Gran Cocina Latina


by Maricel E. Presilla

W.W. Norton & Company

In shops now

By this point it’s fairly well-known that I’m obsessed with cookbooks.  Despite calling Los Angeles home, however, I’ve never ventured all that deeply into the world of Latin cuisine.  But what enticed me most about Ms. Presilla’s book is how her background in medieval history has helped her discover both the past and ever-changing present of Latin American food.

When you first crack the cover of this hefty volume you will see maps of Latin America and an introduction that delves into those tastes and connections to history which separate the regions and tie them together at once.  She writes about a visit to Lima in 1996 when she had a special dessert called Tajadon that reminded her of similar dishes in Mexico and Guatemala and ultimately back to Spain and Portugal, where these flavor combinations began before taking on the colour of the Americas as it was being discovered.

And so the journey she takes us on goes by ingredients rather than country: Tropical Roots and Starchy Vegetables, Squashes, Corn, Quinoa and Beans, Rice, Empanadas, Tamals, Soups, Fish, Meats and Sweets.  There are not many photographs in these pages unfortunately (honestly there’s not enough room), but you’ll see Big-Bellied Argentinean Beef Empanadas with Red Chimichurri, Puerto Rican Pan-Fried Yellowtail Snapper, Cuban Sandwiches, Miami Tres Leches and Peruvian Alfajores.

Sure, there’s a half dozen salsa recipes if that’s what you’re looking for, but more importantly this book will become your bible of Latin American cuisine, so clear off a big spot on the kitchen shelf.