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Time to Stock Up for National Tequila Day

July 24 is National Tequila Day. In San Antonio, it’s just another day to enjoy tequila, whether you prefer it in a margarita or to sip after dinner. But here are a few tips from Casa Herradura, along with a few recipes from Tequila Don Julio and more.

Bloody Maria made with tequila

Bloody Maria made with tequila

1. How to taste tequila:

          Sight: Look at the tequila you are drinking through the glass. Note the color.

The color suggests the amount of wood imparted by barreling, and hints of its complexity.

          Smell: The sense of smell is a vital part of the enjoyment of tequila.

Hold the glass an inch or so from the nose. There are three distinct places in the glass to sniff: bottom, center and top.

          Taste: is a limited sense, since it can only perceive five sensations: sweet, bitter, salty, sour and umami earthiness.

2. How to pick quality tequila:

The best tequilas are crafted using only the most mature blue agave and artisanal methods, such as slowly cooking the agave in traditional clay ovens and fermenting naturally with wild yeast.

3. How to differentiate the aging between expressions:

The flavor profiles of each expression are determined by the amount of time the liquid was aged:

          Silver or blanco: Aged less than 2 months. Best for mixing in cocktails.

          Reposado: Aged in oak for anywhere from 2 months to less than 1 year. Meant for sipping or cocktails.

          Anejo: Aged for at least one year in oak. Meant for sipping.

Here are some cocktail recipes to make your National Tequila Day more memorable:

Spicy Sangrita

Spicy Sangrita

Spicy Sangrita

5 ounces vegetable juice
1 cup clamato
3 limes, juiced
1 lime, sliced into wedges
1/3 cup tangerine juice
7 dashes Tabasco Chipotle Sauce
1 tablespoon Tabasco Spicy Salt
1 shot reposado, such as Tequila Don Julio Reposado

In a pitcher, combine vegetable juice, clamato, lime juice, tangerine juice, Tabasco Sauce; stir to combine. Place in refrigerator. In a shallow bowl, add Tabasco Salt. Rub a lime wedge along the rim of a shot glass and dip into salt. Fill glass with sangrita and pair with a shot of tequila.

Makes 1 pitcher.

From Tequila Don Julio/Presley’s Pantry

Bloody Maria

3 ounces reposado, such as Tequila Don Julio Reposado
3/4 teaspoon Tabasco Original Red Sauce
1/3 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
Celery salt
Ground black better
2 teaspoons ground horseradish
4 teaspoons fresh lime juice
16 ounces tomato juice
Celery for garnish

Rim two highball glasses with lemon juice and dip into black pepper. Add reposado, Tabasco, Worcester sauce, celery salt, tomato juice and ground horseradish; stir with bar spoon. Garnish with thin strips of celery.

Makes 2 drinks.

From Tequila Don Julio

The Desert Rose

This drink is “definitely not for the weak of heart,” write Cindy Wagner and Sandra Marquez in “Cooking Texas Style.” “When the Tabasco is carefully added, a delicate rose-shape forms in the glass. Of course, the more of these you drink, the easier it is to see the ‘rose.’ But beware — the ‘rose’ is the only thing that is delicate about this drink.

1 jigger tequila
1 or 2 drops Tabasco sauce
Shaker of salt
Wedge of lime

Gently add Tabasco sauce to tequila; watch as it forms a rose-shape in the glass. Then moisten the V between the thumb and forefinger of one hand. Sprinkle salt on the moistened area. Take a bite of the limp pulp, lick the salt and down the jigger of tequila in one gulp. Chase with another bite of lime, if desired.

Makes 1 cocktail.

From “Cooking Texas Style” by Candy Wagner and Sandra Marquez

The Martinez

In “Texas Cowboy Cooking,” Tom Perini, owner of Perini Ranch Steakhouse, includes this tequila classic: “This is a two-stage drink invented by my older brother, Vee, who takes great delight in this honor. This drink goes well with good conversation int he backyard or at the kitchen counter before dinner. Obviously this is another one that really packs a punch, both from the tequila and the pepper, and it’s always a good conversation starter. Vee says that your lips should actually tingle a little if it’s made properly, and I think they probably tingle a lot if it’s not. It definitely has bite.

2 jiggers Cuervo Gold Tequila
Splash of triple sec
1-2 teaspoons brine from pickled jalapeños, to taste
1/4 fresh lime
Whole pickled jalapeño
1 bottle Mexican beer, your favorite

Fill a large martini glass with ice cubes and a little water and let chill. In a shaker, combine the tequila, triple sec and jalapeño brine, and shake vigorously with ice. Then empty the glass, rub the rim with the lime, dip in salt. Then strain the mixture over whole jalapeño in glass. Drink some of the Martinez, then start adding your favorite beer. Repeat until both are empty. (You may also try a Martinez en Los Rocos, in a Collins glass filled with ice.)

Makes 1 cocktail.

From “Texas Cowboy Cooking” by Tom Perini

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Kernels of Flavor

DSC02792You can still find plenty of fresh corn at the supermarket, a late-summer treat that we never get tired of eating straight from the cob or in dishes.

If you’re roasting corn for dinner one evening, you may want to toss three extra ears on the grill and make this salad up the next evening.

Black Bean and Roasted Corn Salad

This salad comes together quickly. You can used canned beans and frozen corn kernels, but fresh roasted corn does taste better.

2/3 cup oil
1/8 cup vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

3 cups cooked black beans
3 ears cooked corn, cut from the cob (grilled, roasted, boiled or microwaved)
1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 cup thinly sliced green onions (tops and bottoms)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon chopped cilantro (optional)
1 cup vinaigrette

To make vinaigrette, combine oil, vinegar, salt, pepper and mustard. Shake well.

To make the salad, drain the black beans. Cut corn from the cob, trying to break apart all of the kernels. Mix together and add the pepper, green onions, garlic, cilantro, if using, and vinaigrette. Stir again and drain before serving.

Makes 8 servings.

From “Texas Cowboy Cooking” by Tom Perini

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Griffin to Go: Grilling vegetables

Grilled zucchini picked fresh from the garden.

Grilled zucchini picked fresh from the garden.

I’m a dedicated meat-eater. I think pork is one of the four basic food groups (butter and heavy cream make up a second).

So it may seem odd that when I finally broke down and got a gas grill, the first thing I cooked on it was a batch of fresh pattypan squash from the farmers market.

It wasn’t that I didn’t have any meat on hand, mind you. I had just gotten the vegetables that day from the market, though, and they were so fresh and firm that they were practically crying out to be quartered, marinated and grilled.

You don’t need a fancy dressing with sugar and/or a host of spices. All I did was coated them well with some olive oil, salt and pepper for a few minutes before putting them on the grill.

I didn’t need anything else that meal, except a glass of rosé, as good a drink with grilled foods as a cold beer.

Those squashes remain among of the best dishes to come off my grill, and not just because they were first. I continue to grill them exactly the same way, which is quite frequent now that squashes are in season.

But don’t limit yourself to squashes or peppers. You can grill most any vegetable, including eggplant, if you approach it right.

Tom Perini, owner of Perini Ranch Steakhouse in Buffalo Gap, near Abilene, offers a great chart for grilled vegetables in his book, “Texas Cowboy Cooking,” which came out in 2000 and is still in print.

He doesn’t add anything to his Fire-Roasted Vegetables until they are finished cooking. All he does is cut some up and remove the seeds if needs be.

Yellow summer squash.

Yellow summer squash on the grill.

“This is a technique you can use with just about any vegetable,” he writes. “Grilling vegetables over a live fire awakens the sugars and brings the flavor of the vegetables to the surface, a flavor you don’t get in an oven. The color you get by grilling vegetables is spectacular: They look great with a little bit of char around the edges and there’s nothing prettier than grilled vegetables with your steak. Be careful not to cook them to much, they need to have a little firmness.”

That last sentence cannot be emphasized enough: Don’t let your attention stray from the vegetables. They cook quickly. Too much heat and you’ve got burnt mush.

Here are Tom’s suggestions for handling the vegetables and his time-table for cooking them to just the right doneness. He prefers coal, which does offer great added flavor, but I have found that gas works almost as well if you’re in a hurry or cooking for one:

Fire-Roasted Vegetables

Wash the vegetables. Use the chart below to determine proportions and cooking times. See that coals are red-hot and about 6 inches below the grill before starting to cook.

Peppers: bell, Anaheim, poblano, 8-10 minutes. Cut in half lengthwise and seed.
Peppers: jalapeños, 10 minutes. Leave whole.
Mushrooms, 8-10 minutes. Use whole caps with stems removed or trimmed.
Onions, sweet Texas, green and purple, 10-15 minutes. Slice crosswise into 1/2-inch slices.
Sweet potatoes, 8-10 minutes. Slice crosswise or diagonally into 1/2-inch slices.
Eggplant, 10 minutes. Slice crosswise or diagonally into 1/2-inch slices.

1/2 cup olive oil
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Combine the dressing ingredients thoroughly. Toss the grilled vegetables in the dressing. This can be served at room temperature or chilled. Sliced beef may also be added.

From “Texas Cowboy Cooking” by Tom Perini

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