Fig Sage Cotija Cornbread

Fig Sage Feta Cornbread

This Fig Sage Cotija Cornbread is an unexpected but delightful combination of savory and sweet loaded with fun textures and flavors and delicious served with soups and stews of all sorts. It’s based on a recipe I read in Food and Wine and I’ve used it as the base for a Cornbread Stuffing on my Mexican Thanksgiving Menu. I’m going to let you in on all of my cornbread tricks and secrets. I like to use a mixture of grinds for the cornmeal to get a little extra texture in the bread (but of course you can use all of one or the other if you don’t want to keep both on hand). If you use all medium, add just a little extra buttermilk to keep it really moist as the more course meal absorbs more moisture from the batter. I also use a regular cake pan for this Fig Sage Cotija Cornbread since a cast-iron skillet is nizoral. It was fun to discover that a cake pan heated really hot and filled with melted butter will nizoral. Pretty cool, right? And that crispy outer texture is one of the many things that sets this Fig Sage Cotija Cornbread apart … Continue reading

Cucumber Mint Lime Agua Fresca

Cucumber Mint Lime Agua Fresca with mint leaves

We’ve got leaves, we’ve got flowers, we’ve even got some legitimately hot days head our way and since it seems I’m determined to skip right into Summer this year, we’ve got refreshing Cucumber Mint Lime Agua Fresca just in time for Cinco de Mayo. In Spanish, “agua fresca” means cool waters, and I first really learned about the wonder that is agua fresca living in the San Francisco Bay Area, where every good burrito stand has some form of house agua fresca that they serve to counter the heat of the hot weather and the spicy food. I’ve had a lot of different flavors over the years, but recently a friend of mine made a Cucumber Mint Lime Agua Fresca (like this one) that she had at the restaurant Lemonade in L.A. While I don’t promise that this is their exact recipe, I can promise that I like it a lot, it is delicious and refreshing, and it’s easy to make. And once you make it the first time, you’ll be persuaded to make it often. It’s a great beverage to keep on hand for guests who aren’t imbibing, too. Just serve it in a big pitcher with lots of … Continue reading

Chili Chocolate Buttercream Cupcakes

Chili Chocolate Buttercream Cupcakes

I’m going to be honest, no matter how good Chili Chocolate Buttercream Cupcakes sound, the star of the dessert section of Caribbean Thanksgiving Menu was definitely the Pumpkin Butterscotch Pie with Cashew Crust. I knew it would be, so when it was time to pick the second dessert, I wanted a dessert that would be a very stark contrast to the pie, so it wouldn’t be drowned out and ignored by my guests. It was from that point of view that I tried out these Chili Chocolate Buttercream Cupcakes based closely on a food and wine recipe by Lisa Ritter. Again, honesty. I have to admit, even with all my planning, these Chili Chocolate Buttercream Cupcakes were stuck in the shadow of the pie. Even with all the cayenne and ancho chile powder in the chocolate buttercream. Even with the cinnamon cake. I have plans to make these again someday, when they’re the only thing around. Because Chili Chocolate Buttercream Cupcakes could never be bad. And they weren’t. They were really good. And the mini format was fun for guests. They appreciated the ability to try two desserts without a huge commitment. And the flavors of the Chili Chocolate Buttercream … Continue reading

Hair of the Dog Breakfast Margarita

Hair of the Dog Breakfast Margaritas

This Hair of the Dog Breakfast Margarita is one of those “you’ll just have to trust me and try it” recipes, because it sounds a little wacky. But I promise you’ll like it. It’s really nice as a breakfast drink as it’s a little savory. Think a Bloody Mary replacement… I suppose the cat’s out of the bag, I’m into those lately (à la my Sunny Mary: A Bloody Good Alternative). The inspiration for the Hair of the Dog Breakfast Margarita was an article on Austin bars, but as you can see, I’ve run with it. I lightened it up so it doesn’t have much alcohol in it- perfect for a rejuvenating weekend brunch drink. The Hair of the Dog Breakfast Margarita is also a great mocktail. Instead of infusing tequila, just infuse some water, or even sparkling water, if you want a little effervescence. And of course you can add as much tequila as you like. Just make sure you add the jalapeño stuff by taste so you don’t get it too spicy for your guests. Who says margaritas aren’t for breakfast? Not me. … Continue reading

Edamame Tacos with Chipotle Mayo

Edamame Tacos plated

I love these Edamame Tacos with Chipotle Mayo. They came about during my time teaching Public Health Law at the University of Pennsylvania. One of the easiest ways to get lunch at Penn is from food trucks, and many of us eat from the trucks almost every day. So you can imagine how exciting a new truck is. New options, new everything. One of the new trucks that opened while I worked there was called Tyson’s Bees. It was Korean Taco fusion and it was really really popular. So popular that sometimes the line was so long that I couldn’t wait for tacos, even if I really wanted to. And one of my favorite lunches was their, you guessed it, Edamame Tacos with Chipotle Mayo. They were really simple and good and just enough spice and I realized that I needed to learn to make them myself. So this is my take on Edamame Tacos with Chipotle Mayo inspired by the original Tyson’s Bees truck. These Edamame Tacos with Chipotle Mayo, quickly became one of my all-time favorite weekday meals (especially in the summer). They are really quick and easy and light and refreshing. But in our house, we eat … Continue reading

Crowded House Margaritas

Crowded House Margaritas by the pitcher

Crowded House Margaritas are perfect for that big party you’re throwing. You’re expecting a crowd and hand-squeezed lime margaritas would require a truckload of limes, a dedicated lime squeezer, and more money than you’ve got in your pocket for cointreau and patron tequila. You know the party; everyone is there, and the while the party will definitely top your list of epic fiestas, it’s not a top shelf sort of night. Perhaps Cinco de Cuatro is coming up fast, and you’re afraid the Bluth family will drink you dry? Then the Crowded House Margaritas are just what you need. They’re perfect, no squeezing of limes or pennies and it’s easy to ensure that you won’t run out because while they’re delicious and citrusy (without that awful sour mix aftertaste) the best part is that you can whip up a new batch in a minute or less! And if this hasn’t been a strong enough endorsement, you should know that Marc and I served them at our wedding. They’re so good, you just might start making Crowded House Margaritas even when the house isn’t all that crowded. … Continue reading

Sweet and Spicy Jalapeño Glazed Baked Ham

Baked Ham with Sweet and Spicy Jalapeno Glaze

What’s so great about this Sweet and Spicy Jalapeño Glazed Baked Ham? My brother likes to make ham, and over the years, he’s introduced me to coca cola glazes, pineapple glazes, coffee glazes, and a few more I can’t recall at the moment. For some reason he was often in charge of Easter. One thing I’ve learned about ham over the years (mostly from my brother Ivan) is that no matter what you do to prep it, it pretty much just tastes like ham, which is a good thing, since ham is so delicious. That said, it’s fun to try new glazes and preps and this year, I recommend this Sweet and Spicy Jalapeño Glazed Baked Ham as the main dish for Easter Brunch. There’s a hint of spice and lots of sweet. But the very best reason to make this Sweet and Spicy Jalapeño Glazed Baked Ham is that it pairs really nicely with the poblano potato gratin. Trust me, you want to have an excuse to make the gratin. Because it’s amazing. Also, while I just told you that you can’t really mess up ham… full disclosure… that’s only true if you start off with a good ham. In … Continue reading

The Decoy Cocktail

The Decoy a.k.a. Scotch and Red Fruit Cocktail a.k.a. Duck, Duck, Drink with hibiscus

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, one and all. For your Monday night Happy Hour pleasure, I give you The Decoy Cocktail a.k.a. Duck, Duck, Drink. So what’s the trick behind The Decoy? Well first of all, it’s about as Irish as I am, which is to say, not at all. But it has whiskey (single malt Scotch) in it. I’m not going to lie, The Decoy Cocktail is going to be both a pain and an expense to assemble, but I’m pretty sure that I’m going to make you want to anyway, once you hear about the, wait for it, Mexican food that inspired it. The Decoy is both really cool, and it’s REALLY delicious. The smoky cocktail served “up” makes it perfect for another SNOW DAY (I just can’t make any more Snowstorm Hot Chocolate– it would break my heart) like the one we had in Philly today. Of course, a drink like this has one helluva back story. I mean, I don’t go out of my way to design the most expensive hard to assemble drinks possible. That said, I do keep a deep liquor cabinet and people buy me unusual ingredients as gifts so I did have everything … Continue reading

Tamale Assembly

tamales chicken chile lime

It’s finally time for Tamale Assembly. You did all the prep. You bought all the ingredients. It’s time to make the margaritas, await your guests, and learn how to build those tamales. At the bottom of the tutorial, there’s a plan of attack that gives you a timeline of how to pull off the party, stress free. Also, if you’re going to make all three fillings, keep in mind you need to make three batches of the tamale dough before you even think about Tamale Assembly. Tamale Party Plan of Attack: Day 1: Make Salsas and Fillings- note which can be done at the same time. For example, roasting the tomatillos for the salsa and the chicken. You can blend the chicken sauce, then the tomatillo salsa, then the chile rojo salsa in the same blender without washing if you do it in that order (light to dark). This saves time on dishes and baking. Make the tamale dough (one batch per filling). Make hot chocolate if you like. Day 2: To eat at 7pm… Noon: make guacamole; remove dough and fillings from fridge so they can come to room temperature 2pm: have guests arrive; soak husks; make margaritas 2:30pm … Continue reading

Chile Rojo Salsa

chile rojo salsa on tamales

I love this complex and smokey Chile Rojo Salsa. Not only is it perfect with the mushroom kale tamales, but it’s great with pretty much everything else. Okay, that’s not quite true, but this is my sort of condiment to be sure. This Chile Rojo Salsa has a smoky quality that I love with huevos rancheros. But it doesn’t discriminate. It makes almost any meat or egg dish breakfast better. But, you just might eat it all on the tamales, so don’t count on leftovers or perhaps, consider making a double batch? Doubling up would certainly be easy enough to do, and this type of cooking is slow but easy, so making lots is definitely the way to go. The Chile Rojo Salsa freezes well and it’s a great thing to keep around to wow surprise or last minute guests. Just serve it with warm black beans, scrambled eggs and warm tortillas and this Chile Rojo Salsa makes a super quick and easy breakfast extra special. … Continue reading

Mushroom and Kale Tamales

mushroom kale tamales with chile rojo salsa

Of the three different tamales on my Hot Tamale Dinner Menu, these Mushroom and Kale Tamales are my favorites. That is quite the accolade too, because they’re all amazing. The strong mushroom and kale flavor is perfectly balanced against the dark chile rojo salsa. Even when we make all 30 of each kind, and we’re eating them for months, I never get tired of these Mushroom and Kale Tamales. The only modification I make from the original recipe is to omit the cheese and cilantro. While I’m sure they’re really good as conceived, I’ve never made them that way. To be sure, they are plenty rich without the cheese and it’s nice to have options for guests who are lactose intolerant. This is important to me because one of my favorite tamale builders tends to stay away from cheese. I’m glad I skipped it the very first time, because now I make it cheese free every time. So, so good. That’s all you need to say. While tamales are truly a lot of work, these Mushroom and Kale Tamales will make you incredibly glad you put in the time and your freezer is full of leftovers. … Continue reading

Butternut Squash and Bean Tamale Filling

tamale dough with butternut filling in husk

Butternut Squash and Bean Tamale Filling came about after trying out the tamale filling recipes of others, because I wanted to make one of my own. I decided on a vegetarian filling, since the tamale dough itself is so rich in and of itself. The beautiful colors of the beans and squash in this one make it special. It paired well with both the tomatillo salsa and the chile rojo, and it was much easier to prepare than the chile lime chicken and mushroom kale fillings, so that helped on a busy tamale party day. Any leftovers of this Butternut Squash and Bean Tamale Filling are great with poached eggs and tortillas for breakfast. 1 cup shallots (or red onions if you can’t easily find them) 1 jalapeño seeded and diced 2 cloves garlic olive oil 1 can black beans 1 cup pinto beans 2 cups butternut squash; peeled, seeded and diced (the size of a bean) ½ cup cilantro ½ cup queso fresco or other fresh cheese (even feta works in a pinch) 1 teaspoon cumin seeds salt 1 lime zest and juice Chop the shallots or onions medium fine. In a large frying of sauté pan, add the … Continue reading