Nopalito: A Mexican Kitchen

Brooklyn food writer Stacy Adimando, co-author of Nopalito: A Mexican Kitchen, says, "Hearing about Mexican cuisine from someone who loves it so much makes you almost homesick for a place you may have never even been to."

Chef Gonzalo Guzman, born in Veracruz, wants home cooks to explore and experiment with Mexican cooking, and shares the recipes "that have made the deepest impression on my heart and live on in my memory since being away from home." While still a teenager, he worked in one of Nopalito founder Laurence Jossel's kitchens. He rose rapidly in the business, and now in his 30s works as the sole chef of both Nopalito restaurants in San Francisco.

Fresh, seasonal ingredients are the hallmark of Guzman's Mexican-by-way-of-California food. He packs tips, secrets and passion into his cookbook, noting the "intricacy, variety and layers of flavors involved." Complexity of flavor doesn't require "fussiness," but does emphasize authenticity. He includes specifics on building a Mexican pantry, including a glossary of chiles and other basics. He stresses making components ahead of time and storing them (pickled jalapeños, fresh cheese and pork sausage are in the early chapter "House Recipes").

Guzman coaches the home cook in a conversational tone: an avocado "should feel slightly spongy but not smushy." Small plates, big plates, drinks, desserts and 15 salsas pack this beautifully photographed cookbook. He is proud that his mama could walk into Nopalito and see "the heart of our family cuisine is still intact in our restaurant kitchen." --Cheryl Krocker McKeon, manager, Book Passage, San Francisco

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