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La Comida del Barrio

Latin-American Cooking Across the United States
By Aarón Sanchez (Clarkson Potter)

La Comida del Barrio

 

 

We in Los Angeles love our tacos. We are not talking bland Americanized versions but small bites with fresh, homemade corn tortillas and marinated meat (al pastor, carne asada) topped with lively cilantro, chile and onions eaten with a garnish of radishes. And in case you're thinking, well, that's LA, we counter that the Hispanic population has been the fastest growing population in the United States and it's time to see what our Latin-American cousins are cooking up.

The man to look for in terms of advice is Aarón Sanchez, a young rising culinary star and co-host of the Food Network's highly rated Melting Pot show. His credits include helming the hip Paladar in New York and being the son of restaurateur and author Zarela Martinez, one of the pioneers of Mexican cooking in the United States.

In his much talked about La Comida del Barrio he explores the delicious food and exciting culture of the barrios—the vibrant Latin-American neighborhoods from Miami's Little Havana and New York's Spanish Harlem to San Francisco's Mission, and the entire United States in between. This book is a celebration of that cuisine from arroz con pollo (popular all over Latin America) to roasted beef tacos (for a taste of Mexico) to fish in coconut broth or dessert of guava and cheese turnovers (for a Caribbean feel). The book is divided by types of eatery:

-Fondas, market stands, for soups such as Pozole Verde and Black Bean Soup
-Paladares, home-kitchen restaurants, for hearty entrées like Chicken Fricassée and Carne Mechada (Shredded Beef)
-Taquerías, street stands, for quick snacks that include tacos, tamales, gorditas, sopes, tortas, and other portable foods
-Rotiserías, cafés, for roast meats such as Steak in Red Chile Sauce and Cuban Pot Roast
-Comedores, restaurants, for sit-down meals with starters like Cactus Salad with Shrimp and main courses like Arroz con Pollo
-El Mercado, the market, for sides such as Refried Black Beans, Roasted Corn with Chile-Lime Butter, and Stuffed Plantains
-Panaderías, bakeries, for desserts that include Flan de Coco, Dulce de Leche, and Rice Pudding
-Jugoerías, juice stands, for drinks like Batidos (tropical shakes) and Sangría

The dishes are simple to prepare and most ingredients can be purchased in regular supermarkets. For the occasions when you'd have to venture into the barrio (e.g. for frozen banana leaves), Sanchez has replacement ideas handy. It is a great and tasty way to approach the vast and diverse Latin-American culture.


(Updated: 12/02/08 SB)

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