The best books on southwestern regional home cooking

Who am I?

Jackie Alpers is an award-winning professional food photographer and author. She is a longtime contributing recipe developer & photographer for The Food Network, Refinery29, TheKitchn, TodayFood, Real Simple, National Geographic, and Edible Baja Arizona Magazine among others. She has been featured in articles for Reader’s Digest, CNN, Good Morning America, The New York Times & NPR. She writes, cooks, and styles recipes from her sun-lit studio in Tucson, Arizona.

I wrote...

Taste of Tucson: Sonoran-Style Recipes Inspired by the Rich Culture of Southern Arizona

By Jackie Alpers,

Book cover of Taste of Tucson: Sonoran-Style Recipes Inspired by the Rich Culture of Southern Arizona

What is my book about?

A cookbook dedicated to the foods inspired by the region's beauty and diversity, Taste of Tucson discovers through recipes and photos the unique mix of cultures that create Southern Arizona's incredible cuisine. Award-winning photographer and cookbook author Jackie Alpers shares her own inspired food creations in this book as well as her favorite restaurants' dishes, while incorporating the history of the Sonora region, the mysticism and lore, and how it has contributed to the food of the people who live there. Building from tried-and-true basics and tutorials on tacos, enchiladas, carne asada, and huevos rancheros, she divulges secrets to making Sonora's most unique savories and sweets, including Chicken Mole Amarillo, Adobo Pulled Pork, Red Pozole, Dark Chocolate and Coffee Figgy Pudding Cakes, and more.

The books I picked & why

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AMA: A Modern Tex-Mex Kitchen

By Josef Centeno, Betty Hallock, Ren Fuller

Book cover of AMA: A Modern Tex-Mex Kitchen

Why this book?

Josef Centeno honors the food he grew up with in San Antonio. The book is named for his great-grandmother, “Ama´” and the influence of both his family, and his life as the chef of Los Angeles’s Bar Ama permeate the book. “Reimagined” is the word Josef uses to describe his recipes, and I think it’s a perfect descriptor for his particular vision.

Chef Centeno’s taste leans towards acidic, with lots of citrus and vinegars. Words like pickled and vinaigrette appear often in recipe titles and there is no shortage of chiles and salsas. I learn something every time I make a new recipe from this book, which is something I aspire to have my own cookbooks to do for others.

The Homesick Texan Cookbook

By Lisa Fain,

Book cover of The Homesick Texan Cookbook

Why this book?

Longing for the food from home yet finding her quest unobtainable to fulfil, Lisa Fain, a 7th generation Texan, took matters into her own hands and began exploring ways to recreate Tex-Mex dishes in her NYC apartment. From this process a cookbook was born. The Homesick Texan is for every armchair traveler who wants to recreate a little bit of Texas, not matter where they may be at the moment.

El Charro Cafe: The Tastes and Traditions of Tucson

By Carlotta Flores,

Book cover of El Charro Cafe: The Tastes and Traditions of Tucson

Why this book?

I owe a huge debt of gratitude to the Flores family for hiring me on as a busier/bartender shortly after I moved to Tucson from Ohio in 1993. Carne Seca, albondigas and topopo were all new words to me that have since become embedded in my daily experience.

Carlotta Flores published a cookbook of recipes from the restaurant in 1998 and I reference it often in my own cookbook, Taste of Tucson. It’s a must-have book for anyone interested in learning more about Sonoran style Mexican food.

The Border Cookbook: Authentic Home Cooking of the American Southwest and Northern Mexico

By Cheryl Jamison, Bill Jamison,

Book cover of The Border Cookbook: Authentic Home Cooking of the American Southwest and Northern Mexico

Why this book?

The Border Cookbook will teach you just about everything you need to know about the many different styles of Southwestern cuisine from the southern border regions. Trailing from northern Mexico to southern California, across Arizona and up through northern New Mexico, the book is organized by recipe instead of region so you can see how ingredients are uniquely utilized. Headers explain the history and regional significance of each dish.

Coyote Cafe: Foods from the Great Southwest, Recipes from Coyote Cafe

By Mark Charles Miller,

Book cover of Coyote Cafe: Foods from the Great Southwest, Recipes from Coyote Cafe

Why this book?

Can a cookbook change the course of your life? Perhaps. I attended art school in the late 1980’s. A favorite Sunday morning diversion was wandering through the aisles of the nearby Book Loft in Columbus, Ohio. One day I came across the Coyote Cafe Cookbook and my life was subtly changed forever. It put the seed of what would grow into a passion for Southwestern cuisine into my being, and it may have been part of the catalyst for me moving to this region. The recipes are intriguing and a little fancy. Cooking from this book is a treat.

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