Hardback and covered in a lush still life — an imperfect apple appears to have rolled to a rest on a rustic yellow plate — the Museum of New Mexico’s new coffee -table cookbook, Santa Fe Kitchens: Delicious Recipes from the Southwest, seems to promise fine art and culinary masterpieces. Cracking it open, one discovers a cookbook that is more ladies literary-club annual than gourmet, though not as kitschy as some of that genre, offering what is essentially rarefied home cooking.
Santa Fe Kitchens
The Museum of New Mexico Foundation
Ancient City Press
$24.95, 247 pages
Is there such a thing as too much white space? In Santa Fe Kitchens the recipes, printed two or three to a page and capped with a thin, loopy font, swim in a lonely white sea. Although this keeps the printed pages from competing with the art, those without art seem to demand an anchor. Yet, for all the space it is given, the art seems an afterthought, too. Individually lovely pieces — from Rebecca Salisbury James’s painting “Earth and Water” to the Tinsley’s vibrantly tiled kitchen to a Nigerian folk-dance costume to a historic 1914 photo of a Santa Fe plaza — are sometimes placed awkwardly and fail to tell a story or form a cohesive whole.
The good news is that the recipes, contributed by friends and patrons of the museum and some of Santa Fe’s finest chefs, are also diverse, ranging from Moroccan Kefta Tagine to meatloaf.
I tried Jinja Asia Café’s My Favorite Meatloaf, a spicy concoction of pork and beef hand-formed into individual loaves and slathered in barbecue sauce. The recipe includes bread crumbs soaked in half ’n’ half, which makes the meatloaf tender and delicate, almost dumpling-like.
That may have been the basis of a dining companion’s comment that she thought she tasted sweet potato, or she may have been reacting to the cumin and nutmeg, which give the meatloaf a sweet-savory flavor reminiscent of Mediterranean food. There’s still a definite Southwest twang, however, courtesy of three peppers — white, black, and cayenne — and the barbecue sauce. Leslie Allin, the owner and chef of Jinja Asia Café, suggests using your favorite sauce; I chose D.L. Jardine’s mesquite barbecue sauce, which is mildly hot and slightly sweet and complemented the nutmeg.
As he polished off a second loaf, another dining companion said the meatloaf was hands-down the best he’d ever eaten: “It tastes nothing like my mom’s.” •
By Susan Pagani