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Our Latin Table: Celebrations, Recipes, and Memories    by Fernando Saralegui, Quentin Bacon & Andrew French order for
Our Latin Table
by Fernando Saralegui
Order:  USA  Can
Bulfinch, 2003 (2003)
* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Both of Fernando Saralegui's grandfathers came from the Basque country in Spain, and emigrated to Cuba. The family's food choices became a fusion of those countries. A subsequent move to the United States added American food to the mix. Friends of the many children in the author's home loved invitations to dine, where they might be served a Cuban soup as a first course with an American cheeseburger to follow. Then, as kids have the habit of doing, the children grew up and the house became even more popular as cocktails were served -daiquiris, margaritas, mojitos (made with garlic, lime and mint), and (a true fusion of Cuban and American) rum and Coke. Mexican joined the mix as well as Latin American repasts.

Suggested foods to keep in the pantry for Latin cooking precedes a Glossary of Terms and Techniques. The necessities for A Cuban Bar - down to glassware - is next. Suggestions of appropriate music and wines to accompany the food and drinks come with many of the mouthwatering menus presented. The foods served at the family tables are a combination of various cultures - but really came about because of the strength of family ties and the love they shared as well as their meals. Charming family photos accompany many of the recipes. Interestingly, Alvaro, Fernando's brother, notes in the foreword that more salsa is sold in the United States than ketchup!

The menu for New Year's Eve made me wish I were a member of the Saralegui family. Hearts of Palm Salad with Champagne Vinaigrette, Fried Sweet Plantains, Caldo Gallego - a wonderful garlic and white bean soup - why go on? Check it out for yourself. On the menu for a Good Luck Fishing Trip is Steamed Whole Snapper L-Ray (Fernando Sarelegui owns and operates two New York City restaurants - Alva and L-Ray) with Lime-Chili, Coconut Broth in Banana Leaf. Wow! Looks divine. The Christening Lunch is a little Cuban, a little Mexican and a little Argentinian - Margaritas, Spinach and Queso Blanco Empanadas, Caesar Salad, Arroz con Pollo and Orange Angel Food Cake with Coconut Icing. What a meal to celebrate the start of a new life.

Love to try Plantain with Romesco Soup as well as Roasted Purple Peruvian Potatoes from the Midweek Dinner. The Rack of Lamb with Mint Pesto for Easter Lunch had me drooling. I mean, just look at that picture. Gorgeous. Garlic-Lime Soup sounds interesting. Steamed Lobster with Lime, Tomatillo and Jalapeno Buerre Blanc heads the menu for a Three-Day-Weekend Dinner. There's a Softball Mixed Grill Picnic, Fourth of July Latin Clambake, Engagement Party Buffet, Traditional Late Lunch in the Campo - well, you get the idea. Menus are covered for most every holiday or special occasion. A friend is visiting while I peruse this wonderful cookbook with its scrumptious photos. She just told me that all I'm saying is 'Wow, look at this!' as I turn the pages.

If you like Latin food, this is the book for you. If you've never tasted Latin food (hard to believe), this is the book for you. And if you don't like Latin food, you've had the wrong stuff. Give the recipes in Our Latin Table a try. You'll change your mind. Go for it!

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