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Mexico in Your Kitchen

by Mely Martinez (Rock Point, 2024)

“This is the second cookbook from Mexico-born and Dallas-based food blogger Mely Martinez. Her blog Mexico in my Kitchen has an impressive following and her debut cookbook was a best seller. Her formula – sharing recipes for the kinds of unpretentious dishes Mexican families enjoy day to day – was initially intended for people with Mexican heritage and minimal cooking skills but has come to resonate with a much broader audience.

Martinez’ first book The Mexican Home Kitchen introduced the fundamentals of Mexican cooking, covering the most popular dishes and techniques for making tortillas, rice, beans and other staples. Her second book continues in a similar instructional vein, expanding the repertoire by adding regional dishes and some common street foods (antojitos). Recipes are easy to follow and are written with inexperienced cooks in mind. Some recipes are quite humble — hot dog sausages in a spicy sauce; two simple treatments for spaghetti (rojo and verde); a quesadilla filled with ham and cheese – but there are also a handful of more complex recipes for cooks who enjoy more of a challenge.

Compared to writers like Pati Jinich, Rick Bayless or the late Diana Kennedy, who take a more scholarly approach to Mexican cuisine, Martinez is lighter on recipe provenance and culinary history but her books work well as cooking manuals. Recipes are accompanied by colour photos and are accompanied by Notas that explain how to take dishes in different directions, suggest ingredient substitutions, and provide other useful tips.

Mexico in Your Kitchen is divided into seven chapters: Breakfasts; Antojitos; Soups; Main Dishes; Sides, Salsa & Peppers; Desserts & Breads, Drinks. Front and back matter cover Mexican Food Customs; The Mexican Pantry; Tools & Equipment (including useful hacks); a ‘how to’ for Roasting Vegetables and a Recipe Reference listing dishes contained in Martinez’ first book.

Huevos con Chorizo

All the recipes I tried worked out well and were easy to execute. Martinez describes Huevos con Chorizo (chorizo and eggs) as one of the most useful dishes one can learn to cook and it is certainly one of the simplest. Crumbled chorizo is cooked in a skillet, releasing its bright orange, tasty fat, then eggs are scrambled in the same pan, picking up all that flavour. Yum! Similarly scrumptious and easy to whip up is Quesadilla de Jamon, essentially a grilled ham and cheese sandwich with tortillas subbed in for bread.

More elaborate Tilapia Veracruzana (tilapia Veracruz-style) is an excellent illustration of how Spanish and Mexican culinary traditions come together. The fish (traditionally a whole snapper) is cooked in a sauce containing tomatoes, olives, capers, garlic and white wine, seasoned with thyme, marjoram and Mexican oregano. Martinez suggests using easier to find tilapia. It is a mild tasting fish but takes on a vibrant personality given the Veracruzana treatment.

Pescado al Mojo de Ajo

Pescado al Mojo de Ajo (Garlic Fish Fillets) is another classic Mexican dish, dressing the fish with a simple sauce of garlic sauteed in oil. It is quite straightforward to prepare, as long as you don’t let the thinly sliced garlic get too brown or it will turn bitter. I rescued it just in time!

Moros con Cristianos (Black Beans and Rice) is a popular side dish eaten throughout Latin America. Martinez’ version is extra tasty because she adds Mexican oregano and cumin to the traditional seasonings of onion and garlic. Her take on ‘Moors and Christians’ received rave reviews when I served it to family.

Espagueti Verde (green spaghetti) is a delightfully simple dish of spaghetti coated in a creamy sauce based on roasted poblano peppers. It has a gorgeous jade green colour and a mildy spicy taste — perfect comfort food with a little extra kick.

Roasted poblano peppers also provide a spicy base note for Papas con Rajas y Crema, a spritely side dish of diced potatoes with strips (rajas) of roasted poblano, sauteed onions and Mexican crema. I liked Martinez’ suggestion of adding a jalapeño pepper for an extra dose of chile heat. Notas like this one, suggesting ways to take dishes in different directions, follow many recipes, making each a mini lesson in technique and/or an opportunity  to expand one’s repertoire.

Creamy Chipotle Chicken

Creamy Chipotle Chicken, says Martinez, is a modern dish that has become a staple in many Mexican households. Its secret is a rich sauce that comes together in minutes using canned chipotle chiles, chicken stock, milk and cream. It’s a “secret weapon” kind of dish — fancy enough for a dinner party but requiring minimal effort or fuss. I made it twice and suspect it will become part of my regular rotation, especially as, according to Martinez, the sauce can also be used with shrimp or pasta.

Frijoles Puercos is an indulgent mix of pureed pinto beans, chorizo and cheese that can be served as a side dish or as an appetizer, with tortilla chips for dipping. It’s traditionally made with lard but Martinez suggests butter as a substitute, an addition I felt was hardly needed in a dish that is already so rich with cheese and sausage.

I finished on a high note with Beef Shank Stew, which turns an inexpensive cut of meat into a luxurious dish with a ton of flavour. Beef shank (Osso Buco in Italian) has a core of marrow that yields its richness in a long, slow cooking process. Martinez suggests using a instant pot for the first stage of cooking, cutting the time down sufficiently to make this feasible as a weeknight dish. With the addition of carrots, potatoes, olives, raisins, capers and white wine, it is deeply savoury. My leftovers developed even deeper flavours after resting in the fridge overnight.

The majority of recipes in Mexico in Your Kitchen can also be found on Martinez’ blog so there is little reason to buy the book if you are happy cooking from recipes on a digital device. I am not, and I am grateful for my hard copy of this book, which is now peppered with post-it notes marking more dishes I want to try. Mexico in Your Kitchen is not an encyclopedic work on Mexican cuisine but within the parameters of what this cookbook sets out to do, I couldn’t fault it.

“Recipes excerpted with permission from Mexico in Your Kitchen (Rock Point), an imprint of The Quarto Group, 2024) by Mely Martínez. Mexico in Your Kitchen publishes April 30, 2024, and can be purchased wherever fine books are sold. Learn more at”

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