New Complete Book of Mexican Cooking
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New Complete Book of Mexican Cooking

by Elisabeth Lambert Ortiz

With more than three hundred recipes, nearly sixty of which have never been published before, Elisabeth Lambert Ortiz—an expert on Latin American food—brings the colorful tapestry and basic principles of Mexican cooking to your kitchen. Here familiar items like peppers, avocados, cilantro, pumpkin, and beans are transformed with original and unexpected


With more than three hundred recipes, nearly sixty of which have never been published before, Elisabeth Lambert Ortiz—an expert on Latin American food—brings the colorful tapestry and basic principles of Mexican cooking to your kitchen. Here familiar items like peppers, avocados, cilantro, pumpkin, and beans are transformed with original and unexpected combinations that evoke the rich heritage and flavors of Mexico. Authentic dishes that tempt the palate range from such classics as Enchiladas Suizas (Flour Tortillas stuffed with Chicken, Poblano Chilies, and Tomatillos) to the intoxicating flavors of Pescado en Salsa de Azafran y Nuez (Fish in Saffron and Pecan Sauce). You'll find the recipes for the best known as well as creative variations on salsa, soup, meat, poultry, and vegetable dishes, passed from one generation to the next and enhanced by the colorful imagination and exquisite skills of cooks throughout Mexico.

In the lively new headnotes for each recipe, Lambert Ortiz explores the fascinating history of this ancient cuisine, from the original Aztec and Mayan cooking of the precolonial civilizations to the cuisine that developed after the Spanish conquest. She'll show you how you too can recreate the vibrant spices, the exuberant colors, and the delectable taste of Mexican food in your own kitchen.

Editorial Reviews

James Beard
No other person knows as much about the wonderfully varied cooking of Latin America.
Jill Norman
A welcome new edition of one of the first and bets books on Mexican cooking.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
A comprehensive sampling of authentic Mexican cuisine.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Edition description:
First HarperCollins Edition
Product dimensions:
7.37(w) x 9.25(h) x 1.21(d)

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Read an Excerpt


This book really began with the habanero chile whose taste haunted me for years though I didn't know then what it was.We were living in the West Indies at the time, as my father had a special job that took him there.At recess at school I was allowed to buy a little meat pie costing a quatee, the local name for two cents, from an elderly black lady who brought a cloth—covered wicker basket of them to the school daily. They had a special flavor that captivated me.I was too young to know bow to track it down but the memory of it stayed with me.

When I first married and we were still in New York, Cesar told me about Mexico's extraordinary contribution to the world's cultivated food.Chocolate, vanilla, corn (maize), chilies (sweet, pungent and hot), tomatoes, avocados, green beans, the dried beans like kidney beans, pumpkin and the summer squash including chayotes (cho-chos), papayas, turkeys and others.New dating methods claimed that agriculture first developed in the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East and in the Valley of Mexico at about 7000 B.C. with differing foods and with no contact between the two centers. That contact came when, to quote the schoolroom rhyme, "In fourteen hundred and ninety-two, Columbus sailed the ocean blue" and stumbled on the New World believing he was somewhere else.

The real food contact only developed fully when Hernan Cortes conquered the Aztec Empire, center of the agricultural outburst, in 1521.That encounter doubled the foods in the world's larder, is the most important single event in the history of food, and led me to discover at long last, the evocative taste in quatee pie,Capsicum chinense, variety habanero.The small orange-red lantern-shaped chili is the hottest native to North America, has an exquisite flavor and is known in Jamaica as the Scotch Bonnet, in Guatemala as the chile caballero (gentleman chili) and mostly as the habanero, which translates as "the chili from Cuba", a debatable point.

My late husband, Cesar Ortiz Tinoco, a Mexican national, was transferred from United Nations Headquarters in New York to the United Nations Information Center in Mexico City and I began the voyage of discovery that ended with the original edition of this book. There was an enormous lot for me to learn and I was handicapped by not knowing Spanish and by stubbornly clinging to some of my cultural habits, like having dinner at night instead of having comida at midday followed by a siesta.It was not practical anyway as Cesar could not join me, his work making it impossible.One cannot have a large, leisurely meal alone and then tell your husband when he comes home from work that you've already eaten.I took some Spanish lessons and learned the names for chair, table, wastepaper basket, pen, pencil and India rubber. The maid tried to help but she spoke no English and Cesarsaid she was picking up my bad grammar as I began to pick up the language.So I took to the markets, San Juan, La Merced, Medellin where the market women put up with my beginning Spanish and taught me how to make some of the things I had eaten in other people's houses and in restaurants.I had a simple technique.I would look around for someone whose stall had some of the things I thought I would need, an older woman preferably as I felt age would confer not only knowledge but kindness.We would begin with the woman seated at her stall (usually in a full skirt and white blouse, and a white apron, round her shoulders a rebozo, a colored woolen stole, and her hair in long plaits), selecting the ingredients from the neat little piles of chilies, herbs, tomatoes, onions and garlic in the order in which they were to be cooked.I'd be sent off to buy tortillas from the tortilla-sellers, avocados from the avocado—seller, eggs from one of the little grocery stalls or whatever else my stall didn't carry, as the market women in Mexico all specialize as they have done from time immemorial when they were Mayans and Aztecs and others.

Then the cookery lesson would begin with an amused but pleased stall—owner achieving a miraculous kind of pidginSpanish so that I would understand what she was talking about, while other market people, men and women, would call out from time to time, "Que va a llevar, marchanta?" (What are you going to buy, customer?), as a way of drawing attention to their own stalls without impoliteness.I would understand from my teacher that I was to chop this and this and this, and fry them together, then add this and this and simmer them all together, grinding this to be added later, and so on.I would make notes identifying strange herbs and chilies and note the unfamiliar cooking methods, and for a modest number of pesos carry off the ingredients for the dish to be cooked in my shopping basket, a brightly colored woven one from the same market. The system worked very well and I cooked authentic Mexican dishes to everyone's surprise.I was careful not to annoy the family maid by invading the kitchen when she was still on duty.As she left shortly after comida it was easy enough.My Spanish became rapid, fluent and grammatically a terror and in no time I had a working knowledge of Mexican herbs, spices, fruits and vegetables, though even now I am still learning.

We moved into our own apartment and had our own maid and I very foolishly and stubbornly tried to cling to my own way of life, and my own meal hours.My husband's family were just as stubborn and with more justification.I was, after all, in their country.I did give a dinner party, at night, for some visiting American friends and asked my mother-in-law to join us.

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