Napa Couple Launches “Mexican Flavors” Cookbook

Napa Couple Launches “Mexican Flavors” Cookbook

Napa, CA

Cooking teacher Hugh Carpenter and his wife, photographer Teri Sandison, announce the launch of their cookbook "Mexican Flavors: Contemporary Recipes from Camp San Miguel" available for purchase beginning August 12, 2014. Featuring 115 recipes and 130 photographs, the book takes readers on a culinary and cultural journey through San Miguel de Allende, a UNESCO World Heritage city where the couple have led a cooking school for nine years. Listed at $35.00 and available for pre-order on Amazon, the book can also be purchased in person at two book signings in the Napa Valley; August 24 at Robert Mondavi Winery, and September 13 at Cakebread Cellars.

At the core of "Mexican Flavors," the couple's 16th cookbook together, is its ability to inspire and teach the American cook to utilize locally available ingredients to create fresh and flavorful dishes with a Mexican flair. The book's introductory chapter, Flavor Building Blocks, defines key ingredients and gives tips on variety, sourcing, storage, and preparation. The collection of recipes tantalizes and inspires both seasoned and amateur cooks with cherished classics such as Guacamole, Sopa Azteca (Tortilla Soup), and BBQ Chicken with Mole Sauce, alongside gastronomic surprises including Banana Salsa, Quesadillas with Papaya and Brie, and Fallen Kahlua Chocolate Cake with Strawberry Coulis.

Carpenter has built his career on adding innovative twists to classic international dishes and this newest work is in this same vein; refreshing dishes with contrasting flavors and bold colors that capture the essence of Mexican cooking. In true Carpenter style, unexpected combinations abound when racks of lamb are seasoned with coffee, chiles, and chocolate, or when Vietnamese rice paper is filled with shredded apple and chipotle chile.

"What has always appealed to me about Mexican cooking is the complex layering of flavors," said Carpenter. "The taste sensation in one bite may include buttery avocado, fragrant cilantro, the long lingering flavor notes from dried red chiles, the tartness of lime, and the rich smoothness of Mexican sour cream. It is the play of flavors within each bite, and the texture and colors from dish to dish that makes Mexican food so exciting."

In addition to his integrative recipes, Carpenter is also known for his rigorous recipe tasting methods and thoughtful tips that put even the most amateur cooks at ease. After being tried multiple times in his home kitchen and international cooking schools, the recipes are sent to a group of home cooks scattered around the country.

"I approach recipe writing the way a nation drafts a treaty - every bit of work makes a difference," says Carpenter, who indicates ways to prepare in advance and specific yields for each recipe. "I leave nothing to chance."

Sandison, an acclaimed food photographer, brings the recipes to life with vibrant images that capture the rich experiences of their cooking school, as well as the cultural life of San Miguel and the surrounding region. Walk through the farmer's markets, watch the people go by on the Jardin, and see behind the doors of old colonial homes without having to pack a suitcase. Sandison, whose attention to detail and authenticity match Carpenter's fail-safe recipes, searched high and low for the perfectly shaped Pasilla peppers and waited months to coordinate peak produce ripeness for the book's beautifully bold cover shot.

Mexico's allure began for the couple long ago when the two traveled during their high school and college years, but it was in September 2000 when the love affair with San Miguel was sparked. What started as a quick pit stop with friends turned into five nights of parties, exploring cobblestone streets, and the purchase of a historic colonial home. Carpenter and Sandison visited frequently, their love for the city and relationships with locals blossomed, and in 2006 they offered their first of many cooking schools.