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Jalapeno


May 7, 2010
crab cakes

I was invited to design a Cinco de Mayo menu for Ceiba Restaurant along with their Chef de Cuisine, Alfredo Solis. The invitation included teaching a class covering that menu. As always, I was eager to teach whatever I know. But as always, I learn much more as I go. This time, I also learned, that you never know what foods you are going to like the best.

Continue reading Chef Solis’s Mexican Crab Cakes with Jalapeño Aioli


December 25, 2009
Pickled Red Onions

As promised, and right before the year ends, here is a recipe for pickled red onions or cebollas encurtidas or en escabeche, so you can try them with Pollo Pibil. Please do! You will see why it’s no wonder pickled red onion has been Pibil’s faithful and enlightened companion for centuries: they both taste great separately, but blissful when paired together.

Pickled red onions are also a permanent fixture at every single table in Yucatan. As they are mildly spicy, deliciously tangy and surprisingly crunchy they go well with so many things. These past couple weeks I learned first hand why they are such a fabulous pickle to have handy.

Since one of its main ingredients, the bitter orange, is hard to come by around here, I had 16 takes with different bitter orange substitutes. There are well-known versions for substitutes, but I am not crazy about any of them. 16 pickled red onion batches later: I found one I love! It is equal parts grapefruit, orange, lime juice and white distilled vinegar. Without the vinegar it’s not acid enough and the pickle loses its color and crunch, it faints quickly.

Continue reading Pickled Red Onions a la Yucateca


August 25, 2009
Mexican-style eggs

“All I want is a hamburger, a hot dog, a Pizza, a nice big steak, some Texas style bar-b-q and a big plate of pancakes… no tacos or anything Mexican ok?” My dad said, after devouring the welcoming meal I prepared for him, which happened to be Tacos de Guisado.

Guisados are Mexican style stews, which can be ladled into warm corn tortillas. There are plenty of Fondas or small restaurants that specialize in them throughout Mexico. Since my dad loves them, I received him with three of his favorites: Chicken Tinga heavy on the chipotle, beef cooked in a green salsa with cubed potatoes and nopalitos, or cactus paddles, sauteed with onion, Guajillo Chilies and corn. There were also refried beans and white rice, as they are such friendly sides to tacos.

After he made it clear that he didn’t want anything Mexican for the next three days, making me laugh so hard along the way, we set off to satisfy his cravings.

Continue reading Mexican Style Eggs: A la Papi


August 5, 2009
mango salsa

When asked recently whether I was a collector of some sort, I thought of my grandmother’s cabinet that holds hundreds of elephant figurines — more than 60 years’ worth, from many places. And she’s still adding to the lot. So my response was no.

Then a few days later I realized that I am a collector: of foods tasted throughout my life, or at least the memories of them. This is especially true of salsas. I have countless papers scattered on my desk with notes about the names of them, the places I ate them, their ingredients, the cooks who made them and, when generously given, directions on how to re-create them.

When the mood strikes, I search to find that precise note (which may be in a coat pocket, bag or drawer). Or I sit down with eyes closed and try to remember the feel of the sauce.

When all else fails, I make one up.

Continue reading A True Mexican Collectible: Versatile Summertime Salsas…


June 22, 2009

Pickled Jalapeños are a very popular garnish, topping or side for plenty of Mexican foods like tortas, tacos, quesadillas, grilled meats, rice, beans, tostadas… just to name some. So much so, that in many Restaurants, they are placed in the center of the table along the side of salt, pepper and a breadbasket. Many people nibble on them right out of the bowl… They are popular in Mexican Pizzerias too!

You can make your own or buy them already bottled or canned at the stores. They are so intensely used, that there are plenty of brands that carry them as a regular product. Taste does vary considerably from one brand to another, so try a couple, and see which ones you like more.

Continue reading Pickling Jalapeños


June 19, 2009

I am not one to carry a bottle of hot sauce in my bag wherever I go. I do have an uncle that proudly does. Wherever he travels, his Tabasco sauce eagerly jumps out of his bag and splashes its somewhat flavorless heat on whatever food it happens to come across. Yep, fancy restaurants too.

Now I know… Mexicans have the reputation of loving to eat everything with chiles. I admit this to be true. As Fray Bartolomé de las Casas, Spanish priest, defender of indigenous people, and chronicler of early colonial times said in the XVI century: Without chiles, Mexicans do not consider they have eaten. Hmmmm… the same can be said today. With the caveat, that it’s not just the heat that we crave.

Most Mexicans are picky chile eaters. Since we have so many varieties, and such varied and distinct ways to use and prepare them, we can exquisitely discriminate how and what we pair them with. We love their different flavors, textures, fragrances and personalities. It is like considering different kinds of fruits. So my uncle is more an exception than the rule.

All this to say, without any excuse, that although I am not a hot sauce bottle kind of woman, I am a pickled Jalapeño kind of gal.

Continue reading Pickled Jalapeño Kind of Gal


June 11, 2009
Japapeno-thumb-510x342-588

This is probably the most well known fresh chile outside of Mexico. It is extremely popular inside the country as well. It looks a bit similar to the Serrano chile, and can be used interchangeably, thus they are many times confused. They are both dark green, with a shine to them, and carry a small and thin darker stem.

However, the Jalapeño is larger, bigger, rounder and chubbier than the Serrano. Ironically, it is milder in heat and has a lighter taste. Just as most fresh chiles, its heat can be pumped down by removing the seeds and veins. Similarly as other fresh chiles, don’t buy them if they have wrinkled skin or dark brown or black spots.

Continue reading Jalapeño Chile

Continue reading
Jalapeño Chile

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June 11, 2009

Some people get motion sickness when they travel. Some people get hungry. I am among the latter.

The minute I step on whatever will transport me from one place to another, my mind swims through related food memories… and I just have to eat. So since I know I will have a craving for something other than a moist, soggy, chewy and never-ever crunchy baguette from the Amtrak train, and after being so spoiled with the food from El Chepe Train, I am packing my own Torta.

Torta (according to me…): A satisfying and delicious, self contained, easy to transport, edible package filled with tasty ingredients that just love to schmooze together.

Continue reading I am packing my own Torta…


May 5, 2009
chipotle-chiles-in-adobo-sauce

Chipotles in adobo sauce are one of my favorite Mexican ingredients. They are ready to be spooned on top or inside of almost anything: quesadillas, tacos, sandwiches, grilled meats… Yet, they are also a wonderful cooking ingredient to use for making a wide range of dishes, from soups to moles, from salsas to stews and even mashed potatoes.  Chipotles have truly unique layers of flavor that come together in a most wonderful way: smoky, sweet, deep, rich and pleasantly spicy.

Continue reading Chipotle chiles in adobo sauce


April 16, 2009

This is a versatile basic green tomatillo salsa. It can be drizzled on top of Mexican Antojos, such as Tostadas, Tacos, Quesadillas and Sopes… It can also be used to make Green Enchiladas or Chilaquiles. It can be spooned on top of eggs in the morning, used as a side garnish to grilled meats and as the seasoning to bake some fresh flaky fish in the oven. I could go on and on though…. here it goes:

Continue reading Cooked Salsa Verde

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