As I write this column, the Weather Channel is saying that a heat wave will be moving in. Holy "mole"! It's hard to imagine being much hotter. I think I'll go Mexican, with lots of fresh fruit, margaritas, fish tacos and salsas making up the menus. A simple and cooling solution for the dog days of August.

"Fiesta at Rick's: Fabulous Food for Great Times With Friends." Award-winning Chicago chef and restaurateur Rick Bayless is known for the depth of his knowledge of Mexican cuisine and his impeccable representation of it. In his latest cookbook, written with wife Deann Groen Bayless, he takes a look at Mexico's party possibilities, i.e., fiestas.

The chapters offer genres of foods and a party set around each. Three examples are Guacamoles, Nibbles & Libations/Luxury Guacamole Bar Cocktail Party for 12; Cerviches, Seafood Cocktails & Oysters/ Summertime Seafood Cocktail Party for 12; and Mexican Tapas/A Casual Weekend Pazole Party for 25 Guests of All Ages. A great book to reach for when you want big flavors and fresh foods. Hardcover. W.W. Norton & Co. $35.

"Amor Y Tacos: Modern Mexican Tacos, Margaritas, and Antojitos." Antojitos are the Mexican name for "small-plate offerings, similar to tapas." This much smaller book also is a party book, street-food based. Author Deborah Schneider dishes up a tasty little array of recipes. Hardcover. Stewart, Tabori & Chang. $18.95.


5 strips medium-thick bacon

3 medium-large (about 1 1/4 pounds) ripe avocados

1/2 medium white onion, chopped in 1/4-inch pieces

2 or 3 canned chipolte chiles en adobo to taste, removed from canning sauce, stemmed, spilt, seeds scraped out, chiles chopped

1 medium-large round ripe tomato, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces, cut in half widthwise and seeds squeezed out

1/4 loosely packed cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro


1 or 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice


Cook the bacon until crispy, drain and crumble.

Scoop the flesh from the avocados and mash into a coarse puree with a potato masher or large fork.

Put the onion in a small strainer and rinse under cold water. Shake off excess water.

Reserve half of the bacon. Combine the other half with the rest of the ingredients. Season with salt and lime juice to taste. Place plastic wrap on surface of the guacamole and refrigerate.

When ready to serve, sprinkle with remaining bacon.

-- Adapted from "Fiesta at Rick's: Fabulous Food for Great Times With Friends."

Marion Sullivan is a culinary programs specialist at the Culinary Institute of Charleston. Send your questions to