Cooking with Chef Marcus Samuelsson at Macy’s

Meeting a great Top Chef Master in person and having him cook for you gratis is not something that happens every day.

So you can imagine that when Chef Marcus Samuelsson came to town for a cooking demo, a very numerous and enthusiastic crowd showed up to enjoy it. This happened thanks to Macy’s Culinary Council and Macy’s South Coast Plaza, where the event was held last Monday February 25th.

Marcus Samuelsson backstage at Macy's Signature Kitchen, South Coast Plaza. Feb. 25, 2013

Marcus Samuelsson, backstage at Macy’s Signature Kitchen.

As it turns out, Mr. Samuelsson couldn’t be more charming, more knowledgeable and more talented. It’s a real treat to watch him in action, the passion for cooking is evident just by the way he speaks and works. You may know him from Top Chef, from the cookbooks, or from his restaurant, Red Rooster in Harlem. Michelle Obama recently said it is one of her favorite restaurants, so that’s a great endorsement! (You can read more about him in this New York Times article.)

There were about 200 people attending the event, where he prepared three signature dishes he shared with everyone. Since it’s still February, he mentioned he thought of the menu in honor of Black History Month. There was the Dirty Rice and Shrimp; the Coconut Fried Chicken with Collards and Gravy; and the Catfish and Grits with Salsa Verde. Everything was amazing, he puts his diverse background and love for spices to work and comes up with sabores bien especiales. He even used a bit of habanero chiles in one of the recipes. ¡Orale, OC peeps! Pa’ que suden mucho y sepan lo que es bueno pues! 

Catfish and grits, with a kick! Prepared by Marcus Samuelsson. (Recipe below)

Catfish and grits, with a kick! Prepared by Chef Marcus Samuelsson. (Recipe below)

There was a Q&A session at the end, where one fellow foodie mexicana asked Marcus if he had a favorite Mexican dish. He responded that he loved braised scallops with a hint of lime, very simple, but just perfect, which he enjoys when he visits Ixtapa, Mexico. And then he added, “Mexican food is perfect, unlike what they do to it in this country, which is to keep messing it up.” ¿Que tal? 

It was so nice to meet you, Chef Marcus Samuelsson. Thank you for the recipes and for being so kind and gracious with everybody. We’re all going to have to book a trip to Harlem to come to Red Rooster soon. It’s definitely on my list for the next visit to New York. 

Show and tell, working at the demo kitchen at Macy's.

Show and tell, working at the demo kitchen at Macy’s.

The crowd could see him in action, and watch the monitors for each dish as he prepared them.

The crowd could see him in action, and watch the monitors for each dish as he prepared them.

A passion for cooking, era pura sonrisa al momento de cocinar.

A passion for cooking, era pura sonrisa al momento de cocinar.

Interacting with the audience during the Q&A.

Interacting with the audience during the Q&A.

A very relaxed chef, after the demo.

A very relaxed chef, after the demo.

Everyone was so happy to meet and greet.

Everyone was so happy to meet and greet.

Part of the amazing Special Events team at Macy's that helps put this together: Stephanie, Vanessa, Chef Marcus Samuelsson, Lilly and Marla.

Part of the amazing Special Events team at Macy’s that helps put this together: Stephanie, Vanessa, Chef Marcus Samuelsson, Lilly and Marla.

Catfish and Grits (recipe compliments of Chef Marcus Samuelsson)

Ingredients: 2 tablespoons paprika; 2 tablespoon oregano; 2 tablespoons berbere; 2 tablespoons dried harissa; 1 tablespoon ras-al-hanout; 1 tablespoon tandoori sauce; half teaspoon salt; half teaspoon freshly ground black pepper; 2 tablespoons crushed red pepper; 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar; 4 (6 ounce) catfish fillets; 3 lemons cut into wedges; 2 tablespoons butter; 2 tablespoons olive oil. To garnish: caperberries, arugula, diced chorizo.

To make: Combine the paprika, oregano, bernere, dried harissa, ras-al-hanout, tandoori spice, salt, pepper, red pepper and dark brown sugar in a small bowl. Sprinkle both sides of fish with the paprika mixture. Heat oil in a large pan over high heat. Add fish, cook three minutes on each side. Squeeze lemons onto dish and add them to the pan. Finish with butter.

Grits: 1 cup cream; 1 cup milk; 1 cup Anson Mills grits; salt to taste; 4 ounces grated Parmesan.

Combine cream, milk, grits and salt into pot and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Stir in Parmesan gradually, until completely integrated.

Salsa Verde: 3 tablespoons olive oil; 2 garlic cloves; 2 jalapeños; 2 poblano chile peppers;  2 tomatillos; 1 teaspoon capers; 1 avocado; 2 teaspoons mint, chopped; 2 teaspoons cilantro, chopped; 2 teaspoons parsley, chopped; juice from 2 limes; 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar.

To make: In a pan, over medium heat, add the olive oil, garlic, jalapeños and poblanos and sauté until golden, then add the tomatillo and sauté for another 5 minutes. In a bowl, add the capers and avocado and mash together with a fork. Add the sautéed contents of the pan and the avocado mixture to a blender along with the mint, cilantro, parsley, lime juice and red wine vinegar and blend.

To serve: Divide grits between four plates and top with catfish. Spoon salsa verde over top. Garnish with caperberries, arugula and chorizo.

Yields 4 servings.

Una botanita para tu Holiday Party

It’s the season of parties and posadas and get togethers that sometimes require a BYOB (Bring Your Own Botana) or a potluck.

So in the spirit of sharing and caring, let me present to you one of my Mamá’s greatest hits, the Mexican Cilantro Mousse (or “mousse de cilantro) which I recently made for the first time.

This is a recipe my Mom got from an aunt in Mexico DF, when we lived there a few years ago, and she’s been making it on a whim for parties ever since. It’s very easy to make, inexpensive and yet makes a nice impression. Es un little touch medio “fresa” así como para un little party petite comité en las Lomas de Tecamachalco but totally Mexican curious. No es nada light, asi que les advierto que es un little guilty pleasure.


El mousse de cilantro is a nice little dish to serve at your party. But you have been warned: it’s addictive!

Mousse de Cilantro (for 6 people)


1 cup of mayonaise (I used Hellmans, it’s hard to find, but any mayo will do)

2 cups washed and dry cilantro leaves

1/2 onion (white)

2 chiles serranos

1 teaspoon consomé de pollo 

1 sobresito Knox gelatin

1/2 cup of hot water

How to: Dissolve gelatin in the hot water and add with all ingredients in the blender until well blended. I did it in the vitamix for about 40 seconds on variable 7. (The consistency will be almost like a light green smoothie.) Pour into a small mold and refrigerate until it gels, hasta que cuaje, about 90 minutes. Once it’s ready and depending on how you want to serve, flip the dish while running a bit of hot water para que se despegue. You can serve it with bread or crackers. Enjoy!

A “Taste of México” in Los Angeles

You know it’s going to be a great evening when the top Mexican restaurants from Los Angeles get together under one roof for one night and bring out the best of la cocina mexicana.

And indeed it was such a night on Friday, when the second annual “A Taste of México”  event was held at the St. Vibiana venue in downtown LA, pulling all the foodies and foodie wannabes who packed the place to capacity. Add a little tequila, mezcal and a mariachi band, plus dos que tres famous celebrities, and you have yourself a fabulous party.

The line to get in was ridiculously long. It went around the block, even with the threat of rain y el “chipi-chipi”, but once inside there was food and fun to be enjoyed by all. Also worth noting, tickets were $50 dollars, so you know these people were really looking forward to the food.

Among the founders of this event are Bricia López from Guelaguetza restaurant,  who was the belle of the ball, a true hostess with the mostess, making sure everybody was well taken care of and promoting the new and amazing lines of their auténtico Mole Oaxaqueño Guelaguetza, among other delicacies and an amazing Michelada Mix. Bravo Bricia!!

We also had a chance to sample food from La Casita Mexicana, with owners Jaime Martin del Campo and Ramiro Arvizu a todo lo que daban pero super contentos como siempre, with a great menu to share and a long line at their station; los de Frida restaurant lead by Vicente del Río tenian unos tacos deliciosos, de carnitas, de mole y de pescado en chile colorado, y ademas ceviche, so yummy; y para no olvidar el postre, there was a desert paradise in the form of mini tres leches bites, strawberry shortcake and pan dulce mexicano, cortesía de Ricardo Cervantes and the famous La Monarca Bakery. All good stuff in generous quantities. Nadie se quedó sin probar. Plus not to be outdone, brands like Goya, Tapatio, Guerrero and several cervezas made sure to sample their products.

Made me feel happy and lucky to know there are great Mexican food restaurants and good options all over LA. I’ll make it a point to support authentic Mexican food by visiting these amazing restaurants. ¡Que me esperen en la mesa!

Crowds gather to listen to the ariachi band at Taste of Mexico, held at St. Vibiana's in DTLA

Crowds gather to listen to the Mariachi band at Taste of Mexico, held at St. Vibiana’s in DTLA.

Authentic Mole Oaxaqueño from Guelaguetza restaurant. Delish!

Authentic Mole Oaxaqueño from Guelaguetza restaurant. Delish!

From Bricia Lopez' twitter feed (@bricialopez): You know it's good when La Reina del Sur herself, Kate del Castillo, stops by for a taste of Mexico.

You know it’s good food when La Reina del Sur herself, Kate del Castillo, stops by for a taste of Mexico. (Photo from @BriciaLopez on Twitter.)

Jaime Martin del Campo, from La Casita Mexicana, doing his thing. (Delicioso el pavo en achiote!)

Jaime Martin del Campo, from La Casita Mexicana, doing his thing. (Delicioso el pavo en achiote!)

The food station at La Casita...

The food station at La Casita…

Una probadita de Chilitos en Nogada.

Una probadita de Chilitos en Nogada.

Great food, great service, y de buen ambiente, el equipo de los restaurantes Frida y La Casa Azúl.

Great food, great service, y de buen ambiente, el equipo de los restaurantes Frida y La Casa Azúl.

Everybody's favorite: Tapatío was giving out mini hot sauce botellitas to take on the go.

Everybody’s favorite: Tapatío was giving out mini hot sauce botellitas to take on the go.

El Eugenio Siller se echó unos taquitos ( y nosotros un taco de ojo.)

El Eugenio Siller se echó unos taquitos ( y nosotros un taco de ojo.)

Not only does he do a Rock of Ages, now Diego Boneta is with the Mariachi band!

Not only does he do a Rock of Ages, now Diego Boneta plays with a Mariachi band!

For the sweet tooth que todos llevamos dentro, pastries and pan dulce from La Monarca Bakery.

For the sweet tooth que todos llevamos dentro, pastries and pan dulce from La Monarca Bakery.

Adios Twinkies…Bye-bye Ding Dongs. Se acabaron los Hostess.

Indulge me a little if you will this Friday morning. I am sad the Twinkie is going out of business.

The news and twitter-sphere is buzzing with the shutting down of the Hostess Company, the makers of all the forbidden goodies we grew up with and our invaluable lunch box trading items. “Te cambio mi Twinkie por tu Cupcake!”

When you think about it, it’s really sad news, especially because of the people losing their jobs,  18,500 thousand people. Really bad when you think about it!

But it’s not like we didn’t see this coming over the years. Entre tanto health report and the fact we all grew up and finally realized we’re not supposed to eat that delicious junky mix of sugar and fat,  pues claro que we stopped buying them and Hostess se fue bankrupt.

In the meantime, if you have a Twinkie attack: Not to fear, el New York Times publicó a few alternative recipes que pueden servir para matar el antojo, should you crave it.

Aqui les paso el link, me encantó el nombre del artículo:

It’s Not Junk If I Made It. Recreating snack cakes, cookies and chips at home. By Jennifer Steinhauer. March 6, 2012

Photo from the New York Times article: It’s Not Junk if I Made It.

Y bueno, se nos fue otra semana pues. Happy Weekend Everybody. Get ready for Thanksgiving next week!

Joining the Vitamix Lovers of America

Señoras y Señores, Ladies and Gentlemen, may I have the honor of introducing the kitchen appliance/gadget/marvel that has me hooked, the fabulous Vitamix.

I know I’m late to the game by at least a few decades, and it’s been a staple of serious cooks and chefs for all time, but since it has just entered my life recently, I feel compelled to share the good news.

(Ya habia leido en todos los cookbooks de moda that the Vitamix was something else. Even my bff la Gwyneth Paltrow said in her cookbook “My Father’s Daughter” that she recommends it for your kitchen and that it would change your life…claro que yo no le quise creer, ay si, bájale Gwyneth, pero como siempre, she was right! My previous blender doesn’t even stand a chance next to it.)

Fruits and veggies have never been my favorite items on the list, and I’ve always eaten them “muy a huevo” just because they’re good for you. However, since the Vitamix came into my life, it’s suddenly all I want to get at the supermarket.

This is now my inside voice at  the Whole Foods produce department, “Ah! Look at all those veggies! Que bonitos beets! I can make a juice! Mira las strawberries! I can make a smoothie in 60 seconds. I wonder if these fruits go well together? Let’s see.” And then I get $38 dollars worth of organic fruits and veggies.

So, yes, I feel a change a’comin’! Next week I’m moving into “Green Smoothie” territory. A ver que tal.

You can check out the company page here (hey it’s Made in the USA!) and on QVC.  Yes,  it’s the priciest kitchen appliance in its range, but the Vitamix is worth every penny… And that’s my two cents worth.

The fruits for my morning juice were: grapes, peaches and pears.

A quick run on the Vitamix and voila! It was very tasty.

I never eat these veggies by themselves, but I can drink them all together. Carrots, beets and celery look all happy and bright.

The Vitamix is ready to rock n roll.

They call this the “Vampiro” juice because of it’s health benefit to the blood. The color is very beautiful.

Celebrating Fiestas Patrias con unos Chiles Rellenos

To commemorate Mexican Independence Day weekend, and just because nos dió el antojo, last night we whipped up a batch of chiles rellenos, Mamá Lilia style. (Mamá Lilia is my grandmother, who at 93 years of age, is the sharpest and best cook I have ever met. She’s the chef that didn’t go to cooking school, but she can teach some of those chefs on television a thing or two.)

Lucky for us we had the ingredients in the house. I’d never made them before in my life… pero pos ahi te voy! (ML  supervised and helped with the eggs.)

We used 3 poblano peppers; 1/2 lb. of ground turkey for the relleno* cooked with a bit of onion, 2 garlic cloves chopped; 2 eggs whipped up; about 1/2 cup of flour, salt and pepper, and canola oil. (*Other altenatives for the relleno are Cheese, or even tuna prepared as you like it.)

Anybody who makes chiles rellenos will tell you this is a labor intensive process, de veras que no es difícil pero lleva varios pasos, so you just have to go along and be patient. But in the end it’s totally worth it.

It’s certainly not as complicated as the Chiles en Nogada, which is the traditional platillo de Fiestas Patrias and a beautiful delicacy and historical reference in Mexican cuisine. This chile we make is more likely a dish from Sonora, where ML is from, adapted by yours truly.

Apologize if I don’t have a photo for every step. I was busy cooking and couldn’t use my camera at the same time.

Started out with 3 chile poblano peppers, nice size for stuffing.

Here we are “tatemando” the chiles (roasting) directly on the flame from the grill.

Tatemando (roasting) and preparing los Chiles: You have to blacken the skin of the chile evenly, turning the chile on the flame, then carefully place in a small plastic bag (like those from the produce at the supermarket) to sweat them out. Hay que sudarlos for about 10 minutes. Then you wash them gently under running water, removing the black skin and making an incision on one of the sides to remove the seeds from inside and which will be later used to stuff the chile.

Stuffing: Meanwhile you cook your relleno as you like it. I just used the Jenny-0 ground turkey (half a package for the 3 chiles) and cooked it with la cebollita bien picadita and garlic.

Eggs: The next step was tricky, beating the eggs to a nice foam so you can do the “capeada de los chiles.” I couldn’t master it yet so my ML got impatient. And then she said this to me, “A ver, házte a un lado, te voy a subir los huevos…” (no pun intended!)

She made a little hole on the top of the egg, separated the white and beat it first, then added the yolk, a little bit of flour and a dash of salt.

In the meantime I heated up the skillet with the canola oil, it has to be hot and ready for you to add the chiles.

Here is my grandmother whipping the eggs. There’s a special technique which is to beat the clara first (the white first) until it reaches a merengue foamy texture and then you add the yolk and continue whipping until you get a nice pale yellow foam. Add a dash of salt and a bit of flour.

Whipping up the egg.

After the egg is ready you move very quickly: Stuff the cooked turkey in the chile to make it nice and full, give the chile a dusting with flour on a plate and then move to a bath of the egg foam batter. Transfer quickly to the hot skillet with the oil.

Cooking the chiles: You want to get a golden brown finish on each side. The top white one is what it looks like with the batter mix before turning.

Turn the chiles on each side to thoroughly cook them. Make sure there is no raw egg or flour left uncooked, around 2 minutes per side. Make sure not to burn them either!

Once cooked transfer to a plate with a paper towel to remove excess. Serve immediately. I used a little homemade tomato salsa to serve it.

And maybe I don’t get any points for presentation, but let me tell you, these were delish…if I may say so myself.

Gracias Mamá Lilia por la receta y la ayuda, y por dejarse tomar fotos aunque “no ande arreglada.”

¡Feliz 16 de Septiembre y Qué Viva México!

My first chile relleno. Came out good!

TGIF, Cinco de Mayo Fever, and a Super Moon

Oh yeah, it’s Friday. This weekend couldn’t come soon enough. For all of you who haven’t noticed, today is “Star Wars Day” which gives you a chance to say the now famous tag line “May the Fourth Be With You.”

But mañana, ah mañana nos da a todos los ex-pats mexicanos living in the US a chance to appreciate the one Mexican Holiday that gringous love and cherish, the annual “let’s drink till we crawl” Margarita infused celebration that has become “Cincou de Mayouu”.

Let’s be honest, people here don’t know, and frankly don’t care, that this historic celebration commemorates La Batalla de Puebla. It was 150 years ago in the beautiful state of Puebla, México, when the Mexicanos defeated and outmaneuvered a los franceses who had invaded the land of ours. So Cinco de Mayo is a holiday that observes a historical and mathematical coup in México, one that always makes us proud. (Never mind that a few days later los franceses got their act together and came back for more desmadre and fighting… but that’s another story.)

Pero si quisieramos celebrar como Dios manda, we should not just drink Margaritas, but enjoy the typical Poblano dishes, like Mole Poblano, Chalupas, Chiles en Nogada and other delicacies. If only we had a “Fonda de Santa Clara” restaurant in LA. I haven’t found one yet, so I’m gonna have to stick to the Margaritas.

If you feel adventurous, and if you’re not driving this weekend, may I suggest a recipe I found on I think it’s a good twist on the original, and it sounds really good. Click on the photo for the recipe. BUT PLEASE DON’T DRINK AND DRIVE.

Click on the image to get the recipe from

Also, not to be missed this weekend, is the annual appearance of the “Super Moon,” which is basically the largest size the moon appears all year and the closest it gets to the Earth. (Just don’t get too close, Luna)…And it’s gonna happen on Saturday as we celebrate Cinco de Mayo.

“For reasons still unknown to science, the moon appears much larger and more magnificent when it is near the horizon than when it is soaring overhead, despite the fact that the moon’s size never actually changes.” (Click here to go to the article by

Image from

Just be careful of all the lunáticos * (you know who they are) who get extra moody, sensitive or weirder “cuando la luna se pone regrandota,  como una pelotota y alumbra el callejón…”

For a musical rendition of this fabulous line, check out “El Gato Viudo” on the link. Gracias Chava Flores!