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Her dishes are not blanketed with cheese, or heavy and fried, or based on complex sauces. Nor are they necessarily highly spicy. Surprising in their simplicity and freshness, they incorporate produce and grains. Most important, they fit perfectly into an everyday family cooking schedule and use just a handful of ingredients, most of which are already in your pantry. Many are homey specialties that Pati learned from her mother and grandmother, some are creative spins on classics, while others are not well known outside of Mexico.
Dishes like Chicken a la Trash (it's delicious ), a one-pot meal that Pati gleaned from a Mexican restaurant cook; Mexican Meatballs with Mint and Chipotle; Sweet and Salty Salmon; and Mexican-Style Pasta can revitalize your daily repertoire. You'll find plenty of vegetarian fare, from Classic Avocado Soup, to Divorced Eggs (with red and green salsa), to Oaxaca-Style Mushroom and Cheese Quesadillas.
Your friends and family will enjoy Tomato and Mozzarella Salad with Pickled Ancho Chile Vinaigrette; Crab Cakes with Jalapeno Aioli; and Chicken Tinga -- (you can use rotisserie chicken), which makes a tasty filling for tortas and tostadas. Pati also shares exciting dishes for the holidays and other special occasions, including Mexican Thanksgiving Turkey with Chorizo, Pecan, Apple, and Corn Bread Stuffing; Spiral-Cut Beef Tenderloin; and Red Pozole ("a Mexican party in a bowl"), which she served on her wedding day. Desserts like Triple Orange Mexican Wedding Cookies, Scribble Cookies (sandwich cookies filled with chocolate), and little Apricot-Lime Glazed Mini Pound Cakes are sophisticated yet simple to make.
Bring home the bacon
Baconistas rejoice—there’s a new cookbook just for you. Bacon Nation by Peter Kaminsky and Marie Rama is a pleasure-packed paean to that irresistible, smoky, sweet, salty, sizzling, sensuous, soul-satisfying ingredient. In 125 recipes, these resourceful chefs, who believe that “everything is better with bacon,” demonstrate that it’s a real gastronomic star and that a little bacon can “turn a dish from blah to beautiful.” Here, dishes you’re probably familiar with—like Osso Buco, Paella, Chicken Tagine, Shrimp Risotto, Mediterranean Seafood Stew, Minestrone, Caponata, Cheese Straws, Stuffed Tomatoes and even Sweet Potato Pancakes—are all enhanced by the addition of bacon. And there are new treasures to be tried: Pork roast is stuffed with bacon and black mission figs; brussels sprouts are tossed with apples and bacon; and a Downside-Up Apple-Bacon-Pecan Muffin makes a great breakfast treat, as does French Toast Bread Pudding with Bacon and Cinnamon. Every recipe is introduced with a charmingly chatty, informative header note, and the instructions are thorough and thoroughly helpful.
LIGHT MY FIRE
Michael Chiarello is a big believer in cooking over live fire—a craft that’s a step up from laid-back grilling and backyard barbeque. He believes that fire not only adds flavor, but also makes any meal more festive, whether a midweek dinner at home or a grand family reunion. To make believers of us all, he’s written Michael Chiarello’s Live Fire: 125 Recipes for Cooking Outdoors, with detailed explanations of how to use different kinds of fuel (wood, charcoal, gas), how to use a variety of indoor (you can cook in your fireplace) and outdoor equipment (grill, plancha, fire pit, hot box and rotisserie), the techniques needed for each, and how to choose what you cook based on where you cook it. On an ordinary Wednesday, make Grilled Mushrooms with Sausages, Onions and Peppers and treat the kids (of any age) to Malted Hot Chocolate with Fire-Toasted Marshmallows. Try Lamb Burgers with Ember-Roasted Onion Purée, or, if you have the time and the crowd to go whole hog, consider a whole lamb or pig on an iron cross.
TOP PICK IN COOKBOOKS
Pati Jinich left a think tank in Washington, D.C., to devote herself to making and celebrating Mexican food, starring in her own PBS cooking series and becoming the official chef of the Mexican Cultural Institute. And I’m so glad she did. Her debut cookbook, Pati’s Mexican Table, invites you in, explains the ingredients (most are widely available) and shows you how to cook like a Mexican mama. Pati offers not the cheese-drenched, gluey stuff we norteamericanos so often mistake for Mexican, but the simple, healthy, comforting, sensational food that’s served in homes. If you start with salsas and pickles, you’ll have the homemade zingers that add that olé element. Move on to the marvels of Mexican soups, salads, sides, vegetarian dishes and a full range of mains, including lime-marinated Creamy Poblano Mahimahi, Shredded Pork in Ancho-Orange Sauce and a spectacular Mexican Thanksgiving Turkey with chorizo-charged stuffing—and don’t forget the desserts like Sweet Plantain Fritters and Guava Cheesecake. ¡Buen provecho!