Mexican-Style Shrimp Cocktail/ Coctel de Camaron
SERVES 6 TO 8
Unexpected as it may be for many Americans, market stalls and street stalls all over Mexico put together shrimp cocktails for hungry crowds everyday and serve them up with packets of soda crackers. And not just on the beaches. Honestly, one of my favorite street-stall shrimp cocktails is from Mexico City’s El Caguamo, which follows the pretty traditional pattern of making “cocktail” sauce from ketchup, Mexican hot sauce, and fresh-squeezed lime, then mixing in shrimp, avocado, cilantro, and onion. Elemental satisfaction.
1 lb. (71 to 90 pieces per lb.) peeled, cooked small shrimp
¾ cup ketchup
¼ cup Mexican hot sauce (such as Valentina or Tamazula)
½ cup loosely packed chopped fresh cilantro, thick bottom stems cut off
2 to 3 tbsp. fresh lime juice
1 small white onion, cut into ¼-inch pieces
¾ cup clam juice, shellfish stock, or water
Salt to taste
1 ripe avocado, pitted, flesh scooped from the skin and sliced
2 to 3 dozen crackers or 8 to 12 oz. tortilla chips
2 limes, cut into wedges
1. Combine shrimp, ketchup, hot sauce, cilantro, lime juice, and onion in a large bowl. Stir in clam juice. Taste and season with salt if you think it needs it. Refrigerate until serving time.
2. Serve cocktail in small bowls topped with slices of avocado, accompanied by saltine crackers (for a very authentic touch) or tortilla chips, and lime wedges for your guests to squeeze over the cocktail. Finish the cocktail within an hour or so of serving.
Make ahead: The sauce can be made, covered, and refrigerated for several days before serving.
Summer Margarita/ Margarita Veranal
MAKES 9 6-OZ. MARGARITAS
Most people stumble on the first ingredient of these incredibly delicious margaritas. Cucumbers? In a margarita? Sounds like creativity gone awry to some, while those thinking outside the box imagine the refreshing, melon-like flavor that cucumber can offer to sweetened lime and tequila. No orange liqueur here to dull the crisp freshness.
1 16-oz. English cucumber or 2 8-oz. cucumbers for 3 cups thin-sliced, peeled, seeded cucumber, plus extra cucumber slices for garnish
1½ cups 100% agave silver tequila (we like El Milagro or Cazadores)
1 cup fresh lime juice
1 cup simple syrup (see following recipe)
Half a lime for moistening glass rims
Coarse (kosher) salt
Ice (6 or 7 cups small cubes)
1. Make margarita base. In a blender, combine cucumber, tequila, lime juice, and simple syrup. Blend until mixture is as smooth as you can get it. Strain into a pitcher, cover, and chill for 1 hour.
2. Shake base and serve. Moisten rims of 3 6-oz. martini glasses with cut side of lime half. Spread coarse salt on a small plate, then upend glasses into salt to crust rims. Fill a cocktail shaker ¾ full with ice, then measure in 1½ cups of margarita base. Cover and shake for 10 to 15 seconds. Strain into prepared glasses. Garnish with cucumber slices. Repeat with remainder of base.
MAKES 2 CUPS
1½ cups sugar (syrup tastes best made with organic evaporated cane juice)
1 tbsp. fresh lime juice
Combine sugar, 1½ cups water, and lime juice in a small saucepan. Set over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat, cool, and store in a closed container, preferably chilled for optimal freshness.
Sundried Tomato Guacamole/ Guacamole Tomate Deshidratado
SERVES 8 TO 10
Of course, when good tomatoes aren’t available, you could just leave them out of guacamole, except that I’d miss that gentle, sweet tartness they add. So when I’ve got to have tomato-flecked guacamole and it’s winter and the fresh tomatoes are awful, this is what I make. It’s essentially my no-holds-barred summer guacamole with sundried tomatoes replacing the fresh ones, and a few little cubes of crunchy jicama added for freshness. Not summer, but not bad at all. Oil-packed sundried tomatoes are okay, but not my favorite. Look instead for little packages of the pliable sundried tomatoes— with a texture similar to that of a dried apricot—that hang in the produce department. There’s a smoked version that’s dynamite for this guacamole.
3 medium-large ripe avocados (about 1lb.)
½ medium white onion, chopped into ¼-inch pieces (about 1/3 cup)
Fresh hot green chiles to taste (usually 2 serranos or 1 jalapeño), stemmed, seeded (if you wish), and finely chopped
¼ cup soft sundried tomatoes, chopped into ¼-inch pieces (patted dry on paper towels if oil-packed)
¼ cup loosely packed chopped fresh cilantro (thick bottom stems cut off), plus a little extra for garnish
About 1 tsp. salt
1 or 2 tbsp. fresh lime juice
Garnishes, Chips, and Bread
2 oz. queso fresco cheese
2 oz. toasted pumpkin seeds
½ cup crumbled, crisp-fried bacon
Baguette diagonally sliced ¼.-in. thick, brushed with olive oil, and grilled or broiled
1. Cut around each avocado, from stem to blossom end and back again, then twist the two halves apart. Dislodge pit and scoop avocado flesh into a bowl. Using an old-fashioned potato masher or a large fork or spoon, mash avocados into a coarse purée. Scoop onion into a small strainer and rinse under cold water. Shake off excess water and mix into avocado, along with chiles, tomatoes, and cilantro. Taste and season with salt and lime juice—guacamole usually takes about 1 tsp. of salt; lime juice is a matter of personal preference.
2. Cover with plastic wrap directly on surface of guacamole and refrigerate until ready to serve (for best results, this needs to be within a couple of hours). Scoop guacamole into a serving dish and sprinkle with chopped cilantro. Serve with garnishes, chips, and bread.
Tropical Beach Ceviche/ Ceviche Playero
8 oz. sea scallops, cut crosswise into thin slices (or small bay scallops, halved)
1 cup fresh grapefruit juice
1 large Oaxacan pasilla chile, stemmed or 1 to 2 canned chipotle chiles en adobo
4 garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 tbsp. chopped piloncillo* or brown sugar
About 1½ tsp. salt
2 cups diced tropical fruit (e.g. mango, the large Mexican papaya, and pineapple)
½ small red onion, thinly sliced
About 1 cup peeled, diced jicama (optional)
1. Marinate scallops. In a small glass or stainless steel bowl, combine scallops and grapefruit juice. Cover and chill for about 45 minutes.
2. Prepare flavoring. If using the Oaxacan pasilla chile, toast it on both sides in a small ungreased skillet over medium heat until kitchen fills with its smoky aroma. Cover with hot tap water and allow to rehydrate for about 20 minutes. If using canned chipotle chiles, remove from sauce and place in a blender.
3. Roast garlic in a small skillet over medium heat, turning regularly, until soft and blotchy black in spots, 10 to 15 minutes. Cool and peel.
4. Drain scallops, reserving 2/3 cup marinade; discard remainder.
5. Place drained pasilla chile or chipotle chiles in blender, along with roasted garlic, piloncillo, reserved grapefruit marinade, and 1 tsp. salt. Blend until smooth. Pour into a bowl.
6. Finish ceviche. To flavoring, add fruit, onion, and jicama, if desired. Stir in scallops. Taste and season with salt, usually about ½ tsp. Chill for an hour or so before serving, or scoop into small dishes or martini glasses to enjoy right away.
*Unrefined whole cane sugar available in Latino markets.