Cooking and Culture in Mexico's Tropical Melting Pot
Publication Date: September 2001
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With two celebrated restaurants and two highly acclaimed cookbooks to her name, Zarela Martínez 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 veracruzana. 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.
"When it comes to real Mexican food, Zarela is one of our great teachers, and this book is a lot like Zarela herself: smart, lively, colorful and full of truth. Also, reading it makes me very, very hungry!" Linda Ellerbee
"Praise be indeed to Zarela Martinez, impassioned evangelist for Mexican food."
The Wall Street Journal