I’m usually pretty good about knowing which of my social media posts will create more excitement, but every once in a while I’ll post something and be totally surprised at the response. Case in point—this vegetable-packed pozole. I didn’t even post the recipe for it—just the mention of a healthy version of this Mexican classic got people all crazy-excited and sending me messages asking for—demanding!—the recipe. Turns out we’re all pretty much desperate to get healthier and hold on to our traditions and flavor; if we can make all that happen in the same dish, well, that ends up being a home run.Traditional pozole is made by creating a rich broth by cooking a whole pig head with some neck bones along with dried hominy and then adding either a red or green salsa for color and flavor. Here I use mushrooms to give us that earthy heartiness that you expect from pozole, no meat needed. Listen—it’s not going to taste like pork because it isn’t pork, but this is darn close in terms of comfort and satisfaction.This pozole has become a staple in my sometimes-annoyingly healthy family. My sister has been known to go back for thirds. My teen, whose favorite dishes include pigs’ feet and beef tongue (kid KNOWS Mexican food!), also asks (begs, really) for it often. So here you go, familia. After countless messages and requests for me to put this recipe on the blog, it’s finally making its way to you.Guajillo, ancho, and árbol chiles are soaked and pureed for a perfectly balanced sauce that punches up the savory mushroom broth; the chickpeas are a yummy twist in place of the dried hominy. So go ahead and enjoy, guilt-free, and let the piggies run free!
I don’t think I’ve ever been messaged more on social media than when I posted a picture of this fideo in my Instagram stories. The response took me by surprise—I mean, this is true, homestyle Mexican cuisine. Nothing fancy. And that’s why it’s so good.Fideo is Mexico’s version of angel hair pasta, just cut into 1-inch pieces. When we made fideo seco back home, we toasted the pasta and then cooked it in a tomatoey broth, sometimes with vegetables and maybe shredded chicken. In this version, I start with a quick tomato sauce that I borrowed from my fiancé, Philip (it’s the same one we use for pasta and pizza) and added some chipotles to give it a kick.Now, a few secrets that will guarantee that when you make this fideo seco, you’re able to receive all the magic. The key is to blend the sauce until it’s really smooth, and add enough liquid so the sauce is thin enough to be absorbed by the pasta. Think of this like risotto, where you have to stir while liquid is absorbed by the pasta. Stirring is essential to keep the pasta from sticking to the pan and to make sure the sauce gets distributed and absorbed. This is one of those things learned by watching the abuelas in the cocina; it’s not hard, but you have to pay attention. It’s a humble meal that will only work if you watch it closely while making it.And now, the big finish—avocado slices, a drizzle of tart crema Mexicana, fresh cilantro leaves, crumbled queso fresco … maybe a squeeze of lime juice, and you’re in heaven, which for me is right back home in Tijuana. If you’re carb-watching, take a break—this is worth every bite. In fact, the only way this could possibly get any better is by adding more carbs. Like reheating it the next day and making fideo tacos (with corn tortillas, please) or tortas, with the same toppings. Maybe some fresh salsa. Add a Mexican Coca-Cola, and you’re all set. Enjoy!
You know that moment when you come up with a BRILLIANT idea for a dinner party recipe, only to Google it 5 seconds later and learn that it not only exists, but it’s actually trendy? Sigh. My “brilliant” idea was to take aguachile (a seafood dish) and swap the surf for turf—in this case, rib eye. Turns out it’s currently all the rage in the northern states of Mexico. But instead of getting discouraged and ditching the idea, I dug in and did some research. And what I discovered was pretty cool.Let me back up a bit. Agua (water) chile (chile) is a dish that originated in Sinaloa: water, chiles, lime, and salt are blended together and poured over raw shrimp (or scallops) and topped with onions and cilantro before serving. In the past (like pre-Hispanic past, not like the 1970s) this method was used on meat, such as deer, cow, and bison. Back in the day, when the Sinaloenses preserved meat for the winter months, they would soften it back up before eating by soaking it in this same aguachile mixture and then make tacos. It wasn’t until later, thanks to the influence of Asian settlers, that seafood became a crucial part of their diet, and classic shrimp aguachile was born.So here we are, with a dish that you can now find in all the cool restaurants, who probably have no idea they’re returning to the recipe’s roots. But let me be clear—I’m not soaking jerky here! We're simply saucing a seared piece of well-marbled rib eye (still raw in the center) with a cold, spicy broth for a refreshing, hearty dish that demands a cold cerveza.So maybe I didn’t actually come up with a brand-new dish to wow my guests. But at least I had some interesting dinner conversation to share—and a delicious OG aguachile on top of that. Enjoy!
I’m a purist when it comes to certain foods, and al pastor tacos (known as adobada tacos to us in Tijuana) is one of those foods. I lived off them—literally. A medical condition left my mother confined to her bed most of my teenage years, and my father’s culinary skills were nonexistent—he couldn’t even put a sandwich together.To this day I don’t know if he can’t cook or simply refused to because that’s not what (most) Mexican men do, in his view. He wasn’t gonna let me go hungry, though. Before he eventually poached Pedro, the cook from the country club, to come save us from starvation, we ate street tacos multiple times a week. My sister and brother were too busy being teens, so a lot of the memories I have of me and my dad hitting the taco stands are just the two of us. We’d find delectable tacos, based on recommendations from his friends or spotting a long line snaking down the boulevard. We never knew if the vendor would be there the next week or even the next day, so every day was a different and delicious adventure.Now that I’m grown up, I make more sensible food choices. Kidding—there’s nothing un-sensible about a GOOD al pastor pork taco. But in actuality, the original was made of lamb—a gift from the Lebanese immigrants to Mexico. It’s our pork take on shawarma instead of their traditional lamb. But I wanted to try it with yet a different protein, and guess what? It worked beautifully. You’d think the adobo would totally consume the flavor of the fish, but it doesn’t. It’s a lighter, beachier version of a Mexican classic—perfect with an ice-cold beer. Topped with the traditional raw white onions, cilantro, and avocado (or guacamole!), it’s heaven. I doubt my father would approve of my twist, but to be honest, between this or having to actually cook for himself, he’d probably end up eating it. And I bet he might even like it.
Is it horribly annoying to tell you that the best version of this dish can only be achieved if the squash comes straight from your garden? Because it’s true. The next best thing is to go to the farmers market. “Cook only with ingredients that are in season,” “Stick to local,”—we’ve been hearing these things for years, mostly in an attempt to save our suffering planet. But flavor. FLAVOR. We’ve lost it.In an attempt to have access to everything year-round, produce has lost its magic. Supermarket cherry tomatoes do serve a purpose, but the flavor is vastly different than those from your own garden. Same for broccoli and snap peas. My kids won’t eat them unless they come from our vegetable patch; it’s annoying, but I’m proud of them! The reason vegetables aren’t popular with kids and many adults is because they’re missing a lot of the sweetness and texture provided by Mother Nature—their flavor is diluted by our mass-market food production process. Dishes like this summer squash carpaccio really stand out when you have access to gorgeous fresh vegetables from the farmers market or, God willing, your own garden. Should that stop you from preparing this with supermarket summer squash? Never! But I want to inspire you to look for local, seasonal, and sustainable food sources. It’s good for the planet, and great for your palate.When summer squash is freshly picked, all it needs is a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and maybe a hit of lemon juice. Here, I’ve taken it to next-level magic by adding sweet dates, fresh mint, and toasted pepitas spiced with Tajín seasoning to the thinly sliced summer squash. For a gathering with friends in the garden or a light lunch, this has become a favorite of mine. I hope you enjoy it as much as we do. Besos familia!
Growing up, I didn’t realize how unique it was to live on the border of the United States and Mexico. It wasn’t until I started doing interviews with the press that I actually began to appreciate just how cool it was that I would cross the international border every single day from Tijuana into San Diego to go to school. I’d spend half the day doing all of the normal things American schoolgirls did, and then it was back to Mexico to eat enchiladas and speak Spanish and live the life of a regular Mexican girl. There’s a particular quality that those of us who live on the border share; we can switch from being Mexican to being American in an instant just by scanning our surroundings. Not everybody has this superpower; it takes a very specific kind of upbringing to instill a deep pride in two very different cultures.Most folks feel forced to choose one identity or the other—like they’re being unpatriotic by embracing their duality. I’m one of the switchers; nobody can force me to choose! This particular quality has helped me create some of my most popular recipes, including this cheesecake. I take a traditional American recipe and add something like dulce de leche (caramelized cow’s milk, our Mexican version of caramel) to create a dish that’s appealing to Americans but also feels familiar to folks like me who have deeply rooted Mexican and Latin American traditions.The cheesecake itself is very straightforward—cream cheese, sugar, a graham cracker crust, and a water bath to ensure gentle heat; you know the drill. What’s fun here is the dulce de leche marbling. Earthy and less cloying than caramel, dulce de leche finds a gorgeous home in this creamy classic. It’s no-frills, but I’m a no-frills kinda gal. It’s simple perfection with a nod to my Mexican upbringing, a cheesecake that would be just as happily eaten on a deck overlooking the ocean in Coronado as at my dad’s house in Tijuana. It's fully comfortable in its own skin and on either side of the border. Just like me.
Coca-Cola is the secret to this super-simple braised pork recipe from TV chef Marcela Valladolid “The cola both tenderizes the pork and gives it a dark, caramelized crust,” says Valladolid. “I like to shred this pork and serve right in the casserole that it cooks in. I lay out bowls of toppings so everyone can build their own tacos.” If you can get it, Valladolid also recommends using Mexican cola for richer flavor. Slideshow: More Taco Recipes
A mix of soy sauce, ground chile, garlic and peppercorns coats this gorgeous prime rib from TV chef Marcela Valladolid; as it roasts, the rub forms a peppery crust around the juicy meat.
“The process of making homemade mole negro is intense,” says TV chef Marcela Valladolid. “You dry the chiles yourself; you grind all the nuts to extract the oils. But I know no one, including me, is going to grab a mortar.” So she makes this thick, spicy sauce with three store-bought nut butters instead. It’s great with chicken and pork. Slideshow: More Mexican Recipes