Guac and Salsa… It Must Be Superbowl Sunday.

February 3, 2013 § 1 Comment

Every year when on Superbowl Sunday I think of a new way to recycle my guacamole recipe, so today I’ve decided to tell you about when Dario Cecchini, the famous Tuscan butcher, came to town—and by “town,” I mean Los Angeles. “What do you do when you have a butcher over for dinner?” asked Nancy Silverton, who was hosting a party in Dario’s honor.

Dario Cecchini Party at Nancy Silverton's

Me, Nancy, and Dario’s wife Kim. (Photo by Anne Fishbein.)

You invite the only other butchers you happen to know, such as Jim from Huntington Meats, seen here inspecting the goods. (Or is he simply eating?)


You invite all Italian-speakers living in the vicinity, such as Rufus, seen here with fellow Italian-speaker Gino Angelini, who is inspecting a sign, written in Italian, that Rufus wears around his neck.


(Photo by Anne Fishbein.)

And you serve meat.


For the feast, two smokin’, bbq lovin’, ass kicking chefs Chris Feldmeier (Osteria Mozza) and Erik Black (Spice Table) spent days in order to show Dario how we do it in America.



This Mexican did the only thing she knows to do in such a situation. She made guacamole.


I used a whole case of avocados. It was the biggest batch of guacamole my kitchen had ever seen!

Here it is with that requisite of any meat eating feast: loads of red wine.


The sign Rufus wore, featured in both the English and Italian languages, instructed guests not to feed him.

Dario Cecchini Party at Nancy Silverton's

As you might notice, Gino made some corrections to the sign. (Photo by Anne Fishbein.)

“Thankfully,” he says. “Nobody pays attention to anything my mom says.”

“My name is Rufus. Please don’t feed me.” And other things Rufus would never say…

Although I can’t give you the recipe for that succulent sausage pictured above, I can give you recipes for what I think are the best red and green salsas you’ll ever taste–unless you go to Loteria! Grill and eat Jimmy Shaw’s chipotle salsa, which is, I hate to admit, un poquito better than mine. I’m still working on getting that one. Maybe next year. Jimmy? Are you listening or is Rufus right again?


Guac, salsa, and Joe B’s wine. Sounds like a party.

Smoky Tomato Salsa

Makes 2 cups

1 pound roma tomatoes, charred on the grill

2 yellow onions, sliced, oiled, and charred on the grill

4 garlic cloves, browned in their skins on grill

1 tablespoon plus 1 to 2 teaspoons pureed chipotle in adobo

1 teaspoon chipotle powder

2 to 3 teaspoons salt

Puree the tomatoes (including juices), onions, and garlic in a food processor. Add the chipotle puree, chipotle power, and salt and stir to combine.

Charred Green Chile Salsa

Makes 1½ cups

4 garlic cloves (skins on) browned on the grill

1 pound  husked tomatillos, charred on the grill

2 serrano chilies, charred on the grill, seeds removed

1 poblano chile, charred on the grill, peeled and seeded

1 yellow onion, sliced, oiled, and charred on the grill

A handful of fresh cilantro

Juice of 2 limes

2 to 3 tablespoons salt


Remove the skins from the garlic and puree the ingredients in a food processor to coarse puree, scraping down the sides of the food processor from time to time for even pureeing. Add water if necessary to make a loose salsa consistency. Taste for seasoning and add more lime juice or salt.

My (Ongoing) Beef with Chipotle

August 4, 2009 § 2 Comments

First let me say that in the pantheon of fast food, I think Chipotle is the lesser of countless evils–and I am not even saying that it is evil. I’m just, in my ongoing beef with them, questioning  whether what they are doing is a marketing strategy or genuine belief. My hunch is that it is a marketing strategy.

While I could say–like the Stonybrook Farms yogurt mogul does in the movie Food, Inc., that better to have big biz on the sustainability bandwagon than not–but I’m not so sure that is true. I am afraid that when the message gets distorted, and used for people’s capitalist goals, that the consumer is mislead. People lose site of what is important, and why it was important to begin with. My beef, essentially, is this: if you truly believe that something is bad, in this case, the beef raised in the industrial American food system–is bad for the planet, bad for our health, and bad for the animals, then how can you justify serving it 65% of the time?  I also wanted to get a clear answer on Chipotle’s supposed relationship to McDonald’s. I pushed for an answer. Below is the correspondence between myself and Chipotle’s public relations agent.

ME: can you see if you can get an answer from chipotle regarding their relationship to mcdonald’s?

P.R. GAL: … they had McDonald’s come in as an investor (but retained control of the menu, sourcing, etc.) and McDonald’s helped them grow to 500 units.  Chipotle went public in 2006 with the second largest restaurant IPO (Boston Market was 1st) and McDonald’s sold all their shares at that point.  Now they are up to over 860 restaurants.

(And then she very efficiently offers to have me talk to a Chipotle rep, as she will continue to do throughout our correspondence.)

ME:  people–not just me–seemed a bit disturbed by the 35% factor. can they answer to that? like why are they selling meat raised against the principles that they believe in instead of just not offering meat in regions where  humanely-raised beef isn’t available?


… at the moment, there isn’t enough naturally raised beef available. If they could be serving 100 percent naturally raised beef, they would be (just as they are with chicken and pork).

ME: i understnad that–but why not just offer chicken or pork–no beef.  instead of bad beef. it doesn’t make sense to me.


here’s some additional info from Chipotle on this.  Also, here’s a link to a great piece on Nightline that details Chipotle’s work in this arena as well as the challenges that remain.

More from Chipotle:
From the beginning, we served pork, chicken and beef; none of which was naturally raised. As we have embraced this quest for food from more sustainable sources (which began 10 years ago), we have been moving as quickly as we can to those better sources. Today, that includes all of our pork and chicken; about 60 percent of our beef; all of our dairy products made with milk from cows that are never treated with the synthetic hormone rBGH; increasing amounts of local and organic produce.

The problem is, at our size and scale (we have nearly 900 restaurants and feed a half a million people every day) the supply of these better ingredients isn’t available. There is no switch we can throw and be doing this over night. It is an incremental revolution and we have made, and continue to make tremendous progress. But we are doing that in a system that has swung so far toward the industrial and are challenged with getting the things we need in the quantities we need.


Throughout, she continued to offer me the opportunity to talk to someone at Chipotle. Which I really should-and will–do. But I just fear… it’s the kind of question that sets me up to be disappointed.

Chew On This, Chipotle!

July 18, 2009 § Leave a comment

I went to a screening of the movie Food, Inc. last night hosted by Chipotle—the Mexican fast-food chain that I was always under the impression was owned by McDonald’s but that from what I gleaned through various unreliable sources on the world-wide-web turns out to be urban myth. The movie was exactly what I expected it to be–a really horrifying glimpse into how our food is produced. (I say “our,” just to be a team player, but to be clear, it is not how my food is produced because, I am proud to admit, I am a total pain in the ass about what I will and will not eat–and it is not INC. food.)

Chipotle, which uses the tag-line “food with integrity,” and claims to use all organic rice, beans, and veggies in their whopper-sized burritos and tacos (which are wrapped, oddly enough, in flour tortillas–but that’s another story), is hosting these free screenings all over the country in an apparent effort to scare people away from McDonald’s drive-though window and up to their cool, industrial-style counters. When the Chipotle reps handed out cards on the way out, one side offered me a free taco, while the other side explained their philosophy of “not exploiting animals, the environment, or people.” The card explained that their dairy products come from non-rBGH cows, and that one-third of their beans are raised organically. (Excuse me, not to be a stickler, but… one third?) and that Chipotle uses all sustainably raised meats, which the representative who introduced the film explained applied to all pork and chicken, and  35% of their beef. Yes, thirty-five percent of their beef. Which leaves another 65% unaccounted for…

I first heard that fact when I met a different Chipotle rep in Washington during the Alice Waters-hosted inaugural dinners, and the number stuck out at me at the time, but after seeing the film, and seeing Chipotle get behind the film, it really stuck out. I wondered, if I redeem my card, will my taco be filled with the 35% meat, or the 65% meat–meat that the movie very graphically depicts is from cows that live knee-deep in communal manure, fattened up on a diet of corn, which they were never supposed to eat to begin with, and slaughtered in a filthy way that accounts for just few enough human deaths a year that their lobbyists-turned-politicians are able to let it slide. When I asked the Chipotle representatives about this last night, she efficiently explained that it’s not a blend of good meat and bad–but that depending on what region you live in, you are either being served good meat, or bad.  Here in Southern California, she said, where grass-fed meat is not available in the quantities Chipotle demands, they have to resort to the meat from those cows you see in the film, carried by a fork lift to slaughter because for one reason or another they cannot perform basic cow functions, such as walking. So, what you’re saying is Chipotle throws everything they believe in out the window so that I can have the option of beef over chicken inside my flour tortilla taco?

If Chipotle really and truly does believe that raising beef the way it is raised and slaughtered according to the American industrial food system is as shameful and detrimental to our well-being as the movie depicts–bad for the planet, bad for the cows, and bad–maybe even lethal–for the people who eat them, if Chipotle’s green rap is not just a marketing strategy, then I propose something else. Like, how about you just don’t offer beef in places where humanely-raised beef is not available? I am not going to lie and say that I understand business, or even the intricacies of this particular issue about beef. But I do understand integrity, and offering something you claim to believe to be bad on a variety of levels just smells funny.

Secret Sauce

July 14, 2009 § 2 Comments

I was at the Original Farmers Market at Third and Fairfax last week when Jim the butcher–the one that makes Nancy Silverton’s famous burger blend–asked me how to make the mayo that Nancy puts on her burgers. For an upcoming party, he wanted to create The Perfect Slider, and he felt this might help him get there. The mayo he was talking about is the not-so-secret mayonnaise, the recipe for which is in the book I wrote with Nancy called Twist of the Wrist, about using packaged foods to help you along the road to really great food. Chipotle Mayo one of three mayos in the book—the others are garlic; and olive-anchovy—all of which are essential elements of Nancy’s burger spread and, for those such as own family and friends who care, part of mine, too. But the chipotle is by far the most popular. It is so good, you really should have it on hand at all times, and if Best Foods were smart, they would copy it, give us no credit, and start selling the stuff very soon. Speaking of Best Foods, although you might be tempted to start with some expensive, fancy mayo you find at Whole Foods, I’m telling you now: unless you have big problems with eating egg yolks and/or corn syrup, use Best Foods (aka Hellman’s). We tried them all, and Best Foods is the yummiest. And I don’t use that word lightly.

Chipotle Mayonnaise

1 cup Best Foods mayonnaise
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or more to taste
4 large garlic cloves, grated or minced (about 1 tbsp) or more to taste
1 1/2 teaspoons pureed chipotle peppers in adobo, or more to taste (to puree chipotle peppers, dump the entire can, liquid and all, into blender)
1 teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste.

Stir the mayonnaise, cilantro, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, chipotle peppers and kosher salt together in a small bowl.  Season with more lemon juice, chipotle peppers, garlic, or salt to taste. Put this on your burgers, use it to make a chicken salad, spread it on a sandwich. Go nuts.

Celebrating Mexican Pork Day

May 5, 2009 § Leave a comment

Today’s posting on TastingTableLA, about micheladas, an iced beer-and-something cocktail in a salt-rimmed glass (and similar Mexi-food centered posts all over the web), got me thinking about the holiday that Americans have come to associate with my native country to the South, a holiday that here might be called National Mexico Day, or National Tortilla Chips and Frozen Margarita Day, but that should not be called or confused with Mexican Independence Day. That day, which unlike Cinco de Mayo, is an actual holiday celebrated by actual Mexicans in Mexico, is September 16, a day that few Americans even know about, maybe because el diez y seis de Septiembre doesn’t roll off the gringo tongue the way Cinco de Mayo evidently does.

For the record, Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Mexican victory over the French (yes, French!), who were attempting to advance toward nearby Mexico City, located about 70 miles to the northeast, in the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Neither the day nor the victory is much celebrated, probably because  the French proceeded to invade and occupy Mexico City anyway a year later.

Since it would be impossible to disassociate the fifth of May from the concept of Mexico in the minds of Americans, and since I welcome holidays and any excuse to eat Mexican food, I think it would be grand if we went on celebrating the holiday but for what it was, mostly because the foods of Puebla (not to mention the city itself, a UNESCO World Heritage Site with 200 square blocks of historically preserved architecture), are so rich and varied. My favorite Poblano dish to make, partly because it is infinitely quicker and easier than the better known mole Poblano, is tinga. A dish of pulled pork (or chicken) bound by a sauce of stewed onions and chipotle chile, tinga is basically the Mexican version of what’s known in the South simply as “barbecue.” It is slightly sweet, can be super spicy, and served, at least in my family, on a crisp corn tortilla with cool, tangy crema and maybe a slice of avocado. Mexican pork. Now that is something to celebrate.
Tinga de Puerco

Water (for boiling the meat)
1 kilo pork shoulder
1 whole small white onion
1 medium white onion, chopped fine
1 can of chile chipotle chiles en adobo, pureed in a blender or food processor
1/2 cup (possibly less) vinegar of sugar cane (the closest thing I’ve found to the smell and taste is apple cider vinegar)
1/3 cup corn oil
Corn tortillas
Mexican cream
Oaxacan cheese

1. Boil the meat in a big pot of water with the whole white onion and enough salt to flavor the broth.

2. While the meat is cooking, sauté the onions in a soup pot with una puñita (a small fistful) of salt. You want the onion bits to get very soft and translucent, almost melted. But you don’t want them to get crispy at all, so this is best done over a low flame. When the onion is very soft, add the pureed chipotle and continue to cook for a few minutes over a very low flame.

3. When the meat is cooked, remove it from the broth. Reserve some of the broth for later. Shred the meat in thin strands into the pan with the chipotle and onions. Mix thoroughly with the chipotle-onions while cooking over a low flame. Add a bit of vinegar and enough broth so that the meat is not dry. It should have enough sauce to bind it but not so much that the meat would drip if you put it in on a tostada, which is what you’re going to do. The vinegar is really just to add that bit of tang. It’s really something you have to do to taste, adding a bit, tasting, adding a bit more.

Tinga is eaten, at least by my family, on tostadas that have been slathered first with a nice little dollop of Mexico’s rich tangy crema. Or made into little quesadillas made of corn tortillas folded in half (so the finished product is a half-moon. This is different than the quesadillas served in the U.S. that are made with two flour tortillas on top of each other. In Mexico City, that would be called a sincronizada. Anyway you probably know all this. Take your corn tortilla, some Oaxacan cheese, some tinga. Put the tinga and the cheese on half the tortilla, fold it over, fry it on both sides in corn oil and boy are they delicious.

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