Latin Flavors: A Taste of Our Heritage Hardcover – January 1, 2010
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Living in southern California, I adore Latin food and I noted early on their decision to include both English and Spanish versions of the recipes. A cookbook that draws its material from "Latin households that are not only from Mexican backgrounds but also Spain, Peru, Cuba and just about every other country in the world that speaks Spanish as its first language" is one that should be published in that language--as well as in the first language of its country of origin (the U.S.) if different, which in this case it is. Yet this is almost never done. And it never occurred to me, a native English speaker, that incorporating both languages is a superb way to transcend the cultural differences and bring both cultures together over the same food.
The TOC (Table of Contents) shows that the division of recipes was carefully thought out, moving from drinks through to desserts (like a meal would be), but with helpful "weights & measurements" in the back.
The recipe pages themselves are well designed and well written. The English version is almost always to the left of the Spanish version, though in a few instances where the recipes are long, the Spanish version will immediately follow the English ones. Each recipe also has a small description or personal note nestled between the name and the ingredients list. I like seeing the ingredients bolded because it makes it easy to read for the busy cook, and the directions are invariably clear and to the point. Neither is there any clutter of unnecessary additions (such as "I was visiting ....), though special tips for preparing or serving are included without negatively impacting the recipes.
What about the recipes which are, frankly, the heart of any cookbook? Superb. I found that I would eventually use about two-thirds of them, an unusually high number for any cookbook. The reason is that they are generally easy to make--no hours or days in the kitchen--and rarely incorporate ingredients anyone will have difficulty finding. Their Black Bean Croquettes with Pasilla Salsa, for example, uses whole black beans (not canned), salt, oil, onion, cilantro, cotija cheese (easily found in any cheese store or Latin market), eggs and egg whites, breadcrumbs, pasilla chiles (again, a Latin market), garlic, tomatoes, and a clove. The whole process, other than soaking the beans overnight, takes less than an hour--and most of that is the cooking the soaked beans. (May I also say it's delicious!)
I am especially fond of soups and in here I found, among others, gazpacho (good, but mine is better; no one does it better than I do), avocado, carrot-jalapeno, cream of poblano, cream of olives, cilantro soup. The latter required only garlic, onion, butter, cilantro, chicken stock, cream cheese, salt and pepper. If you love cilantro this book is worth it for this recipe alone. But of course there is more. I have also tried Seared Sea Scallops with Lemongrass Sauce and Basil, Mint and Cilantro Salad, Salmon in Guajillo Sauce, Crispy Cuban Beef, Jalapeno Roasted Potatoes, and am looking forward to warm weekends when the Grilled Chili Lime Corn on the Cob is up.
Neither breakfast (with lots of egg dishes) or drinks are forgotten. And desserts are plentiful though I think people who like cake, brownies, and chocolate are more likely to use this section than I am. What did attract me and what I have yet to try, but will, are the Cajeta Crepes (Goat's Milk Caramel Crepes).
So while I am not giving up any of my other Latin-based cookbooks this one has moved to the top of the list. The photography is stunningly beautiful, the recipes "real" and delicious, and the formatting clean and easy to read. I will be giving a copy to my brother for Christmas this year, and I have no doubt he will enjoy it as much as I do.