Turnip Greens & Tortillas: A Mexican Chef Spices Up the Southern Kitchen

Eddie Hernandez was baptized by potlikker--or so his cookbook Turnip Greens & Tortillas: A Mexican Chef Spices Up the Southern Kitchen begins. He reminisces about the dish he made in 1989 from a bag of turnip greens that a customer brought to the Tex-Mex restaurant where Hernandez was a cook. He conceived of an approach that united Southern greens with Mexican spices, earning devoted followers and setting the stage for a career in cuisine.

At 17, Hernandez came to the United States from Monterrey, Mexico, in pursuit of a record deal in Houston. Though drumming didn't pan out, his burgeoning taste for cooking did. Now he is executive chef of Taqueria del Sol, with restaurants in Georgia and Tennessee. In Turnip Greens & Tortillas, he offers straightforward recipes that make something special from something simple, drawing from traditions and adding a personal twist.

A day's menu might start with Fritos chilaquiles or cornmeal waffles with spiced syrup for breakfast. For lunch: shrimp and grits or zucchini and corn soup with brie. Snacks to nibble while imbibing an Eddie Palmer--sweet tea with Hornitos Reposado and lime--include Cajun boiled peanuts or fried green tomatillos with peach-habanero sauce. For dinner, a Mississippi hot shrimp taco, or pork, peanut butter and black bean chili.

Big flavors abound. Hernandez's mantra is "be creative." Even vegetarian dishes pack a punch, like the roasted cauliflower with jalapeños and blue cheese. Dessert follows suit, with show-stopping green chile-apple-pineapple turnovers with lime zest glaze--good enough for rock 'n' roll. --Katie Weed, freelance writer and reviewer

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