The Fives Playa del Carmen: Preparing for a Weekend of Bliss

The Fives Playa del Carmen: Preparing for a Weekend of Bliss
Store News

When I was designing the concept for my Latin American kitchen store, promoting travel in Mexico and beyond was definitely on my list of possible offerings. Heck, I can easily say that all of those years of travel and adventure spent in the manual transmissionToyota Land Cruiser with my husband on Mexican highways definitely led to my opening my shop. After more then 10 years of serving my customers, almost every one that enters my store feels the same way I do: We all love the experience of being in Mexico.

So when my realtor friend Erica asked me if I would be interested in hosting an event at my store for The Azul Fives development, I jumped at the chance. A five star resort in Playa del Carmen, with hotel, condos, pools, beaches and excellent service? Oh, yeah!

The Azul Fives team invited me to visit their development this next week, and I can't wait to go! I have talked to a few professional chef friends, and a travel editor from New York, and all have told me that the food and amenities at Azul Fives are top rate.

You are talking to a girl who has grown up on Texas beaches. Although I love my Padre Island, fried shrimp baskets, and the nostalgia of having spent time on the Texas Gulf Coast every summer of my life, I am ready to experience The Gulf of Mexico on a luxurious level. No driving, no cooking, no housekeeping. Sign me up!

I can't wait to get on the plane and head down to Playa del Carmen this week. I need a little vacation, but I am taking my camera and tripod. My travel editor friend promised an introduction to an amazing chef that works with Azul Fives, and I want to get some good pics. Lucky for me, I will be behind the camera, so sorry kids, no photos of me in my skimpy beach attire.

Guisado de Puerco con Espinacas y Cebolla Recipe

Guisado de Puerco con Espinacas y Cebolla Recipe

Traditional doesn’t mean that you have to cook a recipe the same way every time. Subtle twists and innovations keep family recipes alive, and more importantly, on the table.


It’s What’s for Dinner (& Lunch, & Breakfast)

Take stew for instance. Known as carne guisado throughout the Spanish speaking world, stew could very well be that dish that was served at least once a day in many households. Carne guisado usually features some kind of red meat (of course) onions, garlic, and perhaps a red tomato sauce. Browning and stewing times takes about 1 hour, which is the perfect amount of time to get a hearty, home cooked meal in front of the family.

Even Meat Eaters Need Veggies

I am a dedicated carnivore, but straight-up meat only stews have become rather blah to me. Is that all you got? Add a veggie or two, and you have a whole new meal. I like the veggie add-ins as they stretch your ingredients a bit further, adding bulk and fiber to what could be a heavy dish.  Also, I love the texture and herbaceous pizzazz veggies bring to carne guisado. Why let the sauce have all the fun?

My son especially loves the tangy flavor of tomatillos, which is a bit like a wild, green tomato that is grown throughout Latin America. Usually you can find fresh tomatillos in the produce aisle, or you can check near the jalapeños in the Latin food aisle for canned tomatillos.


Traditional can be New

Another tradition is serving carne guisado with rice, to sop up all of the sauce. Potatoes are native to Latin America (Peru) so you might want to consider serving your veggie-tweaked carne guisado with the oldest, most traditional starch of our continent.  I just baked some potatoes in a salt crust for a gorgeous bed for my carne guisada. I really like the Yukon gold variety of potatoes for extra rich flavor.

Guisado de Puerco con Espinacas y Cebolla Recipe
(Pork Stew with Spinach and Onions Recipe)


  • 4 Yukon gold potatoes (about 2 lbs)
  • Vegetable Oil for coating potatoes
  • Kosher Salt


  • 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 lb onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 lbs pork stew meat, 1” cubes
  • 28 oz can tomatillos (4 cups puree if using fresh)
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups fresh spinach


Heat your oven to 450°.  Using your hands, coat each potato with about ½ tsp of vegetable oil. Sprinkle lightly with kosher salt. Place in a baking pan, and bake for 1 hour, until they are tender when pieced to the center.

Meanwhile, heat the 2 tbsp. of vegetable oil in a 10: skillet. Add the sliced onions, and brown over medium heat until very caramelized, about 3 minutes. Add the pork cubes, and brown for about 5 minutes.

Puree the can of tomatillos (with the liquid) with the garlic using an immersion blender or regular blender. Add the puree to the pan, and lower to a medium simmer. Season with salt and pepper, and cover. Simmer the stew for 45-60 minutes.

Remove the lid, and add the fresh spinach. Cover and simmer again for 2 minutes until the spinach wilts. Remove from heat, and place in serving bowl. Serve with baked potatoes.

Serves 4

Fava Beans with Caramelized Onions and Chorizo Recipe

Fava Beans with Caramelized Onions and Chorizo Recipe

Oh Beans, we take you for granted, but you are always there for us…

There are loads of recipes on the internet shouting that they are quick and easy. Quick and easy! I don’t have any friends that are quick and easy, so why would I want my weekend meals to be quick and easy? I want something meaningful and delicious.


It’s the Thought That Counts

In the vernacular of me, “quick and easy” translates as mindless. For people that don’t cook (yes, I have heard from some of you) but like to read recipes, you probably wonder how someone like me thinks…a person that lives for cooking. I don’t often think of cooking in terms of ingredients, lists, measured time, or strict technique. When I cook, my thought process is rather yogic, meditative, and yes, I will say (cover your eyes kids) tantric. Cooking allows me to be more involved with my food for a longer stretch of time than what a meal provides.

The aromas, the textures, the sounds, colors, and flavors…each is a sensual trigger that leads me down a path of thought that helps me put my world in order. The overwhelming problems of my day fall away as I am cracking open a fava bean pod.

What else matters but the daily pleasure of bringing people together? Accounts payable can go to hell.


A Golden Moment

When you find fresh fava beans at farmers market, buy a couple of pounds and spend the afternoon on your porch shelling them for dinner. Pour yourself a glass of wine, and set up that old radio to play a static laced tune.  It’s definitely a nostalgic scene, but shelling fava beans will give you time to talk to whomever you have drafted into helping you.

A simple task like shelling beans can give you the time you need for a conversation, a good dish and a memorable moment.


Fresh Fava Beans with Caramelized Onions and Chorizo

  • 2 lbs. fresh fava beans, shelled
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 onion, sliced thinly
  • 2 oz. dried Spanish chorizo, sliced
  • 1 tbsp. chopped parsley
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Fill a 2 qt. saucepan with water, and bring to a boil. Add the shelled fava beans, and blanch for 3 minutes. Drain the beans into a colander, and rinse with cold water, to stop the cooking process. If your fava beans have a white outer skin, simply slip the skin off and discard. Place the fava beans in a mixing bowl.

Heat the olive oil in a 9” pan. Add the onion slices, and sauté for about 5 minutes over medium high heat, until the onion begins to brown. Add the chorizo, and sauté for another 2 minutes, until the chorizo has browned slightly. Add the parsley and garlic, and sauté for another 30 seconds. Remove from the heat.

Pour the sautéed mixture over the fava beans, and toss to mix well. Season with salt and cracked black pepper.

Serves 4