My Mission: Tastes of SF, a pictorial essay








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Recipes from the Mission: Esquites Shooters and Warm Corn Soup, 2 Ways


photo by Miroslav Vajdic The last days of fresh corn are upon us, as are cooler nights; the perfect time to make Warm Corn Soup!

A Word About Fresh Corn

According to the National Gardening Association, “you can pull back a bit of the husk and check to see if the ear looks well filled and the kernels are creamy yellow or white. Many gardening guides tell you to pierce a kernel with your thumbnail to test for ripeness. If the liquid inside is watery, that ear isn’t quite ready. If the liquid is white or ‘milky,’ you’re in business.” It’s especially important to buy corn from a farmer’s market or a retailer you know gets fresh produce deliveries direct from the farm early every morning, Why? Corn tastes different and is different after 24 hours, “the natural conversion of sugar into starch is sped up when you harvest [the corn]. The moment you pick an ear of sweet corn, its sugars start to change into starches because the natural goal is to nourish seed for reproduction. In 24 hours, most varieties convert more than half their sugar content to starch”.

Preparing Esquites 



photo by Stars5112


(note that recipes below make 6-8 servings of soup or 36 shooters)


10 very fresh ears of corn

1 1/2 tbsp salt

8-12 cups water

2 epazote sprig or 1 tsp dry epazote (optional)

2-4 cups Corn Stock (see recipe, below)

12 tablespoons crumbled Cotija cheese

Piquin or Ancho chile powder

Dollop of mayonnaise per serving (optional)

Using a very sharp a knife, remove corn kernels from cob by sitting the base of the corn on a wooden cutting board (plastic boards are too slippery) and slicing close to the cob with a downwards motion, using  a serrated knife. Put corn kernels, corn cobs and epazote into rapidly boiling, salted water in a large pot for 3 minutes. Do not overcook corn. Shock corn by placing briefly in a large bowl of ice water so as to stop it from cooking further. Remove corn cobs and strain liquid and save them both to make stock.

Traditional Esquites or Warm Corn Soup


Making Esquites: Oaxacan Style Corn Soup

Preparing Esquites, photo by Waywuwei


Add corn kernels to simmering Corn Stock (see recipe below) and cook for just for 1-2 minutes, just to reheat them. Your ratio should be 2/3rd stock and 1/3 kernels, or, for a more stew-like dish, you can reverse the ratio so there is more corn than stock, which is how traditional Esquites are served in Mexico. There, they sprinkle the Esquites with piquín chile or ancho chile powder, the juice of half a lime, and 1 tablespoon of crumbled cotija, and some even add a dollop of mayonnaise.


Traditional Mexican Esquites topped with a chunk of Cotija Cheese, phot0 by Krista

Creamy Corn Soup 

Additional Ingredients for Creamy Corn Soup

2 cups milk or cream (you can use low-fat milk, whole milk, half-and-half or heavy cream or any combination thereof to achieve the richness and creaminess you want)

cilantro for garnish

red or green chili oil for garnish

Purée 3/4 of the corn kernels with 3 cups of the Corn Broth and the milk, half-and-half or heavy cream, until you have a smooth soup. You may need to work this soup in batches and blend longer than usual, as corn is fibrous. Add more corn stock or milk to thin the soup as needed. Taste and add salt as needed. To serve, reheat soup and remaining corn kernels, separately. Ladle soup into bowls, add a heaping tablespoon of the remaining corn kernels in the middle and garnish with chopped cilantro and red chile oil.

RIFFS: Add 6-8 oz. cooked crabmeat (quality canned, fresh, previously frozen crabmeat is fine, you’ll want to reserve some for garnish) to mixture, and all of the corn kernel you prepared, to the blender and purée for a Creamy Corn and Crab Soup.  Add a dollop of crabmeat to middle of soup (see below) a little chopped cilantro and chile oil for garnish.



Creamy Corn and Crab Soup with Green Chili Oil, photo by snapzdc


Esquite Shooters

Additional Ingredients for Esquite Shooters

1 serrano chile or jalapeño (according to your taste), deveined, seeded, and minced

1 sweet red pepper, small dice

6 tablespoons melted butter

Salt and pepper (optional) to taste

Add butter, chiles and sweet peppers to cooked kernels and mix well. Add salt, and pepper (if using), to taste. Chill for at least an hour. Serve cold in double shot glasses, topped with Cotija Cheese.

RIFFS: If you want to make Creamy Esquite Shooters, follow instruction for Creamy Corn Soup, above, ladling the soup into double shot glasses and topping with kernels. Creamy Esquite Shooters can be served hot or cold. If serving cold, top with Cotija cheese crumbles; if serving hot, garnish with red chile oil and chopped cilantro.

For Corn and Scallop Shooters, add well-seasoned broiled, sautéed or marinated (as in ceviche) bay scallops (if available, these are sweeter and you can leave them whole as they are smaller) or, sea scallops chopped to about the same size as your corn kernels. Ratio should be 2/3 corn to 1/3 scallops. Do not top with Cotija cheese, just a little chopped cilantro will do, for color. Serve hot is using sautéed or broiled scallops. Serve cold if you have prepared your scallops as ceviche, in an acidic (lemon or lime) marinade.

 Corn Stock

2 tablespoon salted butter

1 poblano, dry-roasted to remove skin

1 Spanish white onion, chopped

3 tablespoons butter

10 corn cobs (the ones you left over from making the Esquites, which will still have plenty of flavor left in them as you only boiled them for 3 minutes)

4 cups water (if you have liquid left from boiling your corn, use it now)

1 clove garlic

Salt to taste

Sautée poblanos and onion in butter. Put corn cobs and garlic in a large pot adding water, or a combination of water and liquid from boiling your corn kerns, to cover and salt well. (You may need to cut your cobs in half so as to fit them in the pot). Bring to boil and lower to a simmer. Add onions and poblanos. Simmer for at least half an hour; the longer you simmer, the more corn flavor your stock will have. Check for salt and add as needed. Keep pot covered if you choose to continue cooking past 30 minutes, so your stock does not evaporate. Remove cobs and strain stock before using. Keep in the refrigerator for up to a week, freeze for up to 3 months.

This is from my Recipes from the Mission series. Follow me to receive new recipes as I kitchen-test and publish them.


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Recipes from the Mission: Mexican Hot Chocolate



Molinillos: photo by Y! Musica

So glad it finally rained this past weekend, not just because we badly need the water but also because it was the perfect excuse to indulge in a perfect Mexican Hot Chocolate! Here’s an update on my original post, The Secrets and pleasures of Mexican Cooking: Mexican Hot Chocolate, with more on how to use a molinillo, one of my favorite Mexican kitchen tools, if for no other reason than they just look so cool!


(If you’ve read the original post, just scroll to the bottom for this new content).
Hot Choc & CHurro

The perfect combination: Mexican Hot Chocolate and Churros (photo by Adriana Almazan Lahl, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED). For churro recipe, see Celebraciones Mexicanas: History, Traditions and Recipes, or contact Private Chefs of the SF BAY to serve churros are your next party.

Nothing warms you up quite the way traditional Mexican Hot Chocolate does, there’s an authenticity in the making that translates in the tasting. Everything about it is old world when its done right.  Even the word “chocolate” is believed to have its origins in the Mayan word xocoatl, (sounds a lot like cocoa) from the Aztec word cacahuatl.


(Note the following is excerpted from Celebraciones Mexicanas: History, Traditions and Recipes .)

Cacao beverages dates back to 1900 BCE. The first chocolate drink is thought to have been created around 2,000 years ago by the Mayans, and there is clear evidence of some form of cocoa beverage in Aztec culture by 1400 AD. Recently, Mexico’s National Institute ofAnthropology and History announced that archaeologists have found, for the first time, traces of 2,500-year-old chocolate on a plate in the Yucatan peninsula, suggesting its use as a condiment or sauce as well.

Aside from being an ingredient in food and beverages, the seed of the cacao tree was a kind of currency. All of the territories that had been conquered by the Aztecs and grew cacao beans were ordered to pay them as a tax or, as the Aztecs called it, a “tribute”. Chocolate also played a special role in both Mayan and Aztec royal and religious events. Priests presented cacao seeds as offerings to the gods and served chocolate drinks during sacred ceremonies. The Mayans sometimes mixed cacao with annatto, the most common food dye of that era, to form a sacred liquid resembling blood, with ritual applications. There were several very specific recipes for combining the raw or roasted cacåhoatl with various grains to create many different beverages: some believed to have aphrodisiac properties, others to address health concerns such as “emaciation”, as well as serious illness like dysentery or liver disease. Original texts include warnings against excessive consumption, which the Mexicas believed could lead to numerous illnesses.

In 1519, in a gesture meant to convey a great honor, Montezuma II presented explorer Hernan Cortes with the gift of a beverage made of ground cacao beans, vanilla and chiles, xoxoatl (in Nathuatl it is called chocaltl). When Cortez returned to Spain, what we know as chocolate, which had been sweetened with sugar, was introduced to Europe.


What we call Mexican Chocolate has a unique taste. Its texture is also quite different from that of any baking or cooking chocolate found in a typical American pantry.The product comes in hexagonal or round tablets; the sugar is more grainy and the chocolate is quite sweet. It is a blend of cacao paste and piloncillo (Mexican brown sugar), hence the coarser texture; and cinnamon which results in the signature Mexican chocolate flavor. Recipes using this ingredient conveniently call for however many “tablets” of the product, rather than ounces; which is a good thing since the typical package contains an odd 19 ounces or 540 grams.

Two of the more popular commercial brands are Ibarra and Abuelita. Rancho Gordo sells a spectacular, Stone Ground Mexican Chocolate, “from the beautiful state of Guerrero in Mexico, [where] a cooperative of women grow and harvest their own cacao, toast it on clay comales (pans) and then stone grind it with piloncillo (an unrefined sugar) and canela, the famous soft cinnamon preferred in Mexico.

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from Rancho Gordo’s website

This special chocolate is the base for Mexican hot chocolate, champurrado (which is basically a mixture of Mexican hot chocolate and atole, and a Mexican breakfast staple found every morning on streets throughout Mexico and in the Mission here in San Francisco, thanks to hard-working señoras with shopping carts and oversized thermoses) and is the chocolate traditionally added to the famous mole poblano.

The authentic, old-school method for making Mexican hot chocolate calls for several kitchen tools that you will want to have if you are accumulating a Mexican kitchen anyway.  The first is a Molcajete y Tejolote or traditional Mexican mortar and pestle, which you will use to pound your small block of pure cane sugar and Mexican chocolate into powder form. You’ll also use a molinillo (both available in the Mission at La Palma on 24th St. on-line at or hollow wooden stirrer, which is similar in use to a whisk, but so much more beautiful.


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Grinding Chiles in a Molcajete


For this recipe (for two mugs of hot chocolate) from Tres Señoritas Gourmet, buy piloncillo, cubes of Mexican brown sugar, at Casa Lucas on 24th St. near Florida (or on-line at and ground with the molcajete y tejolote until it is a fine powder. Add 1 teaspoon of the piloncillo powder to 2 1/2 cups of milk that has been warmed over a medium heat with a teaspoon of vanilla added to it (or, preferably, use a couple of vanilla beans direct from the pod, in which case you will want to add when you are pulverizing your Mexican chocolate, the next step, so you can grind the vanilla beans as well). Stir occasionally as you are warming the milk mixture, being careful not to allow the pot to boil (or boil over!) Next, clean the molcajete, and use it to pound a tablet of the Mexican chocolate into a powder, (it will look a bit like cocoa powder). Remove warmed milk mixture from the stove. Whisk all of the chocolate into the milk mixture, taking care not to burn yourself with the warmed milk mixture, rotating the molinillo between the palms of your hands until the hot chocolate turns frothy. Pour into individual clay mugs. Garnish with a stick of cinnamon.

Can all this be accomplished with a whisk and powdered chocolate (sold under the Abuelita label)? Of course, but somehow the experience just wouldn’t be the same! Ice your chocolate for a chilly summertime treat.

Riffs: for an extra taste experience, experiment with adding just a hint of chipotle meccas (see Chipotles- what are they…). Or infuse the water or milk with orange peel.

Using the Molinillo

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This hollow wooden stirrer (see photo top of post) is similar in use to whisk, but so much more beautiful. Hand carved of solid wood and burnished in spots, which gives it an interesting, rustic appearance, the mollinillo is designed to create Mexican Hot Chocolate, often paired with a simple pitcher (see photo, left). To use, rotate the handle between your palms, and its smooth pestle bottom softens and grinds chocolate as it dissolves in hot milk or water. Locate the rings in the middle of the molinillo (shake it, you’ll be able to hear a rattling sound) facilitate whipping air into the hot chocolate, which results in a foam equal to any modern whisk or frother.

Posted in Celebraciones Mexicanas: History, Holiday Traditions and Recipes, Recipes from the Mission | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mole: Debunking myths about Mexico and its cuisine


“The Legend of Wild Turkey Mole”. Mole is not, as recently published by BuzzFeed, “essentially a sauce made up of spices, chiles, and chocolate that gets poured over meat”. There are over 300 different moles in the state of Oaxaca, alone. The vast majority do have NOT chocolate. It is often eaten without any protein and when it is, it is usually eaten with poultry . In pre-Colonial Mexico (and even today, although more so in Mexico’s pueblos) it was often served with guacalote or wild turkey. More commonly, the wild turkey is replaced with a farm-raised one, or with chicken.Photo by Adriana Almazan Lahl from Celebraciones Mexicanas: History, Traditions and Recipes. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

I don’t think I have been this mad since I read an article titled “Mexican Food Chains Spread, Bad Breath Comes Along for the Ride” (not posting a link!),  which was circulated in 2011 by TheraBreath (whatever they make, don’t buy it!). This week, BuzzFeed published another brilliant critique of one of Mexico’s culinary gems, titled It’s Time To Admit That Mole Is Actually Fucking Terrible” written by Sandra Mendez, whom they seem happy enough to claim as a member of their staff. Ok, I get it, everyone wants clicks, and readers and an audience and fame, etc. etc. But, this is exactly the kind of thinking on the part of media that got us the current Republican presidential nominee. Giving voice to hate and ignorance takes a toll!

So, I am responding out of my deep love for Mexico, her culture and cuisine with information and education, which we all know to be the opposite of ignorance.


The word mole comes from the Nahuatl molli, which means concoction.It is considered the quintessential fiesta dish and typically served at weddings, quinceañeras, baptisms, and other important rites in central and southern Mexico.

(Note: the following is excerpted from my book, Celebraciones Mexicanas: History, Traditions and Recipes). In Mexico there are over sixty-three distinct indigenous peoples, speaking more than 653 languages and dialects: about twelve million indigenous Mexicans, representing 10 percent of the total Mexican population, scattered throughout the country from small villages to enclaves of four or five houses in municipalities or urban centers.  The Nahuas live in every state of Mexico and form the largest group of indigenous peoples (over 20%) in the country. An estimated 1,376,026 Mexicans spoke one of the twenty-eight Náhuatl languages as of 2005; including some 190,000 Nahuatl speakers who are monolingual. Some of the most important Mesoamerican civilizations were of Nahua ethnicity, including the Toltec and Aztec cultures. As the Spaniards sought to extend their political dominance into the most remote corners of Mesoamerica, the Nahua accompanied them as foot soldiers, often forming the bulk of the Spanish military expeditions that conquered other Mesoamerican peoples, such as the Maya, Zapotecs and Mixtecs.

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Triquis Bride Getting Ready. The Triquis are an indigenous people who live in a mountainous region called “La Mixteca Baja” in the southwestern part of the state of Oaxaca, Mexico. They number around 23,000. One of the most notable and widely misunderstood customs of Triqui people is that of female dowries. During precolonial and colonial times, this practice was common among Native Americans in Mesoamerica and other groups, like the Mixtecs of Oaxaca, continue practicing a dowry-based marriage. It is typical in Trique culture for a man to offer a bride’s family money, food, and other products in exchange for the bride’s hand in marriage. Generally, the husband and wife know each other before this arrangement, and there is no arrangement without consent. Photo by Jorge Ontiveros from Celebraciones Mexicananas: History, Traditions and Recipes ALL RIGHTS RESERVED





Mole is a thick sauce is typically made from various chiles with any number of other ingredients, depending upon type (red, green, yellow, black, de Oaxaca, Poblano; and, in fact, there is a “white” mole called “Mole de Novia” or “Bride’s Mole” which is made with white chocolate) and the particular family recipe. These can include almonds or other nuts, bread, tortillas ground up into something resembling breadcrumbs, raisins, plantains, chocolate, cloves, cinnamon, pepper (sweet and/or black), cumin, and other ingredients. There are over three hundred moles prepared in the various towns of Puebla alone, each with its special variation. Recipes are closely held family secrets and passed down through the generations. It is not unusual for the abuelitas (grandmothers) to hide their mole recipes from the younger women, especially their daughters-in-law.

Follow me for more on moles, with a recipe for Pumpkin Mole coming next in my “Recipes from the Mission” series!

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Introducing “Recipes from the Mission”


Pollo Adobado,  photo by Arnold Gatilao

Well my first cookbook is no longer being printed by my publisher, Alta Mira Press, (so if you don’t have a copy of Celebraciones Mexicanas: History, Traditions and Recipes, best to grab one now while there are still a few copies out there); so it must be time to work on my second cookbook. Some of you may know that the recipes in Celebraciones Mexicanas were the contribution of Adriana Almazan Lahl. In my next book, the recipes will be all mine and I have started kitchen-testing already. As I do, I will occasionally publish results here, to keep you all interested, so be sure to follow me! If you would like to be put on an email list, I can let you know when COOKBOOK #2 is published.


Mexican cuisine is replete with rich salsas, most of which use several chiles. Salsa is just the Spanish word for “sauce” and as such, in the broadest sense, would have to also include marinades. The verb adobar means to marinate, typically meat or poultry in a sauce made of dry-roasted chiles and spices called adobo. So when you eat a taco of Pollo Adobado with a fresh Pico de Gallo or Salsa Verde, you’re getting “sauced” from the inside out AND the outside in! No wonder it’s so flavorful!


(top left, inside of a guajillo chile, middle left ancho chiles  , bottom left chipotle mecos, large photo guajillos on the comal)

The recipe below uses two kinds of relatively mild chiles: Anchos are mild, measuring 1000-1500 on the Scoville Scale (a fascinating measure of “How many equal parts of sugar water do I need to add to a same-sized part of ground chili pepper until I taste no discernible heat at all?” according to, while guajillos are mild-to-medium at 2500-5000 Scovilles. You can control the heat of the adobo by adding more or less of each of these two, but still nine chiles between those two strains and eleven in total.

I like to add the two chipotle meco chiles (5000 Scovilles) because these are smokey and enhance the flavor of the adobo. Chipotle (pronounced chi-poht-lay) comes from the Nahuatl word chilpoctli, meaning “smoked chili” and chipotles are actually smoked red jalapeños, which are the same as the more common green jalapeños (2000-8000 Scovilles, why the wide range? More on this just a little later). Green jalapeños are harvested earlier in the ripening process, whereas red jalapeños are left on the vine to mature, allowing the chilies time to change color, from green to red. Chipotle mecos (can be a bit harder to find in your local grocer if there’s not a large Mexican population where you live: available on-line at The Savory Spice Shop, or in SF’s Mission district at Casa Lucas on 24th Street) are a dried version of these. If you are worried about too much spice, you can omit the chipotle mecos and use 1/8 teaspoon of Applewood smoked salt in place of the 1/4 teaspoon of salt in this recipe.


Several years ago, I started to notice that some of the fresh chiles I was buying, specifically jalapeños and Serranos, just didn’t seem to have the same punch they had in the past. I kept adding more and more chiles to my guacamole, but couldn’t get the result I was looking for. Something was going on! So, of course, I googled “dumbed down jalapeños” and sure enough, I found this on Chowhound (which I was able to confirm with some further research), “Some years ago the Texas Aggies developed a mild jalapeño called “TAM Mild Jalapeño.” They have recently released or are about to release a newer variety called “TAM Mild Jalapeño II.” In addition to being milder, these peppers are resistant to disease and are good producers. So, I’ll suggest that most complaints about wimpy jalapeños should be addressed to Texas A&M. Good luck trying to find a consistent, reliable source of good, hot, older varieties.” Hence, the Scoville rating of 2000-8000. Generally, I have had better luck in the Mexican markets in the Mission of late when I search for a pepper that bites back, with the wimpy chiles appearing mostly at Safeway and other mainstream sellers. I always bite before I buy, though!

Basic Adobo (slightly smokey flavor)

(MAKES 1 – 1 ½ CUPS)

6 ancho chiles

3 guajillo chiles

2 chiles mecos

1 tbsp. allspice

1 tsp. cinnamon, grated from Mexican cinnamon sticks

½ tsp. cumin seeds, dry-roasted on comal

1 tsp. Mexican oregano

1/4 cup apple vinegar + more if needed

4 tbsp. granular piloncillo or grate 4 tbsp. from a pilconcillo cone, or substitute brown sugar ( + more if needed)


Piloncillo vs. brown sugar: Called piloncillo (little loaf) because of the traditional shape in which this smoky, caramel-like, earthy sugar is produced; it has far more flavor than brown sugar, which is generally just white sugar with a small amount of molasses added back to it. Just like brown sugar, there are two varieties of piloncillo: one is lighter (blanco) and one is darker (oscuro).  It is unrefined and commonly used in Mexico, where it has been around for almost 500 years. Made from crushed sugar cane (which was introduced to Mexico by the Spaniards), the juice is collected, boiled, and poured into molds, where it hardens into blocks or cones. To use it, pound with a meat hammer while it is in a thick baggie, or shave using a vegetable peeler or cheese grater. It’s more work, for sure, than using brown sugar– but the flavor is totally worth it. Follow link in the ingredients list (just above) for a granulated version sold by Rancho Gordo. Photo by Leslie Seaton.


½ white onion

6 garlic cloves

¼ tsp. salt

Dry roast all chiles on the comal. Dry-roasting is a cooking technique which uses no oil, it’s also the correct way to heat tortillas. If you don’t have a comal, you can use a non-stick or better yet, a cast-iron pan. Take care that the chiles don’t burn– when they just barely start getting black spots on both sides and blistering, they are done. Note that the different chiles will have different cooking times, so watch them carefully. The guajillos cook very quickly, the anchos (which are dried and wrinkly poblanos) and the chipotle mecos both need a little more cooking time (we are talking about the difference between 30 seconds and a minute here) and do best when pressed down and weighted. I use a pot filled with water. Alternatively, you may press them down continuously with cooking tongs. This assures that as much of the surface area as possible meets the comal.


Next, place chiles in hot water to rehydrate (just above). Once hydrated and soft (allow 15-30 minutes), remove stems and veins (this also helps control how spicy your salsa is, as the seeds and veins are much hotter than the chile, itself) and mix all but one of each of the three kinds of chiles (so five anchos, two guajillos and one chiptole meco) with all remaining ingredients. Retain the chile water. Mix ingredients well in blender until a paste the thickness of canned tomato paste is formed (this is the adobo); add water from chiles as needed to keep the blender moving. Taste for salt, sweetness, acidity and spiciness. You are going for a balanced result. Add more chiles to taste. Keeps well in the refrigerator for 2 weeks or frozen for 6 months.

Use to marinate meat or poultry for several hours or overnight before grilling. Brush a little more on chicken if you are cooking it with skin on (see photo top of post) just as you put it on the grill.

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Puerto Rican Pop-up Comes to the Mission

screen-shot-2016-09-15-at-3-59-57-pmI freely admit I have a soft spot for Puerto Rican cuisine. For one, I am a transplanted New Yorker, once married to a Nuyorican. I also learned my Spanish (and salsa dancing) from other Nuyoricans, and Puerto Rican cooking from my former suegra. Not to mention all those years spent shuttling back and forth between NYC and San Juan for cheap, romantic and unforgettable weekend getaways.

Plus, it seems that the cuisine gets a short sell, as though it were a paler cousin of Spanish food, perceived by some as less exotic somehow than Cuban or other Caribbean cuisines. But not so; Puerto Rico’s food, like her people, is a fabulous mash-up of Spanish, African, and indigenous Taíno and Arawak foodways, resulting in the best of many worlds. Roots and tuber, peanuts and pineapple, soursop (guananabana), guava, calebaza (pumpkin) maize and chiles are all ingredients indigenous to the island. The Europeans (Spanish) introduced, wheat, garbanzos, onions, garlic, basil, sugarcane, citrus, eggplant and beef, pork, lamb, goat, chicken and dairy, just as they did when they conquered Mexico, changing these cuisines forever.

Other ingredients important to the island’s cuisine came to from Africa, much of it as a result of the slave trade. It was African slaves also introduced deep-frying and from Ethiopia came  the signature bean in one of Puerto Rico’s most popular dishes, Arroz con Gandules (Rice with Pigeon Peas). So, too, from the continent came yams, tamarind, bananas,and coffee. (My very best memories of Puerto Rico are of the coffee!)

So, it is with a watery mouth and great anticipation that I am pleased to share the following, from llyanna Maisonet, currently an Oakland-based Web Editor @brokeassstuart. Her misadventures can be found in her writings at Eat Gorda Eat, where she shares recipes, her crush on Andy Ricker and how she hella loves her cat, Che. She is currently working on a Puerto Rican cookbook.

“We’re here, we made it. After months of testing on unsuspected victims, I’ve finally committed to a month long pop-up. What comes after is anyone’s guess.

I finished culinary school in 2012 and in 2013 my brother-in-law said, “You should do a cookbook.” Yeah, that was a great idea. Until it wasn’t. Three years later and it’s still a proposal, but now it has found its way into the hands of my mentor and editor, Lesley Tellez, who published 2015’s in-depth love letter to the food of Mexico, Eat Mexico. She also has a tour company, by the same name, that gives tours in Mexico City.


Doctor’s Lounge is a bar in the Outer Mission ran by Rochelle McCune, who (whom?) I met in a women’s social group. She graciously allowed me to possibly burn down her kitchen, and in return I promised to get the word out about the pop-up and promise that you would buy booze from her.

When you walk inside, the bar is to the left and this is where your drinks and cocktails can be ordered. To the right are the tables, seat yourself wherever you want. Everyone gets the same thing.


Bacalaitos | Codfish Fritters

Empanadas | Picadillo (seasoned ground meat with olives), inside a pastry shell.

Enselada de guineo | Pickled green bananas, avocado, olive oil, herbs, chilies, fried yautia

Arroz con gandules | Rice with pigeon peas

Carne Guisada con Calabasa | Braised pork in tomato sauce, Spanish olives, pumpkin

Brazo Gitano Cake | Coco Rico, guava, cream cheese, coconut, Ron del Barrilito salted caramel, fresh fall fruit, walnuts


It’s soft opening. The reason the tickets are discounted is because you’re being used a guinea pigs for us to work out the kinks. Some of the people who are helping with serving and cooking are in the food industry, some are not. Hell, some might not even show up. Rest assured, I have practiced cooking and serving at least six people at a time on my own. Seven at a time and I might be in the weeds.

Why the Mission? While the Mission was the first (and second) neighborhood I lived in when I first moved to San Francisco in 2005, I initially wanted to do the popup in the East Bay. I reached out to a lot of folks and finally chose a spot. But, the owner was hard to keep track of and by the time he returned my calls, I had already locked down the Doctor’s Lounge, which was a painless process. The fact that the Doctor’s Lounge was in the Outer Mission was all the more appealing.

Why the brown paper kraft boats lined with banana leaves? Budget. Also, I couldn’t get bowls made out of coconuts, so the kraft boats kind of mimic that feel. And banana leaves are used so much in the Caribbean, women will use them to form their fritters and slide the fritters from the banana leaf into the hot oil.

Why the super traditional preparations and a more modern dessert? Unintentionally, the meal worked itself out to tell my story. The first time I met my great grandmother, she made me codfish fritters and it gave me some insight into her and my grandmother’s estranged relationship. Though estranged, my great grandmother had obviously left a rather strong impression on my grandma, because their codfish fritters tasted exactly the same. The carne guisada is the first recipe I dared to recreate after watching my grandma make hers. The green banana salad is a riff on my mom’s favorite dish (that my grandma used to make for her): a salad of bacalao, raw white onions and olive oil, with a side of boiled yucca, yautia (taro) and plantain. The dessert is all me.

The reservations are staggered, so please arrive on time. Your dinner is timed to be consumed and completed within 2 hours. If it gets crowded (which is unlikely) you may be asked to surrender your table. People cannot be added at the door, please have them purchase their tickets ahead of time. No substitutions. Any allergies should be announced ASAP. There are no refunds. The whole purpose of purchasing your tickets ahead of time allows us to realize the budget we’re working with and purchase the proper amount of ingredients for the proper amount of servings. We’re more than happy to reserve you a seat on another one of our dates.

If you have any other questions, comments or concerns, please email

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Seasonal specialty: Chiles en Nogada

79 - chile en nogada watermark

Photo by Adriana Almazan Lahl from Celebraciones Mexicanas: History, Traditions and Recipes


(Note: the following is adapted from an excerpt from our book, Celebraciones Mexicanas: History, Traditions and Recipes, by this author and Adriana Almazan Lahl )

It is traditional to serve Chiles en Nogada in the months of August and September when the ingredients are in season, coinciding with the Independence Day celebration September 15-16th.

The city of Puebla was an important center in New Spain, (which we now know as Mexico), a crossroads situated between the busy port of Vera Cruz and Mexico City. Along with its rapid development came the advent of Puebla’s convents and the birth of the cuisine for which these are now famous. Besides Rompope , Mole, Tinga de Pollo and a vast array of sweets, legend credits the sisters of Puebla with the original recipe for Chiles en Nogada.

This story is of a special meal for Agustin de Iturbide, a military commander who fought in Mexico’s War of Independence, and later proclaimed himself Emperor of Mexico (from 1822 to 1823). In August of 1821, he signed what was to be the most important document in the country’s history, the Treaty of Cordoba, which granted Mexico its independence from Spain. After signing the treaty in Veracruz, Iturbide traveled to Mexico City, stopping on the way in the town of Puebla. There, the locals decided to hold a feast to celebrate the country’s independence, and to honor Iturbide. The Augustinian nuns of the convent of Santa Monica prepared a special dish, Chiles en Nogada, using local, seasonal ingredients.

The original recipe is made with a fruit and nut stuffing consisting of apples, pears, peaches, raisins, olives, almonds, pine nuts, plantains, and acitron (caramelized cactus leaves). The modern version combines meat or chicken with the fruit. This is a seasonal dish and either recipe is delicious.  Both versions of this dish are finished off with pomegranate seeds and walnuts (the nuts are rumored to represent the politicos of the day) in dish that is as beautiful to look at as it is delicious to consume–  a virtual Mexican flag on a plate.

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Look for beautiful “red” walnuts at the Alemany Farmer’s Market on Saturdays to add some extra color to your dish.

Screen shot 2013-08-27 at 7.10.56 PMLook for poblanos that are more “square” than long and narrow, these are easier to stuff. I like to pick chiles with fairly flat sides as they dry-roast nicely (this is the first step in the process, so as to remove the skin).

The recipe in our book calls for a picadillo filling of chicken or pork, but they are also delicious filled with ground lamb. For a vegetarian version, wild rice makes for a “meaty” texture that works beautifully as a filling, along with the other recipe ingredients: apples, pears, apricots, plantain, dried black currants or raisins, almonds and spices. Sabrosa!

Stuffed Peppers in Walnut Sauce / Chiles en Nogada

(All recipes in this post serve 6)

6 Poblano chiles

prepared Picadillo (ground meat filling) (A)

Nogada (walnut sauce) (B)

½ cup pomegranate seeds

2 tbsp. parsley leaves, coarsely chopped

Dry roast chiles to remove skin. Carefully stuff the peppers with the Picadillo, taking care not to rip the peppers. Transfer the stuffed peppers to a serving platter.

Cover with cold Nogada sauce and garnish with pomegranate seeds and parsley, mimicking the Mexican flag.

A. Picadillo

1 lb. pork shoulder or chicken breast (or omit for original, vegetarian version)

2 cups water

2 bay leaves

1 clove garlic

½ Spanish white onion

5 medium ripe tomatoes, finely chopped

½ cup white onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, plus 2 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 tbsp. freshly minced cilantro leaves 2 cups apples, finely diced

2 cups pears, finely diced 2 cups diced apricot

1 ripe plantain, finely diced

2 tbsp. dried black currants or raisins

2 tbsp. dried cherries

2 tbsp. sliced blanched almonds, toasted

2 tbsp white vinegar

1 tbsp. white sugar

¼ tsp. ground cinnamon

1/8 tsp. ground cloves

Pinch of cumin

Salt to taste

½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Cook the meat in medium saucepan with 2 cups of water and 1 bay leaf, 1 clove garlic, ½ Spanish white onion. Once cooked, let it rest and shred; set aside.

Put the tomatoes, ¼ cup of onion, and 2 cloves of garlic in a blender purée until smooth. Add 1 tsp. of oil to a saucepan and add the remaining ¼ cup onion and chopped garlic. Sauté 2–3 minutes and pass the tomato mixture purée through a sieve and into the saucepan with 1 tsp. of olive oil; cook uncovered on medium-high heat for 10 minutes. Add shredded meat, fruit, spices, bay leaf, and all remaining ingredients to the saucepan and let simmer for 20 minutes. Set aside to cool. Place in the refrigerator once cooled. Remove bay leaf before using.

B. Nogada Sauce

¼ cup Crèma Mexicana or Crème Fraiche

¼ cup goat cheese

¼ cup walnuts, whole, blanched

1 ½ cups milk or almond milk

¼ cup sugar

2 tablespoons Port or Sherry

½ tsp. salt

Mix together all the ingredients in a blender until puréed into a smooth sauce (the mixture should be a little thicker than a gravy). Keep in refrigerator until ready to serve (is served cold).

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Why a taco is Mexican food and a burrito is not

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