Search Results for "margarita"

Imagine turning your house into a restaurant for one night…literally. For some of us with beautiful showpiece kitchens and separate dining rooms, perhaps it wouldn’t be so difficult. For those of us in otherwise (quite) cramped Chicago quarters, it might be next to impossible. But perhaps you were provided with a local chef, all the right ingredients, the right amount of time to prepare your meal, beautiful dishes and servingware, tables and seating, and a staff to run food and pour drinks… Let’s just say, with enough help, anything is possible.



Turning her home into a restaurant, very much quite literally, was Cara, our host for Morton Salt’s Next Door Chef in Chicago. Cara opened her doors to local chef Jason Vincent (Giant, Logan Square) and his crew, along with the team from Morton Salt to transform her home from the place you hang your hat, to a chic pop up restaurant known as Cara’s Place, serving a three course dinner for one night only.

Lucky enough to score an invite, my trusted companion (blog wife), Chrissy and I walked in, definitely not knowing what to expect. Had my own home been turned into a restaurant, you would have seen me likely semi-clothed, running around putting the finishing touches on outfit, hair and makeup, with a Monica Geller-esque bedroom holding all my worldly possessions out of sight of my guests. Something would almost definitely be on fire in the kitchen, and more than likely, I’d be swearing like a sailor and sweating profusely.

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None of that happened at Cara’s. We walked into an elegant scene that truly looked like a restaurant, a hostess greeted us and directed us to the bar, and I happily obliged, picking up the specialty cocktail of the evening, the Salty ‘Rita, prepared with gin instead of the standard tequila and served straight up with a rim of Morton’s Kosher Salt. Perhaps you know this salt – it’s the one in the blue box, and famously known for THE salt that rims margarita glasses. Yes, it’s amazing, and yes, the gin Salty Rita was certainly salty, but also very delicious. Oh, and Morton Kosher Salt – it’s NOT just for rimming your glasses.



After mingling for a bit with some fellow familiar faces, we were seated for dinner service. The table was beautifully set, and we were lucky enough to eat dinner with Cara’s mom! We learned a bit about Cara, our elusive hostess, who at this point I assumed was trying desperately to squeeze herself into proper dinner attire while smearing eyeliner all over her lids. Oh wait – no, that would again have been me preparing a three course meal for a bunch of foodie strangers.

Still no sign of Cara, but ah! dinner was about to start. The first course was Brussels Sprouts with pears and pecorino cheese with a ginger almond dressing, finished with Morton Coarse Sea Salt. Don’t worry, this dish was as absolutely phenomenal as it sounded. It was the perfect way to start dinner, and the Rosé that accompanied the rest of dinner was the ideal drink accompaniment.


The second course was somehow even better than the first, with a theme made for Thanksgiving. We were served roasted and brined turkey (yes!), spicy rice (yes!!) and the best sweet potatoes I’ve ever tasted (YES!!!). The turkey was beautifully plated, served over the spicy rice with the sweet potatoes on the side. The turkey was brined in Morton Kosher Salt, and the breast and thigh were rubbed with spices and more kosher salt. Served with a creamy cilantro sauce on top, and the spicy (oh yes, it was spicy) rice underneath, it was the perfect blend of mild and spicy, yin and yang. Kosher salt stole the show, as both the spicy rice, made with Thai chili, peanuts and cilantro, and the sweet potatoes, made with bacon, maple syrup, anchovy, parmesan and sour cream were also seasoned with the coarse salt. I just need to take a moment to bask in how absolutely delightful the sweet potatoes were – I’ve honestly never tasted anything like them, and I’ll be sure to post the recipe for you asap!



After our second course we were full, but come on, I’ve always saved room for dessert, and was happy to find a giant (hey, like Jason Vincent’s restaurant!) chocolate chip cookie, dusted with kosher salt. Thin and crispy isn’t my idea of a great cookie, but somehow this thin cookieseemed to magically disappear. So much for saving any sort of calories on this meal. Maybe I’ll rethink my perspective on thin and crispy cookies.

During our dessert course, Cara came out from behind the kitchen doors, along with our executive chef for the evening, Jason Vincent. Cara couldn’t have been more welcoming, and a put-together and polished At Home Chef, unlike yours truly. They answered our questions, and while Chef Jason admitted that Cara had a lot of help, he also said they truly worked together to create the dishes. It took time to create and set up, but in the kitchen, they worked as a team.

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This whole experience made me stop to think that salt is one of those funny things that isn’t ever really the star of a meal, but it HAS to be there in order to be done right. A key phrase in our household growing up was “I didn’t add very much salt to this, so make sure you add it yourself.” But topping your dish with salt at the end just can’t compare to when salt is added during cooking, or adding a sprinkle of coarse salt at the end. Morton Salt not only makes kosher salt, which is preferred by chefs, and was certainly the salt star for our experience at Cara’s, but they also have coarse sea salt and fine sea salt. Both kosher and the coarse sea salt add texture to a dish when sprinkled on top, and fine sea salt dissolves quickly, making it perfect for blended meal elements, like soups, sauces and marinades.

If you can somehow be as calm, cool and collected as Cara, you can go to to download your own hosting kit complete with recipes and how-to steps to add that extra something to your meal. BONUS – for added fun, see if you can spot me in the video here:

And, hey, if you do host your own “Next Door Chef” party or have a recipe idea for using Morton Kosher or sea salt, post your photos using #NextDoorChef.

Dinner at Cara’s made me realize two things: 1) that I need to get myself over to Giant, Chef Jason Vincent’s restaurant in Logan Square, and 2) I somehow WILL recreate those sweet potatoes. Main Squeeze is going to be truly delighted to learn they take anchovies – he LOVES them and will gladly eat any leftovers right out of the can. Oh, and a bonus 3) I’m going to make myself a BIG margarita with extra Morton Kosher Salt.

* I was compensated by Morton Salt for this post. All opinions expressed here are my own.

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Top 5 Places to Visit in Chicago
It’s really not hard to love Chicago. Growing up in a super small town, the bright lights, big city atmosphere had me enthralled from my first visit as a wee one, and from then on I lived for field trips to the Windy City. At 165 miles away, it was just far enough to visit only  about once a year, mostly on school trips. I always remember the feeling I would get on the school bus when you could first see the skyline – it would take my breath away, even as a kid. I couldn’t imagine what people actually did in that skyline – what kinds of jobs they had, did they have families, how could they drive? It was all so different from growing up in rural Illinois, where the only view that changed in your backyard year to year was when the farmer planted seed corn instead of soybeans. You know, sometimes it’s good to experience the city like a tourist, even though at an official 10 years in May, I’m an established Chicagoan. I’m going to give you a list of 5 awesome places you can go, whether you’re a tourist, or have lived in the city for years. Let’s start with the pinnacle of tourist activities: a visit to the Hancock Center.

1. 360 CHICAGO – John Hancock Observatory

I recently had a chance to throwback to my very first trip to Chicago, an experience that included the Junior and Senior C-family going up in the Hancock to see the sights from the observatory. When you’re five, you get an eye-popping dose of perspective, and the first glimmer that you’re somewhat terrified of heights – the ants on the ground are actually people, your knees are a little shaky – your first taste of vertigo.

The good people at 360 CHICAGO invited some very cool, very awesome, very influential Chicago bloggers (…how did I get invited?…) to hang out atop the John Hancock Observation Deck, as part of their announcement of the new Chicago Resident Appreciation Rate, aka “The 606 Rate”, aka 50% off if you’re a resident of Chicago. That brings adult admission down to $10, and $6.50 for kids. It’s a good deal, 606’ers. Oh, and they’re doing the “Sunset Series,” which has some cool photography-related events going down, PLUS through Memorial Day, active duty military and veterans get in free. 

We also got the chance to literally hang out on TILT!, the, frankly terrifying, sky ride that dangles you 1,000 feet above the city, and tilts you until your pathetically weak core muscles give out and you’re truly laying atop the glass, taking in the sights. Is it scary? Yes!! Is it worth it? Yes!! 

At this time I will now regale you with some of my photos from 360 CHICAGO, and as an added treat, show you some actually very lovely photos taken from the observation deck by Nick Ulivieri, the resident kickass photographer for 360. 


Oh look, it’s Main Squeeze, hiding out behind his camera phone, taking this picture of yours truly:


Oh hey!!


This one is almost as good as that one below:

Threw some frames I took up at @360chiviews into the #surrealscape blender ⚡️+🌤 // #Chitecture

A photo posted by Nick Ulivieri (@nick_ulivieri) on


Please visit the website for more information on 360 CHICAGO. | 875 N Michigan Avenue, 94th Floor | Open Daily 9am–11pm

2. The French Market

French Market Chicago

Let’s put it this way – if your Metra train takes you into Ogilvie, there’s a damn good chance you’ve already been to The French Market. If your Metra train drops you off at Union Station, or if you’re over here like “What’s a Metra train?”, then you probably haven’t been to The French Market. It’s this wonderful place that houses a bunch of different food vendors all together, kind of like one of those fantastic open-air markets in France…but a little more like a food court, as there is certainly nothing open air about Chicago’s French Market.

But nevertheless, it’s got some super fantastic food vendors that are worthy of the trip, even if you don’t ride the Metra. Check out the map (open it in a new tab if you’d actually like to read it):
Chicago French Market

My friend Chrissy and I descended upon the French Market for another of the super cool blogger events we’re frequently invited to (this was her invite, might I clarify, I was just the desperate for Da Lobsta & Beaver’s Donuts +1). We ate…and ate…and ate…and then when we tired of eating, we had another lobster roll, and I had a green smoothie. Like, my first ever. And I didn’t die, and it was pretty tasty.


For more information, please visit the website Chicago French Market | 131 North Clinton (Between Washington and Randolph), Chicago, Illinois | 312-575-0306

3. The Four Seasons Chicago

Never in my life would there be an occasion to be at The Four Seasons anywhere, unless it was at the invitation of someone else. My boss was kind enough to invite me along for our fancy work awards ceremony. It was SO MUCH FUN. There was an amazing band, The Gentlemen of Leisure, and the food….oh, just so fantastic. I shall tuck this one away in my memory for when I’m rich, famous and need to host a very large, very upscale event.


To get your fancy on, visit The Four Seasons Chicago | 120 E Delaware Place, Chicago, IL 60611

4. Walter E. Smithe

How do you follow up Walter E. Smithe? Is it “You Dream it, We Build It”? Perhaps it’s the lilty “Custom Furniture” or maybe it’s “That’s Smithe with an E.” As a Chicagoan, all of the above answers are correct, and good luck getting the theme song out of your head for the rest of the day. Whatever your preference, it’s a place all of Chicago knows, but I’m guessing not nearly everyone in Chicago has been, and now there’s a super great reason to visit.

Recently Walter E. Smithe, Chicago’s favorite furniture store, teamed up with Jeff Lewis, a kick-ass house flipper & designer and star of perhaps my favorite Bravo reality show, (and I watch like 75% of them) “Flipping Out.” Jeff curated the collection, so you can shop room vignettes, and mix and match with Jeff-approved elements. Walter E. Smithe invited the public to a meet and greet with Jeff, Gage and Jenni at their Lincoln Park showroom, just mere blocks from my work. I collected another superfan, my friend Paul, and we browsed – playing the game “favorite thing in this room, and most hated thing in this room” re: the vignettes, drank margaritas, ate our weight in cheese, and then actually got to meet and greet Jeff, Gage & Jenni. Here is photographic evidence that this really happened.


For the location nearest you, visit Walter E. Smithe. The Lincoln Park location is at 2009 N Clybourn Ave, Chicago, IL 60614

5. Chris’s Northland Tavern

I’ve declared a new rule for all Chicagoans – if you have lived in the city for over 5 years, and are over 21 of course, you MUST have a favorite dive bar. If you’re on board with this decree, let me know what your favorite is in the comments, and I’ll totally visit. Mine is Chris’s Northland Tavern, the definitive answer to the question I’m frequently asked “Where do you guys go out most often?”

Chris's Northland Tavern


Chris’s is that special combination of cheap, slightly rough-crowded and a short enough walk from home base that I’d go there even if it weren’t for the friendly bartenders who’ve worked their for years, and if you visit often enough, just might slip you a free shot or two. On top of all this awesomeness, there’s a TouchTunes jukebox, a pool table and a decent selection of beer, chips, and if you’re really drunk enough, food, but I’d skip that and eat a gyro from The Hat instead, which is just 2 doors away. Main Squeeze prefers gyros from Tarboush, located directly next door to Chris’s.

I can’t even tell you how many nights I’ve passed drinking, watching a game, talking with the bartenders and owning the jukebox at this superb Chicago dive bar. Open 365 days a year, if you’re over in Bucktown or Wicker Park and find yourself wandering near Ashland and North Ave, do yourself a favor and stop in for a beer. Tip your bartenders well!

Chris’s Northland Tavern is located at 1610 W North Avenue, Chicago, IL 60622. They do not have a website, but you can read their reviews on Yelp



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Dining Away from the Desk: Moe’s Cantina

Thursday, August 27, 2015

I have turned over a new leaf in my life – being more spontaneous, and embracing a personal journey of enrichment and awesomeness. You may have noticed I’ve been rather quiet this summer…and not in my normal manner of “Oh, kinda forgot I was a blogger there for a second.” This summer has been one of the strangest on record for me, personally. In a life lived in a fairly stable (not completely unshakable, but fairly earthquake-proof) way, there have been some big shake-ups, with strange feelings and emotions attached. Doubt, uncertainty and general sads aren’t welcome feelings in my personal house (unless I’m eating a sad late-night gyro, which I guess is a different denotation of sad), so I’m cleaning them out and shaking things up on my own terms. It feels good, and I’ll end it here with a particularly favorite and apropos movie quote:

With this new journey of personal enrichment, I’m looking at ways to get out of my comfort zone, which means getting out of my comfy pants and off the couch. For those of you who know me, you know how much I love my comfy pants. Nothing equals happiness quite like walking through the door at the end of the workday and going straight for pants without buttons, but for this personal journey, enriching my life means making some comfort sacrifices – and let’s be honest, it’s still dress season, so the dreaded buttons and zippers aren’t yet in full effect.

So what opportunity of afforded awesomeness lay in wait for me this week? Well, it was the chance for spontaneous Margarita Monday, a gift-horse I wasn’t about to look in the mouth, since margaritas are neck-in-neck with comfy pants on the love scale. BUT! Not only margaritas, but tacos – TAAAACCCCCCOOOOSSSSS!!!!!! ANNNNNDDDD – GUACAMOOOOOOLLLLLLEEEEE! Cue the mental happy dance; physical happy dance curtailed only because my new office has low cubicle walls and I’m just not sure everyone would appreciate such a spectacle.

Moe’s Cantina in River North extended a dinner invitation to a great group of food-minded folks to test out some new taco creations and margarita options, sponsored by Grand Mayan Tequila. It was a last-minute invite, the kind I might have passed over in a previous life, but spontaneity embraced, invite accepted, and an obviously excellent decision all-around.

Please note, the pictures I’m about to post are a mix of some of the professional dinner shots and some personal pics, snapped on what is obviously the best way to capture great moments in food – an iPhone 5S. I’m almost positive you’ll be able to tell which are my originals. Additionally, there were a few extremely unflattering photos of myself and my blogger pal mauling the tacos. As a matter of good taste, I have strategically left these photos to your imagination.

Let’s begin with the work of the art that is the Grand Mayan tequila bottle – it’s so pretty! Beside it is a cucumber margarita, which was a flavor I wasn’t expecting in a margarita, but was an exciting change of pace. I’m still more of a traditional rocks and (lots) of salt girl, but I had no problem branching out with this tequila treat.

Grand Mayan Tequila

Next up we have Moe’s special flour tortillas, which they import directly from Mexico. They come in raw, and are cooked to perfection. The chef said the most common way they ate these tortillas growing up was cooked on the stove and topped with butter…clearly a man after my own heart.

Los Garcias Raw Flour Tortillas

Moe's Cantina Flour Tortillas

I settled for nature’s butter – avocados in guacamole form. I can’t even tell you how amazing these tortillas are. They came in a nicely wrapped package, like a present, and smelled to me like French toast. They tasted incredible with or without the guacamole – which, by the way, was also excellent. We sampled three different kinds of guacamole with our chips and tortillas and my favorite was the first and simplest – made only with avocados, serrano pepper and salt. The tortillas were the perfect vehicle for guacamole consumption with the ideal amount of bite and tear – I could have happily made a meal solely on the tortillas. Asked if anyone wanted any additional of these terrific tortillas, can you guess who raised her hand?!

Let’s have some taco talk. Moe’s treated us to four different kinds of tacos, resplendent in their taco terrificness. The first we sampled, and consquently, my favorite, was the Chicken Mole with orange citrus slaw, red onion, cilantro, sesame seeds, served in a corn tortilla. The mole was the standout, rich, with a definite sweet flavor. I’m a big fan of sweet meats, so this was right up my alley.

Moe's Cantina Chicken Mole Tacos

The evening’s second taco was a crispy duck option with Sichuan peppercorn marinated duck, pickled red onions, habanero, radish and jalapeno slaw and hoisin sauce. This was the host’s favorite and another complete hit in my book. I don’t often eat duck, but when I do – well, let’s put it on a taco.

Moe's Cantina Chicago

Third taco – by this point I was feeling full to quite full, but not full enough that I wasn’t going to eat the next taco, because this taco was STEAK. Mmmm, steak – oh, and this one came on those amazing flour tortillas from earlier in the evening. Behold the Taco al Carbon: chopped sirloin, yellow onion and cilantro. Simple, but flavorful. This was my blogger friend’s favorite of the evening.

Moe's Cantina Tacos

Rounding out the last of the tacos was the Italian Brick Chicken – marinated chicken in thyme, rosemary and olive oil, pico de gallo, nopales, chilie morita sauce and heavy cream in a corn tortilla. As you can well imagine, at this point I was stuffed, and this poor taco only got eaten halfway. It obviously veered from traditional Mexican flavors, and it was either that or the fact that we were all full that no one picked it as their favorite taco of the evening.

Italian Chicken Tacos

And just when you think you’re so full you can’t possibly eat another morsel, the chef comes out with some churros. And then you think to yourself, “Well, self, looks like you saved justenough room for these churros.” And then you eat the churros, dipping them into the over-21 Nescafe and Grand Mayan tequila dipping sauce, happily lapping up the extra whipped cream and, duh, there’s always going to be room for churros and booze sauce.

Churros at Moe's Cantina

So what did I take away from this journey of spontaneity? I had an absolutely fantastic dinner courtesy of the gracious, welcoming and utterly hospitable folks at Moe’s Cantina in River North and Grand Mayan Tequila. I learned about cooking and mixology, I met new and interesting people, had a lot of laughs and a great deal of fun. All in all, it was an evening totally worthy of uncomfortable pants, though I have to admit and was very happy because of it, the ones I was wearing that evening didn’t have buttons.

If you’re planning to eat tacos in Chicago soon, go to Moe’s Cantina. They have locations in River North and Wrigleyville. Visit them on the web at While you’re at it, order a margarita the way I would – on the rocks with lots of salt – and try it with Grand Mayan Tequila.


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The TL;DR version: if you like meats, if you like bbq, if you like good bbq’ed meats, make the trip to Green Street Smoked Meats.

Green Street Smoked Meats has been on my to-do list for a few months. I had a chance to go a few weeks ago when my best friend was in town. Despite living in Nashville, she visits often enough that the list of places she hasn’t been to in my neighborhood is growing quite small. We both are the type of awesome ladies who like to try new things, so Green Street popped into my head and we were off to try some smoked meats.

We met another friend around 5:30 on a Friday, and the place was already half full. Oh, and the place is cool-done-right. The lighting is dim, the bouncers (are they bouncers?) look 10 years younger and 10x cooler than you’ve ever been, and the whole vibe is very let’s throw back some good booze and bbq. The seating is communal picnic tables around a central bar with a separate line for food. I advise the threesome team approach – one person holds the table, one person at the bar, one person in line for the meats.

Green Street Smoked Meats Interior

Photo credit: Thrillist Chicago

My friend and I started with margarita (fresh and punch-packing), and our other friend (a GSSM veteran) took care of the meat ordering. We ended up with the pulled pork, chicken legs, chopped beef brisket, potato salad and pickles. The meats are served with white bread and two sauce options are available on the side – a mild and a spicy bbq. As a happy accident, my friend intended to order the sliced brisket and ended up with the chopped – he said it was even better than the sliced; I’ve never had the sliced, but the chopped brisket was my favorite thing on the plate tray. I can’t speak to the chicken legs, as these were all for the BFF. I can say that we weren’t sure what’d we’d get since the menu just read “Chicken Leg – $6,” and it included 3 pieces of chicken. It looked great, but can’t personally confirm.

Green Street Smoked Meats BBQ

The meats are so, so good. I love my neighborhood bbq, Lillie’s Q, but Green Street is serious competition. The meat is smoky, flavorful, and really couldn’t be shoveled into my mouth fast enough. The chopped brisket is without a doubt my highest recommendation. The pickles were tangy and a perfect complement to the pulled pork on white bread. The potato salad – I mean, just look at it. It’s the perfect mix of mayo-y to potato-y. There are rolls of paper towels on the tables to mop up your messy, bbq’ed, potato salad’ed self.

Other notable items – there is a secret ramen shop in the basement, and there’s going to be a line. Conveniently, there are some (obviously cool) risers for people to sit on, which somehow reminded me of people waiting to perform in a middle school talent show. I kept waiting for them to bust into song. When you’re done eating, roll yourself out of the picnic table and finish your night off right with an old fashioned from the Doughnut Vault truck, parked right outside. I’d never had Doughnut Vault before either, so this trip really fed two birds with one scone.

All in all, if anyone ever suggests going to Green Street, just say yes. If no one suggests it, take yourself.

Author’s note: Green Street Smoked Meats is another in the list of Midas Touch Brendan Sodikoff restaurants. 

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Once upon a time I used to work at Eduardo’s in DeKalb. Easily the best job ever (ok, perhaps a close second to Dairy Queen). I served up Mexican and margaritas with a smile, and always, always had cash. Now I have to visit a cash-dispensing machine before I go out. And it was really much more convenient to combine my drinking with my working. Now I must wait until I’m on the train to drink. Sigh, what a bother.

One of my favorite gems on the Eduardo’s menu was the Chilaquiles. When I wasn’t ordering a kid’s meal with a chicken/avocado burrito, I’d often order the chilaquiles as it’s obviously the most fun word EVER to say! Ed’s were made with scrambled eggs, but these Chicken Chilaquiles with Roasted Poblano Salsa from The Galley Gourmet look awesome.

Chicken Chilaquiles

Chicken Chilaquiles from The Galley Gourmet

Chicken Chilaquiles

serves 8
1 3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 (16-ounce) package of corn tortillas (I use white corn), cut into 1/2-inch wide strips
1 large yellow onion, finely diced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoon oregano, preferably Mexican
1 3/4 cup chicken stock
4 cups (about 12 ounces) shredded cooked chicken
6 ounces Chihuahua cheese, grated (Monterey Jack can be substituted)
2 3/4 cups Roasted Tomatillo Salsa (recipe follows)
Mexican crema or sour cream
Queso fresco
Chopped cilantro
Preheat oven to 375º F.
In a large heavy pan, heat oil to 350º F.  Fry a handful of tortilla strips at a time until golden brown and crisp; stirring lightly with metal tongs to keep from sticking together, about 2-3 minutes.  Transfer to a paper towel lined rack.  Continue with remaining strips.  Carefully pour off all but 1 tablespoon of oil from the hot skillet. Add the onion to the remaining oil and sauté until softened, about 5-7 minutes.  Add the cumin and oregano and sauté another minute.  Add the stock and bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is reduced to 2/3 cup, about 10 minutes.  Add the chicken and 2 3/4 cups of the salsa and bring the mixture to a boil.
Remove from the heat and transfer the mixture to a large bowl.  Add the cheese and tortilla strips and toss to combine.  Transfer the mixture to a shallow 2-quart baking dish. Bake uncovered until the top is golden brown, about 15-20 minutes. Serve with crema, crumbled queso fresco, chopped cilantro, and remaining salsa.  Enjoy!

Roasted Tomatillo and Poblano Salsa

makes about 5-6 cups
*The salsa can be made up to 1 day ahead and refrigerated, covered
2 medium white onions, skin left on and halved
2 large poblano peppers
10 tomatillos (about 2 pounds), husked and washed
1-2 jalapeños (optional)
4 large garlic cloves, whole with skin left on
1 cup chopped cilantro or to taste
2 Tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
Kosher salt to taste
Preheat the broiler and position an oven rack in the highest position.  Place the halved onions cut side down on a rimmed baking sheet along with the poblano, tomatillos, jalapeños, and garlic.  Broil the vegetables, rotating as necessary until the skins have blistered and are slightly charred on all sides.  Keep a close eye on them as the onions and garlic will cook faster than the peppers and tomatillos.  Transfer the vegetables to a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and allow them to cool until they can easily be handled.  Remove the skin from the onion, trim the top and root end and roughly chop.  Peel the garlic and chop.  Rub the skins off the peppers, discard the stems and seeds and roughly chop.  Place the onions, garlic, peppers, and tomatillos in a food processor and pulse until blended, but still chunky.  Add the cilantro and lime juice and pulse until almost smooth.  Season generously with salt to taste.
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This is going to be a short post with very little witty banter. I think we all know how much I adore cheese. Here is a delicious looking recipe for cheesy cauliflower from Kitchenist.

Luxury Cheesy Cauliflower

Luxury Cheesy Cauliflower

1 large head cauliflower
1 Tbs. butter
1/2 a large onion
2 small bay leaves
2 cloves garlic, crushed with the side of a knife
1 1/2 cups milk
1 heaping tablespoon flour
3/4 cup grated cheddar cheese
3/4 cup grated fontina cheese
1/4 cup grated parmesan
black pepper, to taste
pinch freshly ground nutmeg

1. Bring a large pot of water to the boil and preheat the oven to 180°C/360°F. Trim the cauliflower into florets; I like larger ones, which look prettier, are more interesting to eat and retain their texture better than bite-sized ones. When the water boils, add the florets and blanche only until the water returns to the boil. Drain and florets and arrange in a baking dish.

2. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over moderate heat, and add the onions. Once they’ve softened, add the garlic, bay leaves and a pinch of sea salt. Continue cooking for 10-15 minutes, until onions are golden brown, soft and very fragrant. Remove the garlic and bay leaves and discard.

3. Add 1 cup of milk to the onion mixture and stir well. In a small bowl or mug, whisk together the remaining 1/2 cup of milk with the flour until there are no lumps. When the mixture in the saucepan begins to bubble, add the milk and flour mixture in a steady stream, stirring all the time. Continue stirring while the sauce thickens, about 3 minutes. Add the cheeses and stir until everything is melted, then season with the nutmeg and a good amount of black pepper.

4. Pour the sauce over the cauliflower and transfer to the oven. Bake for about 3o minutes, until bubbling all over and golden brown in places.

Rick Bayless and the Tecate Mojito

Rick Bayless Tecate Mojito

In honor of New Year’s Eve and my love of Rick Bayless, let’s have a drink recipe! This comes from Rick’s website, and is also in his cookbook “Fiesta at Rick’s,” which I got as a gift from my brother and sister-in-law for Christmas. The gift tag was signed, Kim and Colin – xoxoxoco…how awesome is that?!?

Makes 8 drinks

Recipe from Season 6 of Mexico – One Plate at a Time

3/4 cup sugar
48 large mint leaves
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup white rum or silver tequila
Four 12-ounce cans of Tecate beers (or other light, citrus-y tasting beer)

In a small saucepan combine the sugar and 3/4 cup water.  Bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar.  Cool.

For each drink, place 6 mint leaves in the bottom of a 10 to 12 ounce glass.  Add 2 tablespoons of the sugar syrup plus 1 tablespoon each of the lime juice and rum or tequila.  Crush (muddle) the mint into the liquid with a muddler or the back of a spoon or fork to release its flavor.  Fill the glass about 3/4 full with ice cubes.  Slowly pour in half of one of the beers, stir well with a long-handled spoon and serve right away.

It is on my bucket list to get drunk with Rick Bayless someday, fyi :)

Rick Bayless and the Holiday Champagne Margarita

Rick Bayless Holiday Champagne Margarita

Alright, twist my arm…let’s do another Rick Bayless drink recipe. Oh look, Rick’s put a twist on the champagne margarita just in time for New Year’s Eve :) Sounds like it could combine two of my loves – André Spumante and Rick Bayless!

2/3 cup fresh lime juice
1/3 cup 100% pure pomegranate juice
1 cup Cointreau
1 cup 100% agave silver tequila (some of our favorites right now are Cazadores, Herradura and Tres Generaciones)
2 to 3 tablespoons superfine sugar
1 lime half for moistening the glass rims
Coarse (Kosher) salt
1 bottle chilled brut champagne or other sparkling white wine

In a pitcher, combine the lime juice, pomegranate juice, Cointreau, tequila, and the sugar.  Mix until the sugar has dissolved.  Cover and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.

Moisten the rims of the champagne glasses with the cut side of the lime.  Spread coarse salt on a small plate, then upend the glasses into the salt to crust the rims.  Fill each glass halfway with the margarita base (it’ll take a generous 1/3 cup).  Slowly fill the rest of the way with champagne or sparkling wine, and hand to one of your lucky guests.

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