Guava Margaritas with a Smoky Salt Rim

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My guava love saga continues with tequila, grand marnier, and a smoky salted rim. The brief appearance of spring in New York City has lifted my spirits and instantaneously put a skip in my step. Spring is that magical time of year when the city comes back to life and the parks and rooftops are brimming with pale New Yorkers. As the bodegas fill up with tulips and daffodils, I feel inspired wear espadrilles and to sip spirits in the sun. Guava margaritas will have you celebrating spring and cure your winter blues in one smoky sip.

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Tequila reminds me of Miami and bright beach days with dirty coronas and late nights. In these guava margaritas, the sweetness of the guava is offset by the smoked paprika and the hot cayenne in the salted rim. I topped this spring cocktail with grapefruit soda, but prosecco or champagne would be killer. Apparently it is set to snow this Sunday, so I’ll enjoy this sunny spring preview with smoky guava margaritas and homemade Cuban food.

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Guava Margaritas with Smoked Salt Rim

Makes 2

  • 4 ounces tequila
  • 1 ounce grand marnier
  • 2 teaspoons guava marmelade or guava sauce
  • Juice of half a lime
  • Top with grapefruit soda, prosecco, or champagne

Smoked Salt Rim

  • 2 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne

Mix the salt rim ingredients on a flat plate. Run a lime over the rim of the glass and salt the rim. In a shaker over ice add the tequila, grand marnier, guava marmelade, and lime juice. Shake well and pour over fresh ice in the salted highballs. Top with a floater of grapefruit soda (I used San Pellegrino Pommelo) but prosecco or champagne would work well. Garnish the guava margaritas with a lime wheel and cheers to spring!

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Note: Mezcal would be amazing in these guava margaritas, but I had silver tequila on hand. I bet this could also be batched as a signature cocktail for a spring or summer party using both grapefruit soda and prosecco to make plenty for a crowd.

picture-perfect

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Cuban Mojo Marinade

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Cuban ingredients are evading me in New York City. Although I have lived abroad, I never realized how difficult it can be to find integral Cuban ingredients, mainly because I wasn’t looking for them then. Now that I am looking for certain items (mojo, iron beer, mamey, sour oranges, etc.) they simply aren’t there. For a brief second I thought of going to Miami impulsively for a two-day stint to load up on real Cuban bread, mamey, anones, and croquetas galore.

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I have to be honest with you- my search didn’t begin with fresh ingredients to make homemade mojo. I was looking for the bottled stuff- Mojo Criollo either from Badia or bust (full disclosure: I’m actually not getting paid by Badia, it’s just my jam). When I realized this Cuban kitchen staple was not readily in supermarkets I was aghast- “No, Morton Williams, I do not want bottled Goya salsa! Where the hell is the mojo!?”. Thankfully it turns out you can mix lime and orange juice as a substitute for the real stuff.

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Homemade mojo marinade can be used on pork, chicken, duck, beef or fish. I’ll be using the leftover lechon from the mojo pork roast to make tamal en cazuela later this week. Hunger took over once the mojo roasted pork was ready so there are no beautiful blog-worthy pictures, only the lingering sensation of home.

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Homemade Mojo Marinade

Yields: about 2 ¼ cups of mojo marinade

  • 10 cloves of garlic
  • ½ large Spanish onion, diced
  • 1 tsp ground oregano
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ground onion
  • ½ tsp ground garlic
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 ¼ cup sour orange (or 2 parts lime juice to 1 part orange juice.
  • ¾ cup Spanish olive oil

Smash and peel the garlic cloves and place them in the food processor with the diced onion and dried spices. Traditionally one would use a mortar and pestle, but I can’t seem to find mine. Blend everything into a paste and scrape down the sides with a spatula to ensure everything is blended well. Whisk the spiced garlic paste with the sour orange juice in a glass bowl to make the mojo base. I went on a quest in the lower east side to find sour oranges in vain. I ended up juicing 3 large limes and 2 Florida oranges which gave me an exact 2 to 1 ratio to make the sour orange substitute. Allow the mojo base to sit for around 30 minutes.

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Heat the olive oil to around medium heat and then remove from the burner. Let the olive oil to cool or 5 minutes or so before carefully whisking in the mojo base. I used around ¾ cup of this marinade for half of a chicken for roasting. Allow the protein of your choice (chicken, duck, beef, pork, tofu, etc.) to marinate for a couple of hours or even better- overnight to marinate in the delicious garlic and citrus mojo marinade.

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Crispy Tostones

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Tostones are crispy and golden, slightly sweet and savory. Made from the versatile plantain, a starchy member of the banana family grown in the tropics, tostones are green plantains fried to crisp perfection and enjoyed as a side dish or snack. When the plantain is green and under ripe you can make them into crunchy mariquitas (plantain chips), mofongo (plantain hash), or salty tostones. Very ripe plantains yield a sweet delicacy called platanos maduros that caramelize in the hot frying pan and melt in your mouth.

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Tostones are at the top of my list of the Cuban food pyramid for their simplicity and tropical deliciousness. I was craving the flavors of Cuban comfort food and went to 5 bodegas before I could find any green plantains. I felt like NYC was playing a cruel joke on me, but alas persistence prevailed and I am one happy Cuban in the city.

smashed

Tostones are meant to be thin and crispy enjoyed with a touch of lime juice. Ordering tostones at a restaurant is risky- there is nothing worse than anticipating the glorious crunch of a crispy green plantain only to encounter a thick and soggy toston. Fry your plantains once, smash them, and now fry them again. Always remember: only crispy tostones can fulfill dreams and make wishes come true.

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Crispy Tostones

  • 2 green plantains
  • Vegetable oil
  • Sea salt
  • Lime

Choose firm large green plantains. Cut a slit down the side of the peel and cut off the top and bottom of the plantain. Cut the plantain into 1 inch segments. When they are green the outer peel is difficult to remove. My abuela taught me to heat the cut plantain pieces in a microwave for around 15 seconds to soften the tough peel.  When you peel them you will instantly feel the starchiness on your fingers.

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Heat vegetable oil in a frying pan. The oil should be deep enough to cover the plantains. I try to use more shallow oil to make the dish seem less fattening- you know mental illusions and all. Since I used less oil I had to rotate them around to get crispy on all sides. Fry the plantains in batches if you are making a lot. Turn the plantains in the hot oil to get evenly golden. Transfer the plantains to sheets of paper towel to drain.

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Now for this next step some people use a tostonera which I find absolutely ridiculous (but you know you do you- if you like it- go for it). Why on earth waste money on yet another expensive kitchen contraption!? My abuela taught me to mash down the plantain with the bottom of a regular old can of food. The bottom makes for a great and flat circular shape. Ironically I actually had no canned food so I used the bottom of a cafetera (percolator) which is very Cuban in and of itself.

Now re-fry the smashed plantains in the hot oil until golden and crispy. Drain the crispy tostones on sheets of paper towel and garnish with sea salt. I like to sprinkle the paper towels with salt as well to get the flavor on all sides. Squeeze fresh lime on top of your Cuban tostones right before enjoying!

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