Monday, May 26, 2014

La paloma rosada

La Paloma is perhaps one of the oldest, most popular and most-recorded songs of its genre. Its sweet, lilting melody has been sung and played by musicians all over the world and conveys romance, nostalgia and the tension between love and loss.  You've doubtless heard this song many times, in many incarnations.  One of the most exquisite modern-day versions is by Greek singer Nana Mouskouri:

Ms. Mouskouri also sings La Paloma as a duet in French with Mireille Mathieu and also with Julio Iglesias in Spanish.  You will be able to find many other versions of this piece, both instrumental and vocal, after a quick search on the internet.

Was it romance, nostalgia and loss that were on my mind when I embarked on my weekend mixology adventures?  Heck, no!  It was my love of grapefruit and tequila, some inspiration from a tequila-loving friend, and my perpetual quest to develop thirst-quenching warm weather cocktails that refresh without that pesky interaction between too much heat and too much alcohol.

Like its musical cousin, the Paloma cocktail is extremely popular in Mexico.  In fact, some sources (including Bon Appetit) say that the Paloma is more popular than the margarita. And also like its musical cousin, there are many versions of the Paloma cocktail.  It can be made with grapefruit soda or sparkling water, with white or pink grapefruit juice, include lime juice, have added sugar, or the glass can have a salted rim.

To me, the most refreshing versions are those that are less sweet, so I've almost always made my Palomas with grapefruit juice and club soda or seltzer, and sans salt on the rim of the glass. Recently, a new friend suggested grapefruit bitters in tequila, so I thought these two ingredients were the perfect starting point for a new cocktail: La Paloma Rosada, a light, refreshing blend of pink grapefruit juice, grapefruit bitters and sparkling water.

You can get grapefruit bitters at most well-stocked liquor stores (I found mine at Spec's) or order online.  Even by themselves in a icy glass of sparkling water, they add a depth and sophistication without sugar.  And if you make this cocktail without the grapefruit bitters, it is still delicious and refreshing.

I used sparkling mineral water, but you can use club soda or seltzer--whatever is available to you.  Or, if you prefer just straight grapefruit juice and tequila, knock yourself out.  And remember your drink will have more knock-out potential as well.

If you want to salt the rim of the glass, use kosher salt, which looks much more beautiful than table salt.  But do garnish with fresh grapefruit slices and a sprig of mint. They make the drink really attractive.


La Paloma Rosada

2 oz. freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice
2 oz. tequila blanco (you can use reposado if you wish)
3-5 dashes grapefruit bitters (such as Fee Brothers or Scrappy's)
sparkling water
fresh grapefruit slices, for garnish
mint leaves, for garnish

To a tall glass filled with ice, add the grapefruit juice, the tequila and the bitters.  Fill to the rim with sparkling water and garnish with grapefruit slices and mint leaves.  Makes one cocktail.

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Here are the lyrics to the refrain of La Paloma, in Spanish and English: 

Si a tu ventana llega una paloma,
trátala con cariño que es mi persona.
Cuéntale tus amores, bien de mi vida,
corónala de flores, que es cosa mía.

If to your window happens to come a dove,
treat it with loving care, for it's my own.
Tell her your love affairs, my loving one,
and crown her with flowers, for she is mine.

          by Sabastian Iradier, ca. 1963

Friday, May 16, 2014

Got dopamine?

Several years ago, I realized that sugar could be my heroin.  To be more precise, sugar, combined with the right amount of salt and fat, is my China White.  Now, thanks to those pesky, determined research scientists, we know why, since the dopamine receptors that get stimulated during heroin use are the same ones that get triggered by sugar and fat.

So, now you know that I am a closet sugar and fat addict.  And every once in a while, I go on a binge.  But I don't want a mainstream sugar fix--I want something with a little panache. Like these Coconut Cashew Curry Rice Krispies Bites.

Sweet, spicy, salty, rich and exotic, these treats make my dopamine receptors light up like a pinball machine and it's hard to stop reaching for more.  My dirty little trick is to cut them very small (about 1" square) so I can have several and feel totally decadent about it.

No unusual ingredients here, get them at your local grocery.  Easy, fun and elegant at your next cocktail party.  Rice Krispies and martinis?  You bet!  But when you share them with your friends, they won't know whether to slap you or kiss you since they'll be hooked too.

Coconut Cashew Curry Rice Krispies Bites
           ~~inspired by an idea in Food and Wine Magazine~~

5 Tbs. unsalted butter, plus more for greasing pan

One 16 oz. bag miniature marshmallows

2 Tbs. mild curry powder (such as Madras-style)

1/4  tsp. cayenne pepper (optional)

1 tsp. kosher salt

1 c. toasted coconut

3/4 c. salted cashews, roughly chopped or smashed with a mallet

9 c. puffed rice cereal, such as Rice Krispies

Butter a 9" x 13" baking dish or a sided sheetcake pan (1" depth).  In a large kettle or 6 qt. Dutch oven, melt 5 Tbs. butter.  Add the marshmallow and reduce heat, stirring with a large spoon (avoid using plastic, it may melt) over low heat until marshmallows are melted. 

Stir in the curry powder, cayenne, kosher salt and toasted coconut, blending well.  Remove from heat, then add the cashews and puffed rice, stirring until completely coated.

Scoop the mixture into the greased baking dish and press into an even layer.  A nesting pan on top of a greased piece of waxed paper or foil laid over the top of the mixture is a great tool to use to press down evenly and to make sure mixture reaches into the corners of the dish.  Let stand at room temperature until cool and firm, about 45 minutes.

Invert the mixture onto a work surface and using a sharp knife, cut into 1" squares.  Makes about 6 dozen squares.