Good News, Updates and Red Beans & Rice



So much has happened in the past few months and today I am finally getting the chance to sit down and blog about it. I don’t even know where to start. First and foremost, I am so grateful to God, my family and all of my mentors who have supported me and pushed me to excel. I followed my passion and my passion followed me. When I look back, I think my love for food began at my parents house. Growing up, our house was the place to stay and eat for any artist, intellectual, political activist or anyone eccentric. Our house was always full of people. I remember Uncle Guido from Grenada who could cure anything with nutmeg and some herbs, Aunt Fannie who was always in and out of Cuba and smelled of gardenias, Uncle Mobe from Germany who loved to come into town and build things in our house and so many more who played chess, cooked their native food and slept on our couch. This is where my passion was born with the many flavors of my family and extended family.

Sorry, everything is coming full scale like a movie and I am having flashbacks to where it all began. Sometimes you don’t realize where you have been until that moment happens when everything falls into place and you step back and say damn…..now it all makes sense. So to get to the good news. Suzanne Pferfele, author and filmmaker of Vietnamese Cuisine in New Orleans found me on twitter and asked me to co-produce a PBS documentary for WYES New Orleans called Latin American Cuisine in New Orleans along with videographer and co-producer Lenny Delbert. I was thrilled at the opportunity and honored by the invitation. For the past few months we have filmed, interviewed, ate until we passed out, traveled all around the city and sat down to film some of the most inspiring stories that we believe will capture the history and passion of Latin American Cuisine in New Orleans. Our documentary is scheduled to air in November 2014. We are more than thrilled!!!

Next exciting news, I have been invited to participate in the Latin Food Festival in San Diego, California this September. 7,000 will be in attendance and I am to prepare food for 2,000 people. Yikes!!! Thank God my sisters are flying in to help me. Chef Adolfo Garcia, my mentor thinks I’m nuts but hey it’s a good networking opportunity. Then in November, I am scheduled to participate at the Louisiana Book Festival in Baton Rouge and a book signing at the local Barnes & Noble. There will be at least 10,000 people in attendance. I am going to be a busy busy bee.

My final exciting news……drumroll…….I am saving that one for my next post….but ohhhh my babbbyyyy in my New Orleans accent. It’s huge! All I have to say is Ray Charles blessed me from his grave and I will make you and my mama proud!

Red Beans & Ricely Yours


(I included some images of behind the scenes photos of our PBS Documentary and some recipes that Kid Chef Eliana came up with for the film)

Zella’s Red Beans & Rice Recipe

– 1lb of New Orleans Camellia Dry Red Kidney Beans

– 3 chopped links of andouille sausage

– 2 chopped links of smoked sausage

– 1 finely chopped Spanish large yellow onion

– 2 celery stalks chopped finely

– 1 green bell pepper finely chopped

– 1 clove of garlic

– 3 cups of water

– 1 half stick of salted butter

– 1 tbs. of Paul Prudhomme Seasoning Salt and Zatarain’s Creole Seasoning

– 1 tbs. of Zatarain’s dried parsley flakes

– 2 bay leaves

– 3 cups of cooked long grain rice


Finely chop your onion, bell pepper and celery stalks. Set aside. Chop your sausages into bite size pieces. In a saute pan on medium low heat, saute your chopped onion, bell pepper and celery in butter. Season with Creole seasoning. Saute until the onions are translucent. Add your sausages and saute until the sausages are caramelized. Reduce your heat if need be. Cook for about 5 minutes and turn off the heat.

In a large stock pot. Add your dry red kidney beans and cover with water. Add your bay leaves and bring the beans to a boil at medium heat. Add your sausage and onion mixture. Cover your beans and let them boil for at least 40 minutes. Checking periodically and stirring to make sure the beans don’t stick to the pan. Re-season the beans as need be. Chop 1 clove of garlic and add to the pot. When the red beans are completely soft take a large wooden spoon and begin to press the red beans in the pot. This will give the red beans it’s thick and creamy consistency. I would press the wooden spoon on the beans maybe six times. Continue to boil for another hour on medium-low heat. I cook my red beans for at least 2 1/2 hours at a low-medium heat. When I don’t eat all of my red beans, I freeze them for another day. I could eat red beans and rice everyday. The velvety, buttery, smoked flavor makes me so happy šŸ™‚ Serve your red beans with cooked long grain white rice or your favorite rice.

Le Bon Temps Rouler!








Valentine’s Day


Make something special for your loved one or give them the gift that keeps on giving! New Orleans con Sabor Latino: The History and Passion of Latino Cooking



Cuban Oxtails with Okra and Rice


Give me a plate of oxtails and my face will light up like new year fireworks! It’s something about the tender flavored meat that gets me every time.

This is one of those dishes where you need a pressure cooker or a lazy Sunday to take time out to put some amor in your food. Here is my recipe for Cuban oxtails with okra and rice.

4lbs of disjointed oxtails (Hint: Purchase at your local butcher or Latin/Caribbean grocery store)
1/2 cup of dry red wine
1/4 cup of olive oil
2 tbs. of dried oregano
1 tsp. of sea salt
1 tsp. of ground cumin
1 tsp. of fresh black ground pepper
1 packet of Goya sazon with achiote
3 8oz. cans of Spanish Tomato Sauce (Goya)
1 minced large yellow onion
8 minced garlic cloves
1 minced roasted red bell pepper
2 bay leaves
2 cups of beef broth
1 lb. of fresh okra cut into bite sizes
Cooked white rice


You will need to marinate your oxtails overnight with wine and olive oil. Make sure you season your oxtails with oregano and sea salt. In a Dutch oven or pressure cooker brown your oxtails. Remove and set aside. SautƩ onions, garlic and red bell peppers. Season with cumin, bay leaves, sazon packet and fresh black ground pepper. Add tomato sauce and beef broth. Bring to a boil on medium low heat and add oxtails.

If you have a pressure cooker add okra and cook for 45 minutes. If you have a Dutch oven pot you will cook the oxtails until fork tender for 2 1/2 to 3 hours and then add okra for another 30 minutes. Make sure you stir the meat occasionally so it won’t stick to the bottom of the pot. Serve with cooked white rice.



IsleƱos Paella


I love paella! Every year the IsleƱos of Louisiana celebrate their culture and food in St. Bernard Parish. I try to attend every year to eat fresh charbroiled oysters, empanadas, IsleƱos plantains with wrapped bacon and of course paella. My friends, Mike and Donna Martin who are in my cookbook invite me every year. They have the most amazing story of triumph, love and family. Their recipes, stories, history of the IsleƱos and how they came to Louisiana are shared in my cookbook New Orleans con Sabor Latino: The History and Passion of Latino Cooking.

Update: I added two sneak peak pictures of Mike and Donna Martin’s IsleƱos gulf fish served with roasted potatoes and the most amazing arroz con leche I have tried!




Turkey Sausage with Savoury Basil Cilantro Thyme Tomato Salsa over Couscous


My beloved grandmother used to always tell me to treat yourself as a guest. She would make sure that I sat at the table with a napkin in my lap, posture straight and a proper table setting. I used to think she was old fashioned but now I am so grateful that she taught me proper etiquette so when I eat at fine dining establishments I know what to do. I can still hear her say,”Elbows off the table!”

Tonight I’m just eating at home and a little tired from a long week but I still want to end my day by treating myself like a guest!


5 turkey sausage links
2 cans of Spanish style tomato sauce
4 sprigs of thyme
1/3 cup of chopped fresh cilantro
1/3 cup of chopped fresh basil
1 minced clove of garlic
2 tbs. of coconut oil
1 tbs. of agave nectar
1 tsp. of fresh ground black pepper
2 boxes of herbed couscous


Grill turkey sausage. (George Foreman šŸ™‚ ) Cut sausages into small pieces. Set aside. SautĆ© garlic and thyme in coconut oil in a medium size stockpot at medium low heat. Add tomato sauce and a half can of water. Simmer on low heat for 10 minutes. Add fresh herbs and sausages. Simmer on low medium heat for 30 minutes. Serve with herbed couscous. (Follow box instructions for herbed couscous) Buen Provecho!


Do you know who Chef Adolfo Garcia is?


If you don’t know who Chef Adolfo Garcia is you need to know. He was voted Top Latino Chef by a host of organizations, magazines and newspapers. A James Beard Winner and the baddest restaurateur I know!

When I was working on my book, I had to have him in my book. I rode my bike to his restaurant A Mano in the New Orleans Warehouse District and told him about my project. He said, “Sure baby. Whatever you need,” with his Latino New Orleanian accent. He became my godfather and has delivered on everything I needed to make this cookbook a reality.

I interviewed him and his firecracker Dominican wife Margarita. They shared with me their story, their laughter, their food and practically adopted me lol. In my book New Orleans con Sabor Latino: The History and Passion of Latino Cooking, Margarita said, “We were still living in New York when I was pregnant and Adolfo was finishing up his schooling at the Culinary Institute of America. I went into labor in a middle of a snowstorm. Adolfo called for an ambulance and he said, “Please come get my wife. She’s in labor and I’m from New Orleans. I don’t know how to drive in the snow!”

Today, Chef Adolfo Garcia owns 4 restaurants in New Orleans, A Mano, Gusto, High Hat Cafe and La Boca. Yet he is so humble about his career. Soooo many approached him to be in their book or to ghost write a cookbook for him but he said yes to me and I’m grateful. Read the foreword in my book. He wrote it and it’s pure Latino Who Dat Nation! Thank you Chef! Mil Gracias! http://nbclatino.com/2013/10/10/chef-spotlight-adolfo-garcia-on-advancing-latin-cuisine-in-new-orleans/


Portobello Mushroom Sandwich with Chipotle Mayo and Avocado Apple Mint Culantro Salad


I love a good sandwich and portobello mushrooms are as meaty and flavorful as the real thing. Today I used a lot of fresh herbs in my avocado apple salad and my portobello sandwich. Fresh herbs brings any dish to life and just like my favorite movie Auntie Mame said,”Life is a banquet and too many poor sucka’s are starving to death!”


2 cups of fresh portobello mushrooms
1/3 cup of sliced red onion
1/2 chipotle in can
1/2 cup of mayo
1tsp. of honey
2 slices of aged cheddar
4 fresh basil leaves
2 sliced Roma tomatoes
2 slices of toasted whole grain bread
1 gala apple sliced into cubes
1 ripe avocado sliced into cubes
1 sprig of fresh mint
1 culantro leaf (or 1/3 cup of cilantro)
Olive oil
1tsp. of dried rosemary
2 tsp. of sea salt
1tbs. of good Balsamic vinegar
1tsp. of fresh ground black pepper


In a food processor pulsate the mayonnaise, chipotle and honey. Set aside in the refrigerator.

SautƩ mushrooms with a bit of olive oil and red onions on medium low heat. When mushrooms start to cook and the onions begin to become translucent add balsamic vinegar. Season with dried rosemary, sea salt and fresh black ground pepper. Cover and cook for ten minutes on low heat and set aside.

Cut apples and avocado into cubes. Mince culantro and mint. In a bowl, mix avocados, apples, mint and culantro lightly and add olive oil, sea salt and fresh black ground pepper. Set aside.

Slice Roma tomatoes and cheddar cheese. Toast whole grain slices of bread and spread with chipotle mayo. Add cheddar slices, cooked mushrooms, tomatoes and fresh basil leaves. Serve with avocado apple salad. Candela!