250 Cookbooks: Southwestern Grill

Cookbook #171: Southwestern Grill, Michael McLaughlin, the Harvard Common Press, Boston, MA, 2000.

The Southwestern Grill cookbookI bought this cookbook for myself and have always enjoyed it. Such refreshing ideas! Grilling with spices and fresh ingredients. A pleasure after some of my aged cookbooks.

I grew up in the Southwest (southern California), and tacos and enchiladas were part of our everyday meals, especially from the time I was a teen. How did this author develop his own interest in southwestern-style foods? On Wikipedia, I learn that Michael McLaughlin was born the same year I was, in Wray, Colorado. He moved to New York and became a chef. There he met Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins, and helped them publish The Silver Palate Cookbook in 1983. This cookbook encourages homecooking with fresh ingredients, and has sold in excess of 2 million copies. (Why have I never heard of it? Sounds right up my alley.)

McLaughlin moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico, where he owned a restaurant for a time. His interest and expertise in fresh foods and grilling expanded to include bright, spicy Southwestern flavors. He became a food writer for Gourmet, Bon Appetit, and Food & Wine magazines. McLaughlin authored (or co-authored) over 20 cookbooks. I was sad to learn he passed away in 2002.

McLaughlin writes about two “very good things” that happened in the 1980s-2000. First, grilling, “formerly a casual backyard art form, evolved into an accepted and respected cooking method.” And “second, the food of the Southwest escaped from its regional confines and swept like a mesquite brushfire across the country.” The two combined and now both chefs and home cooks grill southwestern dishes, full of heat, spice and savory smoke. “Grilling has grown up . . . liberally seasoned with a dose of the special magic that is the unique culinary contribution of the American Southwest.”

Here is a sampling of recipe titles, to give you an idea of the variety in this cookbook: Steak and Grilled Green Onion Quesadilla, Cafe Pasqual’s Grilled Salmon Burritos with Cucumber Salsa, Grilled Chicken Totopo Salad, Warmed Grilled Chile-Lime Beef Salad, Arracheras with Crunchy Vegetable Garnish, Heirloom Bean Salad, and Grilled Tequila-Cured Salmon with Mango Pico de Gallo.

Some recipes are a bit “out-there” for my own cooking, partly because I’m not sure I could get some members of my family to eat them, for instance: grilled cactus, grilled eggplant dip, and portobello mushroom burgers.

I like the Salsas, Sauces, and Condiments chapter a lot. For one, many of the recipes in this cookbook refer to this chapter for sauce/salsa/rubs recipes (for example, see the scan of the Grilled Fish Tacos recipe). And too, it allows the cook (me!) to be creative, adding a fresh salsa to “same old” tacos, for instance.

I am going to share a couple recipes that I love from this cookbook. I know, I usually try something new from a cookbook, but the rules are mine, and I can bend them! I have made the “Grilled Fish Tacos with Citrus Slaw” many times.

Grilled Fish Tacos recipeCitrus Slaw is a separate entry.

Citrus Slaw RecipeAnd so is the Lime Cream.

Lime Cream recipeI made these exactly according to the above recipes. And they were good, as always!

Fish TacosThank you Michael McLaughlin for this wonderful recipe! If you want to make them for yourself, pick up a copy of his book, or use my scans, above.

250 Cookbooks: Salsas, Sambals, Chutneys and Chowchows

Cookbook #37: Salsas, Sambals, Chutneys and Chowchows. Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby, Hearst Books, 1993.

Salsas, Sambals, Chutneys and ChowchowsThis is a great cookbook, one of my newish favorites. I was surprised that the publication date was 1993, since this is a very contemporary book. I bought it sometime in the 2000s for myself, probably at Peppercorn. It’s still for sale, new, on Amazon. Because of copyright issues, I’m just going to take a photo to show you the lovely layout of the book instead of scanning in a recipe.

All the recipes in this book are “little dishes of intense flavor”. I’ve used the salsa section more than any other section of this book. The authors define salsa as a Mexican/Latin American version of a little dish. Salsas are made from different combinations of a variety of ingredients, such as cilantro, oregano, cumin, chile powder, corn, tomatoes, jicamas, pineapples, mangoes, black beans, tomatillos, limes, and hot chile peppers. “The most important thing to remember about salsas is that, like the Latin dance that shares their name, the best ones are wild, loose, and loud.” “Just mix ’em up and enjoy the taste. In this case, everyone can dance.”

This book taught me to add fruit to a salsa. Or corn and avocado and black beans. I used to use only peppers, onions, and tomatoes. The authors remind me to toast cumin seeds before use to brighten their flavor. These tricks have given a new world of flavor to my salsas!

Chutneys are a bit harder to define. They originated in India and can be raw or cooked, chunky or grated, and can contain a variety of fruits, vegetables, and spices. Traditionally, they go with spicy foods (like curries). The chutney recipes in this book usually include a sweetener like molasses or sugar, a fruit and/or vegetable, ginger, garlic, and spices such as star anise, mace, coriander, or curry. I like that they cover spices, such as star anise, with a two-page layout of a description, tips, and photos. I’ve made a couple of the chutneys, but since my dining partner does not like curry, I don’t make them very often.

Blatjangs, atjars, and sambals are chutney-type dishes from Africa, East Indies, and Southeast Asia. Chowchows are pickled relishes – mixtures of vinegar, spices, and vegetables. The book includes recipes for chowchows of the American South, a light version of kimchi (Korean), and spicy pickled grapes. I probably won’t try too many of these, but the pictures are pretty and the ingredients always fresh and full of flavor.

The title of the book is misleading, because more than salsas, sambals, chutneys, and chowchows are covered in this book. There are also sections on relishes, catsups and other condiments. The final section is “pantry”, in which some of the more unusual ingredients are discussed (along with great photos).

Creativity is the theme of this book. In this spirit, I created a salsa based loosely on “Papaya Salsa”. I used cantaloupe and mango instead of papaya, green and red bell pepper instead of just red, and added enough red onion so that it “looked right”.

Fruit Salsa

  • about a cup of chopped fruit – I used half cantaloupe and half mango, but use papaya, peaches, pineapple or any fruit you have around
  • about a quarter of a red bell pepper, sliced into short, thin slices
  • about a quarter of a green bell pepper, sliced into short, thin slices
  • about half of a medium-sized red onion, sliced into long, thin slices
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (more or less to taste)
  • 1/4 cup pineapple juice (or orange or any other type of sweet juice)
  • 1/4 cup of fresh lime juice (more or less to taste)
  • 1/2 of a jalapeno pepper, very finely chopped (you can include the seeds)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Mix all the ingredients together well. Taste and adjust seasonings and/or amounts of onion and jalapenos. It keeps 3-4 days in the refrigerator.

Fruit SalsaSalsas are great in the summer. On a hot night, they perk up a taco, wrap, sandwich or grilled meat or fish. I used this Fruit Salsa on pulled pork, folded inside some thick pita breads from the Mediterranean Market in Boulder. Yum!

This photo is an example of the layout of this book.

inside page