We are three sisters united in our search for the divine - in food, libation, literature, art, and nature. This blog will capture the true, sometimes decadent, at times humorous, and every so often transcendent adventures of the Salvation Sisters.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Linda's "No Mint In Your Teeth" Mojitos

by Linda

"Like the endless fields of sugarcane and the rows of rich tobacco, a drink called the Mojito (pronounced moe-hee-toe) seemed to spring up from the Cuban heartland and capture the soul of its people..." ~Wikipedia

   It is a gorgeous summer day in the woods. This is the season that I wait all year for living in Northern California. I sleep at night with a light blanket and eat my meals outside at the table on my deck. I haven't run my heater nor have we had rain for more than two months. I revel in the days that are long and mostly sunny. In fact, it was such a beautiful day today, that I decided to celebrate the summer afternoon by making a pitcher of Mojitos. I have stated before that I like to have a few cocktail options that I can make by the pitcher. Like my Margaritas, or Michelle's Mai Tais, this cocktail is great for parties and would be a nice, refreshing drink for a Labor Day weekend barbeque. However delicious, I don't make Mojitos very often, so I needed to consult my recipe, which I found in an e-mail that I sent to Juliette and Michelle in March of 2007. Reading over it again made me smile... I hope you do, too.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Michelle's Mango Salsa

by Michelle

   I have a secret. It is not a truth that I want to necessarily disclose, to have my friends look at me in disbelief with squinted eyes, pursed lips, upturned noses. The disquieting effects of silent communication are interruped by the inevitable question, an inquiring voice heavy with trepidation and mixed with disbelief asking me, "How long have you been doing this, Michelle?" If truth be told and my memory correctly serves, it has been my practice now for about six years, give or take a year.
   Now mind you, this is not the type of secret that will bring down world governments, crash the stock market, or make Aunt Betty cry. I don't have an aunt, but whatever - you get the idea. I suppose the treasonous part of my action is compounded by passionate home cooks and chefs everywhere extolling the virtues of using only the freshest and most organic of ingredients (including me).

   I might as well just come out and say it. Here it is. Are you ready? Okay... I use frozen mangoes in my fresh mango salsa. What did I just hear? Did you call me a heretic? All I can say is, try it, you'll like it. And, the best part is that you'll be able to prepare mango salsa year round to balance bold spicy flavors with the cooling sensation of sweet and tangy.
   Here's my defense. Technically, fruits are picked and frozen at the peak of their seasons, and can be terrific choices in certain recipes. For example, when making berry liqueurs. Or, perhaps, when baking an Old Fashioned Berry Crisp. When making a cooked sauce, such as Cherries Jubilee, or fresh, such as mango salsa! Please don't limit mango salsa to only a dip for tortilla chips. The sunny condiment is divine on just about anything. Here's a few of my favorites: fresh grilled seafood, shrimp burritos, baked crab cakes, shredded beef tostados and tacos, carnitas, and mole rubbed turkey tenderloins. You'll find your favorites, too. You'll likely serve it to your friends. The question is... will you share your secret?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Shredded Beef Tostados and Tacos

by Michelle

   "Never underestimate how much assistance, how much satisfaction, how much comfort, how much soul and transcendence there might be in a well-made taco and a cold bottle of beer."
                                                                              ~Tom Robbins, Jitterbug Perfume

   Hailing from the Santa Ynez Valley, smack dab in the middle of the Central Coast of California, I was raised on Santa Maria Barbeque. I have chowed down on barbeque across our great nation and I find that all styles are pretty darn tasty and have their own unique merits. As to go so far as to name my favorite, perhaps it all comes down to the homily: the heart is where the home is, because my favorite barbeque begins and ends with tri-tip.
   In an upcoming post, we'll bring you Santa Maria barbeque at its finest, complete with pinquito beans, green salad - Rockin' French Salad would do nicely - and garlic bread. For today's post, however, the tri-tip roast is coated with barbeque spice rub, seared and then braised in a slow cooker with enchilada sauce. If I'm throwing a party I will also include chicken or fish tacos on the menu that have been cooked in a tomatillo sauce and kept warm in a slow cooker. I serve easy Mexican-style beans, Mexican rice, guacamole, a variety of salsas on the side, such as mango and salsa fresca, and freshly prepped garnishes that are sure to please everyone.

Easy Mexican-Style Beans

by Michelle

   When you don't have time to make beans from scratch, this is an easy go-to combination of ingredients that can be pulled from your pantry. For a party, this recipe can easily be doubled.

Easy Mexican-Style Beans

1 16-ounce can Rosarita's™ Refried Beans: Traditional or Vegetarian
1 15-ounce can Ranch-style Beans
1/3 cup Trader Joe's™ Salsa Verde
1/3 cup Trader Joe's™ Salsa Autentica
1 tsp Mexican-style chile powder
1/2 to 1 tsp ground cumin, or to taste
1/4 tsp granulated garlic or garlic powder
1/4 tsp dried oregano
freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Over medium low-heat, combine all the ingredients in a saucepan, stirring frequently until well combined and hot. If you like, serve the beans alongside oven baked Mexican-style rice.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Barbeque Spice Rub

by Michelle

   Many years ago, I made double-batches upon double-batches of this spice rub as Christmas gifts for family, friends, neighbors and my daughter's teachers. Since then, I have continually received great feedback on the rub combined with requests along the lines of, "If you'd like to make more, feel free to pass some along to me." No need to wait any longer on me... you can now whip up a batch for you (and your friends - if they are lucky)!
   This recipe is from my favorite cookbook of 2000: Douglas Rodriguez's Latin Flavors On The Grill by Douglas Rodriguez and Andrew DiCataldo (Ten Speed Press). In the book, Douglas writes, "When applied to meat, fish, or chicken the night before, the salt and sugar content draws out moisture while infusing flavor - essentially curing the food."
   I especially love this rub on Tri-Tip, and  it is the secret to my shredded beef tacos (the subject of next week's post). For chicken, I have often paired the rub with a final flourish of barbeque sauce for great depth of flavor. Douglas also uses the rub as a coating on potato chips. I haven't tried that yet, but it sounds tasty.

Barbeque Spice Rub

   For years I prepared dried whole chiles for this recipe. Typically I would need to soften the chiles by dry roasting in a cast iron skillet until pliable, then I would tear or chop the chiles into smaller pieces (discarding the seeds), and in a food processor, process the pieces into flakes. Finally, in batches, I would grind the smaller flakes until finely ground in an electric coffee mill. Not much fun, but necessary. And I would find that more often than not, the fumes from the chiles would irritate my throat.
   One day I stumbled across finely ground ancho and chipotle chiles at 17th Street Market in downtown Tucson. I leapt for joy putting to good use all the ballet classes of my youth. Now the spice rub is a snap to prepare. Perhaps you'll get lucky, like I did, and find the ground chiles in the spice isle of a specialty market where you live.
    A quick comment about Spanish paprika. It is available in ranging heat from mild to hot. Some Spanish paprika is dried by smoking which gives the peppers a pleasing smokey flavor. I like to combine both mild and smoked Spanish paprika in this spice rub.

1 cup Spanish paprika
1/2 cup ground ancho chile (2-ounces dried whole chiles)
1/2 cup Diamond™ kosher salt
1/4 cup ground chipotle chile (1-ounce dried whole chile)
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup granulated garlic
1/4 cup granulated onion
1/4 cup ground black pepper
2 Tbsps ground cumin

1. Thoroughly mix the ingredients together in a bowl and then transfer to an airtight jar, preferably made of glass. Store at room temperature, out of sunlight.

Note: This recipe makes about 3-1/2 cups, enough to keep some for yourself and to pass some along as a gift. Although Douglas indicates that the spice rub keeps well for 6 months, I have found that it lasts much longer.
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