I was instantly drawn to the new cookbook —not the least because of the bold colors and modern festive design. Created by Isabel Cruz, who owns several restaurants on the West Coast, this book features simple, lightened up (i.e., ground turkey in place of ground beef) versions of Mexican favorites her family made, plus dishes inspired by the diverse L.A. neighborhood she grew up in. (She throws in flavorful globe-spanning ingredients such as mangoes, mint, ginger, avocado and chipotle that she discovered from her Latin and Asian neighbors.)
I generally think of Mexican food as warm-weather fare, but Isabel includes several hearty soups and stews that surely count as comfort food. Yesterday was dreary and rainy, so I tried her Abuelita's Chicken and Rice Soup. You can see the veggies (carrots, celery, asparagus and onion) and chicken simmering on the stove at left. Following the lead of Isabel's grandmother, I cooked the rice separately, placed it in a mound in the center of a bowl, and then surrounded it with the soup.
The great thing about chicken soup is that everyone has their own little signature touch, but it's always cozy and delicious. In this case, the special twists were a pinch of saffron and the tangy roasted red pepper garnish.
I also made Isabel's Mini Zucchini Frittatas with Jalape±o. Since I don't have the muffin tins this recipe called for, I used some bread pans that I picked up at a yard sale. I know, I know: What kind of kitchen has bread pans but no muffin tins? As a relatively young home cook, I experience the flip side of —there are crucial pieces I haven't acquired yet. At any rate, the eggs were satisfying—fluffy and filled with zucchini, onions and peppers. I cut off a piece for breakfast this morning, but I couldn't help thinking they'd be even better if I'd added a little cheese or heavy cream. (And, yeah, that would kind of ruin the light, healthy aspect.)
Ready to cook? Try these Latin-influenced dishes:
Mexican Chickpea Soup
Chili Pot Pies
Turkey Enchiladas Suizas
What's your favorite take on chicken soup? Share your ideas in comments.—Jennifer Conrad