by Sybil PrattMay, 2007
Mexican cooking is as vibrant, as colorful and as varied as the country itself. But for so long, most of us thought of it as a carbo-carnival of sludgy beans, tasteless, shredded cheese and cardboard tortillas. We know better now, but I doubt that many venture into the elegant, exuberant realms of real Mexican cuisine. You can enter those realms with Roberto Santibaâ€“ez, an award-winning chef and culinary director of Rosa Mexicano's six splendid restaurants (I say splendid from splendid firsthand experience), who offers up 125 recipes, along with 60 luscious full-color photos in Rosa's New Mexican Table. First, a culinary caveat: Great cooking traditions are not static, and though we treasure the classics, we should treasure innovation within the tradition as well after all, it's fun to play with your food. While the dishes served at Rosa Mexicano honor tradition, they're light and inventive, authentic but not orthodox, as Roberto says. The Rosa Mexicano take on guacamole, a signature dish and the best guac ever, uses a simple, unique chili paste to give it depth; poblanos are stuffed with spinach and goat cheese; enchiladas are filled with crabmeat zipped to perfection with spicy habanero escabeche, one of Roberto's 17 indispensables, the condiments that give so many of these dishes their energy and sparkle. With Seâ€“or Santibaâ€“ez's step-by-step support, your table can be as magically Mexican as Rosa's.