Food and Drink

Beat the Heat with This Refreshing Gazpacho

Chef Ariel Fox melds avocado, tomatillo, and green onion in her verdant version of the cold soup.

Photo by Teddy Wolff
Photo by Teddy Wolff
Photo by Teddy Wolff

You may recognize Ariel Fox from reality TV fame, cooking for celebrity chefs like Gordon Ramsay and winning season 18 of Hell’s Kitchen. But when she’s not a judge on Food Network or captaining the menu at Del Frisco’s Steakhouse, the chef is reimagining the Latin and Caribbean food she grew up eating-and spinning those culinary musings into a forthcoming cookbook, Spice Kitchen, which debuts August 23.

“There was a big chunk in my life where I didn’t embrace this food,” Fox says. “I’ve been doing this for 22 years and battling it out in kitchens, and I was French and Italian trained, but I really just want people to not be afraid to teach our children of the next generation to really embrace the foods of your heritage.”

In Spice Kitchen, Fox does just that. Her recipes offer healthier versions of the dishes she ate growing up without skimping on the bold and heady flavours of Latin and Caribbean food. But she doesn’t just pull from childhood memories. Throughout the cookbook, Fox leads each recipe with a brief anecdote.

Her green gazpacho-in which avocado, charred green onions, and bright tomatillos meld into a smoky soup-takes Fox back to being with her husband in Tulum, Mexico.

“The first time we went to Tulum, all of the sauces had some kind of like fire-roasted element to it,” Fox recalls. “Everything was just so smoky because they were cooking everything on a wood-burning grill in Tulum… When I came back from that first trip, all I could think about was just cooking everything on the fire for a while.”

While this recipe evokes taste memories for Fox, she says it isn’t the end-all, be-all of green gazpacho recipes. Indeed, she encourages spice lovers to add more heat if they want to by experimenting with different or more chiles. “You gotta feel it, too,” she says. “Across the book in general, I just want people to use it as a jumping off point.”

For her, she loves the “smokiness against the nuttiness against the creaminess of the avocado,” in lieu of actual cream.

And, no, you don’t have to start a campfire on the beach to achieve the deep, charred flavours in this gazpacho. If you don’t have a live fire to work with or even a gas stove, Fox says not to fear: “Honestly, you could char tomatillos, you could char green onions on an electric stove.”

Avocado, Tomatillo, and Charred Green Onion Gazpacho

Serves four

Ingredients:
• 1kg tomatillos, peeled
• 1 jalapeño, stem removed
• 1 serrano chile, stem removed
• 4 tablespoons avocado oil, divided
• 1 bunch green onions, ends trimmed
• juice of 1 lime
• 1 ripe avocado, peeled and seeded
• ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
• ¼ cup toasted sliced almonds
• sea salt to taste
• splash of apple cider vinegar
• pumpkin seed dip (optional)
• fresh mint leaves, torn

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 190ºF.
2. Toss the tomatillos and whole chile peppers on a sheet tray with 1 tablespoon of avocado oil. Roast for 20 to 30 minutes until the vegetables are beginning to brown in spots and flesh is softened.
3. Over an open flame (a burner on your stove will do), char the green onions whole, turning frequently, for about 4 to 5 minutes. Set aside. (If using an electric stove top, you can achieve a nice char via cast iron pan.)
4. In a blender, add the lime juice, avocado, remaining 3 tablespoons of avocado oil, and charred onions. Then transfer the cooked tomatillos to the blender. Pulse and blend to start breaking up the vegetables, but do not puree.
5. Make a slit in each of the roasted chiles and gently remove seeds. Add the seeded roasted chiles to the blender along with the almonds, a pinch of sea salt, and a splash of apple cider vinegar. Continue to pulse until the gazpacho is smooth and uniform but still has a slight bit of texture, about 3 to 4 minutes. Chill for at least 1 to 2 hours before serving.
6. Pour into chilled bowls and serve garnished with a spoonful of Mayan Hummus (pumpkin seed dip, optional) and some fresh mint.

Recipe courtesy of Spice Kitchen: Healthy Latin and Caribbean Cuisine (Kingston Imperial – August 23, 2022).

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Rosin Saez is the senior editor of Food & Drink at Thrillist.

Food and Drink

Why Makrut Lime Makes a Star Ingredient in Cocktails

The Southeast Asian citrus is intensely aromatic and pairs with rum, gin, tequila, and more.

Photo courtesy of Fish Cheeks
Photo courtesy of Fish Cheeks
Photo courtesy of Fish Cheeks

I grew up with a makrut lime tree in my backyard, admiring the double leaves and dimpled citrus fruit that frequently made their way into our family dinners. Makrut limes, which are sometimes referred to kaffir limes (although the term is controversial and has been widely retired), are native to Southeast Asia, but somehow my mom willed a tree to grow in our Southern California home with great success.

To me, makrut meant savoury Thai food: steamed fish curry wrapped in banana leaves and sprinkled with chiffonade makrut, simmering tom kha gai with floating bits of the hand-torn citrus leaves, and glistening green curry accentuated by the plant’s aroma.

But to others, makrut is an ideal ingredient in cocktails and other drinks. Such is the case for Fish Cheeks, a Thai restaurant in Manhattan known for its seafood dishes and eclectic, complementary cocktail menu. Beverage director Beau Fontano knew he had to include makrut in his creations, especially because the ingredient is so prominent on the food menu. Makrut lime finds its way in several drinks, most notably as a garnish atop the Thank You Kha, a riff on the acidic coconut stew tom kha gai, and the Manao Mao, a rum-based drink that uses makrut lime bitters.

“I don’t love using the word tiki, but if you think of those tiki rum cocktails, makrut definitely works well in those,” Fontano says. “But I also love it in martinis-there’s something really clean about it. And with makrut lime, if you’re just using the leaves, you can do a lot of rapid infusions.”

Fontano only uses the leaves, because the rinds and juice of makrut limes are famously bitter. “Regular lime has a little bit more sugar content, so that’s why it’s much more approachable in cocktails. Makrut limes tend to be more dry,” he explains. “But when you use the leaves in cocktails, you just smack it to wake it up a little bit and it gets that nice citrusy, refreshing aroma which is really fun.”

The leaves are cut fresh, so each drink has the scent of makrut lime leaves wafting off of them. “I’m sure at one point I will get around to it and try to figure out how to use the juice,” he laughs.

Further north at Paper Tiger in Portland, Maine, makrut lime leaves are also prevalent in a cocktail called Something Scandalous, a tequila-based drink intended to be, in the words of bartender Nick Reevy, “crushed easily.”

Paper Tiger
Paper Tiger
Paper Tiger

“I went with tequila, specifically, because in Maine it’s 80 degrees and humid pretty much all summer,” Reevy explains. “So I made something you kick back easily. Agave has a really nice softness that elevates the makrut lime, and the main flavour in that drink is the Thai basil.”

The drink is an alluring shade of green and is rounded out by cinnamon syrup and falernum. “Makrut lime is really herbal and bright in a way no other citrus is,” Reevy adds. “It’s interchangeable with other limes, but it just adds this whole other depth of flavour.”Makrut lime has even made its way into hard seltzer, albeit a limited edition drop from Lunar. Founder Kevin Wong knew he wanted to add another citrus drink to his rotation as he witnessed the successes of hard lemonades, but already had a yuzu iteration. Makrut lime seemed like a natural follow-up.

Photo courtesy of Lunar
Photo courtesy of Lunar
Photo courtesy of Lunar

“It has a very intense citrus fragrance, almost perfumey or soapy,” Wong ponders. “Like I could see Le Labo putting out a makrut lime fragrance. It has such a commanding presence and body.”

To tamper down some of the boldness of the makrut lime, the hard seltzer uses makrut lime leaf extract, lime juice, and cane sugar. The aromatics of the lime are present without too much bitterness; instead, the seltzer is grassy, acidic, and dry. Wong recommends pairing the can with spicy foods, especially Szechuan dry pot.

The makrut lime seltzer is currently sold out, and Wong is unsure whether or not another batch is in the works. “I feel like makrut lime is the greatest secret unknown to the Western world,” he says. “It’s in medicine, candy, herbal drinks, cosmetics and aromatherapy. I think we did the seltzer too early, and I don’t know if the world is ready for us to bring it back yet. Maybe in a couple of years.”

But judging by the growing popularity of makrut lime in beverage menus, the comeback might be sooner than he expects.

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Kat Thompson is a senior staff writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @katthompsonn.

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