Lately, I’ve been looking into more Latin American spirits to make cocktails with. Whether to make a classic cocktail like a Paloma, or create my own concoction, I’ve tried to take inspiration from those regions to build the flavors in each drink.
Using Ron Zacapa was an immediate must when thinking of Latin American spirits. As a Guatemalan who also grew up in a family owned Guatemalan restaurant, I’ve seen bottles of Ron Zacapa my entire life. Now as an adult, I have come to appreciate just how special this rum is. Sweet and spicy, this rum felt like a great match for homemade horchata with vanilla and cinnamon. A splash of cold brew gives it a bolder taste and prevents this drink from getting too sweet.
Cold Brew Ron-chata: 2oz Ron Zacapa, 3oz horchata, 1.5oz cold brew
Combine all ingredients and mix. Garnish with cinnamon stick. Can be served with hot coffee as well for a satisfying hot drink.
The Paloma has been a popular drink for quite some time, and for good reason. Grapefruit in cocktails has long been a favorite of mine, and this one has rapidly gone up on my list. This version combines the smokiness of mezcal with the spice of Tajín, creating something that is both potent in flavor and smooth to drink.
Paloma: 2 oz mezcal, 3 oz grapefruit juice, ¾ oz lime juice, ½ tsp sugar, 1oz seltzer, dash of Tajín plus more for rim
Combine the citrus juices, Tajín, and sugar in a glass and stir to dissolve the sugar, then add the mezcal. Pour into a glass with ice and Tajín on the rim, top with seltzer.
Previously, I had only had pisco in a standard pisco sour, and though that is a good use of this Peruvian brandy, I decided to bring in a bit more variety when putting together this drink. The mild tartness of hibiscus plus the biting flavor of ginger combine well with pisco for a very refreshing and flavorful cocktail.
Hibiscus and Ginger Pisco Iced Tea: ¾ cup brewed hibiscus tea (cooled), ¾oz ginger syrup, 2oz pisco, 1oz seltzer
Combine all ingredients except for seltzer in a shaker with ice. Shake and strain into a glass, top with seltzer.
After a very wet winter I’m looking forward to enjoying these cool drinks all summer.
This combination is my go to for a quick simple salad on weeknights, or for hosting dinner parties when I want something light yet satisfying to accompany the meal. Although the base is simple, the addition of the flavorful fennel and the nuttiness of the toasted pumpkin seeds make it stand out from the average garden salad.
Ingredients: 1 bag mixed butter lettuce and radicchio (or 1 head of each), 3 purple carrots, 1 large fennel bulb, 1/4 cup raw pumpkin seeds, 1 avocado, 2 large garlic cloves, 1 small shallot, 6 Tbsp lemon juice, 3 Tbsp white wine vinegar, 6 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper
Instructions: First toast the pumpkin seeds in a dry skillet over medium heat. You will start to hear a crackle when they have started to toast. Turn flame off about a minute after the crackling starts. The seeds will continue to toast on the hot skillet. Then prepare the vegetables by thinly slicing the fennel (it helps to use a mandolin slicer), cut the avocado into long strips, and thinly shave the carrots with a peeler.
Next, make the dressing by finely mincing the garlic and shallots. Add both to a container with a lid along with lemon juice, vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Cover the container and shake well.
Place the lettuce, prepared vegetables, and toasted pumpkin seeds in a large bowl. Right before serving, pour as much of the dressing as you’d like on top and mix well. Serve as a side to a meal, or add a protein to make it a meal of its own.
I recently hosted a little baby shower for one of my closest friends, and made some succulent cupcakes to go with the overall succulent theme. I’ve seen some gorgeous versions online, and mine are far from their level of artistry, but I had a lot of fun playing around with the different piping tips and am pleased with the final results.
I started off by mixing a few colors, two shades of green for the main bodies of the plant shapes, and two shades of pink for smaller accents.
I then striped one of the bags with the darker fuchsia, and filled the rest of the bag with the darker green color to create a two toned pattern when piping. I used this color combination, as well as plain green to pipe a few different plant shapes, playing around with the technique as I went.
For the lighter green frosting, I piped a basic cactus shape, then used white for the prickly parts, and the lighter pink to make tiny flowers on top. Once I had made a decent amount of plants I placed them all on a baking sheet and froze them for a couple of hours to allow for easier transportation onto the cupcakes.
With the leftover frosting, I then decided to mix in a bit more color to the fuchsia and to the green to create two more tones to be used for smaller accents. With those and the light pink I piped some basic leaves and flowers straight onto the cupcakes to fill in some empty spaces.
With a small baby occupying most of our free time, we’ve been relying on simple dishes that don’t require much time in the kitchen, and are good to eat at any temperature. It’s easy to make a whole meal out of a few vegetable based side dishes, and one of my favorites has become this roasted cauliflower dish with tahini sauce. Adding pistachios for crunch, and dry figs for sweetness make this side dish more interesting without having to do much prep work.
Ingredients: 2 heads of cauliflower, 2 Tbsp olive oil, 1/4 cup pistachios, 3 whole dry figs, 1/4 cup tahini, juice of 1 lemon, 2 minced garlic cloves, large sprig of dill ripped up into smaller pieces, 1/2 tsp sumac, salt and pepper to taste.
Instructions: Pre-heat oven to 375F. Cut up the cauliflower heads into small florets and spread on a baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil and add salt and pepper to taste. Roast in oven for about 30 minutes, the cauliflower should start to brown on the edges, but not so much that it gets mushy.
While the cauliflower is roasting, make the sauce by mixing tahini, lemon juice, and garlic in a small bowl. Season with salt and add a little bit of water to thin it out.
Place the cauliflower on a serving dish, and drizzle with sauce. Chop the dry figs into small pieces and scatter on top, along with pistachios. Finish by topping with a few small sprigs of dill and sumac. Enjoy as a side to a main course, or on its own for a light meal.
James and I are both very fond of seafood, and growing up in New England meant that we were lucky enough to have easy access to a great variety of fish and shellfish. I have many memories of going fishing with my family and then taking the fish home and promptly eating them whole, simply seasoned and succulent. Every so often we love to seek out whole fresh fish to bring home, and thoroughly enjoy the process of picking out all the delicate bones. This recipe is one that can be used on just about any fish, and is especially great to put together on hot summer days when all you need is a light meal.
Ingredients (for fish): Two whole branzino with insides cleaned and scales removed, 2 large rosemary sprigs, 1 lemon (sliced in rounds), 4 large sprigs thyme, 2 tsp salt, 1 tbsp olive oil.
Instructions: Heat oven to 400F. Season each fish inside and out with salt. Fill each fish cavity with 1 sprig of rosemary, 2 sprigs of thyme and half of the lemon slices. Heat olive oil on a large skillet, and cook each fish on hot oil for 2 minutes per side. Transfer fish to a baking dish and roast in oven for 12 minutes.
Ingredients (for chimichurri): 1/2 cup basil leaves, 1/2 cup fresh parsley, 1/4 cup fresh oregano, 1/4 cup fresh mint, 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup lemon juice, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper, 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes.
Instructions: Add all ingredients to a food processor and blend until smooth. Drizzle sauce over cooked fish.
Paired with simple sides like salad and roasted potatoes, this meal feels plentiful and decadent, and makes for an excellent date night at home.
I’ve been making this holiday spiced chocolate babka for the past few years around the holiday season. It is a great treat to make during chilly weather when you have a whole day at home to spare. I love adding cinnamon and nutmeg to compliment the dark chocolate, creating an indulgent melt in your mouth flavor that’s excellent for this time of year.
Ingredients: 3/4 cup milk, 3 tsp active dry yeast, 3/4 cup and 2 tsp sugar, 3 1/4 cups flour, 2 eggs and 2 egg yolks, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 3/4 tsp salt, 15 Tbsp softened butter, 1 Tbsp heavy cream, 8 oz finely chopped dark chocolate (72% cacao), 2 tsp cinnamon, 2 tsp freshly ground nutmeg.
Instructions: warm up the milk in a saucepan until it’s warm but not boiling. Add milk and 2 tsp of sugar to the bowl of a stand mixer and stir gently, then sprinkle the yeast on top. Let stand for about 5 minutes, until it’s foamy. Add 1/2 cup of the flour and beat with a paddle attachment until combined. Add 2 whole eggs, 1 of the egg yolks, vanilla, salt, and 1/2 cup more of sugar while beating constantly. Continue beating and add remaining flour in small increments. Gradually add 10 Tbsp butter until everything is completely incorporated. Transfer dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and place in turned off oven for 2 hours.
Once dough has risen for 2 hours, remove from bowl and cut in half. Sprinkle countertop with flour, and roll out the dough with a pin until you have a large rectangle. Beat the remaining egg yolk in a small dish with the heavy cream, and brush along the sides of the dough. Spread 2 1/2 Tbsp butter on the dough, then sprinkle 4 oz of chocolate, 2 Tbsp sugar, 1 tsp cinnamon, and 1 tsp nutmeg over butter.
Roll the dough towards you, and seal along the edge. Then make a circle out of the log, sealing on the ends. Quickly twist the circle twice, and place the dough in a bread pan that has been lined with parchment paper. Cover dough with a new sheet of plastic that has been lightly buttered and place back in the turned off oven. Repeat with the other half of the dough and leftover ingredients. Let loaves rise for another 2 hours.
Remove loaves from oven and pre-heat to 350F. Remove plastic and brush tops with remaining egg wash, then lightly sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 40 minutes, until golden brown and cooked through.
The babka will keep for a couple of days to be enjoyed in the morning with hot coffee, or as a dessert in the evenings.
Beans were my very first solid food, and to this day have remained one of my very favorite foods. There isn’t a type of bean I don’t like, and going more than a few weeks without having some form of them is rare for my family. When it comes to white beans in particular, this flavorful and hearty stew beats out all other recipes for this legume.
The stars of this dish are of course the beans themselves, and the dry guaque chiles that give it it’s rich and moderately spicy flavor.
Ingredients: 1 lb white beans, 1 lb pork ribs, 1 1/2 guaque chiles, 3 tomatoes, 1/2 red bell pepper, 1/2 yellow onion, 4 small tomatillos, 3 garlic cloves, 1 bay leaf, 4 sprigs thyme, 2 tsp ground cumin, 1 Tbsp dry oregano, salt and pepper to taste.
Instructions: Slice the tomatoes, tomatillos, onion, and peppers, and place on a hot griddle along with peeled garlic cloves. Turn over after 2-3 minutes, allowing the undersides to slightly char and soften. Add grilled vegetables to a blender with a cup of water and blend until smooth.
Add the beans, ribs (cut into smaller pieces), bay leaf, thyme, cumin, blended ingredients, salt and pepper to taste, and enough water to just cover everything to a pressure cooker. Cook for about 45 minutes, and slowly allow pressure to release. Add the oregano and stir. If you would like to thicken the stew you can take out some of the beans, blend, and re-add to the stew.
Serve hot with rice, and garnish with cilantro.
Over the past few months of pregnancy, I have begun to embrace mocktails: delicious non-alcoholic beverages made with a variety of ingredients, much like a regular cocktail. This way, I can still have a drink with nuanced flavor, while feeling like I’m part of the festivities during social gatherings.
Blackberry and green plum spritz: For this drink I used a Korean green plum extract to give the drink some sweetness and extra flavor. Paired with muddled blackberries for tartness and just a splash of sparkling water, it makes a refreshing drink that isn’t too sweet.
Instructions: Muddle 4 blackberries with 1 oz of green plum extract in a glass. Add ice and top with sparkling water.
Mocktail Moscow Mule: This drink follows a basic Moscow mule recipe, but without the vodka. I like to add lots of lime juice, which is not only tasty but has also been a great aid with morning sickness the last few months.
Instructions: Juice a small lime and add to a copper mug along with a few sprigs of fresh mint. Add ice and fill mug with ginger beer of choice.
Coconut and pineapple daiquiri: I love tropical fruits, and tiki cocktails are some of my favorites. Most tiki drinks are made up of fruit juices and syrups with the addition of rums.
Instructions: 1/2 cup frozen pineapple pieces, 1/2 cup coconut milk, 1.5 oz orange juice, 1 oz grenadine, 1 oz almond syrup (can be made by making a 1/4 cup of simple syrup with 1tsp of almond extract). Add all of the ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth.