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Oct 5, 2005 11:48 AM

Easy, but good Mexican cuisine cookbook

  • c

I'm looking for an easy-to-use Mexican cookbook that doesn't require too odd ingrediants (although I live in Chicago and have access to Mexican grocers) and can be mastered by a blossoming beginning cook. If the food is some-what healthy, that's a major plus! Please help since there are too many on the market to know the good ones.

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  1. Start with your local guy Bayless. Authentic Mexican or his Mexico One Plate At A Time would be good to start with.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Candy

      I agree - Bayless is a good place to start. He's easy to understand and follow and is true to the spirit of authentic mexican cooking.

      Diana Kennedy is awesome in the Julia Child sort of way. She is extremely strict to the letter on the authenticity of the method of preparation and the ingredients used. I find her books highly valuable, but some may not find her books as good for mexican basics and beginners (though, her, "My Mexican Kitchen" is really a reference book about mexican ingredients and cooking techniques - it is an excellent introduction to mexican cooking. Just don't get it for recipes - those are mostly in her other books).

      1. re: adamclyde

        Another good book is the relatively new __1000 Mexican Recipes__ by Marge Poore. You can search inside this book at Here's the link:


      2. re: Candy

        I'd agree wtih this advice as well, except with one twist. I'd recommend a little, not as well known book of his - Salsas That Cook. I own all Rick's cookbooks and this is one I often come back to. There are 6 or 7 basic salsa recipes in the front of the book, each scaled for different yields, AND he gives you suggestions for substituting chiles to create variations or if the ones called for are not available. Master these salsa recipes and the rest is easy. Rick's recipes often look long, but he goes into a lot of detail and explanation with each step, ultimately making the recipes very easy to follow.

        There are 50 recipes in Salsas That Cook, each based on one of the master salsas. It's an easy book, very approachable, and yield very tasty results.

      3. Or try this website, I think she has a cookbook, she cooks Latin foods and has a PBS show...I have the rick bayless one plate at a time cookbook and although I think it is a great primer on mexican food and culture, I find I need to prepare a day or two in advance to make one of his recipes, and some take a little while and a few steps to prepare...not complicated, just take time, some of them.


        6 Replies
        1. re: claire

          I've seen her show a few times, while I was not impressed by the show overall, it is true that her recipes are indeed EASY, but she's puerto rican from NY and her recipes have that NY Latino bent... HARDLY Mexican in terms in spicing and ingredients.

          I agree with Candy. Rick Bayless is a great teacher and have found his recipes actually pretty simple. Last night i made his easy carnitas recipe and it was DIVINE!!!

          Truth be told though, I don't have any of his books, I'm Mexican, I find his 'fancy' touches a bit much. I much perfer Diana Kennedy in terms of REALLY staying true to what is made in most Mexican Kitchens (Including mine! :)) but as candy said, she's rather to the letter in regards to spicing and technique...


          1. re: Dommy!

            Thanks for the Bayless suggestion. Anyone in Chicago raves about Nueavo Leon and I'm trying to go that route. I was hoping to find that secret book out there that has helped others, but I guess I needed to look just around the corner for inspiration.

            I've heard mixed reviews of Bayless' restaurant Frontera Grill.

            Any ideas beside Bayless?

            1. re: Chi-girl

              Serious, make some Mexican friends... I love to show my friends how to make my favorite dishes! And that is how I learned, from my mother and grandmother...

              Again, I don't have any books except for one from Diana (Because she had the best sounding Tamale Colando recipe). However, in Mexico, a top chef and cookbook author is Patricia Quintana. Again, never owned any of them (But I've been to one of her restaurants in Mexico City), but I think she can kinda bridge the gap between 'haute' Bayless and 'rustic' Kennedy.


              1. re: Dommy!

                Don't think I'd want to characterize the differences between Bayless and Kennedy in those terms. I find DK to be much more of a hardnosed purist, even humorless about the food, whereas Bayless loves it all so long as it tastes good...but he's always careful to let you know which recipe is traditional and which a modern variation/adaptation. I got both "Mexican Kitchen" and "One Plate At a Time" in one book order, and was so delighted with the writing and inspired about the food we didn't eat anything but Mexican for a few weeks, at least at dinner. I admire Kennedy, but she does not light my fire.

              2. re: Chi-girl

                Go to Topolobampo next door to Fronterra Grill. It is much more upsacle and the food is absolutely delicious. His books are great to get you going in the right direction. I have them all and all of Diana Kennedy's books too, but for a beginner use the Bayless books.

            2. re: claire

              I've seen her show once on PBS and I tried her empanada dough to a massive disaster as it never came together and just crumbled (whereas other doughs with masa, I've had no problems). Will try her sofrito though as it looked amazing. Thanks!

            3. Bayless rocks all the way around.

              However, for the beginner I would recommend La Comida del Barrio by Aaron Sanchez. He makes this cusine very approachable.

              1. I think one of the easiest and most comprehensive Mexican cookbooks I have is one my mom gave me 48 years ago when I got married. I don't even know if it is in print still but it is worth a search. It's called " Elena's Famous Mexican and Spanish Recipes" by Elena Zelayeta. If you could see my dog eared stained copy, you would know how I depended on it so much in those early years. Another that I think is good for a novice is "Cocina De La Familia" by Marilyn Tausend and Miguel Ravago. I think the recipes are close to those you find in a home kitchen.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Neta

                  Oh, yes--"Elena's"! How great to read your post. My own copy came from an aunt who's now in her 80's and who, in her day, concocted some great Mexican meals from it. It's a tattered, stained, spiral-bound paperback from 1950--the 30th (!) printing of a book that was originally self-published in 1944 but was eventually picked up by a mainstream publisher and seems to have remained in print into the early 1970's. The title page states that it was "Edited by A Group of San Francisco Home Economists" and sold for $1.50 ("$1.60 by Mail"), and the introduction explains that Elena Zelayeta was a Mexican immigrant who had once owned a restaurant in San Francisco but had lost her sight some 10 years before the book was written. The recipes reflect the kind of old-fashioned Mexican-American cuisine that doesn't stint on the fats or starches, though they do include some "modern" shortcuts like canned tomatoes or bottled red chile sauce "bought at Mexican store." And while they're definitely traditional, they're varied and interesting. Elena also published (or self-published) several other books, but all have been out of print for years. I wouldn't put a lot of time or money into searching for her books, since so many other good ones are more readily available, but if they turn up at used bookstores or on line, they're definitely worth a few bucks.

                2. As an alternative to Bayless, I recommend "Savoring Mexico" by Marilyn Tausend. Given that's it's published by Williams Sonoma, it's chock full of gorgeous food porn photos. But Tausend knows her stuff and the recipes are solid. Truth be told, I usually start with my Bayless book when I need a recipe or tips, but Tausend's is a great backup.