Achiote Red Rice (Arroz Rojo)

This colorful rice is worthy of top billing on any plate. The earthy flavor and bright red color come from Yucatan-style achiote paste, which is a blend of annato seed with spices. You’ll be able to find this in any Latin market, or on line (try The lush texture of the rice is created when the rice absorbs the oil during the sautéing step. If you prefer, you can make it with less oil, as little as 2 tablespoons, but it will alter the finished dish a little. And of course, it’s vegan. Serves 4.


1 1/2 cups long grain white rice
1/3 cup vegetable oil (do not use olive oil)
1/2 cup diced tomato
1 serrano chile, minced
1 tablespoon red achiote paste (about 3/4 oz)
3 cups water
1/2 cup tomato juice or pureed fresh tomato
1/2 cup white onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 cloves garlic
1/4 bunch fresh cilantro, chopped

This recipe works best in a 10-inch frying pan with a lid. Heat the pan over medium heat. Add the oil and rice and sauté , stirring often, until the rice is pale gold in color, about 5 minutes. Don’t rush it., or it may burn. Add the tomato and serrano chile, and cook a minute more.

While the rice is cooking: In a blender, combine the achiote paste, water, tomato juice, onion, salt and garlic, and puree until smooth. When the rice is golden in color, pour the blender contents over the rice. Bring to the boil, stirring often. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 20 minutes, or until all the liquid has been absorbed. At this point, turn off heat, uncover the rice and leave undisturbed for 5 minutes. Scatter the cilantro over the rice and with a fork, gently stir it into the rice. Cover again until you are ready to serve.

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SOL's Habanero Salsa

Why do people like spicy food? I mean, aside from you chileheads, who eat it for the rush. You’re endorphin addicts.
At SOL I use chiles to add taste and enhance the other flavors in food. To me, the natural ‘heat’ of a chile is a seasoning like salt. It makes sweet sweeter, rounds out citrus, cuts the richness of cheese, or pork, and adds another dimension to the experience of a dish. Heat always has to be balanced with other flavors. I don’t like eat something so hot that it blows my head off and destroys my ability to taste.
For years, if I wanted to add a shot of intense heat to food, the bright orange habanero was the go-to chile – exponentially hotter than cayenne or serranos, with lip-blistering chemical intensity. (Though to a true heat addict, habaneros barely move the dial. There are much hotter chiles to torment yourself with, and I’ll get to those in a later post.) Ripe habaneros also have flavor – a fruity sweetness as well as heat. Cooking knocks down the heat, as does removing the seeds and ribs. With all that capsaicin grabbing your attention, who can tell that habaneros taste great?
The habanero chile is closely associated with the unique cooking of the Yucatan peninsula, though it and similar chiles (including its kissing cousin the Jamaican scotch bonnet) are used all over the Caribbean – habanero means ‘from Havana’. (Above, chiles outside the market in Merida, Yucatan.)

Surprise number one: in the Yucatan, the usual Mexican chiles, such as jalapenos, serranos or dried chiles are rarely seen. Instead, Yucatecan cooks use green habanero chiles. In two weeks in the peninsula, the only ripe orange habaneros I saw were a patented variety being grown on a corporate farm for export to markets outside Mexico.

Surprise number two: green habaneros are no spicier than a good serrano chile, and they have a really distinctive flavor. However, the only way to get green habaneros is to grow them yourself. The further north you are, the milder they will be, unless you grow them at high altitude, but they will maintain their great flavor.

Green habaneros

Roasted green habanero salsa, Merida, Yucatan

Green habanero salsa with onions and lime juice, Merida, Yucatan

Ceviche with green habanero, cabbge, onions and lime juice, Merida, Yucatan

This salsa is very hot, but it also tastes great, playing up the fruity sweetness of habaneros. Serve with grilled chicken tacos, pork pibil, or on sautéed shrimp, and it is fantastic with grilled salmon! I actually set out to make a salsa that was too hot even for our prep cook Danny Esparza, who can eat just about anything without flinching. It did my heart good to see a stricken expression cross his face when he tasted it. So don’t eat it from a spoon. Keeps refrigerated for up to 2 weeks. Makes about 5 cups.

1 pound habanero chiles
4 cups water
5 tablespoons kosher salt
4 cloves garlic
1 small onion, diced
6 roma tomatoes, quartered
1/2 cup Heinz white vinegar

1. Trim the stems from the chiles, but leave the seeds in.
2. Combine the chiles, water, salt, garlic, onion and tomatoes in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until the chiles are tender, about 15 minutes.
3. Cool slightly and blend with the cooking water until smooth with visible seeds.(I prefer pulsing in a blender or vita-prep.) Stir in the vinegar. You may want to add more salt after the salsa is cooled.

Note: For a more authentic texture, instead of boiling, roast all ingredients on a comal until softened and grind in a molcajete or food processor, seasoning with salt and vinegar to taste at the end. You will want to do the roasting in a well-ventilated area, or as yucatecos do, on an outside fire.

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Chipotle Grilled Chicken ‘Desmadres’

Just in time for Mothers Day (May 10 in Mexico), here is an absolutely wonderful Mexican Spanish word that all mothers should know: desmadres. Always said with raised eyebrows and a disappointed sigh, ‘desmadres‘ means a big, disorganized mess. (“Ay, que desmadres mijo!” = “Your room is a pigsty!” ).Like all such slang, however, it sounds fiercer than it actually is.

However, if you, out of guilt or just to show off, want to do something yummy (and quick, and healthy, and easy) for your long-suffering mother, this Chipotle Grilled Chicken Desmadres is something she will actually appreciate, and you get to enjoy it as well.

It’s actually a sort of delicious mess: an upside-down salad with smoky – spicy grilled chicken on the bottom, and a mess of cubed avocado, tomato and crunchy red onion tossed with peppery arugula on top. You can literally make the whole thing in the time it takes to heat up the grill. Mom will be so proud!

Or you can just bring her to SOL Cocina in Newport Beach or Scottsdale, and we’ll cook it for you.

INGREDIENT NOTE: Chipotles in adobo are one of my essential, always-on-hand pantry ingredients. Made of red-ripe jalapenos smoked and simmered with garlic, vinegar, a touch of sugar and salt, chipotles in adobo give a little heat and a ton of smoky flavor to every recipe.

by Chef Deborah M. Schneider, SOL Mexican Cocina, Newport Beach
Simple and very quick – you can make the whole thing while the grill heats up
Can be cooked in a cast-iron grill pan, or on an outdoor grill. Easy!
Serves 4

1/2 cup canned chipotle chiles in adobo
3 large cloves fresh garlic, peeled and minced
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts (about 1 1/2 pounds)
2 teaspoons kosher salt (divided use)
2 roma tomatoes cut into 1/2-inch dice
1/2 red onion, cut into 1/2-inch dice
8 sprigs cilantro, stemmed and roughly chopped
2 Hass avocados, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
2 limes (divided use)
4 cups baby wild arugula leaves
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Preheat the grill or grill pan, and oil lightly.
While the grill heats, finely chop the chipotles and garlic until it forms a paste.
Butterfly the chicken breasts: Wrap a kitchen towel around your hand and hold the chicken breast so it does not move. With a sharp knife, slice the breast in half horizontally, starting at the thickest end and holding firmly with the towel.
Place each slice of chicken breast between 2 sheets of plastic wrap. Pound the chicken firmly with the flat side of a meat mallet until the chicken slice is an even 1/4 inch thick. (At home I sometimes use the bottom of a small cast iron frying pan which I call “The Enforcer”.) Season the chicken pieces on both sides with 1 teaspoon of the salt, and smear a thin, even layer of chipotle paste on both sides. Set aside.
In a small bowl, combine the tomato, onion, cilantro and avocado. Toss lightly with salt and the juice of one lime.
Toss with arugula with the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt. Squeeze the second lime over the arugula.
Grill the chicken breasts for about 2 minutes on each side and place on serving plates. Divide the arugula among the plates and top each portion of chicken with a spoonful of the avocado salad. Serve with more limes, if you like.

Grilled Chipotle Chicken 'Desmadres'

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Mexico City : Xochimilco Market

There’s markets, and then there’s Xochimilco, which is a trip through time into pre-Spanish and early Colonial Mexico. The area is known today for its canals and flowered pleasure barges, but for thousands of years Continue reading

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Mexico City:Insects, Billygoats & the 100-Year-Old Virgin

San Juan Market & La Lagunilla

Ruth Alegria kidnaps us from our breakfast table at The Red Tree House. (Check out Ruth at .)We climb into her heavily scarred 1998 Toyota Avalon, which is clearly the victor of many street battles. Ruth takes off like a rocket through the streets of Condesa, into Roma and towards the Centro. At least, I think that’s where we are going. Mexico City has no grid I can follow, and no rules of engagement. Continue reading

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Beer-Battered Fish Taco, Ensenada Style

The best fish tacos come from Ensenada.  With this very authentic recipe, you can transport yourself right to a perfect Baja day: the wind whips in off the Pacific and coats your hair with salt spray. Blue water sparkles and trails of pelicans soar in long lines over the rocky coastline. Bouncy Mexican music comes from a little radio in the corner of the taco stand. The stand owner, or patrona, deftly flips golden fingers of deep- fried fish into a vast disca of bubbling oil and then into fresh, warm corn tortillas on little paper squares. A press of eager customers add condiments to their taste- crema, cabbage, avocado sauce, pico de gallo and hot sauce – and gobble them down before signaling for another Continue reading

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