Hec’s Mole

I love mole. Although mole varries quite a bit from place to place. In mexican restaurants it is generally (correct me if I am wrong) a spicy dish served with chicken. In Guatemala it leans toward the sweet side and blankets fried plantains. I LOVE mole with plantains, but only Hec’s mole. Everything else is too sweet. His recipe combines the spiciness of Mexican mole with the dessert-esque plantain version. Although we enjoy it with chicken as well. I’m not sure how Hec came up with this recipe…but I believe it was inspired by quite a few different recipes.

– 1/2 lb drinking chocolate (in bar form)
– 2 oz pumpkin seeds
– 2 oz sesamee seeds
– 1 large stick of cinnamon
– 1 large, dried chile pasa
– 2 dried chile huaque
– 1 dried chile sambo
– 5 roma tomatoes, cut in halves and seeded
– 2 pieces of toasted or old bread, for thickening, if desired

1. In a frying pan, toast the pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, cinnamon, and chilies. Allow to cool, then grind until a fine powder.
2. Boil two cups of water, and add the chocolate. Whisk until dissolved.
3. Cook the tomatoes in a pan until soft.
4. Blend together the chocolate, tomatoes, and spices.
5. If you wish for the mixture to be a bit thicker, break the bread into piece and blend it into the sauce.
6. Serve with friend or cooked plantains, or over chicken.


Japanese Pizza

Japanese Pizza - Slice

If I were to rename this dish, I would call it a cabbage pie if anything. Or maybe a cabbage pattie, or cabbage cake. But for some reason the name Japanese Pizza stuck, and it has become quite popular recently, at least among food bloggers. I think the name Japanese Pizza is used because cabbage cake doesn’t sound very appetizing. Personally, I never ate cabbage until very recently. I always disliked coleslaw (it has mayo). The youngest memory I have of eating cabbage is from college when my mom made  a fabulous wasabi marinated tuna with an “asian slaw” she called it. I’m not sure what is in it, but it was good and there was no mayo for sure.

In Guatemala cabbage is quite common. They use a slaw-styled pickeld mixture of cabbage and carrots to eat on hot dogs, tacos sometimes, pupusas. Cabbage is common in a beef stew Héc’s mom makes. It’ve grown quite fond of it.

Japanese Pizza - VeggiesJapanese Pizza - In the Pan

Japanese Pizza - The FlipJapanese Pizza - Whole

It’s a simple meal to prepare. You just shredd the cabbage and other ingredients you want to put in, mix it with flour and an egg to bind, and then fry it up in a pan just like a pancake, carefully flipping it. You want to make sure not to leave the center soggy, so pressing it flat and leaving it on medium heat for about 10 minutes per side will ensure this. You want a golden brown crispy outside when you are done. It can be topped with a number of dressings, but I prefer my yogurt-cilantro dressing.

Japaneses Pizza (Makes two 10-inch pizzas. Serves 8-10 as a side, or 4 as a main)

2 cups cabbage, finely shredded
1 carrot, finely shredded
3-5 radishes, finely shredded (optional)
5 green onions, chopped
1/3 cup flour (I always use whole wheat)
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 eggs

Shred all the veggies very finely. I use the large slotted slide of my box shredder. Toss to combine well. Whisk salt and flour together, then toss with the veggies. Then add the eggs, and coat everything very well. Add a teaspoon or two of oil to a large skillet and heat to medium high. Use a paper towel to spread the oil evenly to coat the pan. Add about half the mixture to the pan, quickly flattening and pressing as thin as possible. It should be about 1/2 an inch thick or less. Let cook for about 7 minutes, moving the pan around to let the pizza slide around. You don’t want it to get stuck.. Flip the pizza by first placing a plate upside-down on top of the skillet. Using pot holders, pick the “sandwich” up, flip quickly, so that the pizza is now on the plate. Add a little more oil to the pan, and then slide the pizza back to cook the other side. After about 3 minutes, reduce the heat to medium and cover. Let cook for about 7-10 more minutes, moving the pizza occasionally to prevent sticking.

Serving Suggestions:
The Japanese (I’ve read..however only from other American bloggers) eat this with ketchup and mayo. I like it with my cilantro-yogurt dressing. I also suggest topping with pine nuts, walnuts, or slivered almonds; fresh herbs especially cilantro or chives; slices of hard boiled egg or my favorite, an egg sunny-side up; bacon, prosciutto, or serrano ham; grated parmesan cheese. Be creative. You can do a lot with this, and it can easily be made into a main course by adding protein.

Blueberry Syrup – All Natural

Blueberry Syrup - Syrup

This is a no-brainer, and it takes almost no time, but its so beautiful and goes with so many things I couldn’t pass up posting it. On pancakes and waffles in place of the traditional maple syrup. On oatmeal or cereal. On Ice cream, or in smoothies. On yogurt (as pictured below) is unbelievable wonderful! Its so much more enjoyable to eat your own homemade yogurt with homemade blueberry sauce than to peel the foil off a Yoplait cup and toss out the packaging afterward. I’m making a tart tomorrow, and I plan to blend the blueberry syrup in the custard mixture in place of honey.

Blueberry Syrup - Yogurt

Blueberry Syrup

1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
1/4 cup water
1-2 tablespoons honey
Juice of 1/2 a lime


Blend with handmixer, blender, or food processor, the blueberries, water, and honey. Pour into pan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and let simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occationally. Remove from heat and stir in lime juice. Keep in fridge up to a week, or in the freezer for a month.

Some people add arrowroot or cornstarch to their syrup to help it thicken, but I prefer the consistency a bit runnier, and it feels more natural to me. Feel free to stir in a tablespoon of either one of those thickening agents, but be careful not to let it clump. Remember that if you use cornstarch you cannot freeze this sauce.

A Mediterranean Meal: Babaganoush, Balsamic Tomatoes, and Lemon Pepper Parmesan Chickpeas


A wonderfully light and well-balanced, yet rich Mediterranean meal that might cost you a good $30.00 at any restaurant in Chicago serving similar stuff. And its good for you. Beat that.

Babaganoush - Shriveled EggplantBabaganoush - Finished

2 Eggplans
5 garlic cloves, peeled
1.5 tablespoons tahini (I heard suggested once my Mark Bitten to use peanutbutter as a sub, but never tried it)
Juice of half a lime
1/2 – 3/4 teaspoon salt (to taste)
1/4 teaspoon hot paprika

1. Roast the eggplant. There are many methods for this. Grill it (30 minutes, rotating), bake it (30 minutes), roast it in the pan (30 something minutes, also rotating), and I’ve even heard of microwaving it. Use the method easiest to you. The times are estimates. You want it (if you are grilling or roasting in a pan) charred on the outside, and heavy and completely shirveled. It will look very sad compared to its fresh form, but thats what you want.

2. Scrape out the insides, it should come easily. Don’t use the charred skin. Add the rest of the ingredients and puree in your blender or hand mixer until very very smooth. Fix salt and hot paprika to your taste. Serve with crackers or toasted pita bread.

Marinated Tomatoes

6 Roma tomatoes (or any that look really good and ripe)
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
Basil and Thyme, about a teaspoon of each
Salt and Pepper to taste

Directions: Chop and seed tomatoes. Mix with all ingredients and let marinate for at least 30 minutes in the fridge.

Lemony Chickpeas

Lemony Pepper Parmesan Chickpeas:
1 can chickpeas, drained, rinsed, and patted dry
1/4 cup freshly shredded salty cheese (parmesan or romano is good)
Juice of 1/2 lime or lemon
Fresh ground pepper (be generous here, it’s important. Maybe 1 teaspoon?)
A drizzle of olive oil if you desire.

Directions: Roast the chickpeas in the oven or in a pan until browned on the outside. Let cool to room temperature. Add lime, salt, and finely grated cheese, and toss. Cover generously with black pepper.

Good Things Happen When You Buy Too Many Beets: Beet Slaw Three Ways

There different versions with the same base: grated raw beets and carrots. The raw beets maintain more of there superpower nutrients than boiled or even roasted beets. And they are fresh and delicious. Besides how they stain my hands, I love how they make everything they touch fuchsia. People, give beets a try!

Beet Salads - Mint

1. Beets, carrrots, apples, grated. Red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, freshly torn mint leaves- quite a bit of it.

Beet Salads - Cilantro Dressing

2. Beets and carrots grated. Cilantro-lime yogurt dressing (1/2 cup plain yogurt, juice of 1/2 a lime, 1/4 cup cilantro pureed). Salt and pepper to taste.

Beet Salads - Pepitoria and Queso Seco

3. Beets and Carrots grated. One tablespoon pepitoria (ground, toasted pumpkin seeds. Try sesamee seeds or sunflower seeds as an alternative, toasted and crushed a bit in a coffee grinder). One tablespoon queso seco (use finely grated parmesan or roman as an alternative). Juice of one lime. Toss to combine.

Moroccan Fava Beans

Moroccan Fava Beans - Plated

You know, I had never had fava beans before Guatemala. I’m sure they exist in the U.S., because I encountered a number of recipes written by U.S. based authors. However, they were never served in my family, my friends families (that I know of), nor in any restaurant or school cafeteria I ever visited. Perhaps its because in appearance they resemble lima beans. I don’t know. But they are delicious and praised for their extremly nutritious content. Low in sodium, fat and cholesterol, yet have extremely high protein and iron content for a bean. Theses “nutrition superheroes” were often called the “meat of the poor” . I hope they are becoming more prevalent, for all ya’lls sake.

In Guatemala I started noticing them because of the vendors selling boquitas (snack foods, usually to accompany alcoholic beverages) on the streets. When my friend Katie (hola pic!) was living in Guatemala last year we would frequent a local cantina situated a perfect distance between our apartments. After work we would walk down there and share a liter of beer to shake off the day. Often a boquitas vendor would stop into the pub offering spiced peanuts, caramelized nuts, cashews, and fried fava beans. I was crazy about these. They were deep fried and still had their shells on, but I enjoyed peeling them away before enjoying the crunchy salted beans. Not exactly healthy.

After this initial encounter I started researching the beans and finding recipes I wanted to try…but I could not find any fresh beans! How could there be the fried version but not the fresh? Grr… Once I found a  canned variety at a Mediterranean market, but they were a different variety. Delicious but lacked the freshness I had read about. Finally last week Héc and I went to the market and I saw a bag of fresh fava beans. For 10Q we took them home, and I made this concoction.

Moroccan Fava Beans - BoilingMoroccan Fava Beans - Pan fried with cebollines

When I told Héc that we would be having fava (faba in Spanish) for dinner he sounded less than thrilled. I even think I caught some eye-rolling. But since we had eaten tenderloin the night before I figured it was a vegetarian night. I came across a number of dishes, mostly calling for a simple herb and lemon mixture, or for a puree similar to hummus. They all sounded lovely in their simplicity, but I settled on a Moroccan version with a spicy tomato sauce, to which I made a few adjustments of my own. Let me just say for the record that Héc cleaned the pan.

A novice’s note on paprika: I tend to forget how spicy my hot paprika is. My lack of reverence for this spice originates from the memory of my mom’s delicious twice-baked potatoes. The red paprika-flecked top, I imagined, was only for color, as I could detect no noticeable taste.  This memory, despite my updated knowledge of the varieties of paprika, must remain stronger than my pain-sensors’ ability to form new memories of my current reality. So I tend ot over-use the paprika. Needing cool this batch down I added a few tablespoons of yogurt, which was the touch. In the recipe below I scaled back the amount of hot paprika from what I actually used, so taste it yourself  and adjust to you liking.

Moroccan Fava Beans

1 lb fava beans (fresh or frozen. canned is ok, but skip first step)
6 Roma tomatoes, diced or one 14oz can diced tomatoes
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 onion, diced
1 teaspoon hot paprika
1.5 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 additional garlic cloves, minced
3 green onions, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons greek style plain yogurt
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Salt to taste, and generous amount of fresh black pepper


1. Place fava beans in a large pot, add some salt, cover with cold water, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, or until tender but not mushy. Drain immediately and run under cold water. Set aside.

2. Tomato sauce: Sauté garlic and onions in a little olive oil until beginning to brown. Add tomatoes and spices, and a few pinches of salt, and let simmer on medium heat for about 20 minutes until tomatoes break apart. Remove from heat and blend with hand blender until smooth but still fairly chunky, OR let cool and blend in processor or blender. Set aside.

3. About 15 minutes before ready to serve, heat a little more oil in a pan, and sauté remaining cloves of garlic. Add fava beans and green onions and sauté on high heat until the beans become golden brown and crispy.

4. Warm tomato puree and stir in the yogurt. Toss the sauce with the beans, and sprinkle on fresh cilantro. Serve with crusty bread, pita, or crackers for sopping up the sauce.

Zucchini Tatziki with Pepita

IMG_2090We had a lot of zucchini laying around from nearly two weeks ago. It was one of those too-cheap to pass up kinda deals I guess. But so long ago I don’t remember. Otherwise, I don’t know what made me think we could consume that much. Perhaps it was this recipe waiting to be made. Anyway, last night was zucchini night, featuring this flavor-packed dip along with a zucchini fritata, both inspired by Almost Turkish recipes. After reading about the health benefits of Mediterranean cuisine, along with finding fresh, in-the-brine olives (probably one of my favorite foods of the world next to cheese), we have been increasingly modeling our meals after the Greeks, Turks, and Italians… as well as feeling a little less guilty about sopping up our whole wheat baguettes with generous glugs of herb-infused olive oil and roasted garlic heads.


This recipe fits in right there. I used thick and rich homemade fat-free yogurt, sautéed zucchini from the market, some minced and crushed garlic, plenty of dill, roasted pumpkin seeds, and a healthy drizzle of olive oil. All natural, remarkable healthy, and truly addictive. I served this up with some homemade crisps from leftover pizza dough I had frozen from a few weeks ago, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and paprika

Zucchini Tatziki:

adapted from Almost Turkish Recipes

1/2 cup thick greek-style plain yogurt (if you can’t find greek yogurt, I highly recommend draining what you buy at the store)
2 medium zucchini, grated
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup fresh chopped dil
1/4 cup pepitas, toast (or walnuts or pine nuts if you cannot find pepita)

Grate the zucchini, salt generously, and sit in collendar for about 30 minutes to let drain. Squeeze out any remaining liquids from the zucchini using a clean dishtowel. Heat olive oil in a pan and sautee the zucchini until tender, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Peel and chop garlic. With a mortar, grind the 1/2 tsp salt with the garlic until it makes a paste. Mix garlic paste with yogurt and dill. When the zucchini has cooled, add it to yogurt mixture.

Toast pepitas in pan or oven on high heat. They will pop as they become toasted. This should IMG_2072only take 2 or 3 minutes. Let pepitas cool, and add to mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve cold on toasted pita bread or crackers.