Pandemic Happy Hour

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Mexican / Uncategorized

Hibiscus Margarita with URFA Pepper

We are living in unprecedented times. Our lives are flipped upside down. The reality of what life looks like for the rest of this year is starting to set in. Today, I wanted to feel like I was in my favorite restaurant during happy hour enjoying time with family/friends. I made myself this drink and thought about all the great memories I have with you. I wrote this recipe with hopes it inspires you to do what brings you good memories. My thoughts are with you. We are going to get through this. Cheers!

Time-30 minutes

Servings-2-3 Margaritas


4 cups of water, 3/4 cup of sugar, 1 cup of dried hibiscus flowers, 1 shot of tequila per margarita, 2 lime wedges freshly squeezed per margarita and rim glass with URFA pepper and sugar


The drink starts with making the hibiscus tea. Put 4 cups of water and sugar in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Once sugar is dissolved remove from heat and stir in dried hibiscus flowers. Let sit for 20 minutes to steep and cool.

Drain spent hibiscus flowers with funnel and sieve. Place hibiscus tea in refrigerator until you are ready to mix margarita.

Rim glass with lime and URFA Pepper and sugar.

In cocktail shaker add one shot of tequila and two squeezes of fresh lime. Fill with ice and 3/4-1 cup of hibiscus tea. Shake for 30 seconds and let the shaker get really cold. Be careful to cover with wash cloth because this could get messy. The more you shake the better foam you will get on top. Pour into glass and place mint leaf on top.


Cook’s Note

URFA pepper is a dried turkish chili pepper. It has a fruity spice flavor that I love. It reminds me of Mexican candy. Some people describe it as having a raisin like flavor with a kick. It pairs perfectly with the warm cranberry taste of hibiscus.

Hibiscus is a dried flower that can be found under the name Jamaica. It’s found in barrels of Mexican markets or in plastic bags. It’s shelf stable so it’s perfect for our current stay at home status. Margarita ready whenever you want!

Oh Snap!

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Appetizer / Uncategorized

Blistered Sugar Snap Peas with black quinoa, whipped feta, sesame date butter and mint

One of my favorite restaurants in the Art District of Los Angeles housed inside an art gallery named Hauser & Wirth is Manuela. The restaurant is where the edible works of art are consumed. One of my favorite dishes is the blistered sugar snap peas. This recipe is my riff of this incredible vegetable dish.

Time 1-hour

Servings 2-3


1 10 ounce bag of sugar snap pea, 1/4 cup black quinoa, 3.5 ounces of feta, 2 TBS cream cheese, 1 TBS sesame butter, 1 TBS Pure date syrup, 8 mint leaves, 1 TBS canola oil, 1/2 tsp kosher salt, 1/2 cup of water and pinch of URFA pepper.


Place 1/4 cup of black quinoa and 1/2 cup of water in a small sauce pan and bring to boil. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until quinoa is cooked.

Trim and remove strings from both sides of sugar snap peas.

Stings removed

When quinoa is cooked dry toast in another small skillet. Add quinoa to dry skillet on medium heat for 3-5 minutes. You will hear snapping that is your quinoa changing it’s texture to slightly crunchy and that is what you want. Careful not to burn.

Toasted black quinoa

In a food processor add your favorite feta and cream cheese. Whip together until smooth and creamy. A smaller food processor would be easier if you have one. My favorite feta is Valbreso. Once feta is whipped scoop out into bowl and keep in refrigerator until plating.

In a small bowl add the sesame butter and date syrup mix together then set aside.

Found these items on Amazon

Now you are ready to blister the snap peas. In a medium to large skillet add 1 TBS of canola oil and get pan really hot. Wait until the oil is just starting to smoke and then add the snap peas until they are blistered and coated with oil. Season with kosher salt.

Time to plate. Smear sesame date butter onto platter. Then add snap peas, toasted black quinoa, whipped feta, and gently ripped mint leaves. For a little bit of heat I sprinkled a little URFA pepper but crush peppers will work as well. URFA pepper adds a fruity heat.

Finished product
Close up


A Little Sweet… A Little Heat

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Appetizer / Mexican

Chorizo and Sweet Potato Empanada with Salsa Verde

I recently visited a popular restaurant in Los Angeles’ art district, Guerrilla Taco. They are famous for their sweet potato taco. It doesn’t sound like it would be good, but it came highly recommended by the late Jonathan Gold. I wondered how a mushy centered taco would taste in a soft corn shell. Well, it works because he adds chopped corn nuts for crunch. Genius, I tell you! I realized that I don’t use sweet potato enough in my cooking. I thought about where to place it, and how would I add texture. After some experimenting, I think I came up with an answer. I use puff pastry in this recipe, for crunch and flakiness, with a sweet and spicy filling. Salsa Verde adds a much needed tart counterpoint to the empanadas. Enjoy!

Time-1 hour 30 minutes

Servings-11 Empanadas


2 sheets of frozen puff pastry, 9 oz of pork chorizo, 1 large or 11 ounce sweet potato, 1/4 cup chopped onion, 1/4 cup chopped green pepper, 1/4 chopped red pepper, 1 garlic clove minced, 2 tsp of honey, 1 TBS of oil, 1 tsp Kosher salt, purchased salsa verde, crema and cilantro for garnish. Egg and water for egg wash.


Remove puff pastry from freezer and start to thaw. In a large saucepan fill with water and place sweet potato in and bring to boil. Once brought to boil lower heat to medium-high until potato is cooked and fork tender all the way through. Place on cutting board and once cooled peel skin from potato and set aside. While cooling prep all the ingredients. Chop onion, peppers, garlic and cilantro. In a non-stick skillet on medium heat add onions and peppers. Sauté onions and peppers until softened. Then add the sweet potato and season with salt. Sauté sweet potato for about 5 minutes. The potato is cooked but this allows the natural sweetness and flavors to combine. Add the garlic last so that it does not burn or add bitterness. Add garlic and cook for no more than one minute.

To complete the filling add the chorizo. It will all start to look the same color and it will be hard to know when the chorizo is cooked because it looks mushy. Sauté the chorizo and sweet potato filling on medium heat for at least 10 minutes. Lastly, add 2 tsp of honey. The honey should not add too much sweetness it’s only there to balance the heat and enhance the sweet potato. Set the filling aside. Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees.

Dust your work space with flour so pastry does not stick. Place your 9″ x 9″ pastry and roll out to 14″ x 12″. Use a 5 1/2 inch pastry cutter or in my case a bowl and stamp out rounds.

Once rounds are cut out, place 1 tablespoon of filling and pinch ends together and finish with a fork for crimping. If your dough has trouble sticking use egg wash around ends to help seal. You will have to roll out scraps of puff pastry to get 11 empanadas.

Scramble one egg and 1 tsp of water and brush empanadas. The egg wash will make your empanadas look golden and delicious.

Add a slit for venting and place all empanadas on parchment paper and bake in oven for 25 minutes.

Garnish with creama and cilantro. The empanadas are very sweet and savory if you serve with salsa verde for dipping it really adds a much needed tartness. Enjoy!

Cook’s Note

Make this vegetarian by using soyrizo.

Sea Candy

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Appetizer / Fish

Seared Scallops with Corn and Red Pepper Relish and Cilantro Oil

Scallops are delicate, sweet and buttery. I refer to them as sea candy, because of their inherent sweetness. This dish is bright, fresh and delicious. Definitely suitable as an appetizer served with a crisp glass of white wine.

Time-30 minutes


Ingredients for Corn and Red Pepper Relish

16 ounce frozen corn thawed, 1/2 red pepper chopped, 1 small shallot diced, 1 clove of garlic, 2 TBS of olive oil and 1/2 tsp of kosher salt.

Ingredients for Cilantro Oil

1 Bunch of cilantro stems included, juice of 1 lemon, 1 cup of canola oil and 1/2 tsp of kosher salt.

6 Sea Scallops or 3 per person 2 TBS of butter and olive oil for searing.


First start with cilantro oil. In blender add cilantro, lemon juice, salt and oil and blend until smooth. With a fine mesh strainer strain the oil into a dressing bottle and set aside.

Cilantro oil

Next start relish by adding olive oil to a sauté pan on medium heat. Sauté thawed corn for 2 minutes to warm through and bring out its sweetness. Add red pepper and sauté for another 2 minutes. Follow with shallots and garlic until softened and lightly browned. Turn of heat and set aside.

Corn and Red pepper relish

When purchasing scallops ask fish monger if the side tendon is removed if not ask him/her to do it for you. Rinse scallops under cold water then throughly pat dry with a paper towel. They can sit at room temperature for 10 minutes before needing to refrigerate them . Add 2 TBS of olive oil and 2 TBS of butter on medium high heat. Sprinkle salt to taste on both sides of scallop while oil heats up. When oil starts to move in pan it’s ready. Add 3 scallops at a time flat side down and cook until brown about 2-3 minutes. Using tongs flip scallop if scallop sticks to pan don’t force just add more butter. Cook on other side for another 2 minutes. Prepare for plating.


Place relish on platter and create little wells to house cilantro oil and for scallop to sit in. Add chopped cilantro or micro greens to finish dish.

As appetizer
As individual dish


Remembering Nana

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Mexican / Soup
Albondigas Soup

Everyone in my family has a speciality dish. My late Nana (grandmother) was the undisputed Albondigas champion. She spent most of her life in the kitchen. I can still see her short stature and experienced hands rolling out tortilla dough. She made tortillas from scratch everyday. I remember how her greasy glasses would fall from her nose frequently as she stood over the stove. She brought me into the kitchen when I was young to cook together. I was the prep chef while Nana did the actual cooking. We would talk about owning a restaurant together. We even had the name picked out, “Nanitas.” I didn’t know then how these moments together would shape my love for cooking. My recipe writing and cooking is inspired by a compilation of memories and experiences. Every meal I blog about is attached to a fond memory. It’s been three years this month since we lost my grandmother. I honor her memory by emulating her. My Albondigas will never be as good however, after some trial and error and help from my mother I’m glad to share this recipe. I am proud of this one and I think my Nana would be too.

Nana Minnie

Time-2 hours


Ingredients for Albondigas

24 ounces of ground veal, 16 ounces of ground pork, 2 large eggs, 1/2 white onion diced, 4 garlic cloves minced, 3/4 cup of dried cotija cheese, 25 or more mint leaves finely chopped, 2 tablespoons of cilantro finely chopped, 2 tsp of kosher salt, 2 tsp of crushed pepper, 1 tsp of black pepper, and 1 cup of white rice but will only need 1/2 cup for meatball the rest is used in soup.

Ingredients for Soup

1/2 white onion chopped, 2 celery chopped, 1 carrot medium chop, 2 green zucchini large chop, 2 garlic cloves minced, 1 large russet potato peeled and large chop, 1 12.5 ounce can of petite diced tomato in juice, 1 Bay leaf, 7 cups of water, 1/4 tsp of cumin, 1 tsp of mexican oregano and 2 tsp of Kosher Salt. Garnish with rice, avocado, mint and cilantro. A squeeze of lime over avocado and soup is high recommended.

Preparation of Albondigas

In a sauce pan cook long grain white rice. Add 2 cups of water and 1 cup of rice to a boil. Add lid and lower heat to low and cook for 12 minutes. Turn off burner and lift lid when cooked and allow rice to cool.

In a large bowl combine all the listed ingredients for Albondigas. Only add 1/2 cup of rice into meatball mixture. Form meatballs into golf ball sized balls. You should get a minimum of 12 meatballs. That would be 3 large albondigas each.

Albondigas mixture

In a large pot add olive oil to coat the bottom of the pot and place the burner on medium heat. When the oil is hot brown the meatballs in pan and set aside. It’s important to brown in batches. If the meatballs are sticking add more oil.

Browned and set aside

Once meatballs are browned empty oil and scrape excess browning but don’t place under water to clean. Leave a little bit of the browning marks for flavor. Your pot should look like this.

Add just enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan and add onions, celery, and carrots to pot. Soften for 2-3 minutes on medium heat. Add garlic just until fragrant then add can of diced tomato. Sauté until all the liquid is evaporated. Incorporate the meatballs, zucchini, potatoes and water. Add kosher salt, bay leaf, cumin, and oregano. Bring pot to a boil then add lid and reduce burner to low for 20-30 minutes. Once soup is ready taste broth for salt add if desired.

When plating albondigas it’s traditional to add a tablespoon of white rice to the bottom of the bowl then ladle the soup into it.

Garnish with mint, cilantro, avocado and lime.

Enjoy this soup with someone you love. I just know that my Nana is fine as dandy and sweet as candy. She would always say that when we asked how she was. This ones for you Nana from your little Nanita.