Puerto Rican Camarones Enchilados (Puerto Rican-Style Shrimp Creole)

I always used to take the Puerto Rican food I grew up with for granted. I loved and enjoyed eating the dishes of picadillo, tostones, and arroz con gandules my mom would serve us each night, but I never felt particularly curious about them. These were just the things we ate, and when it came to my own personal interests in food, I craved flavors from elsewhere.

I started cooking as a young teen, but the first dishes I made were always the ones I couldn’t get easily at home. Dishes like lasagna, souvlaki, and traditional American pastries were more exciting to me than what my mom made.

Calamondin Margaritas

This is my favorite time of year for so many reasons. The days are longer, it's starting to warm up, and summer parties are just around the corner!

It's also the time of year when my very talented blogger friend (and fellow Ramos!), Kate, rounds up a group of food and cocktail bloggers from all over the country (possibly even world?) and has us join in for a very fun margarita & tequila-themed week of blog posts!

In previous years, I shared recipes for Fresh Ginger Margaritas and Rosemary & Fresh Watermelon Margaritas.

This year? I'm going super tart (and kinda niche) with fresh Calamondin Margaritas!

If you've never heard of calamondin, get excited!

Also known as calamansi or kalamansi lime, these tiny little tart citrus fruits are a cross between mandarins and kumquats. They look like key limes when young, but as they ripen, the skin becomes bright orange. The skin is thin like a kumquat, but full of super tart and slightly floral juice that you can instantly release with just a gentle squeeze between two fingers.

It's an incredible flavor and if you can get your hands on fresh ones, don't hesitate to try and play around with them! They make wonderful homemade marmalade and pickles, and the juice is excellent for using in marinades.

The trees are actually quite easy to grow in a sunny home (I have a few friends who grow them even here in NYC) and will produce fruit all year long. Some grocery stores occasionally carry fresh fruit (I've found them at Whole Foods and Fresh Direct at different times of year, as well at some street fruit stands.)

If you can't get your hands on the fresh fruit, a lot of Asian (especially Filipino) markets sell frozen juice, which is pretty great, too, and perfect for cocktails.

When it comes to cocktails I'm all about two things--spice and acidity. I like my drinks super tart with a hint of spice, and calamondin juice lends itself well to both those things. Instead of a traditional salt rim, I use my DIY Spicy Citrus Cocktail Salt, which adds the perfect little extra kick to take these over the top!

These calamondin margaritas would be a welcome accompaniment to all kinds of summer meals, from tacos to pork roasts.

Want more cocktail inspiration? Check out all the fun recipes on the Margarita Week page, and follow the hashtag #margaritaweek on Instagram!

Calamondin Margaritas (Calamansi Margaritas)

Serves 4

1 cup reposado tequila
1 cup calamondin juice (freshly squeezed or thawed frozen juice will work)
1/2 cup Cointreau
Ice, kosher salt for garnish (or use my DIY Spicy Citrus Salt)

Combine the tequila, calamondin juice, and Cointreau in a large pitcher and stir well to combine.

Rub the rim of four high ball glasses with calamondin juice (or use fresh lime), and dip in kosher salt. Fill glasses to the top with ice and divide margarita among the glasses.

Serve immediately.

Spicy Citrus Cocktail Salt

I strongly believe that a solid 25% of what makes a cocktail memorable is the addition of some kind of fun garnish. Whether it's candied bacon in a Bloody Mary, homemade pickled onions in a Gibson, or a spicy citrus salt coating the frosty glass on your margarita, it's those little finishing touches that can take a drink from good to great.

12 Tips for Shopping at the Farmers' Market

I admit that during the chilly months, I'm not very good about visiting the farmers' market. In fact, I pretty much avoid it, opting to order local seasonal produce and dairy at Whole Foods or, better yet, the convenience of Fresh Direct, which delivers it all right to my door on those freezing winter mornings.

But now that warmer days are starting to arrive, I'm getting that itch to head back down to the market where I can pick out the things I want to eat with my hands, and not just my keyboard.  Here are some of my fave tips for making the most of your trip!

1. Arrive as near to opening time as possible in order to get your pick of the best ingredients. Unlike grocery stores, which have huge supplies that are replenished throughout the day, farmer's markets only have limited supplies and the good stuff goes early. (Many things like berries, pastured eggs, baked goods, etc., will also often sell out throughout the day so you could miss out.)

2. But if you're looking for deals, go near the end of the day. The selection won't be as plentiful, but a lot of farmers will discount their produce or throw in a little something extra during the last hour or two of the day.

3. Ask about #2 fruit, which is fruit that may not be as physically pretty, but which is still just as delicious and high and quality as the other ones. These can often be discounted as much as 50% so you can save a bundle.

4. That said, don't haggle or try to bargain with the farmers. They work hard to produce their food and set fair prices based on the supply and conditions, so it's not considered good etiquette to try to bring down the price. Treat prices the same way you would at a regular grocery store.

5. Talk to the farmers. These are the people who actually grew (or raised) the food you're buying and they know it best. Ask them what their favorites are that day, or what the best way to cook something is.  If there is something you don't recognize or are just looking for ideas, ask them as they'll be able to offer you a lot of tips.

6. Bring your own bags! While small plastic bags are sometimes available, it's better and more environmentally responsible to come prepared with a couple big bags or baskets that you can fill up with your goodies. Larger bags are also easier to carry so you can fit more stuff and not have to carry 12 different small baggies in your hands.

7. Bring cash. Most markets only accept cash so come prepared. Go one step further by bringing small bills. (Note that some markets do also accept EBT and food stamps; you can check online to see which ones do and what the process is for using them--some will have you go to a central location in the market to pay with food stamps.)

8. Walk through the entire market at least once before purchasing anything. This will help you get an idea of the prices and selection available since they will vary by provider.

9. Buy vegetables, fruits, and bread first. Then buy the more delicate and perishable items such as eggs, dairy products, or meat just before you leave.

10. Don't make post-farmer's market plans without stopping off at home first. A lot of the things you buy will be delicate or perishable and shouldn't spend a few hours bumping around in your bag while you have a long lunch or run errands. Think of it the same way you do groceries; you wouldn't go to the movies with load of groceries in the car, would you? You also don't want to have to limit yourself from buying dairy or meat just because you planned to meet some girlfriends for brunch later.

11. Invest in a lightweight collapsible shopping cart. It will make it easy to transport your purchases around the market (and then take them home if you live in a city like I do).

12. Save more by buying big. Ask farmers about buying by the case or setting up a regular weekly purchase; they will often set up a special price for you if you commit to buying a larger quantity than normal. It's great if you're into canning, have a large family, or are planning a big event. You can even go in on purchases with other friends and families so that you can split the items and all save.

12 Chorizo Recipes You Need to Try

My favorite go-to ingredient? Chorizo! I love using it in just about everything (well...I haven't quite delved into the word of chorizo sweets, but give me time!) Here are 12 of my favorite recipes that feature chorizo--from breakfast to dinner, and even a chorizo cocktail for the true fanatics. Scroll down, get inspired, and make something spicy!

Spicy Chorizo Clam Chowder

Last weekend, Eugene and I met my brother for brunch at a restaurant here in the city. It was kind of late in the day, and freezing outside, so as soon as I spotted clam chowder on the menu, I was sold. It was listed under the lunch entrees for $13, so I figured it would be a large-ish, hearty bowl, and didn't order anything else except a small appetizer of toast with fresh ricotta.

But when the food arrived, I was confused.

The bowl the waiter gave me was filled with the TINIEST amount of soup I have ever seen in my life. It was about 1/2-inch in depth and covered with a handful of oyster crackers. I put my spoon in, and the soup barely came halfway up the spoon.

There were seriously more crackers than soup.

Spicy Chorizo Clam Chowder
Both Eugene and my brother were equally shocked, leaning over to peer into my bowl and wondering if perhaps I'd ordered something from the appetizer menu (there was only one soup listing, and it was under entrees) or if it was one of those things where they give you the bowl with the fillings and then pour the broth on top (it was not one of those things).

Eugene mused that perhaps they were running out of soup and rationing it.

What made it worse is that the soup (all three tablespoons of it) was delicious! Creamy and smoky, with tiny perfectly cut cubes of potatoes and bacon. There were only 2 clams in it (literally), but at least they were lovely and chewy.

Spicy Chorizo Clam Chowder
Gone in less than a minute, I spent the rest of the meal thinking about how I definitely needed more soup.

Hence, this Spicy Chorizo Clam Chowder recipe!

Let me clarify that this is NOT a classic, thick New England clam chowder.

This is something a bit looser and brothier, with a smoky and salty briny broth, loaded with chunks of clams, chorizo, celery, and (my own twist) rutabaga.

Spicy Chorizo Clam Chowder
It's still creamy, but it isn't thickened in any way with flour or cornstarch and the lack of potatoes helps keep it a bit looser. You can use potatoes if you prefer, but I honestly love the lightness of rutabaga in this otherwise hearty soup.

I'm not quite fully over the trauma of the world's tiniest bowl of soup, but this spicy generous chowder definitely did help a bit.

Spicy Chorizo Clam Chowder
Loved this recipe? Here are three other spicy soup recipes you might like:

And let's connect so you can find out the next time I post! Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, or Pinterest, become a fan on Facebook, or sign up to receive my once-a-week e-mail updates.

Thanks so much for reading!

Spicy Chorizo & Clam Chowder
Serves 4-6

4 pounds clams (such as manila or littleneck), shells scrubbed under cold running water
1/3 pound Spanish style chorizo, diced
2 strips thick-cut bacon, diced
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 medium rutabaga, peeled and diced (or use 2 large russet potatoes)
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
Kosher salt and black pepper
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley and/or scallions, for garnish

Combine the rinsed clams with 2 cups cold water in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Cover and let steam until the clams open—about 8 minutes. Remove all the open clams, then re-cover and continue to cook any that haven’t opened for an additional 1-2 minutes. If they still don’t open, discard, but reserve the cooking liquid.

Strain the liquid through a sieve lined with cheesecloth or other fabric, discarding any solids and reserving the remaining liquid.

Remove the clams from their shells, and place in a bowl covered with a damp paper towel (this keeps them from drying out).

Combine the chorizo and bacon in a large, heavy-bottomed pot, and sauté until bacon is rendered and chorizo is slightly crisp. Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon and chorizo, leaving the fat in the pot. (If your bacon isn't very fatty, you may need to add a teaspoon or two of oil).

Add the celery, onions, garlic, paprika, and rutabaga, and sauté 2-3 minutes, just to soften them a bit. Add the strained clam liquid + 1 1/2 cups of water, and cook until the rutabaga is tender (about 10-15 minutes).

Add the milk, cream, chorizo and bacon, and let simmer gently for 10 minutes (do not let it boil or the milk will curdle). Stir in the clams, and let simmer an additional five minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as desired. Garnish with parsley and scallions before serving.

You Should Watch Alice in Paris

If you were to turn the movie Amelie into a travel show, you'd probably get something pretty close to Alice in Paris.

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