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Cookbook of the Month May 2013: MEXICAN EVERYDAY Salads and Sides, Main Dish Salads, Soups

Arriba! Welcome to Cookbook of the Month for May 2013, which is MEXICAN EVERYDAY by Rick Bayless.

This is the reporting thread for the first three chapters of the book:

Salads and Other Easy-to-Make Sides, p 46-64

Contemporary Main-Dish Salads, p 92-115

Classic Main-Dish Soups p 118-132

Please note that the verbatim copying of recipes to the boards is a violation of the copyright of the original author. Posts with copied recipes will be removed.

Let's cook!

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  1. Home-Cooked Beans (Stovetop, Slow-Cooker or Pressure Cooker), p. 82

    I am so excited about Bayless month that I jumped the gun and made a couple things early.

    I made these on the stove in a ceramic pot. Bayless says in the headnote that his favorite beans are cooked in the slow-cooker, and in many respect I agree, especially if you need the beans to stay whole.

    I used pinto beans, as I planned on turning some of them into refrieds. Goya brand, which around here, is the most consistently fresh. Bayless doesn't soak, and I also did not. He has you just put the beans into the pot, cover with 2.5 qts of water, add some lard or bacon drippings, chopped onion, and epazote or an avocado leaf is optional (I did not add either). I deviated a bit, because I put the bacon grease and onion into the pot first, and sauteed the onion for just a bit before adding the beans and water. I also deviated by adding the salt at the beginning of cooking, where he adds it at the end. Then you cook, if you are on the stovetop, for 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours, until the beans are completely tender. I'm afraid I don't recall how long I cooked them, but it somewhere in that range.

    The beans came out uniformly tender and perfect. I used some for refried beans, and the rest went into the freezer to await use in future preparations.

    13 Replies
    1. re: MelMM

      Good on you Mel for tackling a bean dish. I must admit the first time I cooked beans from dried was for the hummus recipe in Jerusalem, and I was impressed with the difference good dried beans make in terms of texture. One question though, is it an old wives tale that adding salt to beans will prevent them from softening properly? I thought I read that in what of Mark Bitman's books. He suggests you salt at the end, but you didn't and yours turned out fine, makes me wonder.

      1. re: delys77

        Turns out the no-salt edicts are untrue (here's a little story about it from Chow: http://www.chow.com/food-news/54972/d...), but my understanding is that adding acidic ingredients early on *will* keep beans from softening.

        1. re: Caitlin McGrath

          Thanks Caitlin, that is one less thing to fret over.

          1. re: delys77

            Yes, Caitlin is right. It is an old wive's tales, which is why I ignored that instruction. I have found that it is much preferable to cook beans with the salt in from the start. They end up more evenly seasoned and better in every way. I've been cooking beans for eons, and I used to follow the old wive's tale. But eventually, having an inquisitive mind, I questioned it, and found it untrue. And I have lately been vindicated by all the respectable sources.

            1. re: MelMM

              Absolutely agree with you on this one. Once I started salting my beans near the beginning, they ended up improving their flavour tenfold. I don't do it any other way now.

              1. re: Allegra_K

                Gotta say, one beef I have with Gran Cocina Latina, which was a contender for COTM, is that the author seems to have not bothered to question this. It seems to me if you are going to write the authoritative tome on a bean-heavy cuisine, you would question and experiement. But then again, neither has Rick Bayless.

                1. re: Allegra_K

                  I cooked my pinto beans in the crockpot yesterday (I'm about to make the cowboy beans as a side dish for our BBQ dinner) - and although I'd never heard this old wives' tale about salting, I haven't actually salted them at all yet. I planned to season the cowboy beans anyway, so I didn't think they needed it. Next I will try cooking a batch with salt first, so I can compare the results. Thanks for this discussion!

            2. re: Caitlin McGrath

              Not only do I add salt but also a bay leaf or 2, and chopped garlic and sage. Makes a world of difference.

          2. re: MelMM

            I made black beans in the slow-cooker for the first time the other day, due to Rick Bayless' recommendation, and they turned out PERFECTLY. I doubt I'll ever make them any other way from now on! I also salted at the beginning and didn't soak. 8 hours on high and they were incredibly creamy and tender. I might try 8 hours on low next time if I want them to stay a little firmer, but to turn them into refried beans, these were perfect.

            1. re: MelMM

              Made these beans yesterday using small red chili beans, and they ended up being so perfectly creamy and flavourful that they disappeared by the next evening and I now have a replacement pot on the stove, this time with black beans and avocado leaves. I've never added lard to whole beans before, only for refried versions, and I can say that I will be doing this again and again. It just brought such a simple yet luxurious note to the legumes that we couldn't stop dipping into the bean pot throughout the day. As mentioned before, I also salted during the early cooking stages. Sometimes (especially if the first run is for sopa de frijoles) I'll toss in a bay leaf and a pinch of mexican oregano, maybe even a garlic clove, but so far I'm really liking the aroma of the avocado leaf wafting through the air. Very promising.

              1. re: Allegra_K

                What kind of flavor did the avocado leaves impart?

                1. re: BigSal

                  It was a very subtle herby note.....sort of like anise with an earthy hint of bay, I think. The scent was really drawn out after toasting. I do question the quality of the leaves that I used--the package looked pretty crumpled and the colour wasn't very bright but I pounced on it anyway since I had never seen avocado leaves around here before. I wonder if something fresher would have a more distinct flavour. As it was, I added about 4 leaves to the pot.

              2. re: MelMM

                Home Cooked Beans

                Not much more to say. We love these beans and make this in the slow cooker quite often. Bacon grease with pinto beans is my favorite. perfect every time

              3. Fried Beans, p. 84

                These are what I know as "refried" beans. I used the home-cooked beans from p 82 for these. You just heat some lard or bacon grease in a skillet, add some minced garlic (I think this is a good occasion to use a press, as you - or at least I - don't want identifiable bits of garlic in my beans), saute for a minute, then add beans with some of their cooking liquid. Mash the beans with a potato masher or spoon to the desired texture, and cook until they thicken to the desired consistency. I like my refrieds mostly, but not completely smooth, and I like them a bit on the thin side. Bayless says we are looking for the consistency of very soft mashed potatoes. I say a bit thinner than that. If you accidentally get them too thick, you can always thin with a bit of bean liquid. Add salt to taste, and you're done. Easy as pie.

                What is there to say about refried beans? They are what they are, and I happen to adore them. These are made just right, with no extraneous (and imho inappropriate) seasonings. OK, some purists might argue that the garlic is extraneous and inappropriate, but I'm not going there.

                Bayless does give the option of using vegetable oil instead of pork fat, which I think is a sin, and of using canned beans, which I can't recommend.

                4 Replies
                1. re: MelMM

                  I made these as well, with bacon grease - delicious. The garlic is perfection.

                  1. re: biondanonima

                    I agree that bacon grease the the way to go here.

                  2. re: MelMM

                    Fried Beans (Frijoles Refritos), p. 84

                    Like MeIMM, I made the home cooked beans (frijoles de la olla) first and then proceeded with this recipe. Very hearty and satisfying.

                    Out of curiosity, I pulled out some of my Diana Kennedy books just to see how her recipes compare to Bayless's. Her recipe did not include garlic, but did include finely chopped white onion and 6T of lard (as opposed to the 2-3T Bayless suggests).

                    1. re: MelMM

                      Fried Beans, Pg. 84

                      This was the second time I made these fried beans. The first time I made the Home-Cooked beans with pintos in my slow cooker. This time, to save time, I used canned black beans. Having no bacon drippings on hand we fried 6 slices of bacon till crisp, removed from skillet to drain leaving the behind the fat. Since we prefer the beans to be more chunky than smooth when G mashed them he just lightly crushed them. The cooked bacon was crumbled over top.

                      I love these beans. So simple and so very tasty! They were served with the Chipotle Chicken Tacos on page 200, w a few other condiments. ¡ Frijoles Refritos, hurra.

                    2. Roasted Mushroom Salad with Spinach and Chorizo (or Bacon) Pg. 109

                      I received my book late last week and was fingering through it looking for a first dish to make that didn't scream Mexican as I wanted to gently introduce my partner to the book. I landed on this dish and decided to give it a try because we were having an evening cocktail party and I needed something to make that met my above requirements, plus was super easy to put together given the other kitchen projects I had on the go.

                      The result......big time winner! I must admit I don't usually like warm salads, but this one was worlds apart from the texturally unappealing one's I have had in the past.

                      I couldn't find any good looking chorizo so I went for a nice thick cut bacon. A friend of mine recently gave me some mexican oregano so I was good to go on that score. I set about tidying up my mushrooms and prepping the bacon and red onion, all of which get tossed onto a lined baking sheet and into a hot oven they go. He suggests about 20 minutes total cooking time but after that period of time the onions were still too firm for my taste. I wanted a good browning to make sure the salad had the lovely roasted flavour the recipe title promises. I ended up leaving them in for closer to 28 minutes, with a good amount of tossing at the end (say every 3 minutes or so).

                      The onions were nicely browned, the bacon had rendered, and the mushrooms had crisped very nicely. The dressing is just a combo of a bit of olive oil, lime, oregano, salt, and a touch of water that is warmed in the microwave before being tossed with the salad greens and the roasted onion/mushroom/bacon.

                      Great main course salad, with lovely crunch from the bacon and the roasted goodness from the oven roasted mushrooms and onions. The dressing wasn't overly acidic which went over very well at our house, and the greens were dressed just right.

                      The only real modification I made was that I upped the mushrooms by a few oz, and decreased the bacon to 6 slices. Both of which worked very well for us. Serving wise the recipe yielded enough to feed three hungry fellows, but I'm not sure it would have been enough for 4 as the book suggests.

                      I would definitely repeat this dish.

                      5 Replies
                      1. re: delys77

                        This sounds really amazing! Thanks for bringing this recipe to my attention. I especially like the idea of substituting bacon for the sausages. Mushrooms & bacon are a winning combination. By the way, try Oyama on Granville Island next time you're looking for a good chorizo. :-)

                        1. re: geekmom

                          Thanks Geekmom, I've heard of them before but never tried any of their products, definitely will next time I'm on Granville Island.

                        2. re: delys77

                          Roasted Mushroom Salad with Spinach and Chorizo (Bacon) p. 109

                          My first foray into Mexican Everyday, and inspired by delys' positive review and detailed instructions, I purchased some "full-flavored mushrooms" and got going. Hands down, this was the winner of my dinner menu last night, which included three other Mexican Everyday dishes that were also praised by my guests.

                          What a delicious take on the usual warm tossed spinach salad--as Bayless says, "a warm spinach salad gone far south." Like delys, I used bacon (couldn't find Mexican chorizo) and I upped the amount of sliced roasted mushrooms from 8 oz. to 12 oz. They are so deliciously chewy and full- flavored that you can't have too many! I also could have decreased the number of bacon slices slightly and will do so next time (though no one complained about too much bacon either!) My mushrooms and sliced onions also took several minutes longer to brown than the 20 minutes recommended in the recipe--about 35 minutes.

                          I followed the "Riff" and substituted balsamic vinegar for the lime juice. As Bayless suggested, I added a chopped canned chipotle pepper to the dressing. I'd found a poblano chili at the market and roasted and sliced it before tossing it into the salad. Finally, I loved what the smoky chipotle and spicy-sweet balsamic vinegar did for the flavor of the dressing.

                          The salad served four easily as a side--but delys is right; you might need to increase the amounts for serving as a main-dish salad. I'll certainly make this again. Even my son-in-law, who generally shies away from what he describes as "flabby cooked mushrooms," loved this roasted and slightly chewy version.

                          1. re: delys77

                            For anyone without the book, the recipe can be found here: http://www.greencitymarket.org/recipe... Sounds wonderful!!!

                            1. re: GretchenS

                              Gretchen beat me to it, I found the recipe here today as well: http://www.pink-parsley.com/2010/01/r...

                          2. GULF COAST-STYLE WHITE RICE PILAF – p. 88

                            Simple, delicious and weeknight-friendly! What more could you ask for in a dish? Quick and easy as this is, Rick does provide an alternate cooking method for folks who love their rice-cookers. I have to say that ever since I purchased my Zoji, I’ve rarely made stove-top rice but this seemed so simple I cast my Zoji aside (with apologies) and decided just to go w the recipe as Rick set out.

                            I won’t go into details as to how this comes together because I found the recipe online for those who don’t have the book. Here you go:

                            http://www.food.com/recipe/gulf-coast...

                            This recipe reminded me why I love RB and this book so much…with just a few seemingly everyday ingredients you truly can produce an aromatic and flavourful dish that is far greater than the sum of its parts. I had the rice ready about 40 mins before we were ready to eat so I also would add that this dish held perfectly in my warming oven.

                            This is a recipe you may quickly discount because, let’s face it, we know how to make rice and this one just has a bit of onion and garlic stirred in. I’ve made many recipes in this book and I’ve passed this one up before for just that reason. It was a mistake. This is lovely.

                             
                             
                            10 Replies
                            1. re: Breadcrumbs

                              Gulf Coast Style White Rice Pilaf Pg. 88

                              Thanks very much to Breadcrumbs for the very well written posting on this dish. I used the rice cooker method and also added the poblano and thyme he mentions in one of his variations. I couldn't find poblanos so I had to go with anaheim peppers, which I believe are a little more tame. That said the flavour of the rice was very nice, with just a hint of heat, and lovely herb flavour.

                              When making the variation for the rice cooker I did stray a little bit from his instructions to simply saute the rice and then add everything to the slow cooker, instead I sauteed the rice along with the onion and the garlic, then placed it in the rice cooker along with the rest of the ingredients.

                              Very nice side dish that has enough flavour to stand on its own without competing with any other dishes.

                              1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                Gulf Coast-Style White Rice Pilaf, p. 88

                                Thanks BC for pointing this one out! I had grander plans for dinner yesterday but they had to fall by the wayside for lack of time ... but I had everything on hand to make this rice, and so I did! Concur that it was lovely and very flavorful despite the lack of tomato. I had to cook the rice an extra five minutes or so on account of my extra-slow oven. Otherwise, everything worked perfectly. Great dish, and I really want to try the poblano variation next. I love roasted poblanos and I bet they are just fantastic when infused into the rice. Served with Quick Cowboy Beans, sauteed chard, and sliced avocado.

                                1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                  Gulf Coast Style Rice Pilaf

                                  Let me add my voice to the chorus of fans of this dish. I make this often in my rice cooker. I have tried many different types of rice for this (basmati, long grain, jasmine, sushi) and I have to say that sushi rice is my favorite. It makes a very moist rice dish that I just love. Pilaf is probably a misnomer for the final result, but I find it to be a real comfort food.

                                  1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                    GULF COAST-STYLE WHITE RICE PILAF, p. 88.

                                    Decided to try this the other night because I was making the CHIPOTLE SHRIMP on p. 252, and Rick Bayless says he prefers white rice as an accompaniment--plus there were several positive reviews. I have to concur; the recipe produces light and separate grains, gently flavored with the white onion and garlic, plus chicken broth for liquid. Very easy and quick, requiring the choping of one onion and crushing of some garlic, 5 minutes of attention to saute the rice in oil lightly, add the other ingredients, and then bake unattended in the over for 25 minutes more. The relatively dry and "neutral" pilaf was perfect with a saucy and spicy recipe like the chipotle shrimp. A sprinkling of chopped flat-leaf parsley made it even fresher tasting and added a nice green touch to the pure white rice. In his notes Bayless recommended "the meatier texture of medium-grain rice." I only had long-grain and short-grain in my pantry, so I went for a stroll in my supermarket aisles and quickly found "River" brand enriched medium grain white rice (out of Houston, TX, which is pretty darn close to the Gulf! )

                                    1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                      Gulf Coast-Style White Rice Pilaf, p. 88

                                      I made this to serve with the Salmon in Luxurious Green Pipian. I made a half recipe (except I kept the full amounts of garlic and parsley). I used basmati rice (the only white rice in the house at the moment) and vegetable broth in deference to a pescetarian guest. I agree that it's both very simple and very good, both on its own and as a vehicle for sauce.

                                      1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                        Another vote of confidence for this rice - I made it to go with chipotle meatballs and cowboy beans the other night, and it was delicious. I used brown rice since it was all I had in the house, and I found I needed about double the amount of liquid called for, and double the cooking time (typical for brown rice).

                                        1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                          Thanks for inspiring me to try this rice. I made it as a side for grilled london broil and roasted carrots. I was planning to just make plain white rice so this was a nice way to change it up a bit with ingredients that I always have on hand. I will definitely be repeating this one.

                                          1. re: Breadcrumbs

                                            Made this rice last night, and was very impressed with how well it turned out! Since I had a few random vegetable bits to use up, I threw in a diced carrot, half a chayote, green bean chunks, and some green pepper when I stirred in the garlic.

                                            I have been trying to replicate my mother-in-law's simple version of rice for years, and this, with the added veggies, is the closest I've ever gotten. The Mr. was very happy indeed and asked me to copy the recipe down. A keeper!

                                            1. re: Allegra_K

                                              Allegra, I like your idea of tossing in some chunks of veggies at the beginning with the garlic.
                                              I've made this rice twice since my first foray earlier this month. I'm used to making a pilaf with only chopped onion, and I love the depth of flavor that the garlic gives to the final dish. The leftovers reheat well, too.

                                              1. re: Goblin

                                                I like this quite well also. I used his 'riff' of starting in a skillet and moving it to the slowcooker. Worked great. And I had some leftover with a raw egg on top for breakfast the next day.

                                          2. Ensalada de Camotes con Cebollas Caramelizadas, Berros y Chile Guajillo
                                            (Sweet Potato Salad w/Caramelized Onions, Watercress & Guajillo Chile Dressing)
                                            Page 75-76

                                            Rick calls this "really delicious, if a little unconventional" and I'd say he's right on both counts. I've made this for home consumption as well as for a cooking class and it was successful in both areas.

                                            It's pretty easy. To make the dressing oil (olive or reg. veg.) is heated in a skillet. A couple stemmed and seeded guajillo chiles and some whole garlic cloves are added to the hot oil and cooked for about 30 seconds +/- depending upon how hot the oil is, or isn't. The chiles are removed and put in a blender jar. Vinegar and some salt is added to the pan wiht the oil and garlic and cooked for another 30 sec. or so and then removed from the heat to cool. When the pan has cooled the garlic and flavored oil is added to the chiles in the blender jar and blended until totally smooth.

                                            When you put the oil and garlic in the blender save the skillet with the light film of oil. Put it back on the heat and add a large red onion cut in 1/2" dice. Cook until onions have caramelized. Toss in 2# of sweet potatoes that have been peeled and cut into 1/2" cubes. Shake the dressing and pour about a 1/2 cup of the dressing over the potatoes in the pan, add in a little bit more salt, cover and cook the potatoes for about 10 minutes. I never think the sweet potatoes will get done in that length of time but they always are. Remove the cover and let cool; most of the dressing will have been absorbed by the potatoes and if it isn't, it will be as the potatoes cool.

                                            Break the thick stems off 2 bunches of watercress and arrange into individual "nests" on salad plates, spoon the sweet potato mixture into the center and drizzle on some additional dressing. Or, alternatively, ring a large platter with the watercress, put the sweet potatoes in the center and drizzle more dressing over the top. It's not in the recipe, but some crumbled Cotija cheese goes really well with this dish.

                                            * You can use regular yellow/orange sweet potatoes for this, but if you live near a Mexican market and can get the "camtoe morado" (Mexican sweet potatoes) you can use those but cook them longer; they are sweeter so you'll get a greater contraste between the sweetness of the potatoes and sharpness/pepperiness of the watercress.

                                            ** RB suggests 4 other dressing options, Chorizo Dressing (pg. 59), Chipotle/Balsamic Dressing (pg 56), Queso Añejo Dressing (pg 52) or Roasted Garlic Dressing (pg. 56). To my taste, I think the first 2 sound like winning substitutions, not sure about the last 2.

                                            *** He also recommends subbing yucca, malanga, parsnips or small sweet turnips for the sweet potatoes. Or for something totally different use roasted eggplant in place of the sweets.

                                            I like this recipe; it's usually hit when I serve it and there are endless variations.