I meant to write a post on this months ago seeing as how it was February when I first mentioned the awesome cookbook/travelogue-The Latin Road Home by Jose Garces. I’m sure my lack of a post has something to do with the fact that my attempt at making the recipe for tres leches cake resulted in a liquid mess (tasted good, but its presentation was abysmal, hence no blog post). But with warmer weather hopefully coming to stay, I’m anxious to try out more of the recipes in this gorgeous book that will make you want to book a trip to Latin America mañana. For now I leave you with The Latin Road Home.
If you’re familiar with the Philadelphia (Pennsylvania that is, not Mississippi…), you’re most likely familiar with the name Jose Garces. He’s an Ecuadorian American chef, restaurant owner, and Iron Chef (he won the second season of The Next Iron Chef). So basically he’s a mastermind of the food world. But back to Philadelphia-he owns some of the city’s most popular restaurants-Amada, Tinto, Distrito. Sadly, Amada (a sublime Spanish tapas place) is the only spot I’ve eaten at…Distrito I only went to for drinks one evening. Needless to say I need a trip to Philadelphia if only to check out the other Garces dining venues.
As Garces notes in the introduction, “Five Latin food traditions have greatly influenced the course of my life, and this cookbook devotes a chapter to each one.” Those five food traditions are the cuisines of Spain, Ecuador, Cuba, Mexico, and Peru. At the start of each chapter Garces includes a personal vignette on his connection to that country and its food. There are also quick facts on the country as well as a map of it which is helpful as each chapter is then broken down by city, with recipes that are unique to that city (each city also has a forward which details his connection and past experience with it). The book begins with Ecuador, his ancestral homeland.
Recipes include everything from soups to salads to entrees and of course desserts. And seeing as how the book features countries that are host to some world famous drinks (i.e. sangria from Spain, Cuban coffee, mango margarita from Mexico)-well, they’re included too.
I wouldn’t call any of the recipes included in the book as difficult; however, many I would label as “time consuming” (a lot require 10+ ingredients). However, even if you’re not a cook, this is still a beautiful book to have as the photographs by Jason Varney are stunning. Not to mention, anyone can be a traveler, but how often do you read the travel memoirs of a professionally trained chef that lists his food insights? Not too often.
While many of the ingredients can be found at your local food store no matter where you live, others are definitely unique to the Latin cooking scene. But in the appendix there is a “sources” section which lists all of the more unique ingredients (i.e. huacatay-Peruvian black mint) and where to find it in case you don’t live near a Latin grocery store (i.e. latinmerchant.com)
I tend to go through phases where my cooking is concerned (if you remember I was on a big Julia Child kick a couple of years ago) and so now it’s me and Jose Garces. I really hope by the end of the year I will have made a lot more recipes from his book. Vamos a ver!