Nonfiction —What’s Cooking #3 Cooking With the Stars

It’s been a while since I posted some cookbook reviews so I thought I’d share some recent favorites that I’ve been putting to use quite a bit these past few months!

Trejo’s Tacos:  Recipes and Stories From L.A. by Danny Trejo and Hugh Garvey

Published April 2020 by Clarkson Potter

Danny Trejo is best known for his acting, having appeared in over 300 movies to date as well as several television shows.  He’s been a boxer and a bodybuilder, as well as a felon doing hard time in two of the nation’s toughest prisons.  But did you know he also owns eight restaurants in the Los Angeles area, including a Donut and Coffee shop?

I used to rob restaurants.  Today I own eight of them.”

His first restaurant, Trejo’s Tacos, was created with the memories of his beloved mother’s cooking in mind:  simple dishes with a ton of flavor.  And after trying several of the recipes in this cookbook I can tell you that yes, you can make delicious food with a handful of simple, easy to find ingredients.  I mention easy to find for a reason as so many “celebrity” cookbooks have great sounding recipes but a list of ingredients that are impossible to source.  I was able to find every single ingredient at my local grocery stores, which earns this book a bonus star from me!

As for the recipes, where to begin?  Maybe some Carnitas (slow-cooked seasoned pork) Tacos with a side of Street Corn on the Cob (fresh grilled corn  slathered with a mix of Cotija cheese, chipotle crema, seasonings, and fresh cilantro, a side dish that has me completely hooked!).  Another personal favorite, Citrus, Herb, and Garlic Shrimp makes a fantastic topping for tostadas or rice.  Barbacoa Brisket (braised beef brisket) is well worth the extra time and effort to create fork-tender meat perfect for enchiladas, tacos, and other creations.  And don’t forget dessert!  Danny shares his master donut recipe from his newest eatery, complete with variations like Margarita Donuts and The Abuelita (a classic donut topped with dark chocolate glaze and chocolate crumb topping).

I’ve only had this cookbook for four short months but it’s already one of my top five most-used in my collection.  Highly recommend checking it out.

5 out of 5 stars

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Michael Symon’s Playing With Fire by Michael Symon

Published April 2018 by Clarkson Potter

I love watching all the various cooking shows and cooking competitions out there, and Michael Symon has been one of my favorite celebrity chefs for years.  The combination of his easy-going demeanor and story-telling skills make him a natural teacher when it comes to cooking.

I first heard of Playing With Fire when he promoted it on The Chew (man, I miss that show!).  He had tied it in with the opening of his new barbecue restaurant called Mabel’s BBQ in Cleveland.  I was intrigued, so when we finally bought an outdoor grill a few months ago this cookbook was at the top of my list of “must have” grilling/barbecuing books.

Symon offers more than just a collection of delicious recipes.  There is a section devoted to the different types of smokers and grills with their pros and cons.  Scattered throughout the book are profiles of BBQ pitmasters from around the central and southern regions of the United States.  But of course, the main attraction is the food.  This is a very meat-centric book, with the focus on pork and beef (strangely enough, I didn’t think the chicken and seafood dishes sounded nearly as good as the other meat dishes).  Side dish offerings include a variety of cold salads and slaws as well as warm sides like Smoky Butternut Squash (which I can’t wait to try this autumn when the squash starts ripening) and Spicy Potato Gratin (one of my husband’s new favorites).  For me, the best part is the chapter focusing on sauces and rubs.  I love a good BBQ sauce and Symon offers his takes on various regional standards like the mustard-based Carolina Sauce to the sweeter Kansas City style.  And the Standard Dry Rub with its variations has become a seasoning staple in this household!

If you have some skills with outdoor grilling and want to expand your menu for your next cookout, you can’t go wrong with Playing With Fire.

4.5 out of 5 stars


Until next time, stay safe and Happy Reading!

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