Cinco de Mayo – A Feast for Friday

I’ve been so busy concentrating on Mother’s Day that I nearly forgot – Cinco de Mayo. It falls on a Friday this year. Friday – as an old school Catholic, that means meatless meal. Oh, but there is so much more to Cinco de Mayo than ground beef tacos. I’ve put together a wonderful feast of shrimp, shrimp and more shrimp. We’ll start off with Mango Margaritas and shrimp-stuffed peppers with mango-tomato salsa.  Then it’s on to shrimp tacos with an avocado salsa and a side of Mexican Rice. If that’s not enough, treat your family (or guests) to a terrific watermelon and papaya salad with a tequila vinaigrette. And what “feast” would be complete without a little something sweet? Margarita Cupcakes with a tequila-lime frosting will definitely satisfy the urge for dessert.

Mango Margaritas
2 whole Limes
2 Tablespoons Coarse Sugar (decorator’s Sugar)
2 jars (20 Ounce) Mango Chunks, Drained
1-1/2 cup Tequila
1-1/2 cup Triple Sec
1/4 cup Sugar

Zest the limes and lay the zest on a plate. If you have the time, let the zest dry out for ten minutes or so. Pour the coarse sugar over the zest and toss it around with your fingers to combine. Lime sugar! Yum.

Throw the mango chunks into a blender. Pour in the tequila, triple sec, and sugar. Squeeze in the juice of the limes, then top off the whole thing with ice. Blend it until it’s totally smooth. Give it a taste, then add more of what you think it needs (alcohol, sugar, lime, etc.)

To serve, cut a small wedge in one of the juiced limes and rub the lime all over the rim of the glass to moisten. Dip the rim of the glasses in the lime sugar to give it some sweetness while dressing up the rim.

Pour in the margaritas and serve immediately!

If you prefer your margaritas on the rocks, place all the ingredients EXCEPT the ice into a blender. Blend until smooth. Pour mixture into a cocktail shaker. Add ice and shake well until chilled. Prepare glasses, then pour chilled mixture in and enjoy.

shrimp stuffed peppersShrimp-Stuffed Peppers with Mango-Tomato Salsa
8 medium Güero, Hungarian wax or Cubanelle peppers (about 2 ounces each)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2/3 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese (about 2 1/2 ounces)
1/3 cup shredded Cotija or ricotta salata cheese (about 1 ounce)
1 scallion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
16 large shrimp (about 1 pound)—shelled and deveined, tails left on
1 garlic clove, minced
Mango-Tomato Salsa, for serving (recipe follows)

Line a large cast-iron skillet with foil and set it over moderately high heat. Make a slit down the length of the peppers and make 2 perpendicular slits at the stem ends.

Open the peppers slightly and snip out the cores using scissors, then shake out the seeds. Add the peppers to the skillet and cook until blistered all over, 12 minutes.

Season the inside of the peppers with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a bowl, toss the cheeses with the scallion and cilantro. Stuff the peppers with the cheese mixture and arrange them on a baking sheet.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the shrimp and garlic and season with salt and pepper.

Cook over moderate heat, stirring, until the shrimp start to curl, about 2 minutes. Stuff the garlicky shrimp into the peppers. Place in the oven and bake until cheese is melted.

To serve, place Mango-Tomato Salsa in a bowl. Place the bowl on a large serving platter. Arrange shrimp-stuffed peppers around salsa and serve.

Mango Tomato SalsaMango-Tomato Salsa
1 medium tomato, chopped
1/2 large mango, diced
1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
1 Serrano chile, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon lime juice
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

In a bowl, toss together the tomato, mango, onion, chile, cilantro, olive oil, lime juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Season to taste.

Shrimp Avocado TacoGrilled Shrimp Tacos with Avocado Salsa
Avocado Salsa
1 small shallot
1 jalapeno pepper, quartered and seeded
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1 tomato, seeded and chopped
1 avocado, peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice, from half a lime
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped

Place the shallot, jalapeno and garlic in the bowl of a food processor and process until finely chopped. (While a mini food processor is best for the job, a larger one will work as well).

Transfer mixture to medium bowl. Add chopped tomatoes, avocado, salt, lime juice and cilantro and stir to combine. Set aside. (If not using right away, place a piece of plastic wrap inside the bowl and directly over salsa to prevent discoloration and refrigerate.)

1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1-1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Scant 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1-1/2 pounds large or extra-large shrimp, peeled and de-veined

Heat grill to medium.

Meanwhile, mix the olive oil, chili powder, salt, cayenne pepper and shrimp in a large bowl. Stir until shrimp are evenly coated with seasoning.

Grease grill with a wad of paper towels dipped in vegetable oil or non-flammable cooking spray.

Place shrimp on grill and cook until just opaque, about 1-1/2 – 2 minutes per side. Cover to keep shrimp warm.

Ingredients For Assembling
8 – 10 six-inch corn or flour tortillas
2 Cups chopped Red Cabbage
2 limes, cut into wedges, for garnish
1 Cup Sour Cream

Grill the tortillas until warm and slightly charred, about 20 seconds per side.

Spoon avocado salsa generously over warm tortillas, then top with 3 shrimp, red cabbage and dollops of sour cream.

Serve tacos with lime wedges on the side.

Mexican Rice
1-1/2 cups water
1 cup Chunky-Style Salsa (Hot or Medium)
1 Tablespoon Chicken bouillon granulated
3 Tablespoons Chopped Jalapeno Peppers (From a jar of Nacho Peppers)
2 cups uncooked Minute Rice

Chop Jalapeno Peppers, set aside until ready to use.

In a saucepan over medium heat, bring water, salsa, jalapeno peppers and bouillon to a boil.

Stir in rice; remove from the heat.

Cover and let stand 6-8 minutes or until liquid is absorbed. Fluff with a fork. Transfer rice to a large bowl and serve.

Watermelon and Papaya Salad with Tequila Vinaigrette
Tequila Vinaigrette
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons tequila
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a bowl, whisk the lime juice with the tequila. Whisk in the olive oil and season the vinaigrette with salt and pepper. Set aside

Watermelon and Papaya Salad
1 small papaya (3/4 pound)—peeled, seeded and cut into 1-by-1/2-inch strips (2 cups)
3/4 pound seedless watermelon, rind removed; cut into 1-by-1/2-inch strips (2 cups)
1/2 pound Jicama, peeled and cut into 1-by-1/2-inch strips (2 cups)
5 ounces salad greens
1 Hass avocado, cut in to 1/2-inch cubes

In a large bowl, add the papaya, watermelon, Jicama and greens and toss well. Cover and chill well.

When ready to serve, pour vinaigrette over salad and toss well. Add avocados, toss gently. Taste and season with salt and pepper as desired.

Margarita Cupcakes with Tequila-Lime Frosting
Margarita Cupcakes
1½ cups all-purpose flour
1½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs, at room temperature
Zest and juice of 2 limes (grate zest or chop finely)
2 tablespoons tequila (omit for booze-free cupcakes)
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup buttermilk
1 to 2 tablespoons tequila to brush the cupcakes (omit for booze-free cupcakes)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees . Line a standard muffin tin with paper liners; set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt; set aside.

With an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat the butter and sugar together until pale, light, and fluffy (about 5 minutes). Reduce the mixer speed to medium and add the eggs one at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition.

Scrape the sides of the bowl and add the lime zest, lime juice, vanilla extract and tequila. Mix until combined. (The mixture may start to look curdled at this point, but don’t worry, it will all come back together – I promise!)

Reduce the mixer speed low. Add the dry ingredients in three batches, alternating with the buttermilk in two batches.

Mix only until just incorporated, using a rubber spatula to give it one last mix by hand. Divide the batter between the muffin cups.

Bake for approximately 25 minutes or until just slightly golden and a skewer shows only moist crumbs attached, rotating the pan at the halfway point.

Allow cupcakes to cool for 5 to 10 minutes, and then remove to a cooling rack.

Brush the tops of the cupcakes with a thin glaze of powdered sugar and tequila. Set the cupcakes aside to cool completely before frosting them.

Tequila-Lime Frosting
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
3-4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1 tablespoon lime juice
2 tablespoons tequila (substitute with vanilla extract for booze-free frosting)
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
Pinch of coarse salt
Food Coloring, if desired

Using a hand mixer or stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, whip the butter on medium-high speed for 5 minutes. Reduce the speed to medium-low, and gradually add 3 cups powdered sugar, mixing and scraping the sides of the bowl until all is incorporated.

Mix on medium speed for about 30 seconds. Add the lime juice, tequila, salt and corn syrup, mix on medium-high speed until incorporated and fluffy. If the frosting appears a bit too soft, add additional 1 cup of sifted powdered sugar SLOWLY until desired consistency is reached.

Frost cupcakes and garnish, if desired, with lime zest, an additional sprinkling of salt or a lime wedge.

These cupcakes are best stored in the refrigerator in an air tight container. The butter in the frosting may separate and slide off, making a bit of a mess. Remove from refrigerator about 30 minutes prior to serving.


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