VENUE: Leora’s Apartment, Chelsea
PARTY SIZE: 8
MENU: Cilantro Slaw (Phoebe); Chipotle-Pineapple Glazed Tofu, Grilled Pineapple, Guacamole, Bean Dip (Leora); Shrimp Tostadas (Sarah); Butternut Squash Nacho Casserole (Kate); Green Rice, Chocolate-Bottomed Blondies, Mexican Chocolate Cookies (Cara); Sangria (Jordana); Various Whole Foods concoctions and Mexican Cheer (Julie and Alana)Tuesday, the 5th of May, didn’t really feel like a holiday, or like a day in springtime at all: the skies were dark, the sidewalks cold and rainy, and the mood so overcast we felt almost as somber as the would-be revelers of Mexico City stuck at home in fear of swine flu. Though corporate emails, newspaper headlines and magazine covers alike reminded us that human contact was probably a bad idea, it seemed only natural to embrace the viral doom and gloom, stir-up some homemade margheritas (or sangria), and gather around for some Mag Club May dish at Leora’s apartment, where there is a year-round supply of Purell and not a pig product in sight.
The spread managed to be far more festive than the weather dictated—though with Leora’s five dishes, there seemed to remain very little counter space for the rest of our contributions. Mag Club ESP at work, the homemade spread was as cohesive as ever, covering all the necessary categories and courses, despite the fact that no one dared to bring swine-filled enchiladas inspired by a horror-inducing piece in Time.
After we caught up on the new and old men in our lives, Cara, the only suck-up to bring an article this week, began a discussion on the fragrances that remind men of pumpkin pie—based on her article from Cosmopolitan (inherited, NOT purchased), which contested that a combination of pie and lavender is in fact the key to pheromone attraction. As some of us contemplated buying pumpkin pie bubble bath and lavender perfume, she explained how the Venn diagram on the page, an overlapping gradient of light and dark browns, inspired her two-tone blondies. We gave her Mag Club brownie points for making a little sense out of complete nonsense, and, by extension, a very delicious treat from leftover cookies and a pantry devoid of sugar.
The conversation eventually turned from insipid magazines to Kate’s impending birthday activities, and, finally, to Leora’s apartment’s decorative Judaica and the various rhinestone animals and frilly pillows she would have to dispose of when she moved in with her boyfriend at the end of the summer. At once, we opened our eyes to the room around us, and collectively teased her about the statuettes, chamsas, and Jewish-themed rubber duckies—a rarified assortment of tchotchkes—she had been able to accumulate in the two short years of quarter-life existence in the apartment.
Makes 4-6 servings (about 1 ½ quarts)
2 limes, juiced
½ lemon, juiced
2 tbsp mayonnaise
1 garlic clove, pushed through a press
5 pickled jalapeños slices (canned), minced
½ tsp chili powder
Dash cayenne (to taste)
½ tbsp salt (to taste)
¼ cup olive oil
½ cup cilantro, chopped
½ head Napa cabbage, thinly shredded or sliced
Combine first 8 ingredients in a large salad bowl. Gradually whisk in the olive oil until all elements are combined. Toss together with the cabbage and the cilantro.
Serve along side any Mexican-themed entrée as a side salad, topping, or garnish. This dish works especially well atop fish tacos.
Chipotle-Pineapple Glazed Tofu
Makes 4 servings
Leora recommended a great veggie website which inspired her recipe (http://www.veggiemealplans.com/), but admitted that the overall result was pale in comparison to Cara’s new favorite tofu which she recreated last week.
For the Glaze:
1/3 cup pineapple juice
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons minced chipotle with adabo sauce
1 clove minced garlic
pinch of salt–or if your Phoebe more! Because we know she loves salt!
For the Tofu:
1 package firm tofu sliced into 1 inch cubes and well blotted with paper towels
In a small bowl, whisk together all the ingredients for the glaze. Heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil over a medium flame, and cook the tofu, stirring occasionally, until browned. Pour the glaze mixture over tofu and allow it to thicken.
Serve on a platter with Grilled Pineapple (recipe below) for garnish, or as a tasty side.
Makes 4 servings
1 medium pineapple, cored, trimmed, and sliced
Heat a grill pan over a medium-high flame until hot. Do not add any oil, the natural juice from the pineapple will keep it from sticking. Grill until both sides are browned and the pineapple is really juicy looking!
Makes about 12
1 cup guacamole (Sarah used this recipe)
12 peeled de-veined shrimp with tails removed
3 large corn tortillas, cut into 4
Pico de gallo (optional)
Heat a grill pan over medium-high flame. Season the shrimp and toss together with 1 tablespoon of olive oil so they don’t stick. Grill the shrimp on both sides until nicely charred.
On a sheet pan, arrange the tortilla slices. Place under the broiler for 5 minutes until hot and a bit crispy. Add a dollop of guacamole, one grilled shrimp, and a dash of salsa or pico de gallo for color to each, and serve!
Butternut Squash Nacho Casserole
Makes 6 appetizer servings
1 butternut squash, cubed
1 tomato, diced
¼ onion, diced
1 can of pinto beans, drained
1 pound of shredded cheddar
1 bag of tortilla chips
Cilantro for garnish
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Cook butternut squash in microwave for ten minutes. After the butternut squash is cooked, mix together with the tomato, onion, beans, and ½ the cheese. In a medium casserole dish, spread 3/4 of the butternut squash mixture, follow by a layer of chips. Top with the remaining mixture, the remaining chips, and the rest of the cheese.
Place the dish in the oven and cook for fifteen minutes. Garnish with cilantro on top after the cheese is melted and the nacho casserole is crispy!
Makes 1 pitcher
This sangria marks an epic mag club first: Jordana actually making something. As is rumored to be the case with the few other dishes she’s made in her small kitchen, Jor’s sangria turned out perfect: flavorful, fresh, and, thanks to a joint decision by Jor and Phoebe (who despises the fruit), orange-free.
1 bottle of red wine
2/3 cup of “fresh” orange juice
1/2 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of lime juice
2 apples, sliced
Orange slices (optional)
Combine all ingredients in a large pitcher and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Allow to chill in the refrigerator or serve over ice.
1 cup flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick butter, softened, plus 2 tablespoons melted butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate cookie crumbs*
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
Note: I used some of the Mexican-spiced chocolate cookies I had made over the weekend, but you can use store-bought plain chocolate wafers. Either way, pulse them in a blender or food processor to create coarse crumbs.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Butter a 9×9″ square pan. Combine the chocolate cookie crumbs with the cocoa powder and 2 tablespoons melted butter. Press this mixture into the bottom of the pan. Bake for 5 minutes, then remove from oven and set aside.
Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in a small bowl.
In a separate bowl, beat the softened butter with the brown sugar until fluffy. Add the syrup, eggs, and vanilla, and beat to combine (mixture may look somewhat curdled). Add the flour mixture, stir just to combine, then pour over the prepared pan with the chocolate cookie crust.
Bake for 25-30 minutes until the top has firmed. Cool 10 minutes in the pan, then turn out and cool completely before cutting into 20 squares.
Mexican Chocolate Cookies
Makes about 24
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 stick butter
1 cup sugar
1 large egg
extra sugar for rolling
Preheat oven to 375°F.
Combine the dry ingredients and set aside. In a separate bowl, cream butter and sugar, then add the egg. Mix in the dry ingredients until the dough sticks together (it will be somewhat firm).
Pour about 1/3 cup sugar onto a shallow plate. Gather heaping tablespoons of the dough into balls and roll them to coat in the sugar. Place on an ungreased cookie sheet and back for 10-12 minutes, until the tops have cracked. Serve warm, cool, or crumbled into bits and baked at the bottom of a blondie.