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Team summer caesars with melon and feta skewers, 'gazpacho' salad

A Peachy Keen Caeser is shown in a handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO- Ryan Szulc

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A Peachy Keen Caeser is shown in a handout photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO- Ryan Szulc

Here are a couple of caesar recipes that are sure to wow your guests this summer. Clint Pattemore, author of "Caesars: The Essential Guide to Your Favourite Cocktail," has created the Peachy-Keen Caesar and the Thai Mango Caesar, both of which are a sweet-savoury variation on the classic caesar cocktail.

Calgary chefs Connie DeSousa and John Jackson, co-owners of Charcut Roast House, have accompanied Pattemore's cocktail recipes with 20 seasonal dishes. Following are a couple of summer dishes to entertain guests at a backyard picnic or barbecue.

Peachy-Keen Caesar

This recipe was created as part of Pattemore's quest to use every possible fruit in a caesar. It's another great option for those who don't like the more classic versions, as the peach nectar is vibrant and bright and complements the savouriness of clamato cocktail. The bitters help unite the flavours. He gives it a kick with Thai chili hot sauce.

Have extra peaches but no peach nectar? Slice them up and muddle them in for a peachy flavour. If you don't have peaches, substitute nectarines or apricots.

Rim: Fresh salt and pepper with toasted citrus zest

30 ml (1 oz) blue agave tequila

30 ml (1 oz) peach nectar

1/4 bar spoon Thai chili hot sauce

1 dash Angostura Bitters

3 grinds fresh cracked salt and black pepper

125 ml (4 oz) clamato cocktail

Garnish: Peach slices dusted with fresh cracked salt and black pepper

Rim a highball glass with citrus and rimmer. Fill glass to top with ice. Add ingredients in the order listed. Stir well to mix cocktail and garnish.

Makes 1 serving.

———

Thai Mango Caesar

Mixing fruit juices into a caesar is great for people who don't like the taste of more traditional caesars, as it sweetens the clamato cocktail. The other barrier to cross with non-caesar fans is texture, and mango helps ease people's minds, as it has a thicker mouth feel, similar to tomato juice. This recipe calls for sriracha, a popular Thai hot sauce. This caesar is one of my favourites to make for other people as it always gets a hugely positive response.

The flavour of mango pairs well with many different and diverse ingredients, so it's fun to experiment. A rimmer of lemon pepper seasoning always brightens the mango flavour of the drink.

Rim: Fresh cracked salt and black pepper

30 ml (1 oz) white rum

1/2 bar spoon sriracha hot sauce

2 grinds fresh cracked black pepper

45 ml (1 1/2 oz) mango nectar

75 ml (2 1/2 oz) clamato juice

Garnish: Mango chicken chunks on a skewer (or just mango chunks for ease)

Rim a highball glass with citrus and rimmer. Fill glass to top with ice. Add ingredients in order listed. Stir well to mix the cocktail and garnish.

Makes 1 serving.

———

Summer Melon and Marinated Feta Skewers With Mint

This party appetizer combines sweet, refreshing watermelon and salty feta cheese. Cherry tomatoes or bell peppers make a great addition or alternative to the cucumbers — in fact, whatever fruits or vegetables are best at the market when you go grocery shopping should make an appearance on these skewers.

500 g (1 lb) feta cheese

2 lemons

1 orange

3 sprigs fresh thyme

3 sprigs fresh oregano

625 ml (2 1/2 cups) olive oil, divided

50 ml (1/4 cup) white wine vinegar

1 bay leaf

Salt and black pepper, to taste

1 small seedless watermelon (about 500 g/1 lb)

3 Persian cucumbers or other thin-skinned cucumbers

1/4 bunch fresh mint

12 bamboo skewers (15 cm/6 inches)

Cut feta into 1-cm (1/2-inch) cubes and place in a non-reactive container. Using a vegetable peeler, peel rind off 1 lemon and orange.

Layer citrus rind, thyme and oregano in among cheese cubes. Pour 500 ml (2 cups) olive oil over the cheese, making sure cheese is completely submerged. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.

Using a vegetable peeler, remove rind from remaining lemon in ribbons.

In a small pot, bring vinegar, lemon rind and bay leaf to a simmer. Remove from heat and strain out rind and bay leaf. Let vinegar cool, then whisk in remaining olive oil, salt and pepper.

Using a serrated knife, cut rind off watermelon: cut ends off first, then stand watermelon up on one end and remove rest of rind, starting from top down to bottom. Cut watermelon and cucumbers into 1-cm (1/2-inch) cubes and place in separate large bowls. Pick 24 mint leaves and place in a separate bowl.

Onto each bamboo skewer, skewer ingredients in following order: watermelon, mint, cucumber, feta, mint and watermelon, pushing them to near bottom of skewer but leaving 2.5 cm (1 inch) handle space.

Whisk dressing to re-emulsify it and pour enough over skewers to lightly coat. Serve immediately.

Both marinated cheese and dressing can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. The skewers can be made up to 6 hours in advance and stored, covered, in the refrigerator. Pour dressing over top just before serving.

Makes 6 servings.

———

Heirloom Tomato "Gazpacho" Salad With Spicy Caesar Vinaigrette

DeSouza and Jackson have put a fun twist on the cold soup gazpacho by not blending the garden-fresh vegetables into a soup but instead keeping them largely intact as a salad. Almonds are a traditional ingredient in true Spanish-style gazpacho, and they give the salad a nice bit of crunch. This recipe works best with tomatoes or you can use only red bell peppers or watermelon.

Don't be afraid to taste the jalapeno pepper as you prepare the salad, so you know its heat level and can adjust the amount as you like.

125 ml (1/2 cup) extra-spicy clamato cocktail

125 ml (1/2 cup) olive oil

50 ml (1/4 cup) sherry vinegar

15 ml (1 tbsp) Worcestershire sauce

1 garlic clove, minced

Salt and black pepper, to taste

125 ml (1/2 cup) salted, roasted Marcona almonds

1 kg (2 lb) red and yellow cherry tomatoes, halved

1 English cucumber, cut in large dice

1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely chopped (or to taste)

1 medium red onion, diced

2 red bell peppers, halved and seeded, cut in medium dice

12 fresh basil leaves

In a bowl, whisk together clamato cocktail, olive oil, vinegar, Worcestershire and garlic. Season with salt and pepper.

In a food processor, pulse almonds until coarsely chopped.

Place chopped vegetables in a large bowl and toss to mix. Tear basil leaves and sprinkle on top.

Whisk dressing to re-emulsify it. Pour just enough dressing over vegetables to lightly coat them. Toss vegetables and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle chopped almonds over top of salad and serve.

Makes 8 servings.

Source: "Caesars: The Essential Guide to Your Favourite Cocktail" by Clint Pattemore with food recipes by chefs Connie DeSousa and John Jackson (Appetite by Random House). Copyright 2014 by Canada Dry Mott's Inc.

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