FIVE YEARS AGO, what Paula Disbrowe didn’t know about Texas was a lot. The poor New Yorker didn’t understand that around here, barbecue is a state-sponsored religion, that Mexican food without yellow cheese is like a day without sunshine, and that “chicken-fried steak” does not refer to a ribeye cooked by a barnyard fowl. Which is why it is a minor miracle that in the intervening period, the former Manhattan food and travel writer has become one of us and has also written one of the most entertaining Texas cookbooks I’ve seen in a long time.

In Cowgirl Cuisine: Rustic Recipes and Cowgirl Adventures From a Texas Ranch, Disbrowe chronicles what happened when she got an offer to jettison her successful ten-year career to move to South Texas and help run a spa named (pun intended) Hart and Hind Fitness Ranch. Her book recounts the resulting extreme makeover, as Disbrowe transformed herself from semi-serious cook to professional chef and from city girl to country girl. The kitchen at Hart and Hind became a melting pot as she figured out how to graft her own urban sensibility onto the fundamentals of Texas cooking.

The 125 recipes in Cowgirl Cuisine span the day from dawn to dusk, but two of my favorite chapters are the ones on breakfast, excerpted here. She does savory migas with nopalitos, a couple of killer salsas (one red, one green), terrific muffins made with blue corn and blackberries, and a wonderfully moist pear-rosemary bread. I like it that these dishes are thoroughly Texan, with just enough of a twist to make them interesting. They’re a great way to start the day.

Recipes included with this excerpt:
Canyon Granola Recipe
Pear-Rosemary Bread With Pine Nuts Recipe
Quick Pear-Rosemary Preserves Recipe
Blackberry Blue-Corn Muffins Recipe
Salsa Verde Recipe
Horse Trader Salsa Recipe
Cowgirl Migas Recipe

Adapted from Cowgirl Cuisine: Rustic Recipes and Cowgirl Adventures From a Texas Ranch, by Paula Disbrowe, to be published by William Morrow in March 2007. © 2007 Paula Disbrowe. Photography © 2007 Shelly Strazis.