Ever since she was a child, Pati Jinich has been passionate about food and sharing her love for all things culinary – what I didn’t expect was to have her literally share her love of food with me. When we met at The Senator restaurant in Toronto on a Monday morning, Jinich enjoyed a traditional diner breakfast while we chatted, and generously insisted that I try some of her meal, as well. “Can I give you a little?” she asked. “Please, it’s so much food! Ask for a plate. Eat with me!”
American public television viewers have witnessed Jinich’s fun and welcoming nature through her popular television show, Pati’s Mexican Table, since 2007, and now with the launch of her debut cookbook of the same name, Jinich’s home-style Mexican cooking is making waves across the continent. Jinich is quick to emphasize, however, that what she cooks isn’t the fast-food, Tex-Mex food that many Canadians might usually eat. “Real Mexican food is healthy and wholesome,” Jinich explains. “Most Mexican food is humble, like Mexicans – it’s accommodating food, versatile food. The ‘farm-to-table’ thing – that’s what Mexicans do every week, without it being organically expensive. It’s the way we eat.”
Throughout her cookbook, Jinich, who grew up in Mexico City, promotes the accessibility of Mexican cooking, and how ideal this cuisine is for families. But first, she has to tackle a common myth about Mexican food: it’s not necessarily that spicy! “There are so many Mexican recipes that don’t have chiles in them! Or when they do it’s very little,” says Jinich. Her recipes also include many tips for ensuring you don’t go overboard with the amount of heat in a dish. Jinich warns: “You can always pump up the heat, but you can’t pump it out!”
Another myth Jinich dispels is that Mexican food is highly condimented. “[People] will pour tablespoons of cumin and allspice and paprika [on a dish], because they equate condimented with Mexican,” Jinich explains. “But Mexican food is really subtle in the layers of flavours.”
If you’ve never tried to cook authentic Mexican food at home, Jinich says that you just need three key ingredients to get started: an onion, a tomato, and a jalapeno. “You chop it up raw? You have pico de gallo. You boil it? You have a red salsa. You char it? You have the base of a hearty bean soup. It’s very simple ingredients,” explains Jinich.
In addition to treating her readers to traditional, home-style recipes that Mexicans have enjoyed for several generations, Jinich’s cookbook includes many new takes on classic dishes. As a Mexican now living in Washington, D.C., Pati says that she has “the freedom of the distance. I can taste and play with some dishes or ingredients, but I try to be true to the soul of the pillars of Mexican cooking or the nature of the ingredients.” By combining her knowledge of traditional recipes with her endless culinary creativity, Jinich’s book is perfect for families who want to diversify their nightly menus with easy, healthy, and flavourful meals.
Our friends at Thomas Allen & Son have provided us with three (3) copies of Pati’s Mexican Tinga to give away to our Cityline viewers. For your chance to win, simply answer this question in the comments below: What’s your favourite Mexican dish? Good luck!
Author photo credit: Michael Ventura