This Mexican Chef’s Lightened-Up Salmon is All We Want for Dinner Tonight


Mexican-born, Connecticut-based chef Gina Pacheco’s approach to cooking is pretty straight-forward. She uses fresh ingredients, combines them with the techniques and flavors she grew up with in her hometown of Mexico City, and creates elevated dishes any home cook can master. Trained as a classical chef, she hosted her own cooking show, La Cocina de Gina, on Mexico’s biggest TV network, Televisa. The show aired in 30 countries across the globe and earned Pacheco praise from The Los Angeles Times for “reinvent(ing) the Mexican cuisine for a discerning audience.” Lately Pacheco, an avid tennis player and distance bike rider, has been focusing on making healthier versions of her favorite recipes.



img_0294“I love to eat, and I love the social part of food—that’s why I went to culinary school in the first place. After having kids I understood more deeply how food is mainly for nutrition and not only for our pleasure,” says Pacheco, who is a mom of three currently following The Model Trainer Method. “That’s when I started looking for healthier options. Mexican food relies heavily on tomatoes, onions, garlic, peppers and other vegetables as the base for soups and sauces, so it’s easy to just change how you cook them to make them healthier.”


We love her salmon with cilantro pesto recipe because it sounds super-sophisticated but involves only a handful of steps and ingredients you can find in pretty much any grocery store (no hunting the gourmet spice rack for minutes you don’t have to spare). From start to finish it takes just 30 minutes (20 minutes of prep, 10 minutes of cook time). Try to find wild salmon (it has more of those heart-healthy fatty acids) if you can, and feel free to add a grain-based or vegetable side—Pacheco recommends roasted cauliflower—to round out the meal.




Makes 4 Servings


4 fillets of wild salmon
1 tablespoon avocado or coconut oil
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 diced roma tomatoes
¼ cup pecans
¼ cup toasted sesame seeds
2 cloves garlic
1 bunch cilantro
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup water
Black pepper


1. Place the pecans, sesame seeds, garlic, cilantro and vinegar in a food processor. Process to form a thick paste. Add olive oil slowly and season with salt and pepper. Add water and mix again to combine.
2. Season the salmon with salt and pepper.
3. Heat the avocado or coconut oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Arrange the salmon fillets skin side up and cook for 4 minutes until golden brown. Turn them over and cook for another 4 minutes.
4. While the fish is cooking prepare the vinaigrette by combining in a bowl the mustard, balsamic, garlic and mixing add the olive oil. Add the tomatoes and mix to coat with the vinaigrette.
5. To serve, arrange the salmon fillets on a platter, decorate one side with the tomatoes with vinaigrette and the other with cilantro pesto.


Recipe courtesy of Gina Pacheco. Click here to check out her website.


The first weeks of September are always a study in controlled chaos in my house. The kids are back in school, which means there are new forms to fill out, new supplies to buy and sort, and new schedules to configure and  remember. The wall calendar hanging my kitchen looks like it’s been attacked by an army of markers, each colorful notation indicating an engagement, commitment or appointment. By the end of the day I’m so tired, all I want to do is crawl into my bed with some takeout.

Except, I know that when I eat a healthy home cooked dinner I feel better, sleep better and wake up the next morning ready to tackle my day, which is why this turkey chili—which you can cook once on, say, a Sunday, and eat all week—is the perfect solution to busy fall nights. Plus, if you have a football fan in the house, think about subbing this nutritious, lightened-up version of the classic meat and cheese bowl. This version includes a can of green chilies, which gives it a hint of Tex-Mex charm, but feel free to omit them and sub in your favorite chili spices.



Makes 4 Meals


Vegetable oil cooking spray large onion, chopped
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth (or water)
1 can (28 oz) no-sugar-added crushed tomatoes
1 red bell pepper, sliced (plus more for garnish, if desired)
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
1 orange bell pepper, sliced package (8 oz) white mushrooms, sliced thick
1 lb ground turkey breast
1 can (4 oz) green chiles
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped tsp
2 tsp ground oregano
2 tsp ground cumin
1 chopped fresh tomato (optional)
chopped fresh cilantro (optional)


In a large skillet lightly coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat, sauté onion, stirring frequently, until lightly golden, about 5 minutes. add broth and continue cooking until soft, about 3 minutes more. add crushed tomatoes, bell peppers and mushrooms; cook until vegetables are soft, about 5 minutes. add turkey, chiles, garlic, oregano and cumin. continue cooking, breaking turkey into small pieces with a spoon, until turkey is cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes more. divide into 4 meals. Top with tomato, cilantro and peppers before eating, if desired.

Editor’s note: If following The Model Trainer Method, enjoy chili with the indicated servings of starch or fat source.


A delicious, just-spicy-enough bowl with a side of homemade whole-wheat pita chips.
A delicious, just-spicy-enough bowl with a side of homemade whole-wheat pita chips.