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Mexican El Diablo

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When I think of cocktails I think of rum because most tiki drinks are usually made with at least one if not a variety of rums. There’s unaged, lightly aged, blended and long aged. There’s silver, spiced and black. There are so many rum options it can be hard to keep them all straight.

Luckily the new tiki book, Smuggler’s Cove: Exotic Cocktails, Rum and the Cult of Tiki, from Martin and Rebecca Cate not only has several tiki drinks, it also has a whole chapter on the origin of those rums and which kinds to get in order to make the perfect tiki cocktail. I read the chapter and followed the Cates’ rum suggestions so I could make great tiki cocktails all summer long.  I was totally prepared.  So you can imagine my surprise when the cocktail I chose to make this week didn’t have one drop of rum in it. That’s right, not one drop. It has tequila.

Yup, today’s cocktail is the Mexican El Diablo from Trader Vic’s. Although there’s no definite proof that Vic created this drink, its first known appearance is in his 1946 Book of Food and Drink. According to Cate, Vic was quoted as saying to “go easy on this (drink) because it’s tough on your running board.”

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Having sampled the cocktail, I can tell you it’s definitely on the stronger side. I’m sure it’s because of the blanco tequila which is pretty strong. But don’t let the tequila scare you, the drink itself is pretty tasty. It’s probably from the lime juice and crème de cassis which gives it a sweet, fruity punch.

This recipe has been shared numerous times in it’s 70 year existence and each recipe is the same save for one thing: the ginger ale. There seems to be some disagreement as to whether you finish the drink with ginger ale or ginger beer. It’s definitely ginger something. I made it with ginger ale, like they do at Smuggler’s Cove. But I’m sure the ginger beer is just as good, though it’ll definitely make it stronger.

No matter which version you choose, the Mexican El Diablo is one tasty drink. Even if it’s not made with rum, it’s in the Smuggler’s Cove Tiki book for a reason: it’s a great tiki cocktail. That and the fact that it comes from Trader Vic’s own menu is enough for me. Once you taste it, it’ll be enough for you too.

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Mexican El Diablo

Ingredients:

  • 1 lime wedge
  • 1/2 oz. lime juice
  • 1/2 oz. crème de cassis
  • 1-1/2 oz. blanco tequila
  • 4 oz. ginger ale

Directions:

  1. Squeeze and drop the lime wedge into a Collins glass.
  2. Fill the glass with cracked ice.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients in order and stir. Garnish with a swizzle stick and a straw and serve.

Strawberry Banana Bread

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I know strawberry season might be over (or at least the peak season is) but as long as there are strawberries at the farmer’s market, I consider it to be strawberry season. And I’m not alone. Three weeks ago we had our monthly Food Bloggers of Los Angeles meeting and the topic was strawberries and Snapchat.

See, every month we get together to discuss a different topic in the blogging world. But since we’re all foodies, we can’t just get together and talk. There needs to be some food involved. As I mentioned this month was all about strawberries. At first I thought about making something savory, but when push comes to shove, I love desserts, especially when they’re made with fresh fruit.

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Fruit desserts in the summer are the best. They just taste so fresh and so… well summer. I love all kinds of fruit desserts from peach to every kind of berry. But strawberry desserts are still some of my favorites. Another favorite of mine? Banana bread.

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I make a lot of banana bread because while my boys are huge fans of bananas, there are plenty of weeks when those bananas are neglected and end up a little too ripe for us to eat straight. It’s on those occasions that I make banana bread. I’ve made all kinds: plain, chocolate, I’ve even made a chocolate chip version. (Hmmm… maybe I should post one of those one of these days.) Anyway, when I saw this strawberry version, I knew I had to try it.

Plain bananas and strawberries weren’t enough, though. If there’s one thing that pairs well with strawberries it’s chocolate. So, I thought about making a chocolate banana bread with strawberries, but I didn’t want it to be that rich. It was a hot day after all and I don’t like rich desserts when it’s hot. So instead of the standard half cup of cocoa powder, I used a couple tablespoons. That way you got a hint of chocolate without the heavy, richness that usually comes with a chocolate banana bread. The end result was a delightful summer dessert that’s not only perfect for a food blogger meeting, but makes a great brunch option as well as a nice picnic choice.

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Strawberry Banana Bread (adapted from the Recipe Critic)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 3 very ripe bananas, mashed
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1-1/2 cups strawberries, hulled and chopped

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray a 9×5 loaf pan with nonstick spray. Set aside.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder in a small bowl and set aside.
  3. Cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and beat until combined. Mix in the mashed bananas.
  4. Slowly add the flour mixture to the banana mixture and mix until flour is just combined. Don’t overmix! Fold in the strawberries.
  5. Pour batter into the prepared pan and bake at 375°F for 15 minutes. REDUCE heat to 350°F and bake for an additional 30 minutes until the edges are golden brown or a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool completely before removing from the pan.

Fog Cutter

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I just got back from our annual family beach trip to northern California. Now, if you know anything about the Bay Area, you know that there are two temperatures in Nor Cal during the summer months: hot or freezing. It all depends on what time of summer you visit. If you’re there from May to July, most likely the fog will be in with a vengeance. But if you visit in August and September that fog has probably dissipated and you have beautiful blue skies.

I was there over the 4th of July which means thick fog. Unfortunately thick fog also means chilly temps, and I’m not talking 60’s. The average high while we were there was high 50’s… in July! I mean, there’s a reason Mark Twain was quoted as saying “the coldest winter (he) ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” Needless to say most of our week on the beach was spent inside next to the warm fireplace.  Don’t get me wrong, we had a wonderful time, we all just expected to spend the week in our bikinis on the water.

Usually if it’s foggy and cold in Marin, it’s sunny and warm in Los Angeles. I was wrong. We drove over 300 miles home and were greeted with the same foggy skies and chilly temperatures. It’s July 15th and I’m here to tell you I’m ready for some sun! So, in a desperate attempt to get rid of the fog, I made a Fog Cutter. I mean, who knows, maybe shaking up this classic would cut the fog in half and allow the sun to shine down on us for at least an hour or two.

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It worked! When I mixed up the cocktail there wasn’t a cloud in the sky. The sun was shining brightly and for the first time in a few weeks I was actually wearing a tank top. It was heaven.

Unlike other tiki cocktails out there, the Fog Cutter isn’t soley a rum drink. It actually has 3 different kinds of liquor in it. There’s the standard rum of course, but this drink also has pisco and gin in it. Those three liquors combined with two different kinds of citrus juice and a float of sherry, make this a drier tiki concoction. Don’t let that dryness fool you though, this cocktail packs a punch. Trader Vic (whose bar created the drink) believed that if you had one, the fog would clear, but if you had two or more, that fog would come rushing back.

Like most tiki cocktails this one changed as time marched on. The original 1940’s recipe from Tony Ramos (a bartender at Trader Vic’s) was made with brandy and sweet & sour mix. By the early 50’s the Fog Cutter became the Samoan Fog Cutter. The brandy was replaced with pisco and a float of sherry was added on top. If you enter a tiki bar today, this later version is most likely what you’ll be served, and it’s delicious.

So, if that summer fog has got you down, shake up a Fog Cutter. If you’re lucky it’ll clear the clouds. But be careful, more than one and that fog will come rushing back.

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Fog Cutter

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 oz. lemon juice
  • 1-1/2 oz. orange juice
  • 1/2 oz. orgeat
  • 1 oz. pisco
  • 1/2 oz. gin
  • 2 oz. aged rum
  • 1/2 oz. sherry

Directions:

  1. Combine all the ingredients except the sherry in a cocktail shaker. Add the ice and shake vigorously for 30 seconds. Pour into a zombie glass.
  2. Float the sherry on top, garnish with a sprig of mint and serve.

Chopped Vegetable Salad

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As many of you know I get a lot of my recipes from cookbooks and cooking magazines. The cookbooks come from many different places, but one of the most common is Melissa’s. I work with them quite often and attend several of their events. Each event usually has a theme and the most recent was all about food from Azerbaijan.

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Azerbaijan is a Middle Eastern country just north of Iran and east of Turkey. I love middle eastern food, so was very excited about this event. I thought I was going to enjoy Mediterranean salads, falafel, pita bread and a variety of hummus. While there were some similarities to these favorites, most of the food was unlike anything I’d tried before. There were vegetable kabobs… but they were in salad form. There was Rice Pilaf but it had fava beans and dill in it. There were meatballs… but instead of swimming in a Swedish sauce, they were bathed in a sweet and sour tomato sauce. All of it was delicious and thanks to Feride Buyuran’s new cookbook, Pomegranates & Saffron I’m able to recreate them any time I want to.

While I plan on making several of the dishes in this book, the first one I made was the delicious Chopped Vegetable Salad. It’s similar to a Greek Salad in that it has tomatoes and cucumbers, but what’s missing is the feta cheese. I spoke to Buyuran about the missing cheese and she told me that the people of Azerbaijan rarely put cheese on salads. She said they usually enjoy cheese with fresh herbs like basil or tarragon in a piece of pita bread as an appetizer. It sounded yummy and I can’t wait to try it.

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Yes, I missed the feta in this wonderful salad but the freshness of the tomatoes and cucumbers combined with the garlic and cilantro really brought out the vegetables’ flavors. It was a perfect salad for summer and one I plan on making again and again as long as tomatoes are at the farmer’s market.

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Chopped Vegetable Salad

Ingredients:

  • 4 Persian cucumbers, diced
  • 4 medium heirloom tomatoes diced
  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

Directions:

  1. Toss all the ingredients together in a mixing bowl and serve immediately.

Boston Rum Punch

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I like to make special cocktails for holidays. You know, something that will serve a large group because holidays always give people a reason to party. Since I like to mingle at my soireés, the last thing I want to do is mix drinks all night. So, I usually make a punch.

The 4th of July is perfect for a punch for a couple reasons. It serves a large group of people and is great for backyard barbecues. Unlike other punches out there, this one is pretty easy as it only takes two ingredients: rum and lemonade. While I prefer to make my own lemonade from the numerous lemons I always seem to have lying around, you could easily buy a carton at your favorite grocery store.

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If this punch sounds like a spiked lemonade, you’re right. Yes, there are lots of spiked lemonades out there. (I even made one for Memorial Day.) But what makes this one different is that it’s been around since the revolution.

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According to David Wondrich, Bostonians have been drinking versions of rum punch since the turn of the 18th century. See, it’s commonly believed that whiskey is the original American liquor, but it turns out rum actually came first thanks to all the sugar available from the West Indies. When the colonists went to saloons and taverns it wasn’t whiskey or mead they were drinking, more times than not it was rum. While the settlers often drank rum on its own, they also liked to mix it. Most of the time those mixers were citrus juices which is why we now have this delicious Boston Rum Punch.

So whether you buy your lemonade or mix it up, I couldn’t think of a better punch with which to watch the fireworks. After all if the colonists were planning the revolution while imbibing punches like this, it seems only right that we celebrate the birth of our nation with the same drink. Happy 4th, everyone.

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Boston Rum Punch

Ingredients:

  • 4 lemons
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 oz. rum

Directions:

  1. Peels the lemons. Muddle the lemon peels and sugar together in a bowl. Let stand for an hour or two to extract the lemon oil. Add the water and stir until the sugar dissolves. Refrigerate until ready to use.
  2. Once the lemonade is ready, fill a shaker with ice. Add the rum and 5 ounces of the lemonade. Cover and shake to combine the flavors. Pour into a pint glass, garnish with a wedge of lemon and serve.