Recipes from the Heart: Cooking with Zarela - PMD Alliance

“I asked my mother once, ‘Why did you name me Zarela? Why couldn’t you give me a normal name like Gabriela or Maritza?’ And she said, ‘Because it’s going to look great in lights, honey.’”

Zarela Martinez is a world-renowned chef who was born in Sonora, Mexico. While she’s famous for cooking for the likes of Ronald Reagan and Queen Elizabeth II and running a ground-breaking restaurant in New York City for 23 years, she’s famous among these parts for her advocacy work sharing how to live well with Parkinson’s. Diagnosed eighteen years ago, Zarela’s recipes continue to inspire.    

From the start, Zarela knew she wasn’t going to take Parkinson’s sitting down. She takes an active role in her treatment, finds joy and purpose through making delicious food, and stays connected with loved ones. “I love to entertain and have people around me,” she shared, “So cooking is a very important part of how I manage my Parkinson’s.”  

Throughout her four-decade career, Zarela has championed Mexican cuisine and culture for American food-lovers, helping spread authentic Mexican food beyond borders and into the homes and hearts of people across the U.S. This National Culinary Arts Month, Zarella’s committed to helping you spice up your cooking and live well with a taste from her cookbook, Food from my Heart: Cuisines of Mexico Remembered and Reimagined by Zarela Martinez.

Try her Ensalada de Piña Spicy Pineapple Salad:  

-1 large ripe pineapple, peeled and cored

-1 small red onion, or half of a larger onion

-1 or 2 green jalapeños

-1 or 2 red jalapeños

-juice of 1 large lime (about 2 1/2 tablespoons)

-1/4 cup olive oil

-1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

-A handful of cilantro leaves


Cut the peeled and cored pineapple lengthwise into quarters; cut each quarter crosswise into 1/4-inch slices. Cut the onion crosswise into paper-thin slices. De-seed and de-vine the jalapeños and cut into thin slivers. Toss the pineapple, onion, and chiles together in a salad bowl.  

Whisk together the lime juice, olive oil, and salt (starting with 1/2 teaspoon and adding more to taste). Pour the dressing over the pineapple mixture and toss to combine well. Serve at once, garnished with cilantro.  

Serves 4 – 6 people. 

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