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Jamaican Red Snapper Escovitch

Chef's corner headerA flavorsome combo of crispy fried fish topped with a sweet and spicy pickle.

For the Escovitch pickle

  • 1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1 large white onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 small chayote, thinly sliced
  • 1 small carrot, thinly sliced
  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 to 2 scotch bonnet or Panamanian peppers, to taste, thinly sliced and seeds removed
  • 3/4 teaspoon of ground allspice
  • 10 sprigs of thyme, stems removed and coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of cooking oil


  1. Heat oil in a shallow pan and add peppers, chayote, carrots and onion.
  2. Fry for a few minutes and add garlic, scotch bonnet peppers. allspice, and thyme.
  3. Mix well and add the vinegar and sugar.
  4. Once dissolved remove from heat and allow to cool down and let flavors mellow.
  5. This can be done in advance and can be kept refrigerated for one week.

For the fish

  • 1 whole fresh caught red snapper or 2 lbs of boneless filet.
  • Salt, pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of lime juice
  • 1/2 cup of corn flour or masa rica
  • Oil for frying


  1. Clean the fish and season with salt, pepper and a little lime juice.
  2. Sprinkle with a small amount of corn flour or masa and fry in oil until crispy.
  3. Once done, remove and dry on paper towels.
  4. Finally, top the fish with the Escovitch pickle and serve with beachy reggae music.


Cool down on a hot day with some aguachile and a pitcher of Margaritas. Here is a refreshing and flavorful dish where the hot peppers are tempered by a splash of coconut milk.

Ingredients for 4 portions

  • 1/2 kilo or 1 lb of raw medium sized shrimp, peeled, deveined and butterflied
  • 8 to 10 juicy limes
  • 1 small red onion, very thinly sliced
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 10 stems of cilantro with leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 or 2 whole jalapeno peppers
  • 2 tablespoons of coconut milk
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Optional garnishes

  • Thinly sliced cucumbers, radishes, and jalapenos
  • Small avocado cubes
  • Small pineapple cubes
  • Cilantro leaves


  1. Prepare and clean the shrimp thoroughly and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Squeeze the limes and strain the juice.
  3. Pour half of the lime juice over the shrimp to cover entirely and place in the fridge for 1/2 hour.
  4. Blend the remaining lime juice in a blender or food processor with cilantro, jalapenos, garlic clove, and coconut milk.
  5. Once the shrimp are opaque, mix everything together and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper.
  6. Add the sliced red onions and optional garnishes to taste.
  7. Serve with tortilla chips or fried corn tortillas.

Thai Tom Kha Soup

Chef's corner header

Thai Tom Kha Soup – Desiree Brassert

This creamy, fragrant, soul-warming soup is hard to beat. Let the red curry paste work its magic even if some aromatics are unavailable. Here is the chicken version. A few easy changes can make it vegan.

Ingredients for 8 to 10 servings

  • 2 tablespoons of coconut oil
  • 1 small white onion, finely sliced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 small fresh hot pepper, preferably red, or to taste
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, closest to roots, leaf blades discarded
  • 1 knob of ginger
  • 1 knob of galanga
  • 4 kaffir lime leaves or a small piece of lime rind
  • 3 tablespoons of Thai red curry paste
  • 2 tablespoons of lime juice
  • 4 tablespoons of fish sauce (soy sauce for vegan version)
  • 4 cups of chicken stock (vegetable stock for vegan version)
  • 4 cups of unsweetened coconut milk
  • 3 tablespoons of coconut sugar or brown sugar
  • 1 whole boneless chicken breast cut into small cubes
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced
  • Chopped cilantro leaves for garnish


  1. Heat coconut oil in a soup pot and add onions, garlic, pepper, lemongrass, ginger, galanga, kaffir lime leaves, and curry paste.
  2. Fry until fragrant for 5 minutes then add the chicken stock.
  3. Simmer for at least 30 minutes, preferably one hour.
  4. Strain the solids and return the stock to the soup pot.
  5. Add coconut milk, chicken breast and remaining ingredients except for the cilantro.
  6. Simmer for 20 minutes or until the chicken is completely cooked.
  7. Adjust the seasoning to your taste by adding more curry paste, fish sauce, lime juice, or sugar.
  8. Garnish with cilantro before serving.

Indian Butter Chicken

Chef's corner headerIndian Butter Chicken – Desiree Brassert

Treat yourself to a quick and tasty journey to India with this simplified version of an all-time favorite. The bold flavors are optimized by marinating the chicken overnight and by making your own Garam Masala spice blend in these few easy steps.

Ingredients for 4 portions


  • 500 grams of boneless chicken breast or thighs
  • 2 tablespoons of lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons of ground paprika
  • Dash of cayenne pepper to taste
  • 1 cup of plain yogurt


  • 2 tablespoons of cooking oil
  • 1 medium sized onion, finely chopped
  • 6 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 2 teaspoons of finely grated ginger
  • 1 chili pepper, seeded and finely chopped (optional)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 teaspoons of Garam Masala
  • 1/2 cup of tomato puree (passata)
  • 2 tablespoons of heavy cream (can substitute with chicken stock)
  • Cilantro leaves for garnish

Garam Masala
Ideally made with whole spices but also good if using already ground.

  • 1 teaspoon of whole cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of whole coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of black peppercorns
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 1/2 star anise
  • 1 whole nutmeg or a grateable chunk of whole nutmeg
  • 4 whole cloves


  1. Cut chicken in bite size pieces and marinate for a few hours or overnight.
  2. Make the Garam Masala. If using whole spices, dry-fry in a pan until fragrant. Place in a mortar and pestle or a coffee grinder except for nutmeg that you should grate a small amount by hand separately into the final mixture.
  3. Heat oil in a heavy pan and build the curry starting with onions, garlic, ginger, bay leaf, and Garam Masala.
  4. Stir often before adding the marinated chicken.
  5. Cook for 10 minutes before adding tomato puree.
  6. Cook for another 10 before adding cream or stock.
  7. Adjust seasonings and slowly simmer uncovered for another 10 minutes or until fully cooked.
  8. Garnish with cilantro leaves and enjoy with basmati rice, naan or flatbread of your choice.

Croque Monsieur / Croque Madame

Chef's corner headerCroque Monsieur / Croque Madame – Desiree Brassert

Leave it to the French to make a ham and cheese sandwich so sinfully rich. These bistro classics have funny names that literally mean “crunch mister” and “crunch Mrs.” Just remember that the mister has no egg and both are meant to be eaten with a knife and fork.

For the bechamel

  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 2 tablespoons of flour
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1 pinch of nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper
  • For the sandwich
  • 4 half inch slices of crusty bread*
  • 6 slices of ham
  • 2 to 4 slices of Swiss cheese like Emmental or Gruyere
  • 1 cup of the same Swiss cheese, grated
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • Dijon mustard to taste
  • 1 fried egg for the croque madame if desired

* La Colina restaurant sells an outstanding sourdough loaf baked in their wood fired oven. Be sure to grab one on your next visit.


  1. Make a bechamel sauce by melting 2 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan over low heat.
  2. Add the flour, whisking continuously while slowly adding the milk.
  3. Once the sauce is thick and creamy, season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.
  4. Lightly toast the bread and spread a little mustard on one side, and then some bechamel on top.
  5. Melt butter in a large pan, and make two grilled cheese sandwiches with the ham and the sliced cheese.
  6. Preheat your broiler.
  7. Place both sandwiches in a baking pan and top with more bechamel and shredded cheese.
  8. Broil until golden brown and bubbly.

Bon appetit!

Red Curry Noodles with Shitake Mushrooms

If you are a fan of mushrooms, dried shiitakes should be a staple in your pantry. Fresh ones are always a delightful treat when available, but you can still unlock that earthy and meaty magic by reconstituting a handful of dried shiitakes in water overnight. Fry thick slices in 1 tablespoon of hot oil to create a little crunchy texture, and finish with salt or soy sauce. Save the soaking water for soups or sauces. 

Ingredients for 6 portions

  • Handful of shiitake mushrooms, following the instructions above, save water for this recipe should be approximately 1 cup of liquid
  • 400 grams of dried rice vermicelli
  • 2 tablespoons of cooking oil
  • 6 cloves of garlic, finely minced
  • 1 medium red onion, finely minced
  • 2 tablespoon of grated ginger root
  • 1 small sweet red pepper, sliced in julienne strips
  • 1 stalk of lemongrass, white part only and smashed to release aroma
  • 2 stalks of green onion finely sliced
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons of Thai red curry paste 
  • 1 can of coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons of soy sauce 
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Juice from 1/2 lime
  • Coarsely chopped cilantro leaves and basil leaves for garnish
  • Lime wedges to serve


  1. In a shallow pan, preferably with a lid, fry the garlic, onion, green onion, ginger, lemongrass stalk, add sweet pepper strips and already prepared shiitakes.
  2. Stir well before adding curry paste and coconut milk.
  3. Place dried noodles on top of bubbling sauce, add mushroom water and 1/2 cup of plain water and cover with lid for 3 to 4 minutes.
  4. Uncover to break apart the noodles and stir them into the mixture.
  5. Lower heat and cover again for 2 minutes. When you uncover again, the noodles should have absorbed most of the liquid.
  6. Let simmer for another 3 to 4 minutes, season with soy sauce and 1/2 lime.
  7. Garnish with lime wedges, cilantro and basil leaves.

Buffalo Chicken Dip

Chef's corner headerThis is a perfect no-brainer for holiday entertaining. This scoopable creamy, cheesy, and much easier to eat version will be your next party’s favorite. Provide plenty of fun and crunchy dippers such as raw veggies, chips, pretzels, or pita wedges. Let the slow cooker do all of the work, or broil the top for a few minutes for that extra scrumptious crust.

Ingredients for a 13 X 9 inch baking tray

  • 4 cups of shredded cooked chicken meat
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 full 8 oz brick of cream cheese at room tempurature
  • 1 cup of sour cream or ranch dressing
  • ½ cup of your favorite hot sauce or buffalo sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon of onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon of ground pepper
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 cup of shredded mozzarella


  • ¼ cup of thinly sliced green onion tops
  • ¼ cup of shredded cheddar
  • ¼ cup or more blue cheese


Melt butter in a large frying pan, add garlic till fragrant, then add cream cheese, sour cream or ranch dressing. Turn off heat, stir until well blended and then add chicken and cheeses. 

For slow cooker, place mixture in cooker withholding the topping ingredients until the mixture is warm and slightly bubbling. You should begin with the setting on high and then lower to warm while serving. 

For baking, pour mixture in a 9 X 13 inch pan, and bake for 15 to 20 minutes at 350 degrees F (190 C) until slightly bubbling. Change oven setting to broil, add final toppings, and place on the lowest rack for 3 to 5 minutes. Be careful not to over broil. 

Bun Cha

Chef's corner header

This tasty meatball dish was featured in Anthony Bourdain’s 2016 episode with president Obama in Hanoi. For very good reason—super delicious when paired with cold beer.

Ingredients for 4 to 6 generous servings


  • 1 kilo of ground pork 
  • 1 stalk of lemongrass
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 small red onion 
  • 2 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of fish sauce (nam pla)
  • Ground black pepper

Dipping Sauce

  • 1/2 cup of white sugar
  • 1/2 cup of fish sauce
  • 5 tablespoons of lime juice
  • 5 tablespoons of white distilled vinegar
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1 red chili pepper, finely chopped or to taste


  • 1 package of rice vermicelli
  • Fresh greens such as lettuce, cilantro, basil, mint, bean sprouts


  1. Finely chop the lemongrass, garlic, and onions.
  2. Mix together with the meat, sugar, fish sauce, and pepper and allow to marinate for 1/2 hour. 
  3. Meanwhile prepare the dipping sauce and the plate with fresh greens. This sauce should be sweet, salty, tangy, and umami. Feel free to play with the proportions.
  4. Bring a pot of water to boil and immerse the vermicelli for about 3-4 minutes until soft. Drain and set into individual bowls. It’s normal that these noodles become sticky and clumpy. They will loosen with the sauce.
  5. Form little meatballs and flatten slightly. They are wonderful grilled over charcoal but a shallow fry pan is also fine.
  6. This is served by layering the noodles, the meatballs, the greens, and sauce.

Slurping encouraged.

French Onion Soup

Chef's corner header

With these few details, you will have a complex layering of flavors and the ultimate bowl of comfort worthy of any French chef.

Ingredients for 4 servings

  • 1 liter of stock, traditionally beef but a rich vegetable stock is great too
  • 6 medium yellow onions thinly sliced
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of butter
  • 1 dash of nutmeg
  • 1 dash of thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons of brandy or vermouth or white wine
  • 8 thin slices of toasted French baguette
  • 4 to 6 slices of Swiss cheese like Gruyere,
  • Emmenthaler, or Baby Swiss


  1. Slowly caramelize the onions in the olive oil for about 20 minutes until it reaches a deep brown color.
  2. Deglaze the pan with the brandy and then add the stock and seasonings.
  3. Let simmer for 10 to 15 minutes and then discard the bay leaf.

To assemble in bowls

Ladle the soup into heat proof bowls, top with 2 bread slices per bowl, distribute the cheese on top of floating bread slices and place under broiler for 5 to 10 minutes until the cheese is brown and bubbly. Allow to cool very slightly before serving.

Crunchy Vietnamese Salad

Chef's corner headerThe sweet-tangy fish sauce dressing is key to this refreshing chicken salad that can be served either as a starter or a light meal.

Ingredients for 4 to 6 servings


  • 3 tablespoons of white sugar
  • 3 tablespoons of Asian fish sauce (Nam Pla)
  • 1 ½ tablespoons of lime juice
  • 1 ½ tablespoons of white distilled vinegar
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 ½ tablespoons of water
  • 1 red chili pepper, finely chopped or to taste

Combine these ingredients until sugar is dissolved and set aside.


  • 2 cups of shredded rotisserie chicken meat
  • 2 cups of shredded cabbage
  • ½ cup of shredded carrot
  • 2 red onions, thinly sliced
  • Small amount of vegetable oil for frying
  • ½ cup of coarsely chopped cilantro leaves
  • ½ cup of coarsely chopped herbs such as mint, basil, or saw-toothed cilantro (culantro coyote)
  • ¼ cup of coarsely chopped unsalted peanuts


  1. Fry half of the red onion until crispy and set aside.
  2. Combine all salad and dressing ingredients.
  3. Top with fried red onion and peanuts.
  4. Feel free to garnish with more lime wedges and chili peppers.

Spam Musubi

Chef's corner headerFrom the aloha state of Hawaii, this sweet-savory combo of sushi and processed meat is the ultimate quick bite lunch on-the-go.


  • 1 can of spam (can substitute with firm tofu)
  • ¼ cup of thick teriyaki sauce (or mirin, sugar, and soy sauce)
  • 2 cups of Japanese short grain rice
  • 5 sheets of nori seaweed folded into thirds, letter-style and then cut with scissors


  1. Rinse the rice until the water runs clear and cook in rice cooker or deep pan in 2 cups of water. Cook until water is absorbed, fluff with a fork and allow to cool.
  2. Open the can of spam and slice horizontally about seven times. Clean and save the can.
  3. Spray a non-stick frying pan and fry the spam for a few minutes until slightly crispy. Brush spam abundantly with teriyaki sauce.
  4. Line the empty can with plastic wrap and place 1/3 cup of cooked rice in the bottom and top with one slice of spam. Press down firmly before pulling out the plastic wrap. You should have 2 compact layers of rice and spam.
  5. Wrap in 1 piece of cut nori and press down using the rice side to make it all stick together.


Mexican Street Corn (Elotes)

Chef's corner headerGrilled sweet corn slathered with cream, then dusted with cheese and chili powder (tajin) is a perfect side dish for your next fiesta. Can be served on or off the cob.


  • 3 ears of shucked sweet corn
  • ½ cup of sour cream or natilla
  • 1 tablespoon of mayonnaise
  • ½ cup of parmesan cheese
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon of tajin pepper powder or to taste


  1. Grilling the corn is the best method for extra smokiness, but boiling also works. 
  2. In a bowl, mix the cream with mayonnaise, and in a separate shallow plate mix the parmesan with the tajin.
  3. Brush the warm cobs with cream mixture before rolling in cheese until entirely covered.
  4. Garnish with cilantro.

If you opt for serving the corn off the cob and in little bowls, cut off the cooked kernels and mix with cream and then top with cheese, tajin, and cilantro.

Two Favorite Homemade Hot Sauces

Chef's corner headerQuite often, a good hot sauce will brighten up any meal in a pinch.

Colombian Aji Salsa 

Process these simple ingredients for a fresh and spicy boost to empanadas, rice, fish, chicken, veggies, guacamole.


  • One ripe tomato cut into cubes
  • One small to medium yellow onion
  • One stalk of green onions
  • One Habanero pepper, seeds removed (any other pepper will work, amounts can vary)
  • 1 cup of chopped cilantro, stems included
  • 2 tablespoons of lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon of cider vinegar (or any other vinegar, you can also only use lime juice)
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • ½ teaspoon of salt

Use the “pulse” setting for a coarse texture. This salsa keeps for 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator.

Moroccan Harissa

This smoky peppery paste will kick up your vegetables, proteins, soups, and such.
Keeps for several weeks refrigerated in an airtight container.


  • 3 Mexican Guajillo chilies, cleaned of seeds and stems
  • 1 fresh red pepper
  • 3 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon of caraway seeds
  • 2 teaspoons of cumin seeds
  • 2 teaspoons of coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
  • 1 whole chipotle in adobo
  • 2 tablespoons of lime juice
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • ¼ cup of olive oil


  1. Roast the fresh red pepper in a hot oven or over a griddle until the skin is charred and the flesh is cooked. Discard skin and seeds.
  2. Coarsely chop the cleaned Guajillo peppers to facilitate the blending. 
  3. Dry fry the caraway, cumin and coriander seeds until fragrant.
  4. Place spices in a blender to pulverize and add the Guajillo chilies to blend until fine.
  5. Gradually add the rest of the ingredients using the olive oil to finish the emulsion. The flavors will optimize overnight.

Octopus Salad

Chef's corner headerThis is my spin on a Portuguese salad and a refreshing way to enjoy this underrated protein.


(For 6 to 8 servings)

  • 1 kilo of raw octopus
  • 1 medium, yellow onion chopped into small squares
  • 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
  • 6 sun dried tomatoes (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons of white wine vinegar or apple cider or white balsamic or any good quality light colored vinegar.
  • 1 tablespoon of lime juice
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/3 cup of chopped cilantro (can substitute for parsley if desired)


To tenderize octopus, you must immerse in boiling salted water for 45 minutes. Cool down, rinse off, and cut into small chunks. There might be a little cartilage in the head cavity which needs to be removed. Mix with remaining ingredients and allow to mellow in fridge for at least 20 minutes before serving.

Thai Beef Salad

Chef's corner headerLet’s welcome our hot season with a light and crunchy salad whose dressing is pure umami, also great for repurposing leftover steaks or other proteins.

Here is a simple and interesting steak marinade if you’re not using leftovers.


  • 400 grams or 1 lb of tender beef (tenderloin or sirloin)
  • 8 cloves of garlic
  • 4 cleaned cilantro roots
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons of oil


  • Lettuce
  • Cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Sliced cucumber
  • Small thinly sliced red onion
  • Handful of coriander and mint leaves
  • Chopped peanuts for garnish


  • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • Fresh chili peppers to taste


  1. Finely grind the garlic, cilantro roots, pepper and oil and marinate steaks for 20 minutes.
  2. Grill to medium rare and thinly slice, allow to cool.
  3. Assemble salad, top with sliced meat, pour dressing over and garnish with peanuts.
  4. Serve immediately.