Must Read: Simply Mexican

To many of this country's home cooks, Mexican food is a genre reserved for dining out and perhaps the occasional Americanized taco night. But one nutritionist, Lourdes Castro, wants to change that with her new book, Simply Mexican ($16.47). Castro, who is neither a trained chef nor Mexican herself, aims to teach readers how to enjoy the authentic flavors of Mexico using techniques such as roasting, grilling, and stewing. "Feel confident in knowing that these recipes have been developed with one eye on authenticity and the other on practicality," she writes. Find out if her statement proves to be true when you read more.

Pros:

  • Castro understands the frustration behind needing to obtain obscure ingredients. Most recipes call for widely available ingredients, and she provides substitution ideas whenever possible, and notes when variations aren't recommended.
  • The front of the book contains a glossary that's helpful for readers wanting to familiarize themselves with essential Mexican ingredients as well as an equally helpful list of items to have on hand and stock up on at the Mexican grocer.
  • Each recipe contains a small description, as well as a useful sidebar filled with notes on ingredients, kitchen techniques, advance preparation, and serving suggestions.

Cons:

  • Certain areas of the book are more illustrated than others.
  • The dessert section, with its recipes for stereotypical desserts such as flan, rice pudding, and dulce de leche, feels like a bit of an afterthought.

Recipes: The tome includes recipes for popular Mexican staples, like guacamole, fish tacos, and tortas, as well as a number of unique dishes. A sampling:

  • Chile, Cheese, and Chorizo Melt
  • Fresh Corn Soup Topped with Roasted Corn Guacamole
  • Chicken Tamales with Tomatillo-Cilantro Sauce
  • Charred Corn with Lime, Chile, and Crema

Imagery: About one-third of the recipes contain beautifully styled pictures. Those that do, like Achiote Chicken in Banana Leaves, often include detailed, step-by-step photos.

Overall Rating: Recipes in Castro's debut cookbook successfully preserve the authenticity of Mexican food — and are still well within reach of the time-strapped home cook.

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