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: Menu Magic in a Nutshell

Cookbook #170: Menu Magic in a Nutshell, Diamond Walnuts, California Walnut Growers Association, 1950.

Menu Magic Diamond Walnuts cookbook

I have to admit something: the photo above is not mine. The cover on my booklet is missing, but I found the above photo online. This booklet is currently sold on the Etsy site for $12. The seller claims the book was published in 1950, and authored by cook(s) at the Good Housekeeping Institute.

Who buys these old booklets? Vintage books are used in scrapbooking or decoupage. Or maybe someone lost their old copy, or simply like walnut recipes!

My mother liked walnuts This was her booklet, and I think she used it a lot. You can see how beat up the first page is:

Menu Magic in a Nutshell

It’s fun to read, isn’t it? Note it refers to the name “Diamond” branded on each nutshell. It took me a moment to remember: walnuts used to be available only in the shell. We used to spend hours shelling walnuts for Mother. In California, you could even pick your own walnuts off the trees, still in the soft skin that covered the hard shell. One birthday or Mother’s Day, us kids picked a whole bunch and shelled them all for Mother. By the time they were shelled and wrapped as a present and opened on the special day, the entire lot was wormy. Boy, that’s an old memory.

Today I buy shelled walnuts in bulk or bags. I always have some in the freezer, ready to add to muffins and breads, salads and desserts.

Let’s see what this vintage cookbook has to offer. Mixed Fruit and Walnut Salad has pineapple, dates, orange, banana, grapes, and walnuts, and is served over lettuce. Sounds pretty good to me. Diamond Chicken Salad adds walnuts to chicken, celery and mayonnaise salad. Yummy. There are several molded salads that were so popular in the 50s and 60s. Desserts are next: Brown Betty, Apple Walnut Tapioca, Raisin Walnut Pie, Walnut Peach Shortcake, Apricot Caramel Shortcake, Danish Apple Pudding, and Apple Crumb Pie all sound good. Mother marked “Prune Whip” as “good“. (Prune Whip is a meringue dessert with stewed prunes and walnuts.) She also liked Walnut Sticks, a bar cookie made with brown sugar, eggs, and walnuts. Just about all of the cookies and cakes look good to me!

Main courses? You can include walnuts with apples and sweet potatoes, or walnuts in turkey dressing, or in meatballs. The meatless walnut loaves do not appeal to me, though. Finally, candies: Divinity (Mother marked it “good”), Uncooked Fudge, and Sugared Walnuts. Looks like I’m missing pages 23-30. Sad, because the index tells me those pages included the bread recipes.

Well, I guess I’m going to have to keep this little “cookbook”. Maybe I’ll find the rest of this booklet someday.

For this blog, I choose to make Ice Box Cookies. I like refrigerator cookies because I can always have them on hand to bake up fresh, and I can bake just a few at a time. Mother marked this recipe with her notes, so I know they are “Good”!

Ice Box Cookies recipe

I like brown sugar, so I am going to up the amount of brown sugar and decrease the amount of white sugar. Mother noted, and then crossed out, that there is too much flour in this recipe. I’ll add the flour very gradually and use the mixer to combine it in.

Ice Box Cookies
makes about 4 dozen

  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Cream the shortening and sugars for several minutes. Add the egg and beat in well. Mix in the walnuts and vanilla.

Stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add gradually to the creamed mixture. (Do not add all of the flour mixture if the dough no longer holds together.) Remove from the mixing bowl and, with your hands, press the dough into one solid mass, then form it into a couple 1 1/2-inch logs. Wrap each log in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 48 hours.

Cut into 1/8-inch slices and bake 7 minutes at 425˚.


My dough was too dry. I should have paid attention to my mother’s first note. In Colorado, I know from long experience that flour is very dry here. Next time I’ll use 1/4 cup less flour, though. They were kind of crumbly to slice before baking.

But are they good?

Ice Box CookiesYes! These are sweet, crisp, and tasty. I had one, and wanted more!

250 Cookbooks: Weber’s Real Grilling

Cookbook #169: Weber’s Real Grilling, Jamie Purviance, Sunset and Weber books, Weber-Stephen Products Co., 2005.

Weber's Real Grilling cookbook

Ages ago we had a covered Weber charcoal grill, then changed to a gas grill at some point in time. Today I consider a gas grill an essential component of my cooking equipment, summer, fall, winter, and spring!

I got Weber’s Real Grilling about six years ago, when we purchased our current Weber gas grill. I use this book a lot! It sort of flops open to “Basic Baby Back Ribs”, where I have several post-its pressed into place.

I highly recommend this cookbook. It taught me how to cook over direct and indirect heat on a gas grill, and how to set the temperature of the grill. If I want to know about rubs, or BBQ sauces, I go to this book first. If I want to know how long to cook a cut of meat, poultry, or fish, I go to this book first. The recipe chapters are: red meat, pork, poultry, fish, veggies and sides, and desserts. Each recipe has an accompanying photo that makes this amateur photographer envious!

The recipes offer a variety of seasonings: Rib-Eye Steaks with Tomato Harissa, Flatiron Steaks with Little Italy Relish, Sweet Chili-Mustard Chicken Salad with Toasted Almonds, Smoked Pulled Pork in Hot Chile Sauce, and Soft Tacos with Halibut, Guacamole, and South American Slaw are some examples. A fun range of ingredients and lots of fresh herbs and vegetables – I can always find a recipe to try in this book!

In September 2013 we were “stranded” at our home northwest of Lyons by a 500-year flood. Rushing water covered our only drivable way to civilization. Our power was out for a week in our all-electric home. We had no landline service. No cell phone reception. I am a packrat, so we had plenty of food, but how to cook? The Weber grill! That’s when I pulled out Weber’s Real Grilling and learned how to grill pizzas. They were wonderful!

For this blog I choose to make “Greek Chicken Salad Sandwiches”.

Greek Chicken Salad Sandwiches recipe

I like the seasoning mix for the marinade, and I like using chicken thighs sometimes instead of chicken breasts. Ever since our trip to Turkey, I’ve especially enjoyed Mediterranean-style food. Plus: pitas! It’s been ages since I’ve bought (or made) pita bread. For the “creamy cucumber or blue cheese dressing”, I will substitute a cucumber dressing that I have in my own cooking documents.

Greek Chicken Salad Sandwiches with Cucumber Dressing for Two

  • zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
  • 1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic (or use fresh garlic)
  • a few shakes each: dry mustard, cumin, coriander, salt, cayenne pepper
  • salt and pepper (to your own tastes)
  • 8-10 ounces boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 pita breads
  • lettuce and tomatoes
  • cucumber dressing: 1/2 cup plain yogurt, 1 tablespoon mayonnaise, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, a couple leaves fresh mint (if you have it), and about a third of a cucumber, peeled, seeded, and finely chopped

Whisk together the marinade ingredients (lemon though the spices). Place the chicken thighs in a plastic bag and pour in the marinade. Close the bag and refrigerate 2-3 hours.

Combine the cucumber dressing ingredients and set aside.

Remove the thighs from the bag and discard the marinade. Grill over direct high heat until the meat is firm, 8-10 minutes, turning once or twice. Remove from the grill, and when cool enough to handle, chop the chicken into small pieces. Combine with enough of the dressing to coat the chicken and mix well.

Cut the pita breads in half. Open each half and fill with the chicken mixture, lettuce, and tomatoes and serve.


My cucumber dressing, pita pockets, marinated chicken, and the veggies:

Pita Sandwich ingredients

Here is an assembled sandwich

pita sandwiches

We both enjoyed these! The chicken in nicely seasoned and well complimented by the cucumber dressing. We had them for dinner on a hot summer day, but they’d be good for lunch too.

I’ve made chicken salad for sandwiches before, zillions of times. Usually I use boiled chicken. Marinating and grilling the chicken – for chicken salad? A great idea. Putting the salad in pita bread? Another great idea. Next time, I’ll probably cook the chicken ahead of time, since they are served at room temperature.