Mexican cuisine, says Eddie Garza, doesn't have to be all about cheese, meat and lard. In his 2016 cookbook, "¡Salud!," he points to pre-Hispanic Mesoamerica's "big focus on fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains." As his grandmother told him, "Before the Spanish came to Mexico, food was provided by the sun and earth."
The son of Mexican immigrants who grew up in a border town at the southern tip of Texas, Garza now works for the Humane Society of the United States, where he helps reform food systems in Latinx communities and trains cooks in the joys of plant-based recipes. I first started cooking from Garza's book because his adaptations of traditional dishes are rooted in a deep understanding of Mexican cooking instilled by his abuelita. And the results have never disappointed me.
They're not all pre-Hispanic, either. My latest obsession is his Tofu Steak Veracruzana, seared cutlets smothered in a classic Veracruz-style salsa that includes bell peppers, tomato, olives, capers and white wine. Those capers and olives, he writes, represent some of the European ingredients that came to characterize the coastal state's cooking, along with tropical fruit and, of course, seafood.
Tofu, famous for its mildness, works well with the salsa's tart, salty, slightly spicy punch. But Garza adds flavor wherever he can, so before you sear it and sauce it, you treat the tofu to a lime-heavy marinade. There's nothing fishy about that.