Books: Cooking by Cuisine -> Cooking Mexican
Published: September 18, 2001
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From Publishers Weekly
This year PBS is pushing a variety of regional cookbooks, companion volumes to their cooking shows. Martinez (The Food and Life of Oaxaca), PBS's star this fall, ably represents the fascinating and spicy world of Veracruz, the
narrow state along Mexico's Gulf Coast. In her fact-filled introduction, Martand#161;nez covers the region's cultural and culinary history, explaining, for instance, that the cuisine's African influence began in the cruel time of Cort‚s, when African
slaves were brought over to harvest sugar cane. Several of the most interesting traditional recipes involve fruit wines and liqueurs: Pollo en Mora mixes shredded chicken in blackberry liqueur sauce with green olives and almonds; Carne en Salsa de
Licores combines pork, garlic and scallions with orange and blackberry liqueurs. Seafood is plentiful and used variously. Red Snapper Veracruz Style is baked with bay leaves and thyme. Appetizers include Hashed Seafood Melange, with pickled
jalapeand#164;os, and Hashed Crab with Capers augmented by jalapeand#164;os and plum tomatoes. Desserts and drinks are offbeat and fun: Beso del Duque (the Duke's Kiss) is a cake made of crushed Animal Crackers, eggs, almonds, raisins and sesame seeds
and topped with a cinnamon and sugar syrup. Toritos de Cacahuate (Milk Punch with Peanuts) sounds harmless enough until you reach the end of the ingredient list: milk, peanut butter, vanilla extract and one cup of cane liquor or 96 proof grain alcohol.
Full-color photos. (Sept. 18)Forecast: With publicity from her TV show and a 15-city tour, the effervescent Zarela is sure to draw attention and sales.parenting
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two celebrated restaurants and two highly acclaimed cookbooks to her name, Zarela Martand#237;nez is considered one of America"s foremost authorities on Mexican cooking. In this book, the companion to her thirteen-part public television series, Zarela
takes us on a tour of the Mexican state of Veracruz, a lush, skinny strip of land bordering the Gulf and home to some of Mexico"s most accessible and inviting dishes.
It was here that the Spanish first landed in the sixteenth century, and sustained
Spanish influences give the food an easygoing Mediterranean character that is appealing even to people who don"t normally like "Mexican" food. Olive oil, olives, capers, raisins, and almonds are common in simply prepared dinners, while complex blends of
difficult-to-find chiles and other spices are largely absent. The state"s 450-mile-long coastline is broken up everywhere by waterways teeming with shellfish. As a result, there is a wealth of little dishes that involve nothing more than some seafood,
olive oil, and garlic with a handful of seasonings: wonderful soup-stews, fresh fillets stuffed with seafood mélanges, appetizers such as Shrimp Salad in Avocado Halves and Garlickly Stir-Fried Shrimp, and the state"s most famous dish, red snapper a la
At the same time, Veracruz's strong Caribbean orientation and powerful Afro-Cuban legacy offer plenty of choices for cooks who want kitchen adventure. The Veracruzan table also features innumerable variations on tortillas that make
wonderful little meals.
In all, Zarela provides more than 150 dishes that are perfect for parties or even ordinary suppers: Crab and Avocado Salad, Orange-Flavored Chicken, Wild Mushrooms in Vinaigrette, and Coconut Layer Cake.
Much more than a
cookbook, ZARELA'S VERACRUZ is also a mesmerizing travelogue and an absorbing portrait of Mexico"s most exuberant state.
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