Finds 07.09.2008

Any true Cajun appreciates the taste of a slow-cooked gravy ladled over rice, the deep brown roux-flavored stew requiring hours on a stovetop. But when that’s just way too time-consuming, cookbook author Neal Bertrand has come up with a quick technique that combines the slow-cooked flavor of étouffées and gumbos with the ease and practicality of a familiar friend in any Cajun kitchen — the rice cooker. The Opelousas native’s latest cookbook, Rice Cooker Meals: Fast Home Cooking for Busy People includes 60 recipes for classics like red beans and rice, sausage sauce picante, shrimp creole, stuffed roast, chicken and sausage gumbo, shrimp fettuccine, smothered potatoes with sausage and tasso and even candied yams with marshmallows. The cookbook’s easy recipes make it perfect for college students; most cook in 30 minutes or less. Available at local bookstores, online at or by calling 224-6576, the cookbook retails for $12.95. — Leslie Turk
The newest release from Ellis Marsalis finds the patriarch of the New Orleans musical family paying tribute to jazz great Thelonious Monk. The 11 cuts showcase Marsalis’ interpretations of Monk, including “Epistrophy,” “Monk’s Mood,” “Straight, No Chaser,” “Ruby, My Dear” and “’Round Midnight.” In the liner notes, Marsalais writes that for years — conditioned by the music of Charlie Parker, Dizzy Gillespie, Miles Davis and Oscar Peterson — Monk’s music was “an anomaly” for him. “I sincerely hope this documentation of Monk’s music will represent my subsequent discovery and, ultimately, profound respect of the Man and his music.” An Open Letter to Thelonius retails for $14.99 and can be ordered from — R. Reese Fuller

Taqueria Taco Torro has been right under our noses for years, tucked into a neighborhood on North University right next to the sketchy St. Francis motel. Since relocating into larger quarters across the highway, however, Taco Torro is now a weekly favorite lunch stop. Cook Maritza Garcia spikes her tacos with chorizo, a deeply flavorful Mexican sausage that makes everything taste better. Favorites include the de parillada, grilled steak and onions with chorizo, and a truly amazing de buche, pork stomach that gets its punch from chorizo as well. Tamales authentically wrapped into corn husks, and a wonderful south-of-the-border cooler, agua fresca, which is a blended drink of fresh fruit, sugar and water, round out the simple menu. Four tacos (choose corn rather than flour tortillas) will set you back $5.99; tamales are a buck a piece; and quesadillas with the same spicy filling cost $3.25. Taco Torro is located at 1605 N. University Ave.; call 267-3449 to order take out or for more info. — Mary Tutwiler