What's your favorite Mexican restaurant? It just might be one of the 17 in AltaMed's new book, In Their Own Words II, by Sergio C. Muñoz.
Rather than a restaurant guide, the book tells how Mexican cuisine flourished in and around Los Angeles in the words of the restaurant owners who made it happen. The subtitle is: "Latino Contributions to the World of Fine Cuisine."
From hard-working immigrants to world-class chefs, they share their struggles and their drive to put real Mexican food on the table. Some had planned on other careers. Rocío Camacho of Rocío's Mole de los Dioses had intended to be a kindergarten teacher. Blair Salisbury of El Cholo Café had wanted to be a racecar driver.
You learn how El Tepeyac's legendary 5-pound chile verde burrito was born. You follow as El Cholo expands from a modest restaurant opened in 1923 to today's chain. And you read intimate personal revelations, like how Rogelio Martínez Juárez of Casa Oaxaca in Santa Ana vowed to the Virgin of Juquila in Oaxaca that he would quit drinking if he could bring his family to this country.
Armando de la Torre of Guisados tells how he came up with the idea that became AltaMed's annual East L.A. Meets Napa benefit, which pairs Mexican food with Latino-made wines.
And you learn how Jaime Martín del Campo and Ramiro Arvizu were so shocked at the way Mexican food was being "massacred" in Los Angeles that they promised to close their restaurant, La Casita Mexicana in Bell, "before either one of us makes a burrito."
The book starts with a tribute to Tila's Kitchen by Cástulo de la Rocha, president and CEO of AltaMed Health Services Corporation, which aids individuals unable to pay for health care.
Except for Tila's Kitchen, each restaurant has provided a recipe, ranging from the traditional, such as Lotería Grill's beef tongue in tomatillo sauce, to contemporary dishes such as Playa's loup de mer with five Mesoamerican sauces.
Although it is Cuban, not Mexican, Porto's Bakery & Cafe in Glendale is included along with a recipe for parfait de maracuyá (passion fruit parfait).
Wine pairings were suggested by the author's father, Sergio Muñoz Bata. His sister, Lorenza Muñoz, handled the recipes. Lowell Downey, the photographer, also photographed the initial In Their Own Words, about Latino winemakers in the Napa Valley.
The book was sold at East LA Meets Napa, but copies can still be ordered online.
Here from Pati Zarate of Homegirl Café is Pescado a la Veracruzana (Veracruz Style Fish). At the café in downtown Los Angeles, dishes such as this "provide patrons comfort for the soul as well as their tastebuds," says Zarate, who teamed up with Father Greg Boyle to operate Homegirl as a gang intervention and rehab facility.
Pescado a la Veracruzana
From: Homegirl Café
Makes: 6 servings
6 white fish fillets
2 pounds small tomatoes
½ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 garlic cloves, chopped
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
¼ cup flat leaf parsley, chopped
½ teaspoon dried oregano
12 green olives, pitted
¼ cup capers
¼ cup golden raisins
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and turn on the grill to medium/high temperature.
2. Wash and pat dry the fish fillets and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Wash the tomatoes and grill lightly. In a medium bowl, lightly whisk together the olive oil and wine vinegar. Add the garlic, cilantro, parsley and oregano and mix well.
3. Prepare 6 pieces of parchment paper. Slice the grilled tomatoes. Place each fish fillet on half of one piece of parchment. Top with grilled tomatoes, olives, capers and raisins. Drizzle with the oil and vinegar mixture. Fold the paper at the edges to form a pocket.
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Bake for 15 minutes. Serve with white rice and vegetables.
Suggested wine pairing: Robledo Sauvignon Blanc 2009 or Cabernet Sauvignon 2006.
Read more from Barbara Hansen at www.EatMx.com, www.TableConversation.com, @foodandwinegal and Facebook. Want more Squid Ink? Follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook.