Cookbooks are especially frustrating for galley reading. No index, no color photos. If the food doesn't read as tasty, making it pretty later won't help. The version of Doña Tomås that I saw was one of these versions; in this case, the book was a loose collection of pages held together by a standard binder clip. By Thomas Schnetz and Dona Savitsky, drawn from their Oakland restaurant of the same name, the book is on the shelves now; I saw the galley in February, just in time for the Academy Awards. Why would it be worth struggling with this stack of pages? Easy, I like Doña Tomås, and eat there whenever I can. I like the food. I'd like to eat it at home. Seemed like a good time for a themed Academy Awards party.
There are many, many good Mexican cookbooks out there. I have many, several more than my wife would like. Some, like Diane Kennedy, I use as reference books, some I use for menu ideas, some inspire me just with the photography. Plating is, after all, important. Doña Tomås I found especially satisfactory because of the results I got; I was able to recreate a restaurant meal experience for a crowd. I always look at the cookbooks for restaurants I frequent; knowing what I'd like the results to be gives me a benchmark for both the recipes and my cooking. I had the time to devote a full day to working on a bunch of recipes, all previously untried. The fact that they all worked for both me, and my guests, is the basis of this recommendation.
What did I make that worked so well? Sweet potato stuffed peppers with a spicy walnut cream sauce, grilled steak with a mushroom cream sauce, and the tortilla soup that basically sustains both my home and the bookstore during cold and flu season. There were sides, beans and salad and dessert, but those first three were the point of the meal and the point of the day. Good winter fare, hearty and filling and flavorful. In the middle of winter it's nice to spend a day surrounded by steam and simmering pots of sauce and soup. The directions were clear, the ingredient selection interesting yet available, and now that I have a finished copy, the photography inspiring.
It's summer now; all the dishes that tasted so good in the winter look a little heavy. Now is the season for that great melon salad we love so much, and as much grilled corn with chili and lime as we can eat. Seafood makes up the bulk of the entrees now, interesting ceviches or other dishes that take less time to cook than to measure and prep. That's fine; the longer days provide more time to cook, and less interest in staying inside to do it. That's why we have a barbeque, after all.
The breakfast foods are looking interesting this week. It might be time to have an al fresco brunch. Time to line up some friends.
Galley Slave Galley Watch: Dawn of Empire, by Sam Barone. The hordes are coming back, and this time the village isn't going to run and rebuild. This time they stay and fight. A great big tub of buttery Bronze Age popcorn, ready in September.
216 pages. Hardcover.