I love the varied cuisines of Mexico. A country with a rich and varied past, the food is much more than just tacos, enchiladas, rice and beans buried on a plate. I was fortunate to have as my mentor Diana Kennedy, the Julia Child of Mexican cooking. She was a tough taskmaster (English woman, rather humorless), insisting that we learned the proper names of each chili and even how to grind corn and make tortillas. Her dedication to preserving the gastronomic heritage was matchless. If you ever want an in-depth education about Mexican food, her books are considered the best in the genre. But that type of cooking takes a lot of time. Since there is not enough room in this column for three-page recipes, these are not from her. The following recipes are authentic but easy and sure to please.

Calabacitas con crema — Zucchini with Corn and Cream

This is a mild, creamy, frequently served side dish.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 medium onion, quartered and sliced

4 medium zucchinis (about 1 pound) cut into 1/2-inch dice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1 cup corn kernels, fresh or frozen

1 (4-ounce) can diced green chilies

1/2 cup heavy cream

In a large skillet, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until it begins to brown. Add zucchini, salt and pepper and stir. Cover and cook, stirring frequently, until zucchini is barely tender.

Add corn and chilies, cook, uncovered, stirring until corn is tender, about two minutes, Stir in cream, bring to boil, take off heat. Serve hot.

Sopa de Tortilla

Tortilla soup may be the best known of all of Mexico’s soups with many versions and many different interpretations. In this recipe, the onion, garlic and tomatoes are roasted to deepen the flavor.

1½ teaspoons dried oregano

1/2 cup vegetable oil

6 corn tortillas, halved and cut crosswise into thin strips

1 medium onion, halved

4 garlic cloves

1½ tablespoons vegetable oil

4 medium tomatoes, cored

6 cups chicken stock


Diced avocado, chopped cilantro, lime wedges

Preheat oven to 375. In a small, dry skillet, cook oregano over medium heat, shaking pan often, until fragrant, one to two minutes. Transfer to small bowl.

In a medium skillet, heat 1/2 cup vegetable oil until hot, add tortilla strips, a few at a time, and fry until golden brown. Remove and drain on paper towel.

Rub onion and garlic with 1/2 tablespoon oil, place in small baking dish, cover with foil and roast about 30 minutes or until soft. At the same time, place tomatoes in another small baking dish, roast uncovered until very soft and skins are wrinkled.

Remove skins from tomato, garlic and onion. Puree in blender or food processor, add toasted oregano and blend until smooth.

In large saucepan, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat, add tomato puree and cook, stirring frequently, until thickened, about four minutes.

Add chicken stock and salt, bring to boil, reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes to blend flavors.

Divide tortilla strips among six bowls, ladle hot soup into bowls and garnish with avocado and cilantro. Pass lime wedges to add at table.

Camerones al mojo de ajo — Shrimp in garlic sauce

Wherever seafood is served, you are bound to find some form of this dish. This is an easy version done in one pan.

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

6 garlic cloves, minced

1 pound shrimp (16 to 20) shelled and deveined, leave tails on

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon paprika

3 tablespoons lime juice

In large skillet, melt butter and olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring until golden brown, about two minutes. Do not let burn or it will be bitter.

Add shrimp, salt and paprika. Cook, turning shrimp several times, until pink outside, curled and opaque throughout. Remove from heat, toss with lime juice. Transfer to warm serving platter, drizzle on pan juices and serve.