Cooking at The Kitchen Engine


Yay! to men who cook!  The guys in this class had a great time working with Poblano chiles, preparing  Chiles en Nogada stuffed with a perfect picadillo filling and topped with fresh juicy pomegranate seeds; and learning the tips for the perfect Chile Relleno, crispy on the outside and melt y cheesy inside.   We made Yellow Rice so sunny and bright with the subtle flavor imparted from annatto seed.

Cooking Class at The Kitchen Engine
Check out our slide show!

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Yellow Rice / Arroz Amarillo recipe

This rice is delicately flavored and colored yellow with annatto seeds which are indigenous to the Yucatan area of Mexico.

  • 3 teaspoons achiote (annatto seed)
  • ¼ cup cooking oil
  • 2 cups long grain rice, rinsed and drained
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Half a small white onion, chopped
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon salt

In a medium saucepan over low heat, fry the annatto seeds in oil. Remove the seeds when they turn dark brown and discard. The oil should be a dark orange color.

Add the washed and well drained rice to the oil and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is soft.

In another pan bring the stock to a boil. Add salt if necessary. Add the boiling stock to the rice, lower the flame, cover pot, and simmer on low until all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender. (20-25 minutes)

Serves 6-8

Surround the bowl of yellow rice with fresh tomato wedges and cilantro for a colorful presentation.


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Topolobampo, Rick Bayless’ famous Chicago Mexican Restaurant

The Oxman girls hit Chicago!

0r, how much can two sisters eat in two days in Chicago?  A lot!

I wanted to eat dinner at Topolobampo more than anything.  This highly rated Mexican restaurant in downtown Chicago is owned by Rick Bayless. Rick is big into authentic Mexican cuisine and he channels his love for all things Mexico into wonderfully informative cookbooks and celebrated PBS cooking shows. He’s good.

Luckily we snagged reservations for 9:15 Wednesday night as reservations typically are out eight to ten weeks in advance. When we arrived the place was hoppin with patrons lined up outside while others dined al fresco in the warm October night. Surprisingly the building houses both his famous restaurants, Frontera Grill and Topolobampo side by side. We entered through the Frontera front door where an elaborate 3-tiered Day of the Dead alter greeted us. Colorful Mexican folk art, laughing dancing skeletons, and ghoulish skulls welcomed the dearly departed and those of us just out celebrating. A bit early for our reservation we wound our way through the crowd to the bar shared by both restaurants and squeezed in next to some friendly folks. The bar coils down one side of the long narrow room with small dining tables hugging the other side of the aisle. The brightly painted walls are adorned with an eclectic mix of original Mexican fine art collected by the Bayless’ during their travels in Mexico.  Large whimsical pieces of folk art dangle from the high ceilings. The vibe is a convivial mix of happy voices, bustling staff and kitchen clatter in a warm and friendly atmosphere. Most everyone is eating and the food looks delicious. The guy next to us is thoroughly enjoying his bowl of cochinita pibil, a savory Yucatan pork dish, while Seattle guy on the other side has a steaming plate of tacos and a trio of salsa’s in front of him. Chatting with our seat mates they encourage us to stay and eat claiming Frontera’s casual menu the better of the two and much less expensive. But we are on a mission so when our hostess finds us at the bar we are ready to move into the next room.

Topolobampo’s dining room is sleek and classy, with more of a fine dining ambience than Frontera.   Ricks interpretation of the new wave of contemporary Mexican cuisine known as Mexicana Cocina Nueva is evident in his creative fusion of regional Mexican dishes with locally sourced ingredients and innovative presentation.  You won’t find guacamole and chips on the menu much to my sisters’ consternation but you will find an eclectic assortment of intriguing dishes  We hungrily peruse the ten seafood choices from the Mexican Raw Bar menu and quickly settle on “Coctel Clasico de Mariscos” and “Ceviche Express”. The menu states that all seafood is sustainably raised or caught and tested for purity.

Our order arrives promptly; the portions are small and exquisitely executed. Every nuance is considered on the plate, Banana leaves encase succulent pieces of crab, mussels and octopus in my seafood cocktail and Suzy’s Ceviche made with sashimi grade Pacific yellowtail is equally impressive with bacon scented olive oil drizzled over the chile salsa infused with mescal.

We order from the Salads and Appetizers section of the menu for our second course. Suzy’s bowl of Sopa Azteca achieves the perfect balance of flavor and texture with the earthy heat of roasted pasilla chile puree combined with chicken, avocado, Jack cheese, crema and crispy tortilla chips. My “Ensalada Clasica is fresh with the taste of fresh lime and walnut oil.

The pace is leisurely and the wine excellent.  We are slowly gearing up for the entrée course. I pick the “Siete Mares estilo Topolo”, a brothy dish of smokey whitefish, roasted tomato, homemade chipotle chiles and epazote.  The fish is served in a shallow white enamel bowl and though the Mackinaw trout has a lovely texture, light and tender, the dish itself looks bland. The few slices of fingerling potatoes add no overall color and the portion is so skimpy I have to ask the waiter for more to finish up with my fish.

Suzy goes for seafood also and orders the crispy Arctic Char and roasted Main lobster medallions. Prepared with a mouthwatering “mojo of black and white garlic, savory white camote flan, sesame glazed cipollini onions, and smokey green beans” she’s in heaven, proclaiming her dish amazing. I have to take her word for it since I never had a chance!

At this point in the evening we are satiated but somehow our sweet and attentive waiter talks us into sharing a piece of Tres Leche cake created by their in-house pastry chef, Jennifer Jones. We are not disappointed. The Tres Leche cake is decadent, it’s infused with toasted hazelnuts and cradled by homemade Oaxacan chocolate ice-cream, vanilla poached quince, housemade ricotta, hazelenut crumble and meringue.  It is sooo good and we are so happy.

Topolobampo an upscale gourmet Mexican restaurant has garnered numerous awards and accolades including 4 stars out of 4 from Chicago Magazine.  It is a mecca for serious gourmands and will change the opinion of diners who think they don’t like Mexican into Mexican food aficionados!

Topolobampo pricing;   $15.00 – $30.00 Mexican Raw Bar

$9.00 – $12.00 Salads and Appetizers

$25.00 – $40.00 Entrees

Topolobampo also offers three different tasting menus each with five courses.

Tasting pricing;    $100.00; with 5 perfectly matched wines, add $60.00

Topolobampo/ 445 North Clark/ Chicago, Illinois / 312-661-1434


“Siete Mares” estilo Topolo ~ wood-grilled Macinac lake trout & PEI mussels, smoky whitefish broth (roasted tomato, homemade chipotle chiles, epazote), Nichols Farm fingerling potatoes, smoky green beans. $35

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Brazilian Fudge Truffles / Brigadeiros

Our first pilot for Latino Sabor, our Latin inspired cooking show, featured these decadent little truffles, so popular in Brazil.

Brazillian Fudge Truffles / Brigadeiros

These gooey little bon-bons have a chocolaty caramel flavor and are traditionally served in frilly paper cups as a party treat.

  • 1 – 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
  • 4 tablespoons Dutch processed cocoa powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Chocolate sprinkles for decoration

Pour the condensed milk into a heavy saucepan. Stir in the cocoa powder and salt. Cook stirring constantly over low heat. Keep the mixture barely at a boil to prevent scorching.

Cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring, until the mixture becomes very thick and shiny and starts to pull away from bottom and sides of pan. The batter is done when it slides to one side of the pan and leaves a thick residue on the bottom.  Learning when to stop the cooking process is the trickiest part about making brigadeiros. If they are undercooked they will be too soft, if cooked too long they will be hard and chewy.

Remove from heat and stir in the butter and vanilla.

Chill in the refrigerator for 20 – 30 minutes. With buttered hands, roll the mixture into one inch smooth balls. Roll each ball into the chocolate sprinkles and place in a festive paper cup.

Chill until ready to serve. 

*Try rolling them in chopped pistachios or shredded coconut for variety.         

Filming our pilot in the Kitchen
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Mexican Squash Soup (Sopa de Calabasa)

A Cook With Us Recipe
Mike Gonzales, my partner at the Hispanic Food Network, demonstrates how to prepare Sopa de Calabasa in the kitchen. Check out the video below.

Squash Soup / Sopa de Calabasa

The nutty taste of pumpkin seeds combined with ancho chiles gives this soup an authentic flavor of old world Mexico.

  • 2 acorn squash (or squash of preference)
  • 4 dried ancho chiles roasted and rehydrated,
  • 1 white onion, chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • ½ cup dried (hulled) pumpkin seeds
  • 1 cup whipping cream or Mexican crema*
  • 4 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 1 T. butter or margarine
  • 1/2 t. cumin
  • 1/2 stick cinnamon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  •  fresh mint for garnish

Cut squash in halves, remove seeds and membrane.  Place in oven proof pan (cut side down), add 1 cup water, bake at 350 degrees for approximately ½ hour or until soft, allow to cool.  Stem and seed chiles, lightly roast in dry skillet or comal.  Note: Take care not to over roast chiles for they may taste bitter.  Place chiles in warm water for 10-15 minutes to re-hydrate.

Heat butter in skillet, add onion and garlic, sauté until soft and lightly brown.  Add ancho chiles (coarse chopped) and remove from heat.

Toast pumpkin seeds in small skillet until lightly browned or begin “popping”, allow to cool, fine grind in spice mill.

In blender add two cups milk and half of:  squash, onion, garlic, and chile.   Add ground pumpkin seeds, puree and add to soup kettle. Repeat process with 2 cups milk and remaining: squash, onion/garlic/chile. Cook over low heat, add cream, lime juice, cumin, cinnamon stick, salt and pepper (to taste).  Gently stir and allow to heat for 10-15 minutes.  Remove cinnamon, thin soup to desired consistency with extra milk or water. Serve hot with fresh mint leaves as garnish.                                                  

 Serves six

  • Mexican crema may be purchased in Mexican markets. It resembles “crème fraiche and can be substituted by mixing equal parts sour cream and heavy whipping cream. 

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Cochinita Pibil is a favorite Yucatan, Mexico, pork dish.

Every time we make cochinita pibil for friends, they rave “this is the best Mexican pork we’ve ever eaten! The meat is rich and succulent with a unique earthy flavor imparted from achiote, a seasoning paste, made from annatto seeds and other spices. Pulled pieces of this luscious pork tucked into a tamale with a sliver of raw potato, a slice of roasted poblano chile, a manzanilla olive, then steamed inside a corn husk or a banana leaf; This may be the best tamale you’ll ever eat!

Don’t be intimidated by the recipe. If you don’t want to wrap the pork in banana leaves, baking the pork in an ovenproof dish covered tightly with tinfoil is perfectly acceptable. This will keep in the juices and allow the meat to stay moist and tender. The most important ingredient “achiote” paste cannot be substituted. Look for it in Mexican grocery stores or supermarkets that have a decent Mexican food section.

Cochinita Pibil / Pit Roasted Pork
Pork baked in banana leaves, steamed in a pit (pibil) or cooked in a sealed dish in the oven. Either way it’s prepared, this savory earthy meat is a real treat!

Marinated Onions:
• 3 red onions thinly sliced
• 1 ¼ cup fresh orange juice
• ¾ cup fresh lime juice
• 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
• 1 teaspoon salt
• ½ teaspoon pepper
Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate for several hours.

• 3 lb. lean boneless pork shoulder or butt roast
• Salt and pepper to season pork
• 3 oz. achiote paste
• ½ cup lime juice
• 1 cup orange juice
• 1 teaspoon sea salt
• 8 large garlic cloves, chopped
• 1 tablespoon Mexican oregano, dried
• 1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
• 2 Poblano chiles, roasted, skinned & seeded (optional)
• 2 large banana leaves

PREPARE PORK; Cut the meat into slabs or cut into stew size pieces and place in a large bowl. Rub meat with salt and pepper.

PREPARE MARINADE: Break up the achiote paste into a small sauté pan placed over low heat. Slowly pour in the juices and stir to completely dissolve the paste. Add the salt, garlic and oregano continue to cook on low heat for about 5 minutes. Pour this liquid over the pork and marinate for at least 1 hour.

PREPARE BANANA LEAVES: Heat oven to 325 degrees. Hold the banana leaves over an open flame on the stove for a few minutes until they soften, or submerge in very hot water, this will clean and make the leaves pliable also. Line a heavy baking dish or Dutch oven with the leaves, placing one the long way and the other in the opposite direction with the leaves overlapping the dish. Place the marinated pork onto the leaves; place slices of poblano chile over the meat, then fold the ends of the leaves back over the meat. Use another leaf to cover again making sure to tuck the leaf over and around the dish, this important step will help retain moisture during cooking. Pour about ¼ cup of water in the pot. Cover with aluminum foil. Bake for two hours or more until very tender. Serve with marinated red onions on the side.

Serves 6

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Festive Mexican Flag Rice


A colorful display of green, red, and white rice is a perfect patriotic side dish. Each rice represents one color of the Mexican flag.

Recipe by and Fridas Fiestas

Mexican Flag Rice  

Green Rice / Arroz Verde

This deliciously creamy rice derives its green color from fresh cilantro and spinach.

  • 1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped spinach
  • 1 serrano chile, chopped
  • 2  cups chicken broth
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon  salt
  • 3 tablespoon corn oil or vegetable oil
  • 1 ½ cups long grain rice
  • 1/4 cup minced onion
  • 2  cloves garlic chopped

 Soak the rice in very hot water for 15 minutes. Drain, rinse in cold water, and drain again thoroughly.

 Place the spinach, cilantro, chile and broth in a blender and blend until the vegetables are pureed.  Add milk and salt, blend again. 

Sauté the rice in hot oil for about a minute or so, add onion and garlic and cook another minute stirring constantly until the rice sounds like sand as it is stirred.

Add contents of blender, stir well, turn heat to high and bring to boil.  Cover pan and lower heat to low simmer and continue to cook for approx. 20 min.  Remove from heat; allow rice to steam covered for 10 min.  Gently stir the rice and ENJOY!

Makes 4 cups

   White Rice / Arroz Blanco
• 1 cup long grain white rice
• 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
• ½ small white onion, minced
• 2 cloves garlic, minced
• 1 celery stalk, chopped fine
• Juice of half a lime
• 2 cups chicken stock

Soak the rice in hot water for 15 minutes. Drain, rinse, and drain again. Pat the rice dry with a paper towel. Sauté the rice in hot oil for about a minute, or until translucent, add the onion and garlic and continue to stir and sauté for another minute or so. Add the celery, lime juice and chicken broth, bring to a boil and cover pan. Lower the heat and simmer until all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender, approx. 20 minutes.
Serves 4

Red Rice / Arroz Rojo
• 1 cup long grain rice
• 2 tablespoons corn oil
• 1 tomato
• ½ onion
• 1 garlic clove
• 1 celery stalk,
• 2 sprigs parsley
• 1 1/2 cups tomato juice
• Juice of half a lime
• Salt and pepper
Soak the rice in hot water for 15 minutes. Drain, rinse, and drain well again. Pat dry with a paper towel. Puree the tomato, onion, and garlic in a blender.

Sauté the rice in hot oil until translucent and the grains separate. Add the tomato puree, salt and pepper and sauté until thickened. Add the celery, parsley, tomato and lime juice. Bring to a boil, cover, lower heat, and continue to cook for about 20 minutes until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender. Remove celery and parsley before serving.
Serves 4

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Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera Celebrate Mexico’s Independence.

According to accounts from the book Fridas Fiestas, on Sept. 16th, 1942 the Rivera household is in full swing preparing a grand dinner for Diego’s old revolutionary comrades  to celebrate  Mexico’s Independence day, a rousing national holiday. Grand military parades, rodeos, carnivals and  food vendors fill the packed streets of Coyoacan where everyone is happily setting off firecrackers and dancing in the streets.

Frida sets her dining  table with her usual creativity.  On a beautiful white lace tablecloth she scatters miniature Mexican flags of red white and green. She brings out her best green serving platters from Michoacán and sets out her favorite white dishes from Puebla.  Her edible centerpiece fills a  beautiful ceramic bowl filled with green, white, and red prickly pears, juicy green limes, and sparkling red pomegranates cut in half to expose their beauty. Fridas life was her art and this still life centerpiece becomes one of her famous paintings. 

Frida’s cook prepares authentic dishes for the esteemed guests that are customarily served on this auspicious day when Mexico declared it’s political  independence from Spain in 1910.  The party menu includes; Chiles en Nogada*, snapper soup, national flag rice,* corn pudding with chiles in cream, and refreshing “agua frescas”* to drink.  It is a patriotic menu as all the ingredients for these dishes are the same colors as the Mexican flag. 

* These recipes included on this website

frita-stilllife                                                       Frida Kahlo still life 1951

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Poblano Chiles stuffed with Picadillo

Picadillo is a spiced meat filling made with fruit and usually nuts. It can be used for chile rellenos, empanadas, and  other specialty Mexican dishes. This recipe adapted from Fridas Fiestas was served at the wedding of Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera.

  • 16 poblano chiles, roasted, seeded, and deveined
  • all-purpose flour
  • 5 eggs separated
  • corn oil or lard
  • 3 lbs. ground pork
  • 1 large white onion, halved
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 6 Tablespoons lard or oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 zucchini, finely chopped
  • 1 lb. tomatoes, seeded, chopped
  • 1 cup cabbage, shredded
  • 3/4 cup blanched almonds, chopped
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • Tomato broth ( see recipe )

Prepare chiles:  Char chiles on an open flame or under a broiler. Place in a plastic bag, seal and let chiles steam for about 10 – 15 minutes. Remove chiles from bag, carefully peel off skin using the back of a spoon.  Avoid running under water to remove the skins as you will also remove the nice tasty charred bits. Make a lengthwise slit in the chile, remove the seed cluster with a knife being careful to leave the stem intact. Clean out the seeds and membrane, place the prepared poblanos on a cookie sheet, and place in the freezer while making the filling. They are easier to fill and batter when cold.

Prepare Picadillo: Cook the pork with the onion halves, garlic and salt and pepper to taste for about twenty minutes. Drain off liquid and remove onion. Heat the oil or lard in another saute pan. Add the onion, carrots, and zucchini and cook until onion is transparent. Add the tomato, cabbage, almonds, raisins and pork. season with salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for about twenty minutes until the mixture has thickened and the tomato is cooked through.

Stuff Chiles: Stuff the chiles with the picadillo filling, then dust with flour. Beat the 5 egg whites until stiff. Beat the yolks lightly with a pinch of salt and gently fold into the whites to make a batter. Dip the chiles into the batter and fry in very hot oil until golden. Drain on paper. Serve with tomato broth.*

serves eight

Tomato Broth for Stuffed Chiles

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 10 roma tomatoes, charred, seeded, and chopped
  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup queso cotijo cheese, crumbled

Heat the olive oil and sauté the onion and carrots until softened. Add the tomatoes, vinegar, sugar, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in the oregano and continue to cook until the broth is flavorful and the tomatoes cooked through. Ladle broth onto a plate and place the chile on top.  Garnish with a sprinkle of Mexican queso cotijo cheese or parmesan as a substitute.

Jane Rosenberg 011 Jane Rosenberg 008 cooking school (goodman) 003

Making Stuffed Chiles at our Mexican Cooking school.

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Fridas Fiestas

Honeymoon in Cuernavaca, Mexico, August 1929

Frida and Diego settled into their new life together. Their honeymoon took them to Cuernavaca, the lovely city of eternal springs where Diego was commissioned to paint a mural on the ancient palace once belonging to Herman Cortez the Spanish conquistador of Mexico. While Diego painted, Frida dove into domesticity with her usual fervor and with the help of Lupe Marin, Diego’s second ex-wife, learned to cook Diego’s favorite dishes. It’s is ironic that Lupe took Frida under her wing as the two had in the past a jealous rivalry over Diego affections. But all was forgiven and the Rivera household became a bastion for intellectualism and artistic creativity where the two women took delight in preparing peasant style chiles en frio stuffed with chopped meat and bathed in a sweet and sour tomato sauce or re-fried beans smothered with Mexican cheese and garnished with crisp totopos. The following recipe for stuffed chiles adapted from Fridas Fiestas was a favorite for entertaining their distinguished guests and extended family.

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