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Fiesta Latina:Fabulous Food for Sizzling Parties    by Rafael Palomino, Arlen Gargagliano & Anastassios Mentis order for
Fiesta Latina
by Rafael Palomino
Order:  USA  Can
Chronicle, 2006 (2006)

Read an Excerpt

* *   Reviewed by Belle Dessler

Proprietor and executive chef of Sonora and Pacifoco restaurants, Rafael Palomino, once again endeavors to bring Latin culinary sensations into everyone's kitchen. If you don't know the difference between a pasaboca (general word for appetizer) and an arepa (a flatbread sandwich), don't despair! For the most part, although some ingredients can be intimidating at first glance, you'll be able to find most at your local grocery store. As an added bonus, full-color pictures are available for many of the mouthwatering dishes.

Fiesta Latina offers just what you'd expect from the lively title: a variety of impressive dishes perfect for serving at your next gathering. In his introduction, Palomino tells us 'there's nothing like una fiesta Latina!' Judging from the wide range of colorful, scrumptious-looking appetizers, sandwiches, main dishes, desserts and even cocktails, I'm tempted to agree. But perhaps one of the most appealing aspects of this cookbook is the fact that Palomino encourages us to make many of these dishes ahead of time. Recipes contain preparation suggestions, and offer ideas for preparing items in advance. This is perfect for the busy cook throwing a family get-together or for the person fretting over what to bring to the next work pot-luck.

As you might expect, the book starts with Appetizers, offering such tasty concoctions as Lobster Chipotle Crabcakes and Yuca Frita (sort of like French Fries, only made from yuca, a potato substitute). In Flour Tortilla Sandwiches and Asian-Inspired Turnovers, we learn to make my personal favorite, Lobster and Avocado Quesadilla with Guacamole, among other dishes.

Chapter three includes recipes for Citrus Marinated Fish and Peruvian-Style Sashimi dishes, such as Sun-Dried Tomato and Shrimp Cheviche and Sirloin Steak Tiradito with Traditional Chimichurri. Don't let the exotic names keep you from trying these striking dishes, though. With an average of ten ingredients or less per recipe, all you need to make these is a little patience and a desire to try something new. Chapter four is dedicated to Thin Flour Pastries and Savory Turnovers, while chapter five explores Main Dishes, Rice, Salads and Shellfish.

My absolute favorite chapters in any cookbook are the Dessert and Cocktails chapters, and Fiesta Latina offers some savory choices for cooks with a sweet-tooth. I made Arlen's Dulce de Leche Brownies for my family this weekend, and they were a huge hit. Scrumptious, tender, and not overly sweet, they were the perfect addition to a glass of tall milk.

The premise of Palomino's latest book is that any cook can bring the warm, inviting atmosphere of a Latin party to her table. And while food may not ultimately be the factor that makes a gathering successful, it sure is a great place to start. Readers looking to explore exotic Latin cuisine with their friends and family will be thrilled with Fiesta Latina.

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