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.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Caesar Salad With and Without the Egg

by Michelle

   The tale of two Caesar's: to add an egg, or not to add an egg, that is the question. Raw eggs spike concerns of salmonella poisoning for many people, although a study by the U.S. Department of Agriculture in 2002 reported that in the United States salmonella poising is rarely induced by eggs and that a key factor in the creation of contaminated eggs is the sanitary living conditions of the hens.
   When we buy eggs we look for suppliers whose hens are free-range, antibiotic and hormone free, with no animal byproducts in the feed. You can tell a good egg from a spoiled egg by simply immersing an uncracked egg in cold water. A fresh egg will lay on its side in the water. If the egg emits bubbles, or sits straight up, it is bad.
   At home, we freely use raw eggs in salad dressings and to make ice creams. The Caesar Vinaigrette is easy to prepare and ready within a few minutes. To make ahead and store, simply whisk the dressing in a salad bowl, chop the lettuce and place on top of the dressing, but do not toss. Store, covered in the refrigerator until ready to serve, then toss and garnish. This method also makes it easy to transport the salad to a potluck (with garnishes carried separately.)
   The Eggless Caesar Dressing ended a long search for a lower-in-fat alternative to the Caesar Vinaigrette. I tried various recipes that replaced the yolk and olive oil with reduced fat mayonnaise or other low-fat dairy products, but the dressings universally tasted flat. Roasted garlic was the answer to maintaining complex flavor and significantly reducing calories by adding less olive oil. For added happiness, we have witnessed the children in our lives go back for second helpings of this salad, not once, but on multiple occasions. Kids eating vegetables without complaining equals excellent mealtime.
   Caesar salads are typically garnished with croutons and by employing a vegetable peeler, shaved Parmesan. If you are in the mood for a change, we also like crumbled Gorgonzola and toasted walnuts. Croutons are easy to make at home with fresh or left-over sourdough or French bread. And, as seen on menus across the nation, the ever popular Caesar Salad is transformed into a main course with the addition of a protein in the form of rotisserie chicken, grilled sliced beef or chilled shrimp. 

Eggless Caesar Dressing

Roasted garlic replaces some of the oil and adds richness to this eggless dressing adapted from a recipe found at EatingWell.com.

2 large heads garlic
1/4 cup water
1 large lemon, freshly squeezed equaling 3 tablespoons (if short on juice, bridge the difference with champagne vinegar)
3 Tbsps extra-virgin olive oil
3 Tbsps parmesan, finely grated
1 Tbsp Italian parsley, minced
1-1/2 tsps Dijon mustard
1-1/2 tsps anchovy paste
1-1/2 tsps Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Keeping the head of garlic intact, remove the excess papery skin from the perimeter. Slice about 1/2 inch off the top of the garlic head. With a paring knife, cut off the tops of the rest of the cloves along the outside edge. Place the garlic on a square of aluminum foil. Sprinkle with 2 teaspoons water or about one tablespoon extra virgin olive oil. Bring the edges of the foil together, shaped like a pyramid, and pinch to seal.

2. Roast until the cloves are very soft and slightly browned, 50 to 60 minutes. Unwrap and let cool slightly. Squeeze the cloves out of the skins into the container of a blender (or coax out with a table knife), discarding the skins.
3. Add the rest of the dressing ingredients to the blender. Blend on high for about a minute or so, pausing once to scrape down sides, until the dressing is emulsified. Transfer to jar with tightly fitting lid. Store in the refrigerator until ready to use. Keeps well for several days. You'll have enough dressing to coat 4 hearts of Romaine. Yield: 1 cup

Caesar Vinaigrette

Quick and easy - whisk the dressing in the salad bowl.

2 large garlic cloves, peeled and finely minced
1 high quality egg yolk
1 large lemon freshly squeezed, equaling 3 tablespoons (if short on juice, bridge the difference with champagne vinegar)
1 Tbsp minced fresh parsley
3 Tbsps parmesan cheese, finely grated
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp anchovy paste
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1. In a salad bowl, whisk all the ingredients together except the olive oil. Then, slowly drizzle olive oil while whisking continuously until dressing is emulsified.
2. To make the salad ahead, add roughly chopped heads of romaine lettuce to the bowl, but do not mix until ready to serve. Store in the refrigerator. Right before serving, toss salad and garnish with croutons and shaved parmesan.
3. You'll have enough dressing to dress 3 to 4 hearts of Romaine. Yield: About 3/4 cup

Monday, April 26, 2010

Shrimp Scampi with Linguine

by Michelle

   There are few things I love more than shrimp cooked "scampi style" that features the complimentary flavors of garlic, olive oil, white wine and lemon. Before Tyler Florence streamed into my life via his cable TV show, I would spoon the shrimp and sauce over prepared pasta, the thin sauce pooling at the bottom of the bowl. When I saw Tyler "cook" the pasta and sauce together, I had an a-ha moment, and thought, why didn't I think of that? After all, that is the secret to great pasta dishes - letting the pasta absorb some of the sauce before serving.

   The secret to succulent shrimp every time is brining, no matter the final preparation. No doubt about it, shrimp can easily be overcooked. There is no time to multitask when shrimp are sizzling in the skillet or simmering in the pan. You must give the shrimp your full attention. As soon as they turn pink, the little guys are done.
    At the seafood counter, you may want to give some consideration as to how your crustaceans were raised: on the farm or in the wild. Both are acceptable methods depending upon the circumstances. The United States just banned the import of wild caught shrimp from Mexico for failure to use "Turtle Excluder Devices" or TEDs. The same ban was levied against Costa Rica in 2009. Proper use of the TEDs reduces the amount of turtles caught in nets by 90% and the U.S. Government requires any fishery to use the device that sells to the United States (although enforcement has been spotty.)

      The cultivation of shrimp on aqua-farms began in the 1970s and the quality of the shrimp varies based upon the farming and feeding practices. To learn more about farmed shrimp versus wild American shrimp visit Health Diaries. If you are not sure where to buy "safe" farmed or wild-caught seafood, you can count on Whole Foods Market. They adhere to strict quality standards and are committed to sustainability in fin-fish and shrimp farming that is also environmentally friendly.
   This is one of our favorite "go-to" dishes for entertaining. It is easy, can be prepared for a crowd in a jiff without much prep time, and is simply delicious.

Shrimp Scampi with Linguine

I have to admit that I love sprinkling finely grated parmigiano-reggiano over my serving risking the admonishment of "people in the know" that seafood shall not be garnished with cheese. Live and let live. I say have your shellfish and parmesan, too. This recipe is based on one by Chef Tyler Florence who rose to fame as a star on Food Network.

2 pounds raw shrimp, 26-30 count, peeled and deveined, and brined
4 quarts water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup kosher salt, preferably Diamond®
1 pound linguine
4 Tbsps butter, divided
4 Tbsps extra-virgin olive oil
2 shallots, minced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp red chili flakes
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley leaves


1. To brine shrimp: Dissolve 1/2 cup sugar and 1/2 cup kosher salt in 4 quarts water; mix well. If you are using frozen shrimp, simply add the frozen shrimp to the brine. Stir every so often. The shrimp will defrost in about an hour.
2. For the pasta: On the stove, bring six quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Add two tablespoon of kosher salt and the linguine. Stir to separate the pasta; cover. When the pasta returns to a boil, remove the lid, stir again and continue to cook uncovered until the pasta is not quite done, about 6 to 8 minutes. Drain in a colander, shake lightly to remove excess water and let sit in the colander until ready to add to sauce. Note: To warm a serving bowl for the pasta, use some of the pasta water to heat the bowl, if you like.

3. To cook the shrimp: Remove the shrimp from the brine and set aside; discard brine. In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons butter in 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Sauté the shallots and red pepper flakes until the shallots are translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic, sauté for about 30 seconds and add the shrimp, tossing to coat. Cook the shrimp, stirring often, until they have turned pink, about 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer the shrimp from the pan to a bowl; set aside.

4. For the sauce: Add wine and lemon juice to the skillet and bring to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons butter and 2 tablespoons oil. When the butter has melted, transfer the cooked linguini to the pan. Stir well to coat the pasta evenly with the sauce. Add half the parsley, and continue to stir until pasta is hot. Check for seasoning. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper as needed. Transfer the pasta to a medium sized serving bowl and place shrimp on top. Scatter a sprinkling of parsley over the shrimp and serve immediately with a salad and garlic bread, if desired.  Servings: 4-6

Brining for Succulent Shrimp Every Time

by Michelle

   Regardless of the final preparation, we have learned that shrimp of all sizes greatly benefit from 30 to 60 minutes of brining. Linda and I were so excited by the results of this method that we called Juliette to share the good news. She promptly burst our collective bubble by replying ever-so-matter-factly that she had been happily brining shrimp for years to which we said, "Thanks for sharing, wenchy. Apparently, we tell you everything and you tell us nothing." We are sisters, which means, in due time we got over the transgression. And unlike, our dear, lovely, cherished sister, Juliette we are passing this fantastic tip on to you.

Succulent Brined Shrimp

   We discovered this method by reading an excerpt of "Chef's Secrets" (Chronicle, 2004) that included a recipe from chef Mark Filippo. If you are diabetic, the sugar, of course, can be omitted. The recipe can easily be doubled or tripled.

1 pound fresh or frozen shrimp
2 quarts water
1/4 cup kosher salt, preferably Diamond®
1/4 cup granulated sugar

1. To make the brine: In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the water, sugar and salt until dissolved.
2. To soak the shrimp: Place the peeled and deveined shrimp in the brine solution, and allow to sit for 30 to 60 minutes at room temperature. Alternatively, place frozen (peeled and deveined) shrimp directly to the brine. When the shrimp are resting on the bottom of the bowl, they are ready to cook.
3. Final preparation: Drain the shrimp well in a colander and dry, if necessary according to your final preparation. Proceed with your favorite recipe: pan-fry, boil and shock, grill or sauté. The shrimp turn out succulent every time. Brining is definitely worth the extra step.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Italian Combo Grilled Pizza

by Michelle

   For all the years we've been making pizza, the Italian Combo always seems to be the crowd favorite (and Linda's.) And for good reason. It is a classic. A quick search on the Internet reveals that pepperoni is the favorite topping in America, so call us crazy because we no longer put pepperoni on our classic Italian Combo Grilled Pizza.

   We prefer salami, and not just any salami, nitrate-free (or cured in the traditional manner) is numero uno in our ratings. If you would like a mini primer about curing meats and nitrates, visit ZMO Journal. Speciality cured meat shops are popping up around the country and are worth the time and effort to seek out.
   Fresh vegetables, some more than others, in particular, mushrooms and bell peppers, release a lot of water during cooking. Maximize flavor by roasting red bell peppers or caramelizing yellow onions which, by the way, are both excellent additions to the Italian Combo, just like accessorizing another classic, the little black dress, with earrings and a string of pearls.

Italian Combo Grilled Pizza

1 ball fresh pizza dough (300 grams)
1 tsp extra-virgin olive oil
About 1/2 cup tomato pizza sauce
2 Tbsps parmesan, finely grated
About 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded and divided
8-10 slices Fratelli Beretta®  or Applegate Farms® Nitrate-Free Sliced Genoa Salami (available at Whole Foods Market)
2 chicken, beef or pork Italian sausages, removed from casings, crumbled and fried
1/4 pound mushrooms, sliced
10 kalamata or black olives of your choice, pitted, sliced or crushed with fingers
Red chili flakes for garnish


1. Prep toppings and mushrooms: To a warmed skillet, add a little olive oil, place the cleaned and sliced mushrooms, and roast over medium high heat, stirring every so often, until the mushrooms give up their moisture and are cooked through, about 8 minutes. Remove the mushrooms from pan; let cool.Drain and discard any accumulated liquid.

Cooked vegetables release a lot of liquid. 
2. Place a Pizza Que Grill Stone® (more infoin a gas grill and with the lid closed preheat the grill for 15-20 minutes on high heat. Alternatively, place a bread baking stone, on the lowest rack in a cold oven, and preheat to 500°F, or highest setting, for 1 hour prior to baking.
3. While grill or oven is preheating, prepare a smooth work surface with a dusting of flour. Also dust a pizza peel with flour and a little semolina.
4. Remove dough ball from container and let the dough stretch out into a disc on the top of your hands. Begin moving the dough around, stretching and pulling into a circle, careful not to touch the rim. When it is thin in the center and about six or eight inches in diameter, place on floured work surface.
5. Continue pushing dough outwards with palms and fingers so it is thin on the bottom, and has a nice rim of crust around the circumference. Transfer to pizza peel.

Smear fresh tomato sauce over the oiled crust; sprinkle on grated parmesan and mozzarella.
We are partial to salami on pizza, rather than the more popular pepperoni.
6. Brush dough with olive oil. Spoon tomato sauce evenly over dough. Sprinkle with parmesan and then generously with grated mozzarella cheese. Evenly distribute the salami, crumbled sausage, mushrooms, onions and olives. Finish with a little more mozzarella, but not too much or it can burn in the intense heat of the grill.

We were rather generous with the toppings; you may prefer a more sparsely populated pizza.
A little more cheese for the top.
Fresh mozzarella that is drained and lightly salted is an excellent choice. 
7. Transfer the pizza from the peel to the stone and bake for about 5 minutes. Rotate with a spatula for even baking. Quickly close the lid to retain heat and bake for another couple of minutes until crust is golden with some char and cheese is melted. Remove pizza from oven on perforated metal pan. Let sit for a minute or two before cutting into 8 pieces. Serve immediately and pass the red chili flakes. Yield: One 12-inch pizza.

P.S. This pizza rewarms nicely the next day, uncovered, in a 350°F oven for about 10 minutes.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Tomato Pizza Sauce

by Michelle

   Who knew that homemade tomato sauce could illicit such strong opinions? Well, it does. For many tomato connaisseurs there is only one distinct flavor winner for sauces: San Marzano. As an additional vote of confidence the San Marzano is the only tomato that can be used for True Neapolitan Pizza. Since our pizza making is not governed by the Associazione Verace Pizza Napoletana, we are free to break free of traditional constraints, although we do applaud efforts to maintain the highest quality standards.

  With all the hubbub around San Marzanos, we hunted specialty retailers for the real thing. We carefully inspected the labels to verify the tomatoes hailed from Italy and not a sub-par varietal grown in the states or other countries. And we can say most assuredly, after multiple taste tests, that they were fine. We doubted our results based not upon our experience, but upon cooking magazines and chef's continually fawning over the San Marzano, the seemingly unchallenged King of Plum Tomatoes. But we had to ask ourselves, were we just cooking with them to gain the applause of our foodie friends?
   After reading Barbara Kingsolver's thought provoking book, "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life" (Harper Perennial 2008) we began to really consider our own food habits. Do we really need to use a tomato to dress our pizza that has traveled thousands of miles? Surely, farmers grow terrific tomatoes right here in the USA. Sure enough, after multiple taste tests, we like Muir Glen® Organic Fire Roasted Tomatoes (grown in Washington state) and Escalon 6-in-1® Tomatoes (California) better than the famous imported plum tomato. Sorry San Marzano, if we choose to expand our carbon footprint, it will be to meet you in Naples.

Tomato Pizza Sauce

   For years, I cooked my tomato sauce seasoned with herbs into a thick ragu. Palettes change and now we sisters prefer the ease and fresh taste of this "uncooked" sauce. After all, the sauce cooks on the pizza, right? Right!

14.5-ounce can Muir Glen® Organic Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes*
2 garlic cloves, peeled and slightly crushed
1 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp dried oregano, crushed
1/2 tsp sea salt
Fresh ground pepper to taste

Open the can of tomatoes, and pour off most of the liquid. Add all ingredients to blender, cover and mix on high for about a minute. Transfer to a wide mouthed lidded jar. Use immediately, or refrigerate until ready to use. The sauce is best when the flavors are allowed some time to meld; about an hour.  

Servings: 3  Yield: About 1-1/2 cups (enough to make three 12-inch pizzas)

*Or, 1 lb. 12 oz. can Escalon 6-in-1® All Purpose Ground Tomatoes. Due to the larger can, double the rest of the ingredients and follow the recipe as directed. Servings: 6  Yield: About 3 cups (enough to make six 12-inch pizzas)

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Freshly Made Thin Crust Pizza Dough

by Michelle

    Making pizza has been a bit of an obsession between we sisters. Twenty years ago, while Juliette and I and her son were living together in a new apartment complex in suburban Phoenix, we made pizza for the first time shaping the homemade dough on a perforated pan and baking the sausage and vegetable pie in an electric oven. I made the yeasted dough in a food processor using a recipe from Abby Mandel's Cuisinart Classroom (Cuisinart Cooking Club 1980) and prepared a cooked tomato pizza sauce from "The New Basics Cookbook" by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins (Workman Publishing 1989). Much has changed since then, but what has stayed the same is cooking pizza at home is a rewarding and fun experience.
   Living in Phoenix, where the intense summer blaze stretches six months, it wasn't long before we began cooking the pizzas on the grill, keeping the heat out of the kitchen and the house a little cooler. As an added bonus, the grill was hotter than the oven, giving the crust a better texture and taste. At that time I continued to use perforated pans set on the second rack of the grill to keep the crust from burning on the bottom. We could grill two at a time and pizzas became part of our standard recipe rotation for weekend dinners and casual entertaining.

   Over the years we've tinkered with various flour combinations and ratios of water, salt, yeast and olive oil. Somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 years ago, Juliette set her mind to learning about sourdough and made her own starter using the recipe from "Fields of Greens" by Annie Somerville (Bantam 1993). Seeing Juliette's success making gorgeous sourdough breads, I asked if she would give me, her dear sister, a portion of the starter. I've been refreshing and using it ever since. A few years ago, when Linda came to Tucson for a visit, I gave her a portion of the starter that she carried home to California where it is still alive and well in her refrigerator. I suppose we could just as well be called the Sourdough Salvation Sisters.
   You can probably tell where this story is going... it wasn't long before we began experimenting with sourdough pizza. I'd usually just add sourdough to my regular yeasted dough for extra flavor. It was Juliette who made the jump to cold fermentation - a long, slow rise in the refrigerator - for an extra tasty dough. She also happened to stumble across Jeff Varasano's website that introduced her to a process called autolyse (rhymes with analyze.) The way Jeff lays everything out is somewhat confusing, but all the information is there and explained in detail - just Google his name to find his site. The good news is that the autolyse technique works wonders with both yeasted and naturally leavened doughs and works just as well for pizza as it does for French bread. 
   After further investigation, we discovered that the autolyse technique was developed by the late chemist and baker, Raymond Calvel who was a mentor to Julia Child. The method is used by bakers to make better bread with less work. It couldn't be simpler. Vigorously mix a portion of the flour and water together, and then let the mixture rest giving the flour time to absorb the water. The result is the dough develops long strands of gluten and is more pliable. The dough requires less flour creating a wetter dough that is beneficial for baking pizza in an incredibly hot environment whether it is in an oven or on a grill.

Light, but chewy crust, with big air pockets and it crunches when cut. Take a big bite, it's delicious!
   The autolyse technique has yielded such wonderful results that we have adjusted all our yeast bread recipes to incorporate it. For such little effort, autolyse yields great flavor and texture. With all the characteristics that folks typically want in an exceptional pizza - light, but chewy crust, with big air pockets and it crunches when you cut it or bite into it -give it a try and see the difference for yourself.
    Making great dough is certainly an important component of making a great pizza, but how the pie is baked is probably even more important - it has to be at a high heat and you must use a baking stone. If you have researched pizza making, you know that pizza ovens in Italy burn around 900°F, baking pizzas in about 2 minutes. Most home ovens top out between 450°F-500°F, baking a pizza on the downhill slide to 20 minutes after pre-heating for an hour. We estimate our grills on full throttle burn between 600°-700 °F, cooking a pizza in about 6 minutes giving the crust a slight char, called leoparding, and that crunchy but soft bite, which for us is highly desirable.

Grilling on the PizzaQue®.
   You can make excellent pizza at home using your gas grill, a pizza peel and a baking stone. Our best pizzas are baked using a Pizza Que Grill Stone, a baking stone that rests in a raised metal tray that sells via on-line and retail stores for about $90. The grill, with the stone, quickly preheats in about 10-15 minutes; much faster than a conventional oven. The Pizza Que can also be used in combination with smoking chips to provide extra smoky flavor approximating a wood burning oven. My only wish is that the stone will someday be available in a double wide version so we may grill two pizzas at the same time.
   Juliette continued on with developing her own incredible sourdough recipe that took a year and a half of diligent testing to perfect. She is now a pizzaoili in Bisbee, Arizona and cooks and bakes professionally for a living. We on the other hand, may wake up late on a Saturday and want pizza for an early dinner. If you are a patient person, the following recipe can also undergo a 24-hour rise in the refrigerator to maximize flavor. The choice is yours. Ready, set, go, let's cook pizza.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Margaritas for You and Me or A Crowd, Por Favor!

by Linda

   A few years ago, before I moved to the beautiful North Bay in California, I moved to San Jose from the Santa Ynez Valley. It was quite a change for me to leave my home of 20 plus years in the rural wine and horse country of "The Valley" as we liked to call it, and find myself living in a tiny "in-law cottage" near the downtown of San Jose with large and very loud jets flying over my cottage every five minutes.
   Fortunately, my landlord's ample backyard served at my front yard, and so although my little house was too small to host a large party inside, I could accomodate a large group outside. I was working as a Team Leader for Whole Foods Market®, and I wanted to be able to have my team over for an informal gathering. I asked everyone to bring his or her own beach chair so seating was not a concern and we would keep warm by burning wood in the Weber grill for a makeshift fire bowl.
   Since I was very much on a budget, I needed a menu that would serve a crowd, be delicious, and work within my means. I decided to make pork carnitas with all the sides and serve my favorite margaritas which I made the day ahead and stored in empty gallon water bottles in my fridge.

   I created a playlist of my favorite Latin artists like Maná, Juanes and Ricky Martin and mixed in some great dance tunes from other artists like the B52s. The party was such a huge hit with my guests, and as it turned out, a passion was ignited for two of my friends who shared their first kiss in my kitchen that night.Thus my annual Carnitas Party was born, and my cottage became fondly nicknamed "The Love Shack", since that tune happened to be on the playlist that first night.
   My team always looked forward to the next Carnitas Party, and even though I offered to change the menu for subsequent parties, they all clammored for Carnitas and Margaritas. What more can possibly be said about Margaritas you might ask? Well, here is my “algo mas” on the subject as one would say in Latin America.
   One of my pet peeves when it comes to cocktails is that bartending manuals usually provide measurements for a single cocktail. When it comes to margaritas and mojitos, I personally prefer to have some friends around to share in the fun, and I like to make a pitcher. I have been making margaritas for almost 20 years, and I finally came up with a recipe that has gotten a big thumbs up from family and friends, and has become a standard for us sisters when we entertain, or simply celebrate the arrival of Friday night.
   It will keep for a week in the fridge and indefinitely when frozen. I always make it for my annual Carnitas Party, and depending on how large the group will be, can be made in volume. I have found over the years that there is no substitution for real lime juice from fresh and juicy limes—forget that stuff sitting on some grocery store shelf —the juicing is worth the effort.

   The choice of Triple Sec is also very important. Bols is my TripleSec of choice, and the margaritas will not taste the same without it. There is no need to use an expensive sipping tequila for margies. I am currently using Zapopan (available at Trader Joe's in California), but have used Jose Cuervo, Montezuma's and a number of others over the years. This cocktail gets a big boost from the other ingredients, and is an economical choice for a large party since the alcohols used are relatively inexpensive.
   For parties I like to place the pitcher on the bar with an ice bucket full of cubed ice, a dish of sliced lime wedges and a small plate of coarse sea salt (I like Eden Hand Harvested French Celtic Sea Salt which can be found at Whole Foods Market or your local natural foods grocer), and a selection of great glasses.
   Guests are able to prepare their own margaritas with or without salt. Guests that like salt can rub the rim of their glass with a lime wedge and dip it into the plate of sea salt. With a bar set up, guests are also able to go back for a refill without needing bartender assistance, and be assured, they usually go back for a second. Here’s the basic recipe:
Linda's Margaritas 

1 cup Lime juice, freshly squeezed, about 6 to 8
2 cups Reposado grade Tequila, 80% proof
1-1/4 cups Triple Sec, 30% proof, preferrably Bols
2 cups Lemon Italian Soda, either Whole Foods Brand or Safeway's O Brand (avoid Santa Cruz brand)

1. In a large pitcher, add lime juice, tequila, triple sec and lemon Italian soda. Stir. Salt rims of glasses if you like and serve each portion over ice. Servings: 8-10

Also... check out our newer post for Not So Girly Strawberry Margaritas. You'll be glad you did!

Linda's note 2015: Inspired by a visit to Cafe Poca Cosa (one of our favorite restaurants in Tucson), I began adding the juice of one fresh orange to my original recipe. The charming owner of Cafe Poca Cosa, Suzana Davila, confirmed that they add it to their delicious recipe in the restaurant, and I find I like my recipe better when that addition is made. Cheers!

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