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Nestled in the heart of the Mexican state of Oaxaca is Rancho Aurora, home of the Seasons of My Heart cooking school and inn. Ten years ago, chef and owner Susana Trilling left New York City and a very successful catering business to follow what turned out to be her calling--to immerse herself in the foods, culture, and traditions of this remote and exotic region of Mexico and share her knowledge with the rest of the world.
In this book and its companion PBS series, Susana shares her deep passion and anthropologic knowledge of this fascinating region whose cuisine remains virtually untouched by influences from the outside world. The pre-Hispanic and Spanish-influenced dishes, such as empanadas, nopales, quelites, and moles, are much more complex and delicious than the usual rice and beans found north of the border.
Susana not only takes us on a fascinating journey through the city markets, mountain regions, coastal villages, and low-lying coffee and cacao plantations, she introduces us to the beautiful people who work and live there. Along the way, she shares traditional recipes from each region, with her own improvisations and improvements, showing us how to easily approach this rich and delicious food in a modern American kitchen.
From Dona Josefa Sanchez's empanadas de betabel (beet empanadas), served to hungry shoppers at the Etla market in the Central Valleys, to the darkly luscious and mysterious Mole Negro Oaxaqueno (Oaxacan black mole) from the bustling heart of Oaxaca City, cooked up in quantity for the Da de los Muertos (day of the dead), to a tamale-making session given by the locally infamous Candida Blas Aguilar in the sleepy Isthmus region--this is truly a culinary journey through the heart and soul of Oaxaca. Right at the tip of the poblano chile that makes up the bulk of Mexico, right where the land squeezes together and pushes the Yucatn Peninsula out into the Atlantic Ocean, you'll find the state of Oaxaca. It's kind if a round state, like a grapefruit with a handle. Only Chiapas is further south, and beyond that lies Guatemala. This is to say that the Mexican cuisine Susana Trilling presents in her wonderful, informative book Seasons of My Heart has nothing to do with the generic food of the border. She follows in the tradition of Diana Kennedy, Rick Bayless, Zarela Martinez, Patricia Quintana, and Marilyn Tausend, both when setting a table and setting a standard.
Part of Oaxaca butts up against the Pacific Ocean; part of it is lost in the mountains. In between are valleys and plains. Susana Trilling lives, works, and raises her family in Oaxaca. Her knowledge of her adopted land is indeed intimate--and delicious. Take a restaurant owner and caterer out of New York and drop her in Oaxaca and it's guaranteed that she's going to zero in on the food and its traditions. Some Oaxacan food has roots in Spanish cuisine, but most of it is, well, Oaxacan, and has been that way since time untold. In Seasons of My Heart, Trilling walks the interested visitor through all the different regions and foodstuffs of Oaxaca. This book is like interactive anthropology: you read about Oaxaca, then you eat the food, filling your house with the cooking aromas of another land.
Trilling divides her book into chapters that reflect the distinct regions of the state, finishing up with chapters on mole, updated recipes for the modern kitchen and palate, and essential ingredients to make the food happen. --Schuyler Ingle
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