Ever since I read Julie and Julia back in 2003 I've wanted to cook through a cookbook. Think of the feeling of accomplishment! A short 7 years later I'm getting started. Thank you Mighty List. I had a few criteria in mind while picking my book:
- Everything must be delicious.
- Must be full of relatively easy recipes as I don't have time to be butterflying lamb chops etc. I get off work at 5:30, my kid goes to bed at 7. It's a small window for cooking.
- Can't be too multi-cultural. This is because I can't be buying star anise one day and clotted cream the next, it just would get too expensive and I don't have a big kitchen to be storing millions of spices.
After careful consideration(or 5 sec worth) I chose Rick Bayless' Everyday Mexican. This book is perfect because:
- As a good California girl I will never, ever in a zillion years tire of Mexican food.
- Sticking to one type of food means not too many esoteric ingredients, plus they are easy to find here in Sac.
- The few dishes I've made previously from the book were crazy delicious.
- There is not a large dessert section in the book (Lord knows my waistline does not need a dessert-based project)
- Rick has a MA degree in Spanish linguistics and is the Obama's favorite chef. This gives me the opportunity to talk about how I am so similar to both Rick (MA in Spanish) and the Obamas (I eat Mexican food?)
I started the "project" a few weeks ago and it's been wonderful. We haven't eaten this well in a long time and I feel for the first time that I'm really starting to get a handle on how to cook Mexican food well, balance flavors etc. It's like taking a Cooking 101 class. Here are the first ten recipes that I've made:
1) This was the only recipe I've really messed up to the point where it was noticeable. I was too lazy to buy watercress or romaine so I used arugula that we had on hand. Lesson learned: The arugula was way too much. Justy noted that this salad would've held up really well as a meal with some steak on top.
2) This is delicious. I know to some people veggie tacos seems weird but trust they are delicious and an awesome way to use up all the zucchini people throw at you during the summer. This dish was kind of spicy because the sauce is very chipotle based. I liked it, Arnold looked a little overwhelmed. Note to everyone who keeps buying us chile pepper emblazoned stuff: Colombians don't really eat chiles.
3) I feel like green beams and I are getting dangerously close. I went through the salad section first and put off making this one and then I had that green bean incident at Coco 5000 and now I'm all up in the green bean recipes. This was good, plus you can plate it elegantly if you want to take it to someone's house.
4) This salad is so good, it's all warm and sweet and smoky. I wanted to lick the bowl after I was done. (Okay, I totally did lick the bowl) Arnold has better manners (he used bread to sop up the leftovers) but good grief is this guajillo dressing good. Guajillo chiles are dried and bought in big packs (I'm already halfway through mine) and they make everything taste warm without being spicy. I cheated again and used arugula, this time it worked out.
5) Have I mentioned that all of these recipes require making salad dressing? And it's so easy! I feel like the salad dressing master of the universe now. I am queen of the blender! The empress of the ensaladas! The dutchess of... well you get the idea. This salad used chayote which I had never eaten before let alone cooked with. It's kind of sweet and crunchy. Per Rick's suggestion I toasted some old bread and made it a sort of panzanella. It was gloriously delicious.
6) This is the recipe that taught me "Rick means it when he means slice the onions thinly". I didn't and this salad was good but due to my onion faux paus it was like a lot of "red onion in yo face", the butter lettuce was delicious though and has been added to the lettuce rotation in our house.
7) I made these for dinner before we went to see Shakira. They were a) delicious b) easy c) cheap. Step 1: Throw delicious stuff in slow-cooker Step 2: Eat awesome tacos for the next week. Can't say enough about pork tinga.
8) Rick patiently explained that there are many different types of moles and that this was an "every day" Oaxacan mole that could be made in 20 minutes. I did not really believe him, or rather I did not believe that a mole made in 20 minutes would taste good.
There is a reason that Rick is a famous chef and I am a famous... well, I'm not really famous.
This mole was really delicious and very quick-cooking. In fact I made it on croissaint day as a "break" so that we could make it to the croissaint finish line.
9) Oh holy crap these are good. And so easy. In fact, I have a huge bag of carne enchipotlada in my freezer so that I can whip this insanity up in 5 minutes any day I need to. I think this is home-cooking at it's best. Simple ingredients that come together to create something divine. Arnold was enthralled and he will never ever in a million years leave me. Whew!
10) The plating/photography I did absolutely does not give this salad justice. It is EVERYTHING. Creamy and roasted and fresh and warm (thank you guajillo chiles). Arnold and I were like "Let's eat this everyday forevermore". Then Elian said "Amen".
How about you guys? Am I the only one that's into project based cooking?