A passion for food + fashion

Posts Tagged ‘mexican food’

Pumpkin Flan

In Food on February 24, 2011 at 8:44 pm

I know we have a ways till Thanksgiving, but I’m already sold on this year’s dessert. This past weekend—for my Turkey in Mole Poblano soiree—I liberated a leftover can of pumpkin purée, added it to a flan and topped with some pepitas toasted in ancho salt. MAGIC. I might make it again this weekend for the Oscars, any excuse really. This was the first time I’d made flan and the first time I’d made a dry caramel. Talk about weird science. You just heat plain cane sugar in a pan until it turns to caramel. (Obvi for some, revolutionary for the rest of us.)

The caramel gets poured into a souffle dish, and then the flan so that when you eventually turn it upside down, the caramel spills out and pools around the flan.

The flan itself is a snap—you probably already have most of the ingredients in your cupboard. Click HERE for recipe. The flavor and texture—absolute perfection. My flan was a little runny in the middle so next time I might cook a little longer than the recommended hour and 15 minutes, and make sure it has more than 6 hours chilling in the fridge to set. Oh, and with any dessert it passes the most important test of all: A++ leftover for breakfast the next morning with a cup of coffee.

O Mole Night

In Food on February 23, 2011 at 11:17 pm

It’s taken me three days to get around to writing this post because it’s taken that long to recover from making Sunday night’s mole poblano, the prized dish of Mexico that contains over 20 ingredients that lend this sauce its gorgeous complexity. Having cooked from Gourmet and Martha for years, I was not intimidated by an unmanageable list of ingredients. That said, and to borrow from our former Chief Executive, I may have “misunderestimated” what is involved in the actual process of making the mole—a fact that became clear somewhere around Hour 3, when I was still in the thick of it with no end in sight.

But let’s back up.

Some of you might recall the Turkey Trauma of Thanksgiving 2010 in which I was sent a barely street legal 7.5 lb turkey the size of a large chicken instead of the 12-14 lb bird I ordered. It’s been burning a hole in my freezer drawer ever since. Last weekend, I decided to break out Tiny Tom and make my very first mole. A few days before I made the mole, I dry brined the turkey with salt and Mexican oregano and let sit in the fridge. I’ve included a mini can (7.5 ounces) of Dr. Pepper in the photo for an idea of scale. Think about it.

J’adore mole, particular the darker versions with a hint of chocolate (which tempers the heat of the chilies). I found this recipe for Turkey in Mole Poblano in an old issue of Saveur. I can promise you that when followed to the letter of the law the recipe is nothing short of spectacular. It’s also nothing short. Period. Because mole takes a long, long time. First there is the deseeding of the three types of a few dozen chilies.

Some of these seeds get toasted with sesame seeds stovetop before they are ground into a fine powder.

Whole cloves, peppercorns and aniseed get toasted separately and then ground into a fine powder before joining the mix, along with dried thyme, marjoram, cinnamon and torn bay leaves. Meanwhile the deseeded chilies are submerged in boiling water for half an hour before they are toasted in small batches in hot oil.

Then comes Satan’s work. In several batches, you puree chilies with their soaking liquid and stock in a blender, then pass through a sieve. This takes more time than you can possibly imagine. Then you set the chile purée aside.

Back to the frying pan. There are various seeds and nuts that also get the hot oil treatment—individually—because each ingredient cooks at a different rate.

As well as slices of bread and stale tortillas. Once they’ve all drained on paper towels, they get added to the spice powder mixture.

And then set aside while you slice an onion and peel 10 cloves of garlic. These get sautéed, transferred to the spice mix, and then tomatoes and tomatillos are sautéed, transferred to mix, and then along with this stock, it all gets pureed in the blender and pressed through a sieve. I really never want to see my blender again after this project.

At some point I threw the bird in the oven—it’s all a blur—and at some point all of the above ingredients were married on the stovetop and simmered away for a good long time.

And don’t forget the cup of chopped Mexican chocolate!

It was a good six hours of active cooking—and that’s not counting the shopping. But nothing worth having comes easy. And mole is very much worth having. All the better if you can share it with good friends. And by the way? That turkey served four.

A Fine Romance

In Drink, Food, Media on November 2, 2010 at 10:29 pm

Earlier this evening I had the huge honor of speaking at Patric Kuh’s food-writing class at UCLA Extension. Patric wins James Beard writing awards like I change my nail polish. (If anyone’s asking, I’m ditching sold-out-for-fall Chanel Khaki Vert and returning to an oldie but goodie, OPI’s My Private Jet.) So much fun to talk to such a great group—and I hope those of you who migrate over here will let me know as you set up your blogs!

In the meantime, I realize I haven’t talked yet about Los Angeles Magazine‘s AMAZING November issue: “The Ultimate Guide to Mexican Food in LA.” It ROCKS—and it’s on newsstands, so grab a copy while you can. In it, Kuh, the magazine’s restaurant critic, shares his picks for Top 10 Mexican Restaurants. The list includes a few longtime favorites and a bunch I can’t wait to check out. Here’s what his list doesn’t include (and nor should it), but is worth mentioning on this election night: Lucy’s El Adobe on Melrose across from Paramount Studios, a time-honored Mexican café more famous for its clientele than carnitas.

Today Lucy’s is known for subpar chicken mole and cloying Margaritas, but back in the day it was the stage for then-Governor Jerry Brown’s romance with Linda Ronstadt. Lucy’s also acted as his virtual Los Angeles office. And it still features Jerry Brown’s photo prominently (as well as the Pope’s and Don Henley’s). But Lucy’s also has personal meaning: it was featured in heavy rotation during the early dating days with yours truly and Mr. Foodinista for its outdoor patio (one of us was a smoker at the time) and proximity to our respective apartments on Sycamore.

A month after we were married, we ended up buying our first home a mile south or so on the same road we used to take to get to Lucy’s. We can see the Paramount water tower —from our street! And, coming full circle, tonight Wolf Blitzer on CNN is projecting that Jerry Brown is once again California’s Governor. I wish Mr Foodinista and I were sitting at Lucy’s right now to take it all in, pushing around stale chips on a plate, sipping saccharine-sweet margs and toasting to loves old, new and new again.

Hiding Out at Mama’s

In Food, On Location: Out and About in L.A. on August 18, 2010 at 1:37 pm

This morning Tiny G threw his first bona fide tantrum and it was not pretty. Needless to say, after the tears subsided and we successfully made it to preschool, albeit 45 minutes late, Tiny G’s mama needed a little peace and quiet. Which isn’t always easy to come by in LA. So I grabbed a handy little book my friend Susan sent me, Peaceful Places: Los Angeles by Laura Randall. The book features 110 quiet spots across the city, from museums and parks to cafés and courtyards. Randall is a longtime SGV resident whose recommendations span from well-known spots like the Getty to hidden gems like the bluff trails in Palos Verdes. One of my favorites entries is for Mama’s Hot Tamales Café in MacArthur Park. Following Tiny’s histrionics, I hightailed it for Mama’s and settled into a brightly painted corner table and ordered a couple tamales and a cold tamarindo. And lots of salsa, extra spicy, because I needed it.

The lights were low, and a couple of floor fans kept the place cool. I ate my tamales while I watched a father and school-age son enjoy their enchiladas at a nearby table, while a husband and wife quietly chatted over salads. Peace was restored in the land. Just in time for me to go pick up Tiny G from school…

Cheers to Cinco de Mayo

In Food on May 5, 2010 at 9:28 am

My in-laws are visiting from the East Coast and for their last night we are planning a Mexican-inspired feast to send them off in California style. For those of us who grew up in the Golden State, celebrating Cinco de Mayo is a matter of cultural pride. I took particular delight in celebrating Mexico’s victory over France when I was living in Paris a little over a decade ago. I grabbed a six pack of Stella Artois—Belgium’s answer to Corona, only Corona is much, much better—and a couple limes at the local Monoprix, and headed back to my little apartment on Rue Paul Bert. There, I shoved a ceremonial lime slice down the neck of a bottle of Stella, and sat with the windows open, smoking a cigarette and drinking a toast to my friends back home. It may have been the only time I truly savored a Stella.

So for tonight, Mr. Foodinista and I are putting together a menu of some of our favorites as follows. And, of course, margs. What will you be cooking up tonight? Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Cinco de Mayo Menu

Squash Blossom Quesadillas—I picked up a fistful of colorful squash blossoms on Monday at farmers market. I love them with a little creme fraîche, feta and cracked black pepper in a tortilla.

Salad with Spicy Lime and Avocado Vinaigrette—a recipe from my friend Jimmy Shaw at Loteria and a staple in our home. Love the spicy pumpkin seeds!

Red Beans and Rice with Salsa—Tiny G’s nanny is an excellent cook and learned all the Mexican classics from her mother-in-law. While Tiny G takes a power nap, she plans to make our kitchen smell awesome with tomatillos, chiles, garlic and onion simmering away. (Note: Tiny G’s nanny points out that the rice in this dish should be shorter grain than in the photo—and will be tonight!)

Grilled Carne Asada—Our neighbor Chris, an expert griller, turned Mr. Foodinista onto the carne asada from Liborio Market. Last year at our Guac Off, Mr. Foodinista grilled up something like 15 lbs of the stuff. And there were no leftovers.

And for dessert? In my fantasy world it’s Tres Leches Cake from Animal restaurant on Fairfax. OR the Banana Dulce de Leche Ice Cream from Milk on Beverly is muy delicioso.

And Lead Us Into Temptation…

In Food on April 20, 2010 at 1:14 pm

So I posted earlier today that I’m making a concerted effort to stick to lean protein and vegetables during the week. And then this. Tiny G’s nanny cooked up a batch of chicken enchiladas during his nap today. Falling off the wagon never looked so good!

Burn, Baby, Burn!

In Food, Recipes on April 2, 2010 at 5:17 pm

Last night we had one of our “Sisters and Misters” dinners—that is my friend Booth and I get together for dinner with our gents and our younger sisters. These affairs often involve a splash of wine, and last night was no exception. When I did a bottle count this morning, I wondered how on earth we could have gone through that much rosé? But I think the answer lies in these naughty little jalapeño poppers. So SPICY HOT, they demand to be washed down with a crisp and refreshing and low-alcohol glass (read: bottle) of rosé. The poppers are a new favorite and I can’t wait to fool around with different fillings all summer. My sister, Claire, recently got me a jalapeño roaster from Williams-Sonoma and last night was the maiden voyage, using some super spicy sausage in the filling. By the way, if you have one of those curved grapefruit knives, they are PERFECT for coring and deseeding the peppers. Enjoy with a very cold glass of palest pink rosé!

the foodinista

The Foodinista’s Jalapeño Poppers

12 large jalapeño peppers, cored and seeds removed

1 link Mexican chorizo or spicy Italian pork sausage, casing removed

4 ounces sharp white cheddar (pepper jack would work too)

1/2 yellow onion, finely diced

2 ounces cream cheese, softened

Chopped cilantro, optional

Prepare grill for cooking over medium heat. In a skillet over medium heat, sauté onion in olive oil till golden, about 5 minutes. Crumble sausage in small pieces into skillet and cook until done. Transfer onions and sausage to a bowl, mix with cheddar and cream cheese, adding cilantro if using. Stuff mixture into peppers. Place stuffed peppers into jalapeño roaster. Put roaster on grill over indirect heat and cook for 15-20 minutes, with lid down as much as possible.

Spice Up My Salad

In Food, Recipes on March 30, 2010 at 10:44 am

Believe me when I say this Spicy Lime and Avocado Vinaigrette will change your life. The recipe comes from Jimmy Shaw of Loteria, and he generously shared it with Bon Appétit last September. I made this salad to take to a neighbor’s barbecue (it is an undisputed fact that our neighbor Chris grills the best carne asada in town—any town) and promised to share the recipe. Don’t get scared by the number of ingredients. It all comes together pretty quickly (especially if you use cayenne for pepitas instead of toasting & grinding peppers), but warning: this salad disappears just as fast.


9 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup diced peeled seeded avocado
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup unsalted shelled raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas), toasted
3 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
1 garlic clove
3/4 teaspoon minced seeded serrano chile

To make vinaigrette, combine all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth.


4 dried chiles de árbol, stemmed or 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup unsalted shelled raw pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt

Finely grind chiles in small spice mill or in mortar with pestle. Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add pumpkin seeds and stir until evenly toasted (seeds will pop), about 5 minutes. Sprinkle evenly with sugar, salt, and 1/2 teaspoon chile de árbol powder. Toss to coat. Transfer pumpkin seeds to bowl and cool.


1 5-ounce package mixed baby greens
2 avocados, halved, seeded, peeled, sliced
1 12-ounce container cherry tomatoes, halved
1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, diced
1 medium jicama, peeled, cut into 1/3-inch-thick slices, then 1/3-inch sticks
1/2 medium red onion, very thinly sliced
1 1/2 cups coarsely crumbled cotija cheese or feta cheese (about 7 ounces)

To assemble salad, place greens in very large bowl. Add avocados, tomatoes, cucumber, jicama, and onion. Toss with enough vinaigrette to coat. Sprinkle with cheese and spicy pepitas.

Winning Loteria Ticket

In Food, On Location: Out and About in L.A. on March 11, 2010 at 5:47 pm

Today constituted a perfect afternoon. I met one of my besties, Missy Suicide, for lunch at one of my favorite restaurants, Loteria Hollywood. Is there any better way to fritter away a lunch hour than nibbling on griddle-toasted cheese wrapped in corn tortillas, followed by spicy shrimp tacos with avocado and crema (above)?

The restaurant, per usual, was packed. LA Weekly‘s Jonathan Gold was enjoying a michelada at the next table with Los Angeles Times Magazine editor, Nancy Clare. Owner Jimmy stopped by and said the new Studio City location will be getting a liquor license any day now. (Word on the street is there’s a 45 minute wait to get in—go early!)

After lunch, Missy & I walked back to the new Suicide Girls offices off Hollywood Blvd., where the crew was preparing for their celeb-studded premiere tomorrow night. As if the day could get any better, Missy gave me an adorable SG baby doll nightshirt (ooh la la!) and this saucy deck of cards. Score! You can purchase SG gear on the website by clicking HERE. Thank you, Missy!!!

Frijoles Fantastico

In Food on September 30, 2009 at 12:14 pm


Last night my friend Katie—whose day job is managing editor at Bon Appétit—had several SUPERB moments on Hell’s Kitchen. She totally stole the show in the opening challenge! But I’ve gotta tell you, she’s been stealing the show all week at our house. On Saturday night, she brought over some frijoles refritos for my sister’s birthday bbq that we’ve been obsessing over all week, which have just the right hit of spiciness to them—such a diversion from the usual bland frijoles. We’ve had them in breakfast burritos, lunch burritos, dinner burritos…with cheese, with Spanish rice, tabasco. I kind of can’t believe that refried beans can be THIS GOOD. Katie riffed on an Emeril recipe, but like any great cook made the recipe her own with some genius detours.

In addition to the bay leaf, she added a broken-in half chile de arbol, a sprig of oregano, a few whole peppercorns, and a smashed garlic clove to the water when she cooked the beans. The recipe calls for 3/4 cup of bacon drippings or lard, which is A LOT. Katie notes:

A word about the bacon fat. I doubled the bean recipe and then some (I used 5 cups dried beans rather than 2, and multiplied everything accordingly-ish), but I still ended up using less than 3/4 cup bacon fat. I started with about 3/4 cup (they sell it at Larchmont Larder), but it was just so much when it melted; it seemed like I’d be deep-frying the onions and garlic rather than sauteeing them, so I spooned off some of the fat.