Cookbook Profile

Dishes from the Wild Horse Desert
Norteño Cooking of South Texas

by Melissa Guerra

Wild Horse Desert

Texas is home to many cuisines, but the flavors of its southwest region—the arid borderland with Mexico—is where history and landscape have produced some of the most vibrant cooking in North America: authentic Tex-Mex cooking.

Melissa Guerra, whose family has ranched in this area for eight generations, is the local authority on the region's culinary heritage, seen in dishes like Faldilla a la Tampiquena (sizzling flank steak with poblano chiles and onions) and Sopa de Fideo (a robust stew featuring vermicelli noodles).

Informally called the Wild Horse Desert because of the abandoned livestock that roamed the area at the time of the U.S.-Mexican War, this is a region where centuries of culinary traditions come together, blending Native American influences with those of colonists from Spain and other parts of Europe. Located on the northern border of Mexico, the people of this region identify with all these influences, calling themselves norteño. "We live between two cultures," Guerra says. "We have our own dialect, our own music, and our own style of cooking, all of which is norteño."

Given the arid land and the great ranches that have grown in the desert, the food is rich with meat barbecues, and Guerra brings the reader to her own backyard barbeque with dishes like Pepitos (Grilled Steak Sandwiches). Chiles add fiery heat to home-cooked dished like Crema de Chile Poblano (Cream of Poblano Chile Soup); local restaurant favorites like the rice and bean dish like Frijoles Borrachos (Drunken Beans) round out the collection.

Woven with the rich lore of the region's settlers, Dishes from the Wild Horse Desert presents conversational, step-by-step lessons for bringing norteño cuisine to your table. Drawing on her cooking classes, television specials, and personal recipe collections, Guerra includes:

• A short course in salsas and chiles, from the poblano to the serrano, with heat-level ratings for each chile and a range of ideas for perking up meals with salsa.

• The secrets to making authentic corn and flour tortillas, along with other irresistible breads, from true cowboy biscuits to sweet Bunuelo fritters.

• A primer in norteño beverages, including healing herbal teas, fruit-infused Aguas Frescos, and Prickly Pear Margaritas.

• Emphasis on using local ingredients, such as Enchiladas Norteñas, showcasing the ancho chile; classic Pozole (a stew made with pork and hominy); and summery Calabacita con Polio, featuring tatuma squash and chicken.

Accompanying each recipe in this heirloom collection is Guerra's fascinating insight into the norteño culture of south Texas. Dishes from the Wild Horse Desert opens the spirit of norteño communities to us all, through an enticing, time-honored cuisine.

About the Author

Melissa Guerra was born into a family that has spent eight generations on a ranch in the Wild Horse Desert. For years, Guerra cooked the local cuisine for visitors to the family ranch and, upon request, began teaching. She starred in a local PBS television show The Texas Provincial Kitchen, carried by 98 percent of Texas PBS affiliates, from which her first eponymous cookbook sprang. Guerra has also appeared on a Texas holiday special, A Texas Provincial Holiday. Most recently, she was the food consultant for the public television show Texas Ranch House. Guerra has worked as a spokesperson for Goya Foods, Kraft, and Coca-Cola.


Buy the Book!


Dishes from the Wild Horse Desert
Norteño Cooking of South Texas

by Melissa Guerra
Hardcover; $29.95
ISBN: 0-7645-5892-7
Information provided by the publisher.


Dishes from the Wild Horse Desert



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This page created August 2006