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Cookbook of the Month May 2013: The Voting Thread

Interesting month, with several books getting strong support. But despite a late surge from the Two Greedy Italians, and several votes (again) for Thai Food, it looks like we're heading down to Latin America in May!

The two frontrunners were:

GRAN COCINA LATINA by Maricel Presilla



Quite a few people mentioned Rick Bayless month or other books by him but Mexican Everyday was by far the most popular choice - and given that Mexico: One Plate at a Time has already been COTM, I think we should just have an adjunct thread for his other books, should Mexican Everyday win.

We'll vote in the same way as last month as it seemed to work well. Below the OP there will be separate posts created by me for the two books in contention. To register your vote, simply click on "Recommend" in the appropriate post. You'll know you've voted because the box next to "Recommend" will go red.

Voting will close at 0800 GMT on Saturday 20th April, giving y'all a whole ten days to get hold of the book, should you choose to do so.

Let the battle commence!

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      1. re: oakjoan

        Joan - you need to read the OP! Click on "Recommend" under my post for Gran Cocina Latina and your vote will register.

        1. re: oakjoan

          oakjoan, last month COTM started a new voting procedure. Instead of voting with your own comment, click on "recommend" for the post for your preferred book (the post you replied to).

        1. Woohoo! I have both of these books. I've made a few recipe from Mexican Everyday with good results. And definitely need a kickstart for GCL--honestly, I'm not even sure I've cracked the cover.


          1. I have both books but haven't cooked from Gran Cocina

            1. Thanks, Greedygirl! "The battle", hah.

              So far I am loving Gran Cocina Latina, though it's so huge that it would be great to cook through it with other food enthusiasts and discover more gems within.

              I like the idea of an adjunct Bayless thread should Mexican Everyday win...

              This should be a fun month!

              1 Reply
              1. re: Allegra_K

                Allegra, my impression of GCL is that it has a lot of stewy, wintery type dishes. Can you comment on whether there are springy dishes mixed in as well? I already voted for Mexican Everyday, but I could always change my vote, hah!

              2. Just setting up my place to watch the Big Race. I do have the Bayless book and have cooked some recipes from it over the years. It would be nice to concentrate on it now with Chowhound buddies...

                1. I have both of these and will be happy to cook from whichever wins. Both are packed with exactly the kind of food I like to make. It's hard to choose one!

                  1. I too have both books and this is a tough choice.

                    Do I vote for the familiar w Mexican Everyday - a book I've cooked many sucessful and delicious meals from (quite a few I've reviewed in EYB if anyone is interested) or....

                    Do I vote for a book that is unfamiliar but one with great appeal as It covers the cuisines of places I've visited and enjoyed many a delicious meal as well as recipes from places I'm keen to learn more about...

                    I plan to pull GCL off my shelf to get a better sense of it before making a decision. Big thanks to Allegra for your recipe reviews in EYB, I did enjoy reading through those on my commute this morning.

                    I'll be back!

                    1. I thought this would be easy for me because I have the Bayless book. It's not though, because, um, I don't have the Bayless book. I have two different Bayless books.

                      So I"m going to camp out and watch the arguments made for each of the books before I vote. Looking forward to being able to participate in May!

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: debbiel

                        Well, you'd have a head start on a Bayless adjunct thread, at least!

                      2. Voting for Bayless Mexican Everyday because

                        - I have the book, but have not cooked as much from it as from his Authentic Mexican.

                        - Physically, the book is everything the Thomas Keller books are not in terms of use for cooking: modest in size, easy to handle; detailed table of contents of the recipes with page numbers; page numbers where nature intended them to be, at the outside corners, and present on the vast majority of pages. A few too many recipes that force you to turn a page, but it's clear some effort was made to minimize this. Another of the books that makes clear why Maria Guarnaschelli is esteemed as an editor.

                        - In cooking terms, it's also a big break from April's COTM in that the prep is purposely simplified (in comparison with Authentic Mexican, never mind compared with TK). Not very many sub-recipes. A minimum of pans. That kind of thing. Bayless even lays out in detail how he did the simplifying (p.26-28).

                        - I've used and appreciated Mexican Everyday's guide to ingredients for Mexican cooking (with photos of almost every item).

                        - I'm not up for another Big Book of anything, though to all appearances La Gran Cocina Latina is an interesting book and an achievement. It won in the 'general cookbook' category {?} at the recent IACP awards, and Rick Bayless said it was his most valued new cookbook of 2012.

                        - Cocina Latina is still quite new, so low-cost acquisition, even via library, is harder. Used copies of ME are $10-15.

                        10 Replies
                        1. re: ellabee

                          Just as a point of interest, you know Maria is the editor of Gran Cocina as well.

                          1. re: JoanN

                            No, I didn't know that! Another reason to go seek it out in person.

                          2. re: ellabee

                            Thanks for the summary Ellabee. I have Rick's "Fiesta at Rick's" and I'm not a big fan. That said I have heard from others that it isn't representative of his other books. I voted for Gran Cocina, but I think I would be in for Mexican Everyday as well.

                            1. re: delys77

                              I have all RBs cookbooks except the most recent one and I'd rate Fiesta at Rick's as dead last in preference. It is not even in the same league as his earlier books and I'm not sure the editing was too hot.

                              1. re: DiningDiva

                                Well that's encouraging in terms Mexican everyday.

                                1. re: delys77

                                  Mexican Everyday is quite good & the recipes do work very well

                                2. re: DiningDiva

                                  I wasn't too keen on Mexican Everyday and was hoping that Authentic Mexican would be one of the selections.....until I picked up ME from the library. I must have mistaken it for the Fiesta at Rick's that you've mentioned, as I wrongly recalled it as a dud. Now I am much more excited to cook from this book!

                                  1. re: Allegra_K

                                    As I mentioned above, I have all the RB cookbooks except the latest one on Margaritas. My 3 favorites are Mexican Kitchen, Salsas That Cook and Mexican Everyday. They're all well written and he's made the recipes very approachable and doable.

                                    Since it looks like Mexican Everyday is going to win, I think those that chose to participate in COTM will be very pleasantly surprised at how nice this cookbook really is, and I think it's hard to realize (understand?) the value of this book until you start cooking from it. He's managed to simplify some very time intensive dishes without dumbing them down and losing the traditional flavor profiles.

                                    1. re: DiningDiva

                                      This is exactly what I'm looking for. I love Mexican flavors but traditional recipes are mostly too time consuming for me now. There are a few Mexican places near me but not of top quality, so I'd love to be able to find a reasonable way to cook it myself. Really looking forward to May!!!

                              2. re: ellabee

                                I bought Gran Cocina from the Good Cook for $12 on a special sale in February. I think they may have a similar sale on now.

                                It's huge and looks lovely sitting on the coffee table, but I haven't even opened it yet.

                                I am going to vote for Bayless because I also have that one and his recipes are accessible and I would like to cook more from it.

                              3. Interesting books made it to the finish line.

                                1. I guess I have no vote. I don't own either of the books in contention and don't plan to buy either of them.

                                  I do have a Bayless cookbook (Authentic Mexican) that I will happily use and post in an adjunct thread.

                                  If it doesn't win, that's cool too. I have several new cookbooks to check out.

                                  1. Interesting to note that although I voted, I have not been getting notified when comments are posted on this thread. It appears you have to post an actual comment in addition to voting. Good to know for going forward.

                                    I am hoping Rick Bayless wins simply because I would love an excuse to buy another one of his books.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: dkennedy

                                      Uh-oh. I seem to be on a buying trend again. I was doing so well for a while there. Made it to April with only having bought one cookbook - and that one was for COTM. Now, I've bought two more, Rick Bayless' Mexican Everyday and Stella's Sephardic Table. I better step away from the computer!

                                    2. I had the opportunity to take a closer look at GRAN COCINA LATINA last night and thought I’d share my impressions here:

                                      The positive:

                                      • Tons of information in this book. It was immediately apparent that this book was a labour of love with lots of information about the region, the individual dishes, certain ingredients and the culture.
                                      • Information about working ahead is provided throughout the book for cooks who might want to make certain dishes in stages.
                                      • The author has stories to tell and I was engaged by her passion and writing style.
                                      • Headnotes and recipe notes are extensive. Many recipes are accompanied by recommendations on “What to Drink”
                                      • Extensive collection of recipes. Over 500 according to EYB
                                      • Recipes are well laid out. Ingredients listed in a sensible fashion (eg. “For the Meat, For the Sauce”) Directions are also well organized and laid out in stages of preparation (eg. Marinating the fish, Making the cooking sauce, Making the soup, Serving)
                                      • I liked that quantities and weights were provided in most instances (eg. 2 fat carrots – approx 1 lb)

                                      Room for Improvement:

                                      • I wish there was an Index of recipes by Country of origin. Granted some dishes have their country of origin in their title however, not all do. I am most likely to want to use this book to prepare a meal from a particular country and the author has not made it easy (possible even?) to do this effectively or efficiently.
                                      • Ingredient information is interspersed throughout the book vs dedicating a chapter to ingredients. I quickly noticed that unusual (to me) peppers were called for in a number of recipes. It took me a while to find the section where the author describes the various peppers (in the “Layers of Latin Flavor” section FWIW).
                                      • I wish the author had provided information about recommended substitutions for those of us who might not have access to things like Siete Caldos peppers from the western highlands of Guatamala and Alta Veapaz … I’m just sayin’
                                      • I wish there were more pictures. When cuisines and ingredients are unfamiliar to me I find it helpful to see a photo so I know what I’m aiming for. The few photos that appear in the book are in photo “sections” vs appearing alongside a recipe


                                      While I appreciate this book for the obvious amount of work and passion that went into its development, I was frustrated that something so basic as indexing the recipe’s country of origin was over-looked. While I appreciate all the information in the book, I found it a bit overwhelming. Unfortunately we don’t all have time to curl up with our cookbooks and plan our meals at leisure. Information about total prep time or to identify quick or easy meals would have been appreciated. A glossary of ingredients and sources and even some photos of those ingredients would also have made life easier.

                                      So, for me, this is a book I’d pull off the shelf if I found a new or interesting looking Latin ingredient at my market and wanted to experiment with it in the kitchen. I could also see myself using it on returning from a visit to a Latin American country or restaurant if I wanted to replicate a dish (and knew what to look for in the Index). I might also pull the book off the shelf if I had some down time and wanted to learn more about Latin cuisine. Clearly this author has a lot to teach. As for a COTM…for me, I think it would be challenging to plan meals that I could prepare on weeknights from this book. Time is not on my side these days and this book seemed to lend itself well to a reader and cook that wants to immerse themselves in all it has to offer in order to prepare authentic dishes. I only wish I had the time for that!

                                      This month my vote goes to Rick Bayless.

                                      16 Replies
                                      1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                        Ha! I’m in the western highlands of Guatemala *right now* and I can’t find Siete Caldo peppers! The author did say, however, that she found all the ingredients for the book in New Jersey. May have to wait until I leave Guatemala and can go to New Jersey to find Guatemalan peppers. ;-) On the other hand, from the description, I’m sure the Thai chiles I have in the freezer at home would be a more than adequate substitute. Far as I can tell, they even look similar; just a slight difference in coloration.

                                        1. re: JoanN

                                          Oh how funny Joan!! I think you should go looking for those chilis and start selling them when you come home! I'll be your first mail order customer!!!

                                          ...btw, not sure if you saw my post but I finally made the white bean puree you'd recommended when I first purchased Verdura. I'd made a note of your recommendation in EYB so when mr bc was craving a bean spread, this was at the top of my list. I turned out beautifully! Thank-you!


                                          1. re: JoanN

                                            Ah, my namesake is in one of my favorite places on earth. Did you go to Solala? Don't know how to use accents, sorry.

                                            I haven't been to Guatamala since the 80s. Jealousy is my middle name!

                                          2. re: Breadcrumbs

                                            Ahhh Breadcrumbs,

                                            What a detailed, succinct and helpful review! Thank you for taking the time to do it.

                                            1. re: ItalianNana

                                              My pleasure IN. I'm hoping that if it isn't chosen as a COTM, perhaps we can start a "Cooking From" thread.

                                              It would be helpful to hear about what dishes folks have made since the book does have so many recipes and, without a familiarity with a particular cuisine it is difficult to know where to start.

                                              That said, I did come across recipes for Argentinian empanadas and I must say we fell in love w them during our visit so they're at the top of my "must try" list!

                                              1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                I'd love and would contribute to a "cooking from" thread for this book! It's always more fun to cook with other people...those EYB reviews are kinda lonely...
                                                I really do hope GCL has its time in the sun--it's a lovely book, definitely my favourite SA cookbook. (Though I agree with you about the index-it could absolutely benefit from a country of origin listing)

                                                1. re: Allegra_K

                                                  I completely agree w you about the EYB reviews Allegra and I recently discovered that reviews for different editions of a book are not combined so you wouldn't know someone had made a recipe if you had a different edition of a book.

                                                  I love EYB for recipe searches and feel there's so much more potential for the site if the notes and community aspect of the site were further developed. Photos and an opportunity for members to interact w each other seem critical to the efficacy of a community website...especially one that's "interest-based".

                                                  1. re: Allegra_K

                                                    I agree completely that “it’s always fun to cook with more people,” which is why I would hope that we give Gran Cocina another chance to be COTM before going ahead and setting up a separate “cooking from” thread. It’s not at all unusual for a book that is not chosen on the first ballot to be chosen sometime in the near future. But “it already has an active thread going” is often one of the reasons given for not nominating a title. I’d hate to see that happen to Gran Cocina. Perhaps if we just give it a bit more time--until more libraries have it, until the price of used books comes down a bit--it can have it’s day as COTM rather than as an adjunct thread with limited participation.

                                                    1. re: JoanN

                                                      That's the double edged sword of the "cooking from" threads. It does generate excitement for a book and gives us a chance to vet the book a little and be able to recommend it, but it also removes some of the urgency to make a book COTM.

                                                      Neverthless, some "cooked from" books do eventually rise to COTM status, including recently Jersusalem( and the original Ottolenghi).

                                                      So hard to know which direction to go sometimes!


                                                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                                                        That’s true. Fish Without a Doubt also had an active and ongoing thread before being selected as COTM. But in each of those cases there was strong reason to believe, at least at the time, that the books, for one reason or another, might never be chosen at all. I guess what I’m objecting to is the seemingly recent trend to begin a cook along thread for any book that doesn’t win on the first ballot. Perhaps unfairly, it has a whiff to me of taking my marbles and going to play in another sandbox.

                                                        1. re: JoanN

                                                          You make a good point, Joan. I have been hesitant to set up "cooking from" threads for this reason. I don't want to detract from the COTM. But there are times when it seems appropriate. I set up the thread for slow cooker cookbooks because I doubted that an appliance-specific book would ever make COTM, or that it would be a good thing even if it did.

                                                          On the other hand, when someone does set one up, I often participate. It makes a nice alternative to COTM, if that month's book is one that I don't have or don't want to buy (OK, that has never happened, for me, but it is the case for some). The fact is, I just enjoy the group cooking experience we have, whether on COTM or alternate threads.

                                                          The latest Dunlop book is a good example of a book that had an active thread, and then became COTM. That book was so highly anticipated, and got so much buzz here on CH, that there were people nominating it for COTM before the US edition was even out. A cooking from thread made sense in that case.

                                                          I think that La Gran Cocina would make a great COTM, but I'm not sure everyone is ready for it just yet. There seems to be some intimidation regarding ingredients, equipment, and time. I've cooked a couple of things from this book, and I know there are lots of very accessible, even weeknight-friendly recipes therein. I think a cooking thread might be just the ticket to show the variety of recipes and that the book is more user-friendly than it might seem at first.

                                                          1. re: JoanN

                                                            That certainly wasn't my intention in proposing a "Cooking From" thread Joan. I actually prefer the Bayless book for this month's COTM and thought a "Cooking From" thread would afford us the opportunity to get to know Gran Cucina better.

                                                            I'm much more likely to put my support behind a book if I know other hounds have experienced success cooking from it.

                                                            Recent examples of COTMs that had "Cooking From" threads prior are:

                                                            Ad Hoc at Home
                                                            Every Grain of Rice
                                                            Jerusalem (as TDQ mentioned)
                                                            660 Curries

                                                            I think that sometimes its the "buzz" in those threads that contributes to the excitement around a book.

                                                            1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                                              Another important difference in a "cooking from" thread and a COTM thread is the sense of urgency. While the COTM threads do stay up forever and we are encouraged to continue to post to them (which I do), there is still a timeframe around the COTM experience. So I do feel pressured to get something made from the book during its month. "Cooking from" threads are, by nature, open-ended. So when one appears, I follow it, but don't feel compelled to post on any particular timeline. I just get to it when I get to it.

                                                            2. re: JoanN

                                                              To confuse the "Cooking From" issue further, we've had:

                                                              Adjunct threads in which cookbooks by the same COTM author are reported on. Think Nigel Slater month.

                                                              Alternate threads wherein different books but with the same theme as the COTM . Think Japanese month, Indian month, Southern month.

                                                              That's when the meaning of COTM gets diffused and folks get confused. It weakens the original purpose of COTM, IMO.

                                                              1. re: Gio

                                                                I really appreciate having the adjunct threads available, especially if the main focus is a book I am unable to attain. Usually about halfway through the month my enthusiasm for the cotm wanes a bit and that's when those extra threads really come in handy. Another benefit is that other books on the same cuisine or by the same author are brought to my attention that I may have otherwise overlooked; it gives a sort of 'sneak peek' into the book (and inevitably winds up on my wishlist!)

                                                                For massive, extensive tomes like Gran Cocina Latina and Thai Food (which even though it has over 350 posts still is coming up as a contender time and again) there are certainly enough recipes to go around for both a 'cooking from' and a COTM thread....

                                                                1. re: Allegra_K

                                                                  After posting yesterday I thought about all the months I too cooked from adjuncts, alternatives, cooking froms. So your first paragraph resonates with me.

                                                                  In the past when I didn't cook from a current COTM for whatever reason I simply cooked from other books I own. Now there are past COTM threads that are a wealth of inspiration when one wants a different focus.

                                                2. Looks like it's a runaway but here's my case anyway. I nominated both of these. But, I am voting for Mexican Everyday because it seems to be the most accessible for everyone, and it will cater to those of us who are looking for quicker weeknight meals. I didn't feel the current COTM was good for folks like me and others who need simpler stuff, so it's nice to have a change from that every couple months. That being said, I'm still interested in getting Gran Cocina Latina and reading it and learning from it. It just seems more like a "project" book versus one that can actually be used regularly. Also I think sourcing ingredients, at least here in the US, will be easier with Mexican Everyday.

                                                  Also, I think finding recipes from Mexican Everyday online will be easier for those who do not want or are not able to buy the book. One of the blogs I frequent has cooked a handful of recipes from it...she seemed to be a huge fan. She has "adapted" the recipes for her use but here they are if anybody who is undecided wants to check them out to get a feel for it. I can repost in the actual discussion thread once the time comes. Also there are a lot of used copies available on Amazon, I ordered mine today for $9.50 plus $4 shipping.

                                                  http://ellysaysopa.com/2009/09/01/red... (I've made this one too, really good



                                                  1. I love Mexican Everyday. The last few months I haven't owned the COTM book. Looking forward to participating!