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Alex's TACOS

I like a good taco.  I even like to make a good taco but usually the buying of a good taco wins out.  There is a little Mexican restaurant here in Charlotte that makes rrreeeeaaaaaalllllllllyyyyyyy good tacos so I usually just go there.  It's easier.  Simpler.  I like to sit outside on their patio overlooking a large outdoor fountain that has a little play in it.  If the wind is blowing just right, I get a little spray of water every once in while (which is such a fabulous thing during our summers).

After reading Alex Stupak's book on tacos, I am enlightened that the tacos that I used to make were obviously (and painfully) very ordinary. I  would use locally-sourced chorizo and make my own pico de Gallo that was it.  No fabulous salsas and definitely not my own tortillas!  Alex's book will change that (although I will have to be in a really industrious mood to make my own tortillas).

I was smitten with this book from just taking it out of the box.  I love the feel of the book....I call it the page feel.  It doesn't have a glossy cover and doesn't have glossy pages.  The page feels nice under the palm of your hand; I like to rest my hand on the book as I am reading.  (Am I weird?   Page-feel is so important to me).

The book is a tomb of knowledge as it relates to tacos.  There is an entire chapter (entire chapter people!!!) on making tortillas; everything from the corn to nixtamalization to masa to detailed descriptions and pictures that walk one step-by-step through the process of making tortillas.  I know what you are thinking...what is nixtamalization???  Well, let me tell you (because I now know!  I'm a miss smarty-pants right now) Nixtamalization makes the vitamins found in corn, like niacin, be able to be absorbed better by the body.  Who knew that tacos were so good for you!   Tacos also has a wonder chapter on salsas, whether they are fresh chile salsas, tomato-based salsas, tomatillo-based salsas, or nut-and-seed based salsas and moles.  The recipes are authentic salsas for taco makings and are vibrant with the heat of the peppers and the cool of the citrus.  I have so many flagged!  

Then we get to the piece-de-resistance....the chapters on the taco fillings.  Chicken, beef, port, offal and other meat (think tripe and goat), seafood, veggie, eggs, and sweets.  I will not be partaking in tripe tacos nor goat tacos (I think goat smells and the smell lingers on your hands, even after washing them like a hundred times and I have a pet goat so I'm just not eating it).  I will, however, be partaking in the chicken tacos with salsa verde, skirt steak tacos with mojo de ajo, salpicon tacos with xni pec (this is a real taco...I did not screw up the spelling), slab bacon tacos with salsa negra (love me so pork belly!), tacos al pastor, potato and chorizo tacos, and canitas tacos.  No name just a few.  I could go on and on.   

But I won't.  Go on an on that is.  Tacos is 240 pages of in-depth knowledge.  Alex shares with us his love for tacos and his secret recipes of his success.  This book implores us to not go to the little Mexican joint and sit in front of the fountain hoping for a little spray of water; this book beckons you into the kitchen and then to your little patio out back to enjoy a sunset while sipping a pineapple margarita of your making and chowing down on a Tacos taco.......


New Sugar and Spice

I so enjoyed this cookbook!  I read it as if it were a great novel!  I love that Samantha uses unusual spice combinations (or at least they are to me!) in her baking to to derive delicious baked goods.  I have my little accounting-type flags marking soooo many pages of this gorgeous book.  This book's chapters are broken down by spice; a great way to quickly find what particular fun spice you want to try on a given day.   I cannot wait for the holidays to make the apricot and ginger cookies, the gingerbread (which I plan to pair with a mouth-puckering velvety lemon ice cream), and the cinnamon bread pudding for an early-morning breakfast.
Fall has arrived and it is raining here today...all day.  The warmth of cinnamon and cardamon would be comforting as this cold wet weather drags into my bones.  After my husband's birthday dinner tonight, I plan to curl up with Samantha's book and select which dessert will be making an appearance at my table tomorrow.  Bowls are at the ready!

Cute anecdote: My sister and I were at lunch on Friday with one of my girlfriends (Jane).  Jane noted that my sister and I are like sugar and spice...Anna is the sugar because she is the sweet southern gal and I am the spice because I can cuss like a sailor.... 


Einkorn - Recipes for Nature's Original Wheat

I was a little nervous when I opened the package and saw that this book had arrived; I thought "am I even going to be able to find Einkorn wheat?".  Turns out, I can.  So I began reading this book and getting more excited by the minute.  The book currently looks like it has grown ears, I have so many little yellow and blue flags poking out from its pages.
The author is Italian so there are some wonderful Italian-inspired recipes.  All of the recipes appear to be easy peasy.  And I also think that any of these recipes may be able to be made with other wheat (which I have not yet tried).  
As I was just flipping through the pages, I came across another fantastic realization....I believe every recipe has a picture of the finished product!  How wonderful and how rare!!  (I hate when I am really fascinated with a recipe and want to see a picture and, alas, I am out of luck).  Truly, this cookbook is a little gem and once that I will cherish!


Milk Bar Life by Christina Tosi

I was super excited to receive this cookbook; I loved Christina's first book. When in New York, I usually stay in a hotel just around the corner from Milk Bar and I occasionally hop in for a sweet snack....cereal milk, crack pie, and more crack pie.  I have even enjoyed the messy pleasure of making crack pies (and not wasting time with a knife and plate but going straight to the pie-plate with my fork).  So, when I tell you that I was super excited to receive this book, you should believe me.

As I began reading the book, I was somewhat gob-smacked.  Why does the book include recipes for cookie-dough cookie, cinnamon toast, store-bought pretzels with blue-cheese scattered on them, 7-layer salad, and something made with spaghettios?  I was incredulous as I read a recipe for a ritz cracker cake where the ingredients are grape jelly, cool whip, and ritz crackers.  Yuck!  I was really disappointed with this book overall as I expected so much more from this talented and whimsical chef (No, I don't consider ritz cracker cake whimsical).  There are a few winning recipes in this book; however these recipes have been covered time and time again in many other cookbooks.  But I will give these recipes a shot...grandma's oatmeal cookies, rosemary nuts, and banana cookies.  I can only have hope for Christina's next book. 



I fell in love with Jessica during the first chapter of her book, Stir.  In my heart, Jessica has been a life-long friend; one that I have known for decades.  She would be the type of friend that I would tell silly stories to, throwing our heads back in laughter…..sitting outside on the patio during an early summer evening, squashed among pillows and having a cocktail.  Perhaps a Cherry-Lime cocktail with a couple of sweet-sour cherries thrown-in for good luck or perhaps a gin & tonic with an extra squeeze of fresh lime from a plump, fat, super-tart lime.

Jessica’s story is one of love and perseverance and never letting go of her love for life.   I read her book over two days, sitting in the LaGuardia airport, with my legs thrown over my carry-on bag, waiting on my flight’s never-ending delays and eventual cancellation (and then another round of delays, delays, delays).  Her voice tells her story as if she is telling it to close friends.  The story moves around a bit, backward and forward, but the flow takes the reader in the circle of her life.  That is why I know she and I would be fast friends.  Jessica’s story resonated with me.  I cheered with her successes, cried at the elephant gift from Poland, and was profoundly happy that, at the end of her story, all was well.

The recipes at the chapter ends include several that I would love to sink into at this very moment; they seem to be heart-felt recipes.    These are familial recipes; recipes that Jessica has relied upon many times in moments of hunger or for a little deliciousness.  No frills.  No fancy.  Just recipes made with love.  I didn’t know of Jessica’s blog, Sweet Amandine, prior to reading this book.  Now, I am going to the beginning, January 2009.  I plan to work my way through her blog, learning even more of my new friend as I go along.