Rare beef tostada

Rare beef tostada (Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times / November 16, 2011)

"Mission Street Food: Recipes and Ideas From an Improbable Restaurant" is as much a book with which to spend a few hours on the couch as it is a book that inspires your next meal. And it'd be an entertaining few hours.

The book tells the story of Mission Street Food, the San Francisco culinary project of chef Anthony Myint, and his wife, Karen Leibowitz, who started selling their pork-belly-filled flatbreads from a subletted Guatemalan taco truck, and what took off from there. (Mission Street Food's successor is the restaurant Mission Chinese Food.) Some of it is told in comic book form, most of it in conversational writing, and there are lots of candid photos.

Published by McSweeney's, it's loose and inspirational and funny. Writes Leibowitz of her budding relationship with Myint: "Our friends were surprised to see us becoming a couple, because we seemed so different. I was gregarious while Anthony was shy; I was a big reader while he was a sports fan; I was a woman while he'd never really talked to one before."

Divided into three parts ("The Taco Truck," "The Restaurant" and "The Food"), the book's recipes take up the last third: the Mission Burger, ham hock rillettes, Peking duck, marrow-stuffed squid, "hollandaise au blendeur." They are mainly outlined in step-by-step photos accompanied by guiding principles, rather than very specific instructionals.

The rare beef tostadas are easy and tasty, fried tortillas smeared with caper aioli and topped with diced seared steak and tomatillos and a tangle of watercress and radishes, tangy with lime juice and vinaigrette. It's representative of the kind of riffing that resulted in the signature Chinese burrito.

"Mission Street Food: Recipes and Ideas From an Improbable Restaurant" by Anthony Myint and Karen Leibowitz, McSweeney's, $30.

Rare beef tostada

Total time: 1 hour, 20 minutes, plus salting time for the steak

Servings: 6

Note: Salt the steak on each side with a good pinch of salt 1 to 3 days ahead and place on a rack uncovered in the refrigerator; leave at room temperature for an hour to temper before preparing this recipe. Trim and save some of the fat from the steak for searing.

Aioli

3 egg yolks

Healthy pinch of salt

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Cold water

1/2 lemon or 1 tablespoon of lemon juice

3 cups oil of your choice

1 to 2 cloves garlic

1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the yolks, salt, mustard, 1 tablespoon water, lemon juice and garlic.