Sweet ‘n Spicy Way to Beat the Summer Heat

Chamoy, chili and mangoes make for a refreshing way to beat the heat.

I’ve mentioned in the past that our kitchen gets super hot in the summertime so I tend to do a lot of grilling and ice cream making and not a lot of baking. As a result, I’ve been making quite a lot of ice pops lately (and thanks you to my co-workers that have been taste testing these recipes over the past few weeks.). I’m also working on a way to boozify my piña colada and sweet lime ginger mint lemongrass ice pop. Though preliminary spherification tests did not fair well. Anyway…this week ice pop recipe is Chili Mango with Homemade Chamoy. a.k.a. mangonada or chamango. What’s chamoy you may ask? Well its a spicy, sweet and sour condiment that’s frequently served with fruit and is really popular down here in Southern California.


  • 2 dried ancho chilies (seeded, stemmed and cut into strips)
  • 1 dried pasilla peppers (seeded, stemmed, and cut into strips)
  • 2 cups boiled water (divided)
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 1 TBS chili powder
  • 1 TBS Tajin
  • ½ cup orange marmelade
  • ¾ cup apricot jam

Place the dried chilies into a medium sized bowl and cover with 1 cup of boiling water. Let sit until soften (about 30 minutes). Drain the chilies and place the chilies into a blender along with all the other ingredients. Blend all the ingredients until smooth. Run through a find sieve to remove any large pieces and then store in a squeeze bottle and set aside to cool to room temperature. You can adjust the amount and type of chilies to your preference.


Ice Pop molds of mangonada paletas waiting to be placed in the freezer to freeze over night.

Mangonada Paletas/Ice Pops

  • 2 large ripe mangoes diced or 3 cups of frozen mango slices (reserve some of the pieces to place in the bottom of the ice pop mold
  • 1 11.5 oz can of mango nectar (such as Jumex or Kerns)
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • ½ tsp Tajin
  • ½ tsp chili powder
  • agave syrup or sugar to taste*

Combine all the ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.


  • soak ice pop sticks in warm water
  • squirt chamoy on sides and bottom of ice pop molds
  • place a few pieces of mango into the bottom of the ice pop molds
  • fill molds with mango purée
  • insert sticks
  • freeze for at least 5 hours or overnight
  • Enjoy!


*depending on how ripe and sweet the mangoes are you may not need to add extra sweetener

Just in time….

We’re expecting our first heat wave of the summer this week so it seems like a good time to share one of those iced treat recipes I promised (warned about) a few weeks back. We hosted a bbq last weekend and one of the guests graciously brought us a huge bag of sweet limes from their tree. So I thought It’d be a good time to make some Lime Paletas or Ice Pops/Popsicles but with a Southeast Asian spin using lemongrass, mint and ginger. The easiest way to get all those flavors in there is by making an infused simple syrup.

I peeled and juiced all the limes and I was able to yield about a 1 1/2 cups of sweet lime juice. Simple syrup is pretty easy to make, its just equal parts sugar and water and heated until the sugar is dissolved then cooled down to room temperature or chilled depending on how you’re going to use it.  In this case I added a hefty chunk of smashed ginger and about 2 TBS of crushed lemongrass to give it that Southeast Asian vibe. I let the syrup cool to room temperature then strained it and let it cool further in the fridge. This will help the ice pops to freeze faster.

Once the lemongrass and ginger simple syrup was chilled, I got out the trusty ol’ blender and blended 1 1/2 cups of lime juice with 2 cups of the lemongrass ginger simple syrup, Then I tossed in 1/2 cup of fresh mint and blended until the mint was finely chopped. I poured the mixture into silicone molds then left to freeze for at least 5 hours.

I didn’t have good luck with the silicone molds and found that the ice pops get stuck even after running a little warm water on the outside of the mold. My suggestion is to use the zip top style ice pop bags, I got the ones I used on Amazon. If you don’t have molds or these fancy little bags, just freeze them mixture in ice cube trays. Hmm, if you pour a little rum over them you’d have an amazing little mojito…just sayin’

That’s it, I hope this helps you beat the summer heat…


  • 1 1/2 cups sweet lime juice
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint
  • 3 TBS crushed ginger
  • 2 TBS crushed lemongrass
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups granulated sugar

Is it al pastor or adobada?…..Yes!

A while back, the gang over at Buzzfeed’s Tasty had a recipe for making al pastor at home (you can find the link here). If you’ve not had the opportunity to have al pastor/adobada it’s usually pork that’s slow roasted on a rotating vertical spit called a trompo similar to shwarma and gyro meat. Tasty’s method involved slow roasting marinated pork on skewers that were stuck into half a pineapple to approximate the traditional trompo. Though it was an intriguing idea, I found that when I attempted to use Tasty’s method, my pork wasn’t cooked all the way through because it was difficult to get the pork evenly distributed over the pineapple. The execution doesn’t really work out but their flavor was close to al pastor that I’ve had at some of my favorite taquerias.

My method for al pastor/adobada is much simpler and has that great flavor combination of chili lime and pineapple that makes al pastor so popular, though I’ll admit it doesn’t have the wow factor of a taquero slicing perfect strips of crispy pork off the trompo  Like this guy…

Al Pastor/Adobada

  • 3 lbs pork shoulder with fat cap
  • 12 oz can of pineapple juice
  • 3/4 cup chopped pineapple
  • 4 TBS ground achiote
  • 1 TBS ground cumin
  • 1 TBS ground oregano
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 2 jalapeno roughly chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 medium sized white onion roughly chopped
  • 1 bunch scallions roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup lime juice
  • 1 TSP chipotle powder
  • 1 TBS salt
  • pepper
  • corn tortillas
  • pineapple salsa*

Place all the ingredients except the pork, tortillas and pinapple salsa into a blender and blend until you have a loose paste. Place the pork shoulder into a large zip top bag and pour marinade over the pork. Seal the bag and let marinade for at least 4 hours but overnight is ideal.

Remove pork from marinade (reserve the marinade) and roast at 325F for 90 minutes. Remove from oven. Set oven to broil. Placed reserved marinade into a small pot and bring to a boil. Let boil for 1 minute then remove from heat. Cut the pork into 1/2 cubes and lay out on a greased cookie sheet. Place under the broiler for 5 minutes until pork starts to brown and crisp. Alternately, you can cook on the stove top using a griddle/cómal or a cast iron skillet.


Serve on warm corn tortillas with pineapple salsa

Pineapple Salsa

  • 1 clove of garlic minced
  • 2 scallions chopped
  • 1 bunch of cilantro
  • 1/2 cup lime juice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 cup pineapple cut into 1/2 cubes
  • 1 jalapeno diced
  • 1 small shallot minced or 1 TBS of minced red onion

Combine all the ingredients into a bowl and enjoy. This can be eaten right away but its better if allowed to sit for a couple of hours.

If you’re feeling especially ambitious, here’s my recipe for homemade corn tortillas.

We’ll be on hiatus the next couple of weeks. While we go on vacation.



Summer Tomato and Cucumber Salad

Homegrown tomatoes and cucumbers make for a refreshing Summer salad.

We just picked our first batch of tomatoes for the summer and I have some dill and a bunch of Persian Cucumbers in the fridge. With it being so hot seems like its a perfect time for a refreshing tomato cucumber salad. This is quick and super easy.


4 ripe tomatoes

4 Persian Cucumbers

1/2 medium red onion

Juice of 1 lemon

salt and pepper

2 TBS olive oil or grape seed oil

1 TBS fresh dill

Cut the tomatoes into slices, quarters, 8ths or cubes, it doesn’t really matter and the same goes for the cucumbers. Slice the onion into thin slices and  place  the tomatoes, onions and cucumbers into a large bowl. Add the lemon juice, salt n pepper to taste, dill, oil and lightly toss. Done…yes it really is that easy.

We had this with grilled steak but its so light that it will go well with any protein.

Spring Rolls and light summer time fare……

It’s been crazy hot and humid in NJ these past several days. I’ve been thinking of some light dinner and lunch options. First up, are fresh Spring Rolls. I made them using left over rotisserie chicken and arugula for a little peppery bite. I just took the chicken and shredded it into a bowl then added about 1 TBS of prepared hoisin sauce. The rice noodles, are soaked in warm water for about 15 minutes then drained and cooked in boiling water for 3 minutes. They are drained again then rinsed in cold water, drained and allowed to cool.

Shredded chicken, rice noodles, arugula, carrots, cucumbers, mint leaves, chinese long pepper, basil leaves, and scallions all cut up and waiting to go into the spring rolls.

Shredded chicken, rice noodles, arugula, carrots, cucumbers, mint leaves, chinese long pepper, basil leaves, and scallions all cut up and waiting to go into the spring rolls.

Spring rolls are fairly easy to make, you just cut up the ingredients that you want to use, then wrap them in Spring Roll Wrappers. I like to take a dinner plate and put about ½ cup of warm water on the bottom of the plate. I take a dried spring roll wrapper, dip the edge into the water then rotate the wrapper until the entire wrapper has been coated with water. I let the excess water drip off, then I’ll place the damp wrapper on a plate. Place my ingredients in a pile on the edge close to me. Then I’ll roll it once, then fold in the sides and roll to the end of the wrapper. I repeat this process until I”m out of ingredients.

You can also fry the spring roll wrappers. I minced about ¼ lbs of peeled and deveined shrimp, then placed it into a bowl and season with salt and pepper. I added a clove of garlic that was finely minced, a nickel sized, piece of peeled ginger, minced, the white and green of a scallion, 1 tsp of soy sauce and 1 tsp of corn starch. I mixed all the ingredients together and refrigerated for about 30 minutes. Once the shrimp is chilled, wet the spring roll wrappers as above and then fill with 1 TBS of the shrimp filling. Fry at 350ºF in small batches until golden brown. Serve with lettuce leaves and herbs like cilantro, thai basil and mint. They’re also served with cold rice noodle salad.

Shrimp Spring Rolls frying.

Shrimp Spring Rolls frying.

Both types of Spring Rolls are traditionally served with Nuoc Cham.

Nuoc Cham
¼ cup fresh lime juice
2 cloves of garlic mashed
1 thai red chili
3 TBS of Vietnamese Fish Sauce (Nuoc Mam)
½ cup water (I’ve also used coconut soda)
2 TBS of molasses or dark corn syrup

Mix all the ingredients together until the molasses dissolves. You can store this in a container in the fridge for up to 1 month.

And here are the finished spring rolls.

Spring Rolls with Nuoc Cham

Fried Shrimp Spring Rolls served in lettuce leaves with Nuoc Cham.

Fried Shrimp Spring Rolls served in lettuce leaves with Nuoc Cham.

Here is Rice Noodle Salad with bbq beef and fried shrimp spring rolls with Nuoc Cham Dressing. The rice noodle salad employs the prep once use twice method. The veggies, herbs and rice noodles were prepped for making the fresh Spring Rolls earlier in the day. The bbq beef is left over from the banh mi sandwiches that we had last night.

Chilled rice noodles are served with an assortment of chopped vegetables, lettuce, herbs, bbq beef, fried shrimp spring rolls  and garnished with dry roasted peanuts.

Chilled rice noodles are served with an assortment of chopped vegetables, lettuce, herbs, bbq beef, fried shrimp spring rolls
and garnished with dry roasted peanuts.

Roasted Pork Belly Bao with Cucumber Kimchee and Carrot Slaw

Roasted Pork Belly Bao with Carrot Slaw and Cucumber Kimchee

Roasted Pork Belly Bao with Carrot Slaw and Cucumber Kimchee

This sandwich may take first place from the Banh Mi in my Top 10 Best Sandwiches post. There’s a few steps involved in making the bao. But they aren’t particularly complicated and the pay off is worth it. Bao buns are available in the freezer section in most Asian Markets. You can substitute Chili paste like sambal oleek or use red serranos if gochu jang isn’t available in your area.

Quick Cucumber Kimchee
2 to 3 small pickling cucumbers sliced thinly
1 TBS salt
1 TBS sugar
1 TBS fish sauce
1 head of garlic crushed into paste
1 small bunch of scallions chopped
3 TBS Red Pepper Paste (gochu jang)
or Korean Chili Powder (gochu galu)
1 red Chinese Long Pepper or Thai chili

In a large bowl, place the sliced cucumbers and add the salt. Toss the cucumbers so that the salt and sugar is dispersed throughout the cucumber slices and let set for about 30 minutes. In a food processor, add the garlic, scallions, pepper paste, chili and blend into a paste. Set aside a couple tablespoons of the paste to use for the sauce for the pork belly and dressing for the slaw. Drain the liquid from the cucumbers and rinse several times in clean water to rinse off the excess salt and sugar. Add the fish sauce, sugar and chili/garlic mixture. Toss the cucumbers with the chili paste and fish sauce. Put into a container and refrigerate at for at least 2 hours before serving. This hasn’t had an opportunity to ferment like other kimchees, so is probably good for a week max.

Pork Belly
1 LB Pork Belly
1 TBS Five Spice Powder
3 TBS salt
1 tsp white pepper ½ tsp salt
1 Head of garlic split in half
1 cinnamon stick
2 Inch of fresh ginger crushed

Cut the pork belly into 2 inch sections and score the skin. Add the pork belly, cinnamon stick, garlic, ginger and salt to a large stock pot. Fill with water until the pork belly is completely covered. Bring to a boil and let boil for 15 minutes. Drain the pork belly into a colander and allow to dry.

Preheat the oven to 400ºF. Mix the five spice powder with the white pepper and ½ tsp of salt. Arrange the pork belly in a single layer on a foil line baking sheet (one with sides otherwise you’ll have pork fat all over your oven) and dust with the five spice mixture. Roast in the oven for 45 minutes. Brush the pork belly with the glaze and turn the oven down to 250ºF, cook for 15 minutes and glaze again.

Glaze for the Pork Belly
2 TBS of the garlic chili paste from above
1 TBS Rice Wine Vinegar
2 TBS honey
1 TBS Soy Sauce
¼ cup brown sugar

Mix all the ingredients together and set aside 1 TBS to use for the slaw dressing.

Carrot Scallion Slaw
1 Large Carrot grated
1 scallions shredded
2 TBS Toasted and crushed peanuts
3 or 4 julienned mint leaves
3 or 4 julienned thai basil leaves
Mix together in a bowl and dress.

1 TBS of the Pork Belly Glaze
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp lime juice

Whisk together until well incorporated and toss with the slaw.

Empanadas, pastel, hand pies, pasties or patties……..

Empanadas with picadillo and Jamaican Patties with curried beef.

Empanadas with picadillo and Jamaican Patties with curried beef.

It doesn’t matter what you call them, whether its empanadas, pasties, patties, hand pies or pastel. The various names for empanadas really depend on where you’re eating them. But essentially they’re all the same thing, packets of dough filled with either sweet or savory fillings that are baked or fried. Empanadas are designed for portability, they’re popular street food throughout the Caribbean and Latin America.

I find that just about any pie crust recipe can be used to make empanada dough. The key is to roll the chilled dough to ¼” thick. You can find empanada presses at kitchen supply stores. You can also use discos. They’re pre-made pre-rolled rounds of dough and come in two varieties, plain wheat and annato flavored. The annato variety are orange in color. The recipes below will easily fill 10 discos with 1TBS of filling each. They come frozen, so you’ll need to thaw them in the fridge for at least 24 hours before using them.


Jamaican Style Curried Beef
½ LB ground beef
1 finely minced scotch bonnet pepper (or whatever type of chili pepper you like)
4 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 bunch of green onions finely chopped
3 TBS Jamaican Curry
salt and pepper to taste
1 package of thawed discos or pie dough of your choice.

In a food processor, blend all the ingredients together except the beef and set aside. In a large skillet, on mediam high, brown the ground beef. Once the beef has browned pour off the excess fat and add the veggie mix. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Put meat mixture into a bowl and let cool for about 30 minutes.

Place a tablespoon of meat into the center of the discos, brush the edge lightly with water. Fold the discos closed and crimp the edges with a fork. Turn over and crimp the edges with the fork. Bake at 350º for 15 minutes or until golden brown. I’ll usually flip these over about halfway through the cooking time. You can also fry them.

If you’re using an empanada press, place the dough into the press, there’s usually a depressed section in the center, fill that with meat, brush the edges with water or egg wash and press closed. Press the handles together firmly to seal the edges. Make sure that you don’t overfill them, or else they will not stay sealed during baking/frying.

½ LB ground beef
1 small sweet potato or yam diced into ¼” pieces
¼ cup raisins soaked in warm water
3 TBS Recaito (see note)
¼ cup green olives chopped
1 TBS capers (brine drained)
1 TBS cumin
1 envelope of sazon
2 tsp tomato paste
1 TBS Adobo or you can use ¼ tsp each, salt, ground black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder and ground oregano
1 10ct package of Goya Discos (thawed)

Soak the raisins in warm water for about 15 minutes, drain and set aside. Boil sweet potatoes in salted water until tender drain, rinse with cold water and set aside. Brown the beef in a large skillet until browned and drain off the excess fat. Add the sofrito and all the other ingredients, cook together for about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool for 30 minutes. Follow the steps listed above for filling the empanadas and cooking.

2 medium green bell or Cubanelle peppers, seeds removed
2 medium onions, peeled
1 head of garlic, peeled
1 bunch culantro or cilantro (if available) leaves
6 ajies dulces (small sweet chile peppers)

Chop and blend all the ingredients in a food processor or blender.

(Sazon, Adobo, and Recaito are available on the ethnic/international aisle of most grocery stores. Discos can be found in the freezer section of most grocery stores. Here in the NE I know that Wegman’s, Stop ‘n Shop and Shoprite all carry discos, sazon, adobo and recaito. Elsewhere, Safeway, HEB, Publix, Albertson’s and the commissaries on US Military bases carry them.)

Who doesn’t love pizza?


Pizza with pear, pepper bacon, ricotta salata, caramelized onions

Home made pizza is even better when you add bacon. I used Rhodes Dough for the crust. Since everything on the pizza is pre-cooked, par cook the crust in a 450 degree oven for about 5 minutes, then top. The toppings in this case are pepper bacon, caramelized onions, ricotta salata and thinly sliced bosc pears. Use your favorite pizza sauce and cook until the crust is cooked through.

Ramen, how I love thee. Let me count the ways. Ramen the best street food ever.

Ramen with miso broth, nori,   roasted pork, mushrooms, surimi, scallions, boiled egg and baby kale

I’d be willing to guess that for most Americans their knowledge of ramen starts and stops with the little cello packets that can be purchased by the gross at the local warehouse store. Or, its one of the things that they lived on while in college along with canned tuna and boxes of cheap mac and cheese.

Ramen is believed to have made its way to Japan via China and the word ramen is thought to be a variant of the Cantonese word lo mein. Ramen has been a popular street food in Japan for over a century. Instant ramen was introduced to Japan by Momofuku Ando of Nissin Food Products Ltd. in 1958. The first flavor was chicken and now there are several flavors available. Instant ramen became popular in the states in the early 70s and is still widely consumed today.

Because of its instant food status is associated with cheap low quality food many people have not experienced ramen in its true street food form. Ramen is still one of the most popular street foods in Japan where there are numerous regional variations.

As with any soup, ramen is only as good as the broth. Some common flavors are, miso, shoyu, beef bone, pork, chicken and seafood/shrimp and within those flavors there are variations. As with the broth flavors the toppings and condiments are also varied. Scallions, corn, boiled egg, nori, fish cake, and greens are all popular.

Now for the ramen part of ramen, or rather the noodles. In a pinch I will use the instant noodles but will make my own broth and discard the season packet. My local market has fresh ramen noodles in their refrigerated section, short of buying (or rather having a source for) hand-pulled noodles this is a good alternative.

My favorite combination is a miso based broth topped with char sui (bbq pork), nori, fish cake, baby spinach or baby kale, scallions, boiled egg and mushrooms. Then I like to finish it off with a splash of chili oil and some fried garlic.

Best Street Food Ever! Sonoran-Style Bacon Wrapped Hot Dogs.



Here’s another entry in my street food series. Sonoran hot dogs are popular in the Southwestern U.S. and were probably brought here by immigrants from Sonora, Mexico. What’s not to love in a bacon wrapped hot dog? Sonoran hot dogs are like a chili dog turned up to eleven. They’re usually served on hoagie style rolls and topped with spicy pinto beans, cheese, tomatoes, onions and peppers and then finished off with mustard, green salsa and lemony mayo. You may add ketchup if you’re so inclined.

This is a fairly quick meal to put together, though I’ll acknowledge probably not something you’ll want to indulge in on a regular basis. It just requires a little bit of chopping for the veggies, you can use canned chili beans. Then its just a matter of wrapping the hot dogs in bacon and cooking. The hot dogs are also very easy for those finicky eaters in the family to personalize to their taste.