baking, lunch/dinner

trans-bay tex-mex

Now that my buddy Monisha is for-sure firmly settled all the way across the bay, we don’t get to spend as much time together except for our semi-monthly series of pizza taste testing.  So, we planned to get together and make dinner, maybe even semi-regularly if we can tamp down the inertia that glues us to our sides of the water.  For our first endeavor, we came up with a Tex-Mex theme because she had a perfect recipe she had wanted to make. And, oh how perfect it was. The tortilla soup with corn and roasted red peppers from Mollie Katzen (veggie maven of  the Moosewood Cookbook fame) was bold with both flavor and body that a lot of vegetable soups can sometimes lack.  Monisha wisely saved a few of the herbs and veggies from puréeing, which added texture and made the soup much heartier.  Definitely add the lime, it adds a needed citrus kick that plays nicely off of the chilies.

I made a batch of Ina Garten’s cheddar and jalapeño cornbread to accompany the soup.  This ended up with more of a quichey texture than I expected as I halved the recipe and didn’t have half an egg. However, as non-traditional as it was in terms of cornbread, it was still buttery, rich, and salty-sweet as you could ever want. In other words, a perfect foil for a zesty soup.  I couldn’t really taste the jalapeños, so I may leave the seeds in next time.  I was impressed with our due diligence, as we polished the whole pan off in one sitting.

For dessert, we got tipsy over this margarita cake – simple and unadorned but moist and juicy with bursting flavor.  Double-glazing the cake means not only a super moist cake but also that the luscious margarita flavor soaks into the cake and gives it a tart sweet zing with a background of tequila warmth.  You don’t really taste the alcohol in the cake itself, but with the glaze it’s like the best things in life together on one fork: sweet moist cake and a tart strong margarita.  I’d splurge on a really good margarita mix for this, and if you can find it I highly recommend Tommy’s Margarita Mix.  Tommy’s is a landmark Mexican restaurant here in SF known for their tequilas and their delicious, delicious margaritas.  If you only have access to frozen margarita mix, I’d cut 1/2 cup of the frozen concentrate with 1/4 cup water for the cake but use a tablespoon straight up frozen for the glaze.  This recipe makes enough batter for a Bundt pan or two 8 inch cakes, but since I weirdly made one 10 inch cake, I just used the leftover batter to make mini-cupcakes.

Margarita Cake with Tequila Glaze


1 package white cake mix

1  package instant lemon pudding mix

1/2 cup vegetable oil

3/4 cup margarita mix

4 large eggs, lightly beaten

1/2 cup gold tequila

2 tablespoons triple sec


3 tablespoons tequila

2 tablespoon triple sec

1/2 teaspoon lime zest

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1 tablespoon margarita mix

2 cups powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour pan (one Bundt pan or two 8 inch pans).

For cake: Combine all cake ingredients in a large bowl and beat for 5 minutes at medium speed of an electric mixer. Pour into prepared pan and bake 45-50 minutes for Bundt pan (or 35-40 minutes for 8 inch pans), or until an inserted toothpick in the center comes out clean.

While cake is baking, prepare the glaze: Mix all glaze ingredients together in a medium bowl. Add more sugar if needed to desired consistency.

Cool cake in pan for 5 minutes. Use a fork to poke holes on top of the warm cake while in the pan. Drizzle 1/2 of the glaze over the cake. Cool cake for another 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan and cool completely. Spoon the rest of the tequila lime glaze over cooled cake.

Serves 12

Last but not least, we ended an evening full of cooking, laughter, and stuffed tummies with a refreshing palate cleanser in the form of watermelon granita. We had to end our Tex-Mex night with another touch of tequila, but that is optional for you (or, consider vodka).

Watermelon Tequila Granita

1 watermelon, about 4 lbs

1/2 cup sugar

juice and rind of 1 lime

1/2 cup gold tequila

1 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped

Cut the flesh from a ripe watermelon into 1-2 inch cubes. Place the watermelon into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Mix in the sugar, lime juice and rind, and tequila until the sugar is dissolved. Place the mixture into a shallow pan and into the freezer. Every hour or so, scrape up the ice crystals with a fork. In a few hours you’ll have a perfectly pink, icy, juicy tequila-watermelon granita. Garnish with fresh mint.

Serves 6