Cookbook Review---

Mexican Border Flavors Cover  Mexican Border Flavors, The Beautiful Cookbook: Palazuelos/Swendson/Tausend/Hayes
496 Pages, Hardcover with Color Photographs
2003 by Harper Collins. $27.95 US

Reviewed for Good Cooking by Dwayne Minier, December 2005

When I was handed the cookbook, I thought that it should be on the coffee table instead of the kitchen counter because of the size. It is large, thick and heavy. As I opened it up, I found that I could not stop flipping through the pages. The photography is beautiful! I have never been to Mexico but always loved the food. The chapters focus on the different regions around Mexico. There are maps to show you exactly where the region is located and recipes from the area. As I glanced at the pictures, one caught my eye ...bisteces rellenos (stuffed beef rolls). I have made beef rolls many times and I wanted to see what an authentic one would taste like. The ingredients could be found at any local supermarket. It was very easy to make. The sauce was made of beef stock, fresh tomatoes, cumin, cloves, red wine, garlic, onions and chile serranos. How could it be bad? I also made budin de calabacita (zucchini pudding). I love zucchini and found this to be delicious! The recipes are easy to follow. Most of them have pictures of the finished product.... which I love. I may not have been to Mexico yet, but as I looked at the pictures in this beautiful book and made some recipes from it while sipping a Corona, I felt like I had a truly authentic Mexican evening without leaving the United States!

Stuffed Beef Rolls Bisteces Rellenos (Pajaritos)
Stuffed Beef Rolls

Mexican beefsteak is cut thin and then pounded even thinner, which is essential for these "little birds," or stuffed beef rolls. 
2 1b. (1 kg) beef round steaks (sirloin), cut thin
salt and freshly ground pepper 
2 carrots, diced
1 lb (500 g) spinach, stems removed
10 thin slices cured ham, about 6 oz (180 g)
5 ripe tomatoes, roasted (see glossary) and peeled 
2 cloves garlic, roasted (see glossary)
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin 
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves 
3 tablespoons oil
1/4 cup (2 oz/60 g) chopped onion
1 tablespoon all-purpose (plain) flour
1 1/2 cups (12 fl oz/375 ml) unsalted beef stock 
1/2 cup (4 fl oz/125 ml) red wine
2 bay leaves
1 chile serrano or to taste
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro (coriander)

Cover each steak with a piece of wax paper or plastic wrap and pound until 1/a in (6 mm) thick. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper and set aside.

Place the carrots in a saucepan of boiling salted water and cook until crisp-tender. Drain and set aside.

Rinse the spinach, place in a skillet with just the water that clings to the leaves, cover and cook over medium heat for 4-5 minutes or until wilted. Drain and chop finely. In a small bowl, combine the carrots and spinach and set aside.

Place a slice of ham on top of each steak, fill with the spinach-carrot mixture, roll up and tie with a string.

Puree the tomatoes, garlic, cumin and cloves in a blender.

Heat the oil in a skillet, add the steaks and brown lightly, 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a platter and set aside. 

Saute the onion in the same oil, add the flour and stir for 2 minutes. Add the tomato puree and cook over high heat, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes. Add the stock, wine, bay leaves and chile serrano and simmer for 5 minutes. Correct the seasonings. Add the steaks and any juices that have accumulated on the platter. Cook, covered, over low heat for 10 minutes or until tender. Sprinkle with the cilantro and serve hot.

Zucchini Pudding Budin de Calabacita
Zucchini Pudding

4 cups (1 lb/500 g) chopped zucchini (courgettes)
1 cup (4 oz/125 g) plus 2 tablespoons grated mild white Cheddar cheese
1 egg, beaten
1 cup (4 oz/125 g) crushed soda crackers (plain biscuits)
1/2 cup (4 oz/125 g) butter, melted
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until they 
)rm stiff peaks, then fold into the mixture. Transfer to 
buttered 2-qt (2-1) souffl6 dish and bake for 20-25 
iinutes. Serve hot. salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 350F (180C). In a covered saucepan, cook the zucchini in boiling water until tender. Drain, then mash them in a large bowl. Add the cup (4 oz/125 g) of cheese and the egg, crackers and butter; mix well with a wooden spoon. Add the nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste.

Transfer the mixture to an ovenproof dish, sprinkle with the remaining cheese and bake until the pudding thickens, 15 to 20 minutes.
Budines, which are similar to the Jewish kugel or vegetable puddings, are a popular way to serve vegetables in Mexico. 
This one, made of squash, is most traditional and can be served as a separate course or to accompany a main dish. It would nicely complement lomo de cerdo con salsa de tomate y rajas (page 136).