Tag Archives: lime

Spicy Cantaloupe Margaritas

Spicy Cantaloupe Margaritas

What’s orange and spicy and perfect for tailgating? Serrano cantaloupe margaritas!

These fruity drinks pack a punch of spice thanks to a red serrano pepper, and a bit of sweetness thanks to cantaloupe from Gundermann Acres farm. I served them in mason jars at our last gameday party, and rimmed the glasses with a mix of sea salt and chile powder.

If you need a kid-friendly drink, skip the serrano pepper in the recipe below and substitute ginger ale for the tequila. Rim kids’ glasses with turbinado sugar, if desired.

Spicy Cantaloupe Margaritas (serves 6)

1 medium cantaloupe, peeled and cubed (7-8 cups of cubed fruit)
1 red serrano pepper
1 cup tequila
3 tablespoons lime juice
3 tablespoons granulated sugar

Garnish:
Lime wedges
1 tablespoon coarse sea salt
1/2 tablespoon chile powder

Cut the stem off of the pepper. Combine pepper, cantaloupe, tequila, lime juice and sugar in a blender and process on high for about a minute, until mixture is smooth and no large pieces of pepper remain. Strain mixture through a sieve into a pitcher and let it rest for several minutes while you  rim the glasses.

To rim margarita glasses: mix the salt and chile powder together and put the mixture in an even layer on a small plate. Rub a lime wedge along the edge of the margarita glass, then swirl the moistened edge of the glass in the salt mixture to coat it.

Fill the prepared glasses with ice and gently pour in the cantaloupe margarita mixture. Serve immediately.

With a little help from the freezer and some mason jars, these margaritas can be made several days in advance of a party. Once you’ve blended the ingredients, pour the drinks into freezer-safe mason jars instead of glasses. Leave a half-inch of headspace at the top of each jar, screw on the lids, and store them in the freezer until ready to serve. During the party you’ll have enough time to garnish the rim of each jar with salt before the margarita inside is slushy enough to drink. (Thanks to fellow Local Box blogger Megan for this great trick!)

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Local Box Picnic: Allen Park

Unless you live in the Far West neighborhood of Austin, chances are that you’ve never heard of Allen Memorial Park. This hilly little hiking spot is tucked near an office park west of MoPac near Far West. There are no playgrounds or sports fields at Allen Park; its main draw is the well-kept trail, clean picnic areas, and a real sense of seclusion.

Trail at Allen Memorial Park in Austin, Texas
Nearly a mile of gravel trail twists through the park. Some hills are very steep, while other parts of the trail are relatively flat overlooking the city. Although sounds of MoPac traffic hum throughout the park, a thick layer of foliage helps the trails feel set apart from the surrounding city. My husband and I were the only visitors at the park at dinner time on the Fourth of July.

 

The wide, gravelled trail starts at Allen Park’s parking lot and ascends up a rocky scramble to a large picnic area. Besides this larger picnic spot, there are at least six separate picnic tables near the entrance of the park.  Each table is located in its own paved clearing, and some have a charcoal grill nearby. (As of this post, these grills are covered and unusable because Travis County is under a burn ban.) Although it’s not a long walk from one picnic area to the next, each clearing is separated by dense greenery and windy trails. We chose to dine at this picnic table, which overlooks the Northwest Hills neighborhood to the west.

For dinner I made some easy summer salads with Local Box ingredients from Hillside Farm, Massey Farm and Tecolote Farm.  The highlight of the meal was a spicy corn & black bean salad, studded with Juliet tomatoes and topped with Cotija cheese.  The best part of this recipe– besides the tomatoes– is a spicy jalapeno vinaigrette dressing. To get an even level of high heat throughout the salad, I use a blender to liquify a whole jalapeno pepper and a clove of garlic into the dressing. This technique ensures a high level of heat without worrying about whole jalapeno seeds creating “hot spots” throughout the salad. I also don’t have to bother with wearing gloves as I mince the pepper by hand– a huge plus.

 


 

Spicy Corn & Black Bean Salad (serves 6)

Salad:
3 ears of fresh corn on the cob
1, 15-ounce can black beans
1 medium red onion
1 medium bell pepper
1 pint Juliet tomatoes
1 bunch fresh cilantro
1/4 cup crumbled Cotija cheese
lime wedges to garnish

Dressing:
1 garlic clove
1 large jalapeno pepper
Juice of 2 limes
1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper

Fill a medium saucepan with a few inches of water and bring water to a boil over medium heat. Meanwhile, remove the shucks and silks from the ears of corn. Wash and dry the corn, then cut the kernels off of the cob. Cook the kernels of corn for about three minutes in boiling water, until they are tender-firm. Drain the corn and set aside to cool.

Peel and dice the onion. Remove the ribs and seeds from the bell pepper, and dice the remaining flesh. Slice Juliet tomatoes in half.  Place them in a large salad bowl along with the minced onion, bell pepper and sliced tomatoes. Chop off the tough stems from the bunch of cilantro. Chop the remaining leaves and add to the salad, stirring to combine.

To make the dressing, peel the garlic and slice the top stem off of the jalapeno pepper. Put the whole garlic clove and decapitated pepper– seeds, ribs and all– into the blender along with the remaining ingredients. Pulse on “liquify,” or your blender’s highest speed, for about three minutes, until all the pepper seeds have been obliterated and the dressing is emulsified. No blender? Peel and crush the garlic with a garlic press. Remove the stem, ribs and seeds from the jalapeno and mince it by hand. Whisk the crushed garlic and minced pepper together with the remaining ingredients in a small bowl.

Pour the prepared dressing over the salad and mix well. Top with crumbled Cotija cheese and garnish with lime wedges before serving. This salad keeps well in the refrigerator and tastes better the second day, although the tomatoes will not be as vibrant red by then.

New Year Noodle Soup

Raise your hand if you are a victim of cedar pollen right now. Yeah, me too. When I’m suffering from stuffy sinuses, all I want is some spicy, brothy soup to clear everything out. When I came across this recipe, I knew I had to try it. The original calls for a serrano pepper, but mine somehow didn’t make it home from HEB and I substituted a generous pinch of red pepper flakes with great results.

Besides that, there’s so much going on in this soup. There are three types of beans: chickpeas, yellow split peas (or lentils) and borlotti beans. The latter are also called cranberry beans, for the reddish-pink flecks on their skin. They are a bit sweeter and fuller-flavored than pinto beans, but pintos are a good substitute if you can’t find borlotti. I used dried beans that I cooked a few weeks ago and froze until now. The borlotti are on the far right in this picture.

I used Swiss chard, but any hearty green would work. Also, I used whole wheat spaghetti instead of the egg noodles originally called for, as I think they’ll hold up better when the soup is reheated. And I love the addition of fresh herbs at the end, along with a squeeze of lime juice. Oh, and the toppings! Caramelized onions, walnuts, and a bit of sour cream add even more flavor to what already is a fantastic soup. You really need to give this one a try.

New Year Noodle Soup (adapted from 101 Cookbooks)

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp black pepper
8.5 cups vegetable broth
3.5 oz yellow split peas or lentils (about 1/2 cup)
1.5 cups cooked chickpeas, rinsed if using canned
2 cups cooked borlotti or pinto beans
Salt to taste
4.25 oz whole wheat spaghetti noodles, broken in half
3.5 oz Swiss chard, finely shredded (about 4 cups)
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
2 tbsp chopped fresh dill
Juice of one lime

Toppings:
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 large onion, thinly sliced
Sour cream or creme fraiche
Toasted, chopped walnuts

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and the pepper flakes and cook until they soften, a few minutes. Add the spices and cook for another thirty seconds, just long enough for them to toast a bit, then stir in the stock. Bring to a boil and add the split peas/lentils and chard to the pot. Cook until the peas are just tender, about 25 minutes. Stir in the cooked chickpeas and borlotti beans. Once the beans have heated up, season with salt to taste.

Add the noodles to the simmering soup and return to a boil. Reduce the heat back to a simmer and cook until the spaghetti is al dente, about 11 minutes. Stir in the cilantro and dill. Squeeze in the lime juice. Taste and adjust the seasoning to your liking.

While the lentils are cooking, prepare the toppings. Heat the olive oil and butter in a large frying pan over medium heat along with a few pinches of salt. Cook the onion, stirring occasionally, until golden and caramelized, 8 -10 minutes. Set aside.

Serve right away, each bowl topped with a big spoonful of caramelized onions, some sour cream, and a sprinkling of walnuts.

Scrambled Tofu

This right here is the breakfast of champions. Seriously. It’s a great mixture of protein and vegetables, perfect for starting your day off right. As you can imagine, it’s easily customizable with any combo of veggies and herbs you want to try, and it reheats surprisingly well. I make a big batch on Sunday nights and eat it for breakfast during the week.

You might be a bit skeptical about scrambling tofu, and I don’t blame you. But if you like tofu at all, you need to give this a shot because, as famous vegan chef Isa Moskovitz says, tofu really is made to be scrambled. It has a great texture that’s similar to scrambled eggs, and a little bright-yellow turmeric even makes it look a little eggy. I thawed some frozen tofu for this batch, which is why it looks a little breadlike in the pictures above. This is a particularly good way to use frozen tofu, as you don’t notice its altered texture very much (frozen tofu is much more chewy and spongy than fresh tofu).

Let me know what you think, and if you try any other veggie/herb combos.

Scrambled Tofu (adapted from The Post-Punk Kitchen)

1 lb. extra firm tofu, drained and pressed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium chopped onion (about a cup)
2 portabella mushroom caps, diced (or 2 cups cremini mushrooms, thinly sliced)
1 bell pepper, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup nutritional yeast (optional)*
juice of 1/2 a lime (about 1/4 cup)
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped

Spice Blend
2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon smoked paprika (regular is fine, but I love the smokiness this adds)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt

Heat oil in skillet over medium-high. Saute onions 3 minutes, until softened. Add mushrooms, saute 5 minutes more. Add garlic, saute 2 minutes more. Add spice blend and mix it up for 15 seconds or so. Add 1/4 cup water and deglaze the pan, scraping the bottom to get all the garlic and spices.

Crumble in tofu and mix well, but don’t stir it to death. You want it to remain chunky. Reduce heat to medium and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding splashes of water if necessary to keep it from sticking too much. Add lime juice. Add nutritional yeast, if using, and mix it up. If it seems too dry add splashes of water. Stir in cilantro.

*Nutritional yeast adds a pleasant, nutty flavor. Vegans often use it as a substitute for hard cheeses like Parmesan. It is NOT the same as the yeast you use for baking. You can find it in the bulk bins at bigger grocery stores or Whole Foods.

Summer Squash Tacos

Veggie tacos are a great way to use up lots of produce because you can put almost anything spicy in a tortilla and- voila!- tacos!  These tacos combine traditional harvest vegetables- sweet corn, summer squash, onions- with spicy peppers, tart lime, and salty Cotija cheese.  The squash and peppers in these are straight out of this week’s Greenling Local Box.  I had onions and limes on hand from previous deliveries, and the corn was a surprise!

Let me explain.  The “surprise me!” is an under-publicized item on the Greenling website, and one of my favorite ways to stretch my grocery budget. When you add a $2 “surprise me” item to your shopping cart, Greenling will include a portion of whatever they have extra of that day.  Sometimes it’s produce, sometimes eggs, sometimes cheese or other artisan treats. The “surprise me” item is listed in the fruit and vegetable areas of the website, or you can just search for “surprise” and find it that way. Last week I added two “surprise me” items to our Local Box order and I got 2 ears of sweet corn and a few beets.  Even though I didn’t plan for those items, it has been easy to fit them into my meal plan and I saved several dollars over the regular price of the produce.  Okay, public service announcement over– I hope you enjoy these delicious tacos!

Summer Squash Tacos (serves 2, doubles or triples easily)
Adapted from “Veggie Tacos” by Elise Bauer on SimplyRecipes.com

Filling:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 onion, chopped
1 ear sweet corn, cut off the cob
1 bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
1 Serrano pepper, seeded and minced
1 summer squash, chopped
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder or 1/2 clove fresh garlic, minced
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Tortillas and toppings:
4 tortillas
4 very thin slices jack cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 lime, cut into wedges
2 tablespoons crumbled Cotija cheese (Feta or Chevre works well, too)

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add onions and peppers; cook until onions are translucent and peppers are soft, about 5 minutes. Stir occasionally. Add corn, squash and dried seasonings, and cook for about 3 minutes, until corn starts to get tender and squash is heated through. (I like the corn to be crunchy!) When veggies have reached desired tenderness, add chopped cilantro to the skillet and stir to distribute. Remove skillet from heat and set aside.

For toppings, chop fresh cilantro and jack cheese into chunks.  Heat tortillas individually with a little oil in a skillet, or by wrapping the stack of  tortillas in a damp paper towel and microwaving for about 10 seconds.  Spoon vegetable filling into warm tortillas and top with jack cheese and cilantro.  Crumble a little Cotija cheese over the top, and garnish with a squirt of fresh lime juice.  I like to serve these by stacking the tortillas on top of each other and putting the whole mound of toppings on top.

Creamy Summer Squash Soup

This soup is creamy and rich, and pretty easy to prepare on a busy weeknight.  The best part is, it uses a lot of zucchini without tasting like zucchini, a real plus if you’re trying to use up a whole lot of squash! I adapted it from Heidi Swanson’s spinach and zucchini soup recipe, published on her wonderful blog, 101Cookbooks. I replaced the spinach in Heidi’s recipe with peppery arugula, which is plentiful in Central Texas this time of year.

The secret to this soup’s creamy texture is the pureed potatoes in the broth.  I recently bought an inexpensive immersion blender (under $20!), which pureed the soup right in the pot and made preparation a breeze.  I definitely recommend adding this handy gadget to your holiday wish list if you don’t have one already!

Creamy Summer Squash Soup (serves 6)
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bunch shallots, white parts only, chopped
2 cups chopped potatoes (2 medium potatoes)
2 cups chopped summer squash (1 giant squash or 2 medium squash)
4 cups low sodium vegetable stock
3 cups chopped arugula (1 big bunch)
1 lime
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon pepper
Sour cream, yogurt, or olive oil to garnish

Chop all the vegetables.  If you’re using an immersion blender, be sure the vegetable pieces are less than 1/2 inch so they’ll purée easily later.  Heat olive oil over medium high heat in a large soup pot.  Add shallots and garlic and sauté until onions are translucent. Stir in the potatoes and zucchini, then pour in the vegetable stock.  Bring to a boil and cook for about 15 minutes, until potatoes are soft.  Stir in arugula and turn off heat.  Puree with an immersion or conventional blender until soup is smooth.  Squeeze juice from half the lime into the soup and stir.  Taste and season with salt and pepper.  I liked lots of pepper in this soup!  Serve soup; garnish with lime wedges, a dollop of sour cream or yogurt or a little olive oil, and more cracked pepper to taste.

We loved this soup as a side dish, and ate it for dinner tonight with beer braised bratwurst and onions.  A big bowl of soup and half a bratwurst made for a hearty, comforting meal for each of us.

Sunny afternoon slaw [recipe: jicama, apple, and cabbage slaw]

I love me a good slaw. This one has extra crunch from both jicama and green apples, and a citrusy dressing provides just the right amount of tartness. You can find jicama by the potatoes in the grocery store, and it does kind of look like a russet potato. It has a very mild flavor, so it’s great for recipes like this where you just want something that adds a bit of crunch but doesn’t overpower the dish.

If you have a food processor, this recipe will come together in about 15 minutes. I use mine all the time, and you don’t need to go all Williams Sonoma and spend $500 on one. I’ve used my cheapo Black and Decker for about 10 years with no problems. I couldn’t find a link to mine online (like I said, it’s old) but this one is similar. If you don’t have a food processor, use the large holes on a box grater to shred the veggies.

Anyway, enjoy this slaw with grilled shrimp or grilled bbq tofu kebabs. Or pretty much anything else grilled. Heck, it was so good I just ate a big bowl of it as a snack.

Jicama, Apple, and Cabbage Slaw

2 cups shredded cabbage (I used green, but Napa is fine)
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and shredded
1 jicama, peeled and shredded (about 12 oz)
2 carrots, shredded
1/2 cup sliced spring onion tops (or green onions)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
Juice of two oranges (about 1/4 cup)
Juice of two limes (about 4 tbsp)
2 tbsp olive oil

Combine cabbage, apples, jicama, carrots and onion tops in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper and stir to combine. In a small bowl, combine orange juice, lime juice, and olive oil. Pour over veggies and toss to combine.