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.

Can’t, Fahgettaboudit!

comments 2

I still haven’t gotten over my trip to Italy this summer.  While decorating my Christmas tree, I was thinking about the differences between “Americanized” Italian food and the food in Italy.  Tonight I felt like something Italian and comforting.  Eggplant parmesan sounded good, and it happens to be red and green.  Hello…. Christmas colors!   While taking a cooking class in Rome, a Roman Chef taught me how to make the perfect pomodoro sauce.  You have to make this sauce.  It is absolutely perfect.

Time-1 hour

Servings- 4 to 8

Ingredients for Pomodoro

2 28 ounce Whole peeled tomatoes (San Marzano), 2 shallots halved, 3 cloves of garlic smashed, 4 leaves of fresh basil, handful of thyme bundled with twine and 1 tsp of kosher or sea salt.

Ingredients for breading of Eggplant

8 ounces Italian Panko breadcrumbs, 5 eggs, 1 cup of flour, 2 eggplants sliced into 16 slices no larger than 1/2 inch thick, 1.5 L Extra light olive oil, parsley, parmigiano-reggiano cheese, 1-6 oz package of shredded mozzarella cheese and salt.

Preparation of Pomodoro

Blend whole peeled tomatoes until desired consistency.  Add tomatoes to sauce pot and add shallots, garlic, basil, thyme and salt.  Bring to a low boil and add lid then bring down to a low simmer.  Simmer for 40 minutes with lid on then take lid off for last 20 minutes for a thicker sauce.  The Chef in Rome said, “You Americans like chopped onions and garlic in your sauce.”  The Italians like the flavor the onions and garlic impart but don’t like it in the sauce.  They leave things almost whole so they can fish them out when the sauce is ready.  It’s easier to make and actually tastes better.  Life changing!

Preparation of Eggplant

Pre-heat oven to 4oo degrees.  Place olive oil in pot and bring to 350-365 degrees.  Slice eggplant into 16 slices with skin on.  Prepare breading station by placing the flour in a platter with 1/2 tsp of salt.  The 5 eggs should be mixed and in its own platter.  The breadcrumbs in it’s own platter with 1/2 tsp of salt and some parmigiano-reggiano cheese.  

Breading order- flour then egg and lastly breadcrumbs

When oil is between 350-365 degrees gently add breaded eggplant into olive oil and fry until golden brown on both sides.  Set eggplant on a raised metal rack so eggplant doesn’t sit in oil.  

I like to assemble the eggplant layered like a lasagna in its own dish.  Start with sauce then eggplant, mozzarella cheese, parmigiana-reggiano cheese and repeat.  The last layer add some fresh parsley and bake for 20 to 25 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbling.  

Ready for baking

This can be layered in a larger pyrex like a lasagna if desired.  Enjoy!

Manga Manga

That’s Amore

comments 3
Fish / Pasta


Positano Inspired Seafood Pasta

My family and I visited Spain and Italy this summer.   I was so inspired by the food, drink and the culture we experienced.  The food in Italy was not what I expected.  I found it to be simplistic, not in a negative way.  I think in the United States we add more cream and coat our pasta with more sauce.  In Italy the pastas texture is by far and away better than what we experience in the states.  The sauce lightly dresses the pasta and the use of olive oil is in the forefront of the flavors you taste.   One of my favorite meals was in the Campania region of Italy, Positano.  This should be of know surprise since the Campania region is known for their volcanic fertile soil.  Mount Vesuvius blesses this region because it’s soil produces some of the best tasting tomatoes, lemons and buffalo mozzarella.   The charming vertical city of Positano is a coastal town along the Amalfi coast.


The best meal we had all vacation was at Chez Black Restaurant.  If you visit Positano you can’t miss it.  Chez Black is beachfront encircled by terraces of homes and hotels rising on the limestone mountains of the Amalfi Coast.  I ordered the seafood pasta and a glass of white wine.


The pasta and seafood were perfectly cooked.  The sauce was a mixture of pomodoro, seafood flavor and olive oil.  The white wine was crisp and refreshing and a perfect counterpoint to my dish.  After eating I went shopping and found the perfect made in Italy Ceramic Dish to recreate this meal with.


We dipped out feet in the ocean then grabbed some gelato on our way out.  It was absolutely perfect.


After being home for a week and adjusting to the time change.  I was determined to recreate my seafood pasta.  What I came up with is almost exactly the same flavors I remember.

Time- 40 minutes



1 lb of high grade Italian spaghetti from Italy, 2 cups of pomodoro sauce, 1 1/2 cups of white wine, 1/2 cup of jarred clam juice, 3 TBS of shallots diced, 1 TBS of chopped fresh fennel, 2 garlic cloves chopped, 1/2 Serrano pepper chopped, zest of 1 lemon, olive oil to coat pan and handful of parsley chopped.

The amount of seafood depends on the amount of people you are cooking for.  Here is a guideline I like to follow.

2 scallops, 2 shrimp, 3 mussels, 3 little neck clams per person.  This is just a guide so add whatever seafood you enjoy.  However, the shellfish are very important they add the pot liquor that makes this dish delicious.


It’s very important to prep all the ingredients before cooking.  In a bowl of ice water scrub and debeard the shellfish.  Chop all the shallots, garlic, serrano pepper, fennel, and parsley.  Pat dry the scallops and shrimp with a paper towel.  Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil.  In a large skillet coat the pan with olive oil and turn to medium heat. When oil is hot season shrimp and scallops with salt and pan fry.  The shrimp will be ready in 2-3 minutes.  The scallops may take a little longer.



When shrimp and scallops are golden brown set aside on platter.


Using the same skillet add the shallots, serrano peppers, fennel and garlic.  Sauté for a few minutes then add mussels, clams, wine, clam juice and turn burner to high and cover with lid and bring to a boil.

When your large pot of water comes to a boil season water with kosher salt and drop pasta and cook for 7 minutes.


Once the pot is at it’s boiling point the shellfish will open in approximately 4 minutes.  Shake the pan with lid on to help the shellfish open.  Lift lid and any shellfish that didn’t open discard occasionally clams may take more time if you are using manilla clams.  Give it a couple more minutes but if they don’t open they are dead and throw away the clam.  Once all the shellfish is cooked add the pomodoro sauce.  When pasta is ready drain and add to the skillet and mix together.  Return scallops and shrimp to the dish and finish with lemon zest, parsley and drizzle some finishing olive oil.  Transfer to serving platter.


Buon Appetito!

Cook’s note

  1.  If you are not using your own pomodoro I vouch that this brand of jarred sauce works great.  I can’t speak to any other jarred sauce.  San Marzano pomodoro.  You can find it on Amazon or Whole Foods.



2.   When platting add another drizzle of olive oil to pasta.  You should taste it on your      lips when you eat the pasta.



Breakfast Perfection

comments 7

Cheesy Jalapeño and Shallot Hash Brown with Bacon and Eggs

Imagine a perfectly crispy, cheesy and spicy hash brown that has sprinkled bacon and sunny side eggs on top.  It’s heaven in your mouth.  Sometimes my kitchen is the best breakfast spot in town.  I want to go somewhere and order this!  It’s so ridiculously delicious.  Let me teach you how to make it so you can experience breakfast perfection!

Time-20 minutes

Servings-1 or 2


1 Large Russet Potato, 2-3 eggs, 2 slices of bacon, 1/2 jalapeño grated, 1/4 cup of shredded Mexican cheese, 1 1/2 tsp of grated shallot, 2 tsp olive oil, 1/2 tsp of butter, cilantro, green onion and salt to taste.


Cook bacon to desired crispiness and set aside.  Peel and Grate 1 large russet potato. IMG_2602

If you have cheesecloth place hash-browns in it and squeeze out the excess water.  If you don’t have cheesecloth just use your hands.  Removing the excess water will ensure a crispy hash brown.


Grate jalapeño and shallot.

In a 12 inch non-stick skillet on medium heat add olive oil and butter.  Spread out hash browns in skillet and sprinkle jalapeños and shallots to one side.  Add salt to taste.


With a heat resistant spatula pat down hash browns while padding in the sides to create a tight circle.  Once edges start to brown, slightly lift hash browns to peek if its golden brown.  If it’s golden brown place a plate on top and flip pan over then slide uncooked hash browns in skillet.  Season browned hash browns with a pinch of salt.

Add Mexican blend cheese.  While cheese is melting fry your eggs in the style you enjoy them.


Once cheese is melted the hash browns will be crispy on other side.  The hash brown will slide out onto plate.  Break bacon into bite size pieces and plate.


Add eggs and chopped cilantro and green onions for garnish.


You are welcome, insert sarcasm.

St. Patrick’s Day alla Mexicana

comments 6
Beef / Mexican

Corned Beef Flautas with Shamrock Shaped Avocado-Tomatillo Salsa

When I was a kid, my Mother would make these canned corned beef hash tacos.  We used to eat them with ketchup spiked with Tabasco sauce.  My Mom worked full time while raising four children.  She managed to cook for us, take us to sporting events, and be team Mom.  She had tasty recipes that seemed to whip up in no time.    Her well stocked pantry was her way of feeding us fast.  Eating out was not really an option.  The corned beef hash tacos were delicious.  However, that was pretty much my exposure to corned beef.  I’ve never made a corned beef brisket for St. Patrick’s Day until now.  The brisket cooked in the slow cooker reminded me of the shredded beef found in a taco or flauta.  That’s how this recipe was developed.  It is my take on merging my childhood memories with some holiday whimsy.


Time-Active 1 hour Inactive 3 hours


  • 2-3 lbs of Corned Beef, 3 cups of water
  • 3 Large Avocados, 5 Tomatillos, 1/2 onion, 3 cloves of garlic, juice of 1 lemon, 1 1/2 tsp of kosher salt.
  • 12 soft flour tortillas fajita size, 3 cups of oil
  • Crema and cilantro for garnish


Place Corned Beef in slow cooker on high for 3 hours with 3 cups of water.  Cook until pull apart tender.


Once cooked it should look like this.  Once cooled pull apart and give meat a perpendicular chop and set aside.


Scoop avocado from skin and remove husks from tomatillos.  Then place all ingredients for Avocado salsa in blender.IMG_2167

Blend until smooth.  This avocado salsa will yield four cups and can be stored air tight for 3 days.


Pre heat oven to 400 degrees.  In a 12 inch skillet add 3 cups of vegetable oil on medium high heat. Have oil get to at least 350 degrees.  Then gently place flour tortilla in oil for a few seconds per side and set aside on a cooling rack so tortilla does not sit in its own oil.  Repeat until 12 flour tortillas are slightly fried.  This method allows for your flautas to remain crunchy and not oily.

Once all your tortillas are fried start filling them with corned beef.  Place all of them in a baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes.


The flautas will be slightly browned and tortilla will be crunchy and meat won’t be to oily.  Place cooked flautas on a shamrock shaped bed of avocado salsa.  Garnish with cream and cilantro.


Cheers to a Happy St. Patrick’s Day