MEZCAL PALOMA

The majority of the time, I'm the one who prepares dinner.  It makes sense. I'm home before Eric, I can often get to the store... plus, I enjoy doing it. It's not that he can't cook or that he's not good at it (he's actually very good), it's just become a task that I've taken over. But why not find some time to cook together? The idea has been lingering in my mind ever since I read Ashley's Date Night In, a cookbook featuring recipes and stories from the evenings she and her husband spend preparing dishes. I found the whole thing truly inspiring and at one point even suggested it... but over a year went by gone and we never followed through. A few weeks ago, however, after a particularly hectic week, Eric suggested that we spend our Saturday night at home. The lightbulb flickered on. "Hey, we have all of these cookbooks around. Why don't we make something from one of them?" We pulled out a recent addition to our collection that features authentic Chinese recipes, made a list, went to the store, and cooked up a storm. The food was incredible. Probably the best we've ever made. And we did it together (all while sipping on palomas). This past weekend we did it again, this time going in a more Mediterranean direction: braised octopus, roasted eggplant, whipped goat cheese, and homemade pita (that evening we went with martinis).

The paloma, featured here, is an easy, refreshing drink. Typically it includes tequila, but I like the slightly smoky notes the mezcal provides. A simpler version of the recipe can be made by using grapefruit soda instead of the fresh grapefruit juice, sugar and soda water, but if you have grapefruits on hand, I prefer this method. 

MEZCAL PALOMA

GLASSWARE
Highball or rocks glass

YIELD
1 drink

INGREDIENTS
Kosher salt
1 lime wedge
1/4 ounce lime juice
2 ounces grapefruit juice
2 ounces mezcal (or tequila)
1 teaspoon sugar
2 ounces soda water
1 grapefruit wedge, for garnish

DIRECTIONS
1. To rim the glass, pour salt onto a plate. Rub the rim of the glass with the lime wedge and then dip the rim into the salt, spin slowly until rim is lightly coated in salt.

2. Pour lime juice, grapefruit juice, mezcal and sugar into a glass. Using a spoon, stir until sugar has dissolved. Fill glass with ice cubes and top with soda water. 

CUCUMBERS IN GARLIC SAUCE

Towards the end of our first date, Eric and I went to a gay bar in the South End. We ordered gin and tonics (or, as our bartender poured them, a glass of gin with a splash of tonic) and found ourselves a table. As we'd already covered most of the big topics... where we grew up, stories from our childhood... it was time to get creative with our conversation. "What's your favorite food?" I asked him. Seemed like a good question. I expected his answer to be ice cream or pizza. You know, something normal. "Cucumbers," he said. Cucumbers. I was intrigued. "Why cucumbers?" He looked at me, shrugged, and said, "I don't know. I just really like cucumbers." I let it go, but I just couldn't believe that of all the deliciousness out in the world, cucumbers was his favorite food.

After all these years of being together, I can honestly say the man loves his cucumbers. Pickled are preferred, but he'll take them however he can get them. His mom makes a cucumber salad that I'm obsessed with (and my parents have become fans too). And we have our new go-to app from our favorite Chinese restaurant that's cucumbers in garlic sauce. This sweet-garlicky (and just a touch spicy) creation is totally addictive and we can't help but order it every time. I figured, though, that it was time that I learn how to make it myself. So, here we have it... my adapted version. Technically, it's vegetarian (take out the fish sauce) and it could easily be made nut-free. And for those who are adverse to cilantro (like Eric), that can be removed too. But I think all three make for a really fantastic combo.

CUCUMBERS IN GARLIC SAUCE

NOTE
One could peel the cucumbers or use Persian cucumbers if you prefer less skin. I prefer the crunch that the skin provides.

SERVINGS
3-4 as a side

INGREDIENTS
3 cucumbers, ends trimmed
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons, soy sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon fish sauce, optional

Chopped peanuts, optional
Chopped cilantro, optional
 

DIRECTIONS
1. Cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, scoop out the seeds and discard. Cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise again and then cut into 2-inch long pieces. Place the cucumber into a bowl and sprinkle with salt and garlic. Transfer to the refrigerator and chill for 30 minutes. Drain any liquid that has come from the cucumbers. Transfer to a serving bowl.

2. In a bowl, whisk together the sesame oil, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, fish sauce (if using) and sugar. Pour the dressing over the cucumbers and stir to coat. Sprinkle red pepper flakes on top, along with the chopped peanuts and cilantro. Serve immediately.