruit syrup (mixture of 1:1 passion fruit juice and simple syrup)
  • 1/4 oz. simple syrup
  • 1/4 oz. Luxardo Maraschino liqueur
  • 1-1/2 oz. blended aged rum

Directions:

  1. Pour the high proof rum into a shot glass and set aside.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients to a cocktail shaker. Fill with ice and shake vigorously until chilled. Open pour into a double old fashioned glass and serve with the shot. (At this point it’s up to the drinker if he/she wants to shoot the shot or float it on top of the cocktail.)

Lemony Chicken Couscous Salad

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During the hot summer months, one of my favorite meals is a salad. I love salads because they’re cold and light and usually pretty healthy. You can have them with or without proteins, as a side or an entrée, you can even add fruit if you want to. With so many options, they just may be the greatest meal ever. But want to know what makes them even better? Adding grilled chicken or beef.

One thing I’d never considered adding to a salad though, was couscous or rice. But thanks to a recipe I found in Better Homes and Gardens, that all changed. Now not only did I have a wonderful summer entrée, I had a dinner that was both filling and delicious.

My favorite thing about couscous is that it takes no time to make. Seriously. You just add some water or stock to a pan, bring it to a boil, add the couscous, cover and wait five minutes. That’s it. Five minutes and you have soft, fluffy couscous that’s absolutely delicious all by itself as a side or mixed with peas and chicken like in this salad. And because it’s a grain similar to rice, it’s super filling.

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While shredded meat or leftover proteins make great additions to a salad, I prefer grilled meats on my salad. It doesn’t matter if it’s chicken or steak, if it’s grilled, not only do I get to cook the protein outside, the smokey flavor from the grill permeates through the whole salad and gives it a wonderful outdoorsy taste. I love those smokey flavors. It’s actually one of my favorite things about summer because it gives me the chance to taste them again and again because I get to grill again and again.

So, I guess this salad is the perfect storm of summer food. You get a grilled protein, you get a delicious salad, and you get a filling grain that makes for one awesome entrée.

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Lemony Chicken Couscous Salad

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice, divided
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 cloves garlic, grated
  • 4 tablespoons oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon thyme, chopped
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 cup peas, fresh or frozen
  • 1/2 pound green beans, trimmed
  • 1/4 cup green olives, pitted and chopped
  • 1/4 cup Italian parsley, chopped

Directions:

  1. Whisk together 2 tablespoons lemon juice, lemon zest, garlic, thyme, 1 teaspoon salt and 2 tablespoons olive oil until salt is dissolved. Add the chicken, turning to coat. Let the chicken marinate covered and chilled for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.
  2. Preheat a grill to 350°F.
  3. Grill the chicken, turning occasionally until cooked all the way through, 15 – 20 minutes. Transfer to a plate to rest.
  4. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the green beans and peas and cook for 3 – 4 minutes or until tender. Drain and set aside.
  5. Make the couscous according to the package directions.
  6. In a large bowl mix the prepared vegetables together with the couscous, olives and parsley. Transfer to a large platter.
  7. Slice the chicken and add to the couscous mixture.
  8. Whisk the chicken drippings, remaining lemon juice and olive oil together in a small bowl. Drizzle over the couscous salad and serve immediately.

Suffering Bastard

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As you know I’ve been making tiki cocktail after tiki cocktail this summer. In making all these tiki cocktails I’ve learned something I never knew before: not all tiki drinks are made with rum. As a matter of fact, several of them don’t have a single drop. The Suffering Bastard is just such a tiki cocktail.

Instead of rum, this drink normally uses gin and bourbon. I say “normally” because the original recipe called for bourbon. Smuggler’s Cove decided to switch the bourbon for brandy though. That switch definitely makes for a sweeter cocktail. If however you’re not a brandy fan, or you’re looking for a little more oomph, simply try the original recipe and use an ounce of bourbon. Either way, the combination of gin and brandy (or gin and bourbon) with citrus juice is more than enough to make it taste like a tropical drink that you could be sipping on the beach somewhere. Or in the middle of a sandy desert.

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I know, you probably don’t think of drinking tropical cocktails in the middle of the desert, but that’s exactly how this one started. It was created by Joe Scialom at the Long Bar inside the Shepherd Hotel in Cairo at the height of WWII. See, lots of British soldiers frequented the Long Bar looking for something to drink so they could forget about the previous or impending battle. Scialom provided the Suffering Bastard and it was a hit. The drink became so popular in fact that Trader Vic’s, as well as several other tiki bars around the country, picked up the cocktail and started serving it to their patrons.

I’m not sure what about the cocktail made people think tiki. Maybe it was the citrus juices. Maybe it was the time and location it was created. Maybe it was the ginger beer. Whatever the reason, the Suffering Bastard is now happily part of the tiki culture. So, if you’re not a rum fan, but love all things tiki, this is the drink for you.

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Suffering Bastard

Ingredients:

  • 4 oz. ginger beer
  • 1/2 oz. lime juice
  • 1/2 oz. simple syrup
  • 1 oz. gin
  • 1 oz. brandy (or bourbon)
  • 1 dash Angostura bitters

Directions:

  1. Pour the ginger beer into a highball glass.
  2. Mix the remaining ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake vigorously.
  3. Strain the liquor into the ginger beer. Fill the glass with plenty of cracked ice, garnish with a sprig of mint and a swizzle stick and serve.

Ginger Plum Pie

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I’ve always loved pie. It didn’t matter the flavor. If it was hot and had a flakey crust and maybe even had a scoop of vanilla ice cream melting on top, I was in. My favorite kinds of pie have always been fruit pies. Strawberry, blackberry, blueberry… I could go on and on.

Of course the best kind of fruit pies are pies that are made when the fruit is fresh and in season. That means the best pies are made during the spring and summer because that’s when strawberries, raspberries, peaches and plums are in season. And it just so happens that plums are in season right now, which is why I’m sharing this delicious pie with you.

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While I’m a huge fan of making pies, there is one thing of which I’m not a fan: making crust. I’ve never been able to get the hang of it. I have no problem chopping the fruit and mixing in the sugar and lemon juice and whatever else needs to go inside the pie, but when it comes to the crust, I’m just super intimidated. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll keep trying to make the perfect crust, but until that ah-ha moment happens, I’ll stick with store-bought crusts, thank you. (Please don’t judge me.)

Using a store-bought crust or prepared pie dough makes this pie a cinch to make. You could even buy all the ingredients this morning and have the pie made for dessert tonight. It’s seriously that easy. Why? Because once you take the crust out of the equation you only need a few things to make one of the sweetest, spiciest pies out there.

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Spiciest? Yes, I said spiciest. Okay, it’s not the spiciest dessert out there, but there’s a definite bite to this pie and it’s glorious. The bite comes from the candied ginger as well as the ground ginger that’s used in both the filling as well as the struesel topping. The ginger gives the pie a little extra zing that wake up your taste buds and keep you coming back for more.

So when you head to the market, make sure you grab a bag of candied ginger and some fresh, sweet plums, because you’re gonna want to make this pie at least once before plum season is over. Once? Who am I kidding. You’ll be making it for every outdoor cookout on the calendar until the clouds roll in or plum season comes to an end.

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Ginger Plum Pie (adapted from Sift)

Ingredients:

  • 10 plums, pitted and chopped
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon candied ginger, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger, divided
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 package rolled refrigerated unbaked piecrust (2 crusts)
  • 1 egg white, beaten
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly oil or grease a 9-inch cast iron skillet and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl mix together the first six ingredients (through the lemon zest) and let sit at room temperature for at least 15 minutes.
  3. While the filling sits, roll out 1 of the pie crusts on a floured surface. Gently put it in the prepared skillet. Brush the egg white over the inside of the crust.
  4. Mix up the streusel topping: sift together the flour, sugar and 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger. Cut in the butter until the mixture looks like coarse crumbles. Set aside.
  5. Spoon the plum mixture into the prepared pie crust. Sprinkle the streusel topping over the fruit. Bake the pie for about 50 minutes or until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is golden brown. Let cool for at least 10 minutes and serve.