Mercado a Cocina, in Mexico City

Recipes by Chef Ruth Alegria

Cucumber Lemonade with Chia Seeds (Agua de Pepino con Chia)

Cucumber Drink

Fills one pitcher


2 frozen cucumbers, peeled and cored, no seeds 

Juice of 1 lime, or more to taste

5 cups of water

Sugar to taste

5 teaspoons chia seeds


Add cucumber and water to a blender and puree. Strain into a pitcher. Add lime juice to taste, and sugar. Sprinkle in chia seeds. This recipe can be made with any type of fruit from pineapple, melon, watermelon or strawberry.


Grilled Cactus Salad


Serves 6 as a side dish

In Mexico City, vendors sell cactus paddles already cleaned, meaning the spines have been removed. They sell various sizes, but the smallest are the most tender and flavorful. This dish is very easy to prepare and can be done in a skillet, comal or over a grill.



12 tender young cactus paddles, spines removed, and washed

12 spring onions or large-bulb scallions, washed

1 red or yellow bell pepper, sliced

1 red onion, sliced

Small amount of olive or vegetable oil

Salt and white pepper

Leaving the root end intact, score each cactus paddle with a sharp knife. Heat dry skillet, comal or griddle over high heat. Brush paddles with oil and grill until tender, and paddles have changed from a bright to dull green color. Add bell pepper, onion, and spring onions and cook until charred.

Season cactus and onions with salt and white pepper. Remove to serving platter. Try using a simple vinaigrette using a fine herb vinegar (we used a lovely tarragon vinaigrette).


Molé de Olla (Meat and Vegetable Stew)


Serves 6

Ancho and pasilla chiles give this stew its deep color and rich flavor. It can be made with pork neck bones or boiling beef (brisket/shoulder/short ribs). Use bones for a deeper flavor in the broth.


For the meat:

2 quarts water

3 pounds stewing beef or pork, cut into 1 inch cubes

1 onion, quartered

1 tsp of pimienta gorda (whole black pepper; pimienta gorda is specific to Mexico, but whole black pepper could be substituted)


Chiles for seasoning the Molé


4 ancho chiles, stemmed and seeded (for a milder flavor, or leave them in for more heat)

4 guajillo or pasilla chiles, stemmed and seeded (for a milder flavor, or leave them in for more heat)

1 pound tomatillos, husked

1 “sour tuna” xoconostle cut in quarters (here’s a link to dried xonocostle from an online Mexican specialty shop)

1 medium onion, chopped

½ head of garlic, roughly chopped

Pinch of whole cumin seeds, freshly ground

2 tablespoons vegetable oil


Vegetables, cleaned and trimmed

4 small zucchini, cut into 1 inch chunks

½ pound green beans (preferably French), cut in half

8 oz potatoes peeled and quartered

2 chayotes, peeled and cut into quarters, seeds removed  

2 ears of corn, each cut into quarters

2 carrots, roughly chopped into 1 inch chunks

3 sprigs epazote (Mexican herb also known as stinkweed – foragers you can likely find this in a nearby city park)


Cover the meat, onion, and pimienta gorda with water and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat and simmer covered until the beef is tender, about 1 hour. When the beef is cooked, strain the broth, reserving the broth and the beef.

On the comal or a dry skillet, “roast the chiles.” Place the dried chiles on each side until they puff up from the heat and air, which only takes a few moments. Once they’ve been “roasted,” add them to a large bowl of water.  Roast the xoconostle, tomatillos, garlic, and onion on the comal, until slightly charred. Add to water with chiles. Let soak for 20 minutes.





Place this mixture in a blender and puree until smooth. Heat the oil in a large pot like a Dutch oven, and add the puree into the hot oil and cook over medium low heat, stirring for about 5 to 10 minutes to desired consistency. 


Add the meat and its broth. Cook for about 30-45 minutes, until meat is fork tender.

Add the vegetables when the meat is fork tender and cook for another 30 minutes.

Add the epazote (if available) LAST – about 5 minutes before the mole is ready to serve.  

Serve with hot tortillas, lime wedges, and finely chopped white onion.


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