Keep Quarantine Cooking SPICY

By Allison Lacko

Messing around with colors and flavors in the kitchen is my form of therapy. So rather than focus on nutrition science for this week’s post, I am sharing some recipes that have brought me tremendous joy these past few weeks. If you’ve already mastered sourdough and are looking for some cooking projects, here are three recipes. I’ve listed them from quickest to longest. Note, these are NOT easiest to hardest – none of these recipes are difficult. In fact, I’ve chosen three recipes where specific ratios don’t really matter, add however many limes or peppers make you happy. Vary the amount of the ingredients! Have fun. However, I will warn that the mole recipe does take a boatload of time to prep everything.

1. Tomatillo salsa

Photo credit- Allison Lacko
Tomatillo salsa- preparation and finished product


  • 6-8 tomatillos, husked, rinsed and de-stemmed
  • 1 medium onion, diced in big chunks
  • 2 serranos or 3 jalapeños, de-stemmed (or 1 of each or 3 of each, seeds in or seeds out, how adventurous are you feeling?)
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 lime, juiced
  •  ½ bunch of cilantro
  • Salt, pepper


  1. Roast tomatillos, onion pieces, hot peppers. You can do this in a cast-iron skillet or you can put them on a baking sheet/casserole under the broiler in your oven. Turn them every 3-4 minutes until they’re roasted on all sides. The tomatillos should lose their bright green color, and they’ll release a lot of liquid (save it and add into the blender).
  2. Blend everything together using a blender or food processor
  3. Eat on everything

2. Ceviche de banano

Picture credit- Allison Lacko
Ceviche de banano assembly and finished product


  • A bunch of green bananas
  •  ½ large red onion (or a medium red onion)
  • Red bell pepper
  • About a lime for every 2-3 bananas, juiced
  • Spicy peppers. Thinly sliced habañeros, diced serranos and-or diced jalapeños all work great for this recipe
  • A bunch of cilantro


  1. Chop the ends off the green bananas (do not PEEL) and boil them for about 20-30 minutes. After 20-30mins they should no longer be raw but slightly cooked all the way through. Take them out when the outer part of the banana begins to get soft. You want them to be cooked but not mushy. Special note: they should definitely not turn brown when you peel them (happened to me the first time I tried this), that means they’re still raw and you should cook them longer.
  2. While the bananas are boiling, dice up the onion and peppers and mix with the lime juice. Set aside in a large bowl.
  3. When the bananas are done, peel them and chop them up (Let them cool, don’t burn yourself).
  4. Mix with the onion-pepper-lime mixture.
  5. Chop up the cilantro. Mix it into the ceviche (the cooked bananas), add salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Leave this in the fridge for a few hours to let all the flavors chill and mingle.

3. Mole

Picture credit- Allison Lacko
Pre-blended mole poblano

For this recipe, I am going to point you to a master. Here’s Pati Jinich’s recipe for mole poblano.

Here are some suggestions based on my experience making this:

  • First, don’t attempt to make two different mole recipes at the exact same time by yourself. it is a silly idea, you don’t have enough hands, eyes or brains.
  • Where to buy all the ingredients if you’re in Chapel Hill: Compare Foods (the bigger one on 2000 Avondale Dr, Durham, NC 27704). Right next to all the dried peppers they have little bags of all the spices and seeds you need, it’s wonderful. Otherwise, your local Mexican grocery store should have most if not all the ingredients.

    Picture credit- Allison Lacko
    Mole poblano while cooking
  • The other recipe I used called for roasting the vegetables, toasting the seeds that you take out of the dried peppers, and toasting the nuts. I really liked the smokiness and depth of flavor this gave to the mole. Having said that, I think Pati’s recipe is overall much easier.
  • I added a little extra cinnamon and some cayenne since I couldn’t find Mexican chocolate. I just used store-bought 90% dark chocolate.
  • You can make this vegetarian by using vegetable bouillon/broth and you can make it gluten-free by skipping the bread and just adding an extra corn tortilla.
  • Be nice to your blender. A) Don’t forget to take out the cinnamon stick, no matter how long you have to stand there fishing around for it because it seems to have come to life and is actively avoiding you. B) Chop up the dried peppers before you sauté them. Even though you cook the bejesus out of these peppers, putting them into your blender in large pieces is still not a great idea. I’ve got a Vitamix. She’s one tough blender. However, halfway through trying to get through blending this mole, she said “I really don’t appreciate how you’re treating me,” and the motor cut off. If you’ve boiled down the mole too much and it’s viscous, add more water for blending purposes. You can always boil it off again. Cut up the peppers. Add more liquid if you need to. Be nice to your blender.

    Photo credit- Allison Lacko
    Finished mole poblano
  • This isn’t a very spicy recipe, so feel free to add plenty of spice to whatever you decide to cook it with. But it is flavorful AF. Please make sure you give yourself time to lick all pots and blenders when you’ve finished.
  • As to what to eat it with? I’ve had it with chicken, eggs, and fish. It’s really good with dark rye bread or with rice. Best vegetables I’ve used it with so far are roasted cauliflower, roasted carrots, and kale. I filled 3 large mason jars with this, and you only really need a few spoonfuls at a time, so it makes a lot.

Happy cooking! If you end up making something, leave a comment, I’d love to hear how it goes, how you mixed things up, and what you ate it with 🙂

Peer-edited by Laetitia Meyrueix

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