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New book serves up authentic Mexican food that any home cook can make

With the publication of Pati’s Mexican Table: The Secrets of Real Mexican Home Cooking, the circle is complete. Former bookworm policy analyst turned cooking instructor, food blogger, chef and public television culinary host Pati Jinich directs her research, experience, love of country and personal journey onto the printed page.

It’s a tall order, capturing the spirit and energy of this 40-year-old, Washington, D.C.-area mother of three, whose career path has been carved step by step with kitchen utensils.

Jinich’s secrets are revealed through notes called “Mexican Cook’s Tricks” on many of the 115 recipes in the book. She rubs the ends of cucumbers to fend off bitterness. White onions are preferred because they contain less sulfur than yellow. The edges of the first handmade corn tortilla on the griddle will tell you whether there’s enough water in the dough. When you’re making enchiladas, pass those tortillas through hot oil or subject them to the heat of a dry skillet beforehand: That will keep them from cracking. Pre-mix the cocoa powder with a little of the liquid when making her sister’s marbled pound cake, and you’ll avoid a dusty brown countertop.

Not to be missed are her pork tenderloins, marinated ever so briefly, then glazed with a sweet citrus sauce. They could not be simpler, although those who don’t cook for a crowd will need to scale down from 10 servings. That raises, for me, one of two quibbles with the book. Enough of the recipes are crafted to serve 6 or more that I found myself doing the math and hoping for the best.

The other quibble has to do with the book’s photography. I found a disconnect between the images and the author’s intent. What I’ve seen in person as vibrant and bright comes across as overly composed, in that modern, Martha Stewartesque way. The mood doesn’t always match the food.

Yet the food is beautiful to behold. Even more important, it is food that can satisfy, every day.

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