How about a Avocado-Mango Salad with Fresh (or Blue) Cheese and Toasted Pumpkin Seeds, does that sound any good?!? I’ve been aware of Rick Bayless for awhile as he often makes appearances on Food Network or gets mentioned in Food & Wine. But somehow I didn’t have any of his books on my shelf. I recently picked up his classic, Authentic Mexican and his latest, Mexican Everyday, and I’m reading them simultaneously. Talented, I know. Well, ok, not simultaneously, but Authentic is upstairs in the "drifting off to sleep" pile, and Everyday is downstairs in the "I finally have 5 minutes to sit down" pile.
The thing that makes Bayless great is that he is trained as a cultural anthropologist, so his focus is on accurately reporting what cooks throughout Mexico actually make, instead of some theoretical ideal. So for example when he discusses the spice mixtures used in the Yucatan, he’ll tell you right up front that most cooks buy them prepackaged, but then give you the recipe in case you do want to make them from scratch.
I find both of the books to be well worth owning. Authentic is going to be my go-to cookbook when I want to know how to really make a tamale or corn tortillas from scratch. Everyday is not so much one I will cook a recipe from start-to-finish, but it is full of fantastic ideas that will inform my cooking. For example yesterday I made a vinaigrette with a roasted dry ancho chili, pan roasted garlic, lime juice and olive oil that was inspired by one of Bayless’ recipes. Everything in it is geared towards meals you can realistically make on a weeknight.
Of course Mexican cuisine does involve lots of meat and fish, but both of these books have many meatless dishes, and suggestions for how to make others vegetarian. Highly recommended, and when I pick up Diana Kennedy’s The Essential Cuisines of Mexico I’ll let you know how they compare.