January 2014 Cookbook of the Month, GRAN COCINA LATINA: THE FOOD OF LATIN AMERICA: Cebiches; La Olla; Salads
Please use this thread to report on the following chapters from GRAN COCINA LATINA: THE FOOD OF LATIN AMERICA by Maricel E. Presilla.
Cebiches, pages 477-496
La Olla: Soups and Hearty Potages, pages 497-540
Salads, pages 541-564
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Ecuadorian Soupy Coastal Shrimp Ceviche p.493
On the coldest night of the year, what better way to forget about my depressing frigid locale than by imagining I'm oceanside, consuming copious amounts of tangy fresh seafood. This ceviche very nearly did the trick, and for a few brief moments I could almost taste the heavy, salt-filled air.
For this recipe, shell-on shrimp is blanched in boiling water with salt, cilantro, and white onion. Sra. Presilla calls for "medium shrimp", and after a bit of searching through the book I found that she calls 16/20 per pound shrimp medium, which, according to shrimp sizing charts, is extra-jumbo, while medium is actually 41/50, so perhaps a size suggestion would be helpful here--I used a 26/30 count. The shrimp is removed from the water and some of the cooking liquid is reserved.
After the shrimp cools, it is peeled and tossed with the marinade--a lovely blend of the cooking liquid, lime and orange juice, cilantro, chopped Ecuadorian hot red pepper (I used a fairly spicy fresno) and plenty of slivered red onion that has been soaked in a saltwater solution to remove its bite. The ceviche is then refrigerated until "well-chilled"--a couple of hours, in my case.
The Mr. begged me to cut the shrimp to smaller pieces for better dispersment, so I reluctantly obliged after sputters of "but---the recipe!" fell on deaf ears. Admittedly, it was easier to divvy up to the hungry hordes.
As the title suggests, this is a soupy dish, but the liquid is delicious and very easy to polish off, especially with a handful of popcorn tossed in at the end. I served this with the recommended sides of tiny popcorn and homemade plantain chips, and we happily passed the ketchup and mustard around the table. There is a lot of red onion in this recipe, but because it lacked pungency, it was a welcome change of texture. The marinade was refeshing, bright and tangy with just a touch of heat and we all eagerly slurped it up. The condiments were a surprisingly good addition, bringing a hint of sweetness and another kind of acidity to the bowls. We all loved this one, and in a sea of dishes to choose from, this was the big winner of the night. I will make this again, both in high summer and when I can merely long for it.
With this blanch and short marinade method I don't think the size of the shrimp matters. The real considerations are your budget, who you are trying to impress (if anyone), and the convenience of eating the shrimp (or pieces).
Havana Style Black Bean Soup, p507
Black beans are simmered with water, green pepper, onion and bay leaf until tender; the seasonings are removed.
For seasoning sauce, garlic is sautéed in olive oil. Onion, green pepper, Cubanelle pepper, bay leaf, cumin and oregano are added and cooked until soft, the whole lot is then added to the beans.
Red wine vinegar, salt, pepper, roasted red pepper and sugar are added and the soup simmered until creamy.
This soup was delicious. I added a touch more salt and served with cilantro, queso fresco, crema and a scoop of white rice. I love Goya black bean soup (my dirty little secret) and have been looking for something homemade to replace my habit - I think I've finally found it.
Leftovers were wonderful as a topping for huevos rancheros.
Where I live, one of the most esteemed restaurants among the local board is a Cuban joint called Paseo. My favorite side dish on offer there is a soupy black bean concoction. I have tried to replicate it via Internet recipes but this one is closest. The red vinegar finish is critical.
Caracan Black Bean Soup -Pure de Caraotas Negras Mantuano p. 528
According to the headnotes, this soup dates back to the colonial sugar trade, where the wealthy plantation owners of Venzuela were said to have a rather pronounced sweet tooth. The more sugar a recipe contained, the more traditional the cook. The recipe contains a surprising amount of unrefined loaf sugar in it; an ingredient that really makes this soup something special.
Begin by cooking the black beans in with green pepper and onion until tender but still holding their shape. Meanwhile, brown cubed bacon pieces, remove to drain, and cook grated onion, s&p and garlic in the remaining fat until soft. Into the pot of beans goes the grated loaf sugar-- preferably Venezuelan papelón, but any of the brown loaf sugars will do-- and stir to dissolve. Stir in the onion mixture, season with more salt to taste, and cook until flavours meld and the beans are very soft. Just before the soup is finished, cook an additional amount of minced garlic until golden in olive oil, and add to the soup. Puree until silky smooth, pushing through a sieve if necessary. Top with crema or creme fraiche, and bacon.
I salted the beans right at the beginning, as I find that beans have a better flavour if seasoned right from the start. The sugar amount is listed at 5 oz, or to taste. I started with about 2 and worked my way up to about 4 oz. total, but this amount may not be for everyone. The Spouse wasn't as enamored with the sweetness as I was. I highly recommend using one of the unrefined cane sugars in this mix--the subtle nuances and deep flavours of the sugar play a large part in making the soup sing. The only other change I made was to opt out of straining the puree. I found it to be quite smooth enough after a run through the food processor.
For my palate, this soup was astounding. It was sweet, yes, but the layering of flavour in such a seemingly simple dish was absolutely incredible. The somewhat smoky sweetness of the sugar and the multiple levels of garlic played off the earthy beans, creating a heavenly combination that was unlike any other soup I've tried. The touch of crema and bacon in the bowl added their own wonderful rich profiles to every spoonful. I absolutely Loved and was completely taken with this soup.
I should mention that although the recipe was amazing, I was displeased with the "serving" suggestions at the end of the recipe. I was searching through the cookbook to find anther recipe to have as a companion, and it was only after I made the soup that I found a recipe for Pabellon (p.715), in which Presilla recommends serving with this soup on the side. It would be nice to have more consistent cross-referencing.
Puerto Rican stewed red kidney beans pg 509
This was ok. First I made the Puerto Rican seasoning mix on page 58. The recado was good and easy to make. Peppers, onions, cilantro , tomato, vinegar. I've made my own version in the past and this was superior.
You then fry salt pork and virginia ham. First time I ever used salt pork - there was meat, fat, and skin. Wasn't sure what to use so I just cut off a chunk of mostly meat but some fat and skin. Now I have 2 lbs of it in my fridge - not sure what to do with it.
Again, not sure what exactly Virginia ham was and google said it's smoked and cured so I bought a thin smoked pork chop.
Add garlic and ham to beans simmered with onions and peppers and finish cooking.
This was not bad but not special in my opinion. to be fair I had a few Hispanic boyfriends before I got married and I had a few 85 yr old Honduran women make me rice and beans and this just didn't compare. Sigh...