The Best Margarita

The best classic m argarita

Last December at the Ritz Carlton Cancún, we discovered the secrets to a perfect margarita. This arduous task took many nights, and some days, of tedious research and testing. Es un placer to share the recipe with you today, in time for Cinco de Mayo (that’s May 5th for my non-Spanish-speaking readers).  Continue reading

Mango Loco

Or loca: I’m crazy for these produce department newcomers, ataulfo mangoes. For anyone who loves the floral/tropical flavor of mangoes but can’t stand the fibrous, get-stuck-between-your-teeth nature of the common mango, be sure to stock up on these golden beauties before they disappear for the season.

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Time for Fiesta!

¡Hola! In honor of Cinco de Mayo tomorrow, I’m reposting links to some of my favorite Mexican recipes. While the outnumbered Mexican army’s defeat of the French at the Battle of Puebla on May 5, 1862 is certainly worth celebrating (unless you’re French, I suppose), any sunny day is good for a Mexican food fiesta. I also included a recipe for my cheater margaritas. They’re not the traditional recipe, but they’re easy to make by the pitcher. (Careful: they’re easy to drink by the pitcher as well!)

Black Bean and Corn Salsa Best black bean salad

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The Best Black Bean Salsa

Best black bean salad

Well – at least I think it’s the best. Love yourself, love your salsa. This salad/salsa/dip/side is in heavy rotation in our house from Cinco de Mayo to the end of tomato season.  If using as a salsa/dip, we like Tostitos Scoops for obvious “scoopability” reasons.

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Mexican Chopped Salad with Cilantro-Lime Dressing


Good friends are like good recipes: they always come through for you when you need them.

keith sophie

3-day-old Sophie in our old kitchen (Dec. 2004)

Shortly after we returned home from the hospital with new baby Sophie, my good friend and neighbor Monica showed up at our door with a big bowl of Mexican chopped salad. I didn’t think I was craving salad, but we devoured every last citrusy drop. I think I even licked the bowl. Somehow Monica knew just what I needed without having to ask. Maybe it’s because we’re both from Seattle, and both get a little giddy when the usually-sunny skies over New Jersey turn gray and overcast. “Seattle day,” we’ll cheer in accord.  Continue reading

Go-To Grilled Chicken


It’s easy to get into a recipe rut – making the same thing over and over again because it’s what you know. You know which ingredients are needed and keep them stocked – or can grab them quickly at the store without a list.  You know you can crank it out quickly – say, before soccer practice or a lacrosse game. And, you know how it will turn out and that everyone in the family will eat it. This Garlic-Lime Chicken is at the top of my rut list – a weekly regular during grilling season, and often a winter guest star via the grill pan or broiler. Continue reading

Nacho’Mamma’s Rice Casserole

My mamma never really made casseroles, but I’ve experienced enough bad ones in my life to understand why they are often maligned. (You probably have too.) Scratch all those bad memories: this meal-in-one is a fresh spin on the casseroles of old (no canned soup required); the end result is almost like a Mexican risotto (arrozotto?), which can be topped with fresh tomatoes or diced avocado or even a drizzle of my Cilantro Lime Sauce.  It’s a hearty yet elegant way to use up rotisserie chicken (or holiday turkey or almost any other leftover meat), and you can add whatever you like or happen to have on hand. The basics are rice, reduced fat sour cream, salsa verde, and frozen corn.  Any leftover rice will work, but this is a perfect way to be sneaky with brown rice (if you have brown rice objectors in your household). With all the other seasonings and textures in the dish, you’d have to be Tom Coliccio to catch it.  Lately I’ve been stocking up on Trader Joe’s pre-cooked vacuu-pouches, so I’ll always be ready for a casserole.

This recipe was inspired by Rick Bayless’s Arroz Gratinado, from his insightful book, Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen.  Rick’s version calls for making your own roasted poblano rajas (sautéed roasted poblanos and onions), which I find too time-consuming for a mid-week meal. By using a good-quality jarred salsa verde, you can get almost as tasty results in a fraction of the time (and importantly: with only 2 dirtied dishes!).

Mexican Rice Casserole

Serves 4-6, though can be doubled for a crowd

  • 1 cup reduced fat sour cream
  • 1 cup salsa verde (I like Xochitl brand)
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • 1 ½ – 2 cups cooked rice
  • 1 ½ cups frozen corn
  • 1 – 2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken or other cooked meat
  • 1 cup grated cheddar or Mexican blend cheese

Optional fillers:

  • 1 can green chiles, chopped
  • 1 cup canned black beans
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro

Optional toppers:

  • Anything you’d normally put on nachos: Diced fresh tomatoes, diced avocado, shredded lettuce, chopped cilantro, sliced olives
  • Crumbled tortilla chips
  • Cilantro lime sauce

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Mix sour cream, salsa verde, cumin and oregano in a measuring cup or small bowl.

In a small casserole or 8×8 baking dish, sprinkle ½ of the rice. Then sprinkle with ½ of the corn. Top with ½ of the sour cream/salsa mixture.  Then add ½ of the chicken, ½ of any optional fillers, and then ½ cup cheese. Repeat for a second layer, starting with the rice and ending with ½ cup cheese. (Don’t worry too much about the order of the layers; just try to have the sour cream/salsa mixture touching the meat layer.)

Bake for 30-40 minutes, until bubbling and browned on top. Serve hot. (Reheats well the next day, too, though it won’t be quite as creamy.)

Add desired toppings. I went with tomatoes, avocado, crumbled tortilla chips (always a favorite), and some leftover cilantro lime sauce.

¡ Buon provecho !