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           La Buena Mesa

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                   (Knopf Cooks American)

                       By Himilce Novas and Rosemary Silva

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January 7, 1998

      By the Book; Yucca Fries and Other Delights


TACKLING so large and complex a subject as Latin American-influenced cooking in America in a single cookbook seems a nearly impossible task. But Himilce Novas and Rosemary Silva have managed to do it with skill and elan in their new book, ''Latin American Cooking Across the U.S.A.'' (Alfred A. Knopf, $27.50).

They've succeeded by offering a book that is a collection of carefully selected recipes from home cooks and chefs, so that it's much like a Junior League cookbook -- but with a Latin American bent. Ms. Novas and Ms. Silva crisscrossed the country seeking out Hispanic neighborhoods, meeting people with varying approaches: some modern, some traditional.

The recipe headnotes describe the people they met, their own travels and how a recipe, like chicken soup with yucca, plantains and potatoes, varies from country to country.They note when a recipe is an American hybrid, so the reader can distinguish the authentic from fusion.

The authors don't attempt to draw the big picture -- exactly how various culinary influences have arrived at a particular dish. But you can sample the result -- from dog sauce (a Cuban fish stew) to yucca fries to three milks cake (a cake with condensed milk, evaporated milk and whole milk that comes from Nicaragua and Costa Rica).

While some of the ingredients require shopping at a Hispanic market or using sources listed at the back of the book, most of the recipes can be made with items found at a good supermarket.

North Americans, too often, are burdened by the impression that south-of-the-border cooking is Mexican and not much else. This book obliterates that misconception.


Adapted from ''Latin American Cooking Across the U.S.A.''

Total time: 50 minutes, plus three hours refrigeration time

1 1/2 cups cake flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar

1/2 cup butter, softened

5 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 1/3 cups of milk

1 cup sweetened condensed milk

1 cup evaporated milk

1 tablespoon light rum

1 cup heavy cream.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together the cake flour and baking powder. In a large mixing bowl, cream the 1 cup sugar and the butter with an electric mixer until well blended. Add the eggs and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, and beat until foamy. With a rubber spatula, gently fold in the flour mixture in increments, alternating with 1/3 cup milk, until the batter is smooth. 2. Pour cake batter into a lightly greased cake pan or baking dish, 7 by 11 by 2 inches, and bake for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the top springs back when pressed. Allow cake to cool in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes, then invert onto a serving platter. Pierce the cake with a fork in many places, and allow it to cool completely.3. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the condensed milk, evaporated milk, 1 cup milk and rum until well blended. Pour syrup evenly over the cake a little at a time, until it is saturated; you may not need the entire amount. Refrigerate, covered in plastic wrap, for at least 3 hours.4. In a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer, whisk the heavy cream until it begins to thicken. Add 1 teaspoon sugar and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract, and continue whisking until stiff peaks form. Using a spatula, spread the cream over the top and sides of the cake. Serve, cut into squares.Yield: 10 servings.


LATIN AMERICAN COOKING ACROSS THE U. S. was selected among the BEST cookbooks  of the year in FOOD & WINE’S collection:

      Food & Wine Magazine's Best of the Best :                                                                            

The Best Recipes from the Best Cookbooks of the Year by Food & Wine ed


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Hardcover: 352 pages ; Dimensions (in inches): 1.00 x 9.75 x 7.00

·        Publisher: Knopf; ISBN: 0679444084

                     Editorial Reviews

If you've an unquenchable hankering for Latin American fare--say Cuban Salsa de Perro (Dog Sauce), Colombian Cazuela de Mariscos (Seafood Stew), or the Haitian confection of Bananas with Rum Butter Cream--you'd be advised to turn to Latin American Cooking Across the U.S.A. by Himilce Novas and Rosemary Silva. The authors explain the history of each dish, its typical presentation in its land of origin, and how to go about preparing it in an American kitchen. It's a wonderful resource for a wide audience, whether you have Latin American roots and want to cook the meals you remember from grandma's house, have traveled in Latin America and want to recreate the dishes you loved on vacation, or merely have a taste for the cuisine of Latin America and want the option of cooking it up at home. The authors collected a fine array of recipes--200 in all--a thorough sampling of soups, appetizers, and salads; entrees with poultry, fish, or meat; various rice, bean, and vegetable concoctions; plus turnovers, breads, desserts, and drinks--all versions of traditional dishes culled from individuals living in the United States so as to translate easily into American home meals. Replete with family stories and culinary history, the recipes are intriguing to try, easy to make, and resonate with the various flavors of Latin America. --Stephanie Gold

Book Description

In the first cookbook to encompass the full spectrum of Latin American cooking all across America today, Himilce Novas and Rosemary Silva offer 200 enticing recipes that have been drawn from the home kitchens of Americans with roots in Mexico, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Jamaica, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Guatemala, and nearly every other corner of Latin America.

Spicy, colorful, and full of surprises, Latin flavors are the latest rage with Nuevo Latino chefs from
New York to Los Angeles. But here the exotic is translated into wonderful everyday dishes that home cooks can easily master.

For starters, Novas and Silva give us luscious Chilled Roasted Sweet Red Pepper and Coconut Soup or Orange-Scented Roasted Pumpkin Soup and appetizers known as antojitos ("little whims")--Bayamo's Fried Wontons with Chorizo and Chiles or a Costa Rican Black Bean and Bacon Dip.

For main courses, there are hearty delights like Piri Thomas's Chicken Asopao or a Heavenly Potato Pie with Minced Beef, Raisins, and Olives.

Center stage in many a meal are the rice and bean dishes with countless delicious variations on the theme, like Gallo pinto, Red Kidney Beans and Rice, and "Jamaican coat of arms", also called Rice and Peas (which are actually small red beans).

And to satisfy the Latin appetite any time of day, also included here is a rich array of tamales, empanadas, and other turnovers, like Little
Brazil Shrimp Turnovers stuffed with shrimp and hearts of palm.

From Cristina, the Cuban American talk show hostess in Miami, to U.S. Representative Henry B. Gonzalez of Texas, from film producers and opera singers to young students and grandmothers, the authors have gathered, along with the family recipes and their origins, stories of the past and of the good times celebrated in America. Novas and Silva also offer invaluable information on Latin American chiles, on the earthy appeal of plantains and tubers like yuca and taro, and on other special foods that give these dishes their unique character, along with mail-order sources for hard-to-get ingredients.

An exuberant one-of-a-kind cookbook that will add a new dimension to the American table.


Latino flavors are the latest rage from New York to Los Angeles. Here is the first book to encompass the full spectrum of Latin American cooking in the U.S. today, offering 200 enticing recipes, drawn from the home kitchens of Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Dominican, and other South and Central American families. Both a culture and a culinary adventure. 57 photos & drawings.

About the Author
Himilce Novas is a novelist, poet, playwright, historian, and radio commentator. She has written for the New York Times, the Christian Science Monitor, Connoisseur, and Cuisine, and is also the author of four previous books and the host of a popular Santa Barbara radio show. She teaches American literature and lectures widely on Latino history and culture. She lives in California.

Rosemary Silva is a teacher and the author of two previous books. A gifted cook, she spent many summers perfecting her craft at her mother's restaurant in
Austin, Texas. She holds a Ph.D. from Yale University and has taught at Mount Holyoke College and Amherst College. She has spent the last eight years researching Latin American cooking in the United States. She lives in California.


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Latin American Cooking Across the USA by Himilce Novas and
Rosemary Silva (Knopf, $27.50). This book represents the development of Latin American cooking in the United States. The authors interviewed immigrants from 26 Latin American countries, from Mexico to Brazil to Costa Rica. Each recipe includes a detailed introduction that makes you want to go into the kitchen now and start cooking. While there are a few expected recipes (guacamole, flan), there are many others that surprise and entice, such as tropical duck with pineapple sauce.


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Customer Reviews
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Description: Description: Description: Description: 5 out of 5 starsTHE BEST AND MOST DELICIOUS RECIPES! WHAT A GIFT!, November 13, 2002



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Description: Description: Description: Description: 5 out of 5 starsA great resource for Latin American cookery!, March 26, 2000

Reviewer: Marya from Florida

This book features a wide variety of recipes from across the spectrum of Latin American cookery, including contributions by notables Celia Cruz, Cristina Saralegui and others.

Our favorites have been the "Latin from Manhattan" chicken soup, pork and rice, black bean soup, chicken fricasee *and* the Guatamelan coffee. And this Thanksgiving I will be making the wine-infused turkey! Other recipes include pasteles, chicken and beef dishes, milk shakes and desserts.

There are also interesting side articles such as "How Jamaican beef patties came to be sold in New York pizzerias" (I had always wondered about that!)

A great resource for the novice or experienced cook!

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La Buena Mesa (Latin American Cooking across the U. S.): La Autentica Cocina Latinoamerica En Los Estados Unidos

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 From the Publisher

El primer libro de cocina que presenta la gran variedad de platos latinoamericanos tal y como se preparan en los Estados Unidos hoy en dia.

Himilce Novas y Rosemary Silva ofrecen 200 deliciosas recetas proveidas por familias norteamericanas con raices mexicanas, puertorriquefias, cubanas, jamaiquinas, brasilenas, argentinas, chilenas, peruanas, colombianas, guatemaltecas, y de casi todos los rincones de America Latina.

Sabrosos, vistosos y llenos de sorpresas, los platos "nuevo latinos" son la ultima moda en restaurantes famosos desde Nueva York hasta Los Angeles. Con este libro, lo que parece exotico y dificil de cocinar se convierte en manjares maravillosos que cualquier cocinera o cocinero puede preparar facilmente en casa.
— Para comenzar, las autoras nos ofrecen sopas exquisitas, como la Sopa fria de pimientos colorados y coco, o Sopa de calabaza con aroma de naranja, asi como sabrosisimos antojitos como los Wontons fritos con chorizo, chile y queso Monterey Jack a la Bayamo o Frijoles molidos costarricenses.
— Los platos principales incluyen el Asopao de pollo Piri Thomas y el Pastel de papas celestial, entre otras creaciones fabulosas caseras.
— Entre la gran variedad de platos de arroz con frijoles se destacan El gallo pinto, preparado con arroz y frijoles colorados, igual que el plato jamaiquino Jamaican Coat of Arms (arroz con frijoles colorados). Tambien nos ofrecen una elegante variedad de tamales, empanadas y otros sabrosos rellenos para satisfacer el apetito latino a cualquier hora del dia — entre ellos, las deliciosas Empanadas de camaron brasileno-americano.

Cristina, la anfitriona famosa del Show de Cristina, el congresista HenryB. Gonzalez, entre otras muchas personalidades y extraordinarios cocineros, cantantes famosos, autores, abuelas y jovenes estudiantes, comparten sus recetas favoritas en este libro. De la misma manera, Himilce Novas y Rosemary Silva, las autoras, aportan sus codiciadas recetas familiares, y a la vez cuentan la historia y la preparacion de los chiles frescos y secos, los platanos tropicales, la yuca, el taro y otras frutas y vegetales, y donde conseguirlos aqui en los Estados Unidos.

Este es un libro unico que le anade una nueva dimension a la mesa americana.

From The Critics

Library Journal
With the increasing popularity of Latin American cuisine, it's about time that someone published a book on the subject. Novas and Silva (coauthors of Remembering Selena, St. Martin's, 1995) offer more than 200 home-cooked recipes handed down from mothers to daughters, plus examples of more innovative new cuisines that display the great culinary diversity of Hispanic American cultures. All explained in a clear, easy-does-it way, the recipes cover such dishes as arepas, pan de jamn, tres leches, tamales, and pisco agrio. Interesting and useful culinary lore and legends surrounding each dish round out the text. Recommended for public libraries. Ondina Arrondo

Pupusas: El Salvador's Comfort Food











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By Ricardo Parra



 is an action month. Here are some suggestions to help you get into the spirit of things:

1.      Read some good books about Latinos. I enjoyed "Everything You Need to Know About Latino History" by Himilce Novas (Penguin Book, New York, 1994-2003). Also, I found the new book by Augusto Failde and William Doyle, "Latino Success (Simon and Schuster) full of insights. There are many fine Latina and Latino authors such as Rudolfo Anaya, Sandra Cisneros, Oscar Hijuelos, Ana Castillo, Julia Alvarez, Victor Villaseqor, Luis Rodrmguez y muchos, muchos mas.

2.      Energize the day with a cup of Colombian coffee. Try out the different kinds of coffee, Puerto Rican and Cuban coffees, cafi Mexicano, and cafi from Nicaragua.

3.      Take pan dulce to the office or work to share with your friends.

4.      Serenade your friends and co-workers with Las Maňanitas.

5.      Take time to be less in a hurry in order to pay more attention to our elders and children who need us.

6.      Read some Latino magazines such as the new Latina Magazine, Hispanic, and Sm.

7.      Catch a good movie featuring Latino stars. I recently saw Lone Star with Elizabeth Peňa. It was quite excellent.

8.      Give to Hispanic causes and charities that are working to help the community and youth such as the National Hispanic Scholarship Fund.

9.      Listen to some salsa, Latin Jazz or the Tejano sound.

10.   Treat your family and friends to variety of Latino food this month such as arroz con pollo, chicken and mole, caldo de res, fajitas, gandules, empanadas, tortas or other good stuff.

11.   Learn new Latino recipes whether from the Southwest or other Latino communities.

12.   Go to the fiestas and bailes and visit with old friends.

13.   Learn some new Latino dances, yes!

14.   Dance and encourage your kids to dance in community fiestas.

15.   Learn to play a musical instrument or play it better.

16.   If alcohol is involved in some of this month's celebrations, know when to say when, or don't even start. There's nothing wrong with sober celebrations. Help out others and serve as a designated driver.

17.   Regarding fitness and health, learn how to make some of the Latino recipes with less or no manteca. Start your Latino fitness program today with more aerobic activity such as dancing, running, soccer or other sports.

18.   Visit a Spanish speaking country, learn about your roots but also learn about the roots of other Latinos.

19.   Buy a personal computer for you and your family as this is the gateway to the future for this information age.

20.   Learn how to surf the net and visit the various Latino web sites such a LatinoLink, Hispanic Online, or Latino Web.

21.   Make it a priority to start setting aside money to invest in your education and the education of your children. Because of the changing nature of politics, we cannot rely on the idea that equal opportunity policies will always be in place to allow us to participate fully and fairly in the areas of education, employment and business, and therefore, we must redouble our effort to support self and community empowerment through education and economics.

22.   Stand and deliver. Promote math and science education in the Latino communities with the fine words of Jaime Escalante: Ganas! Ganas! Ganas!

23.   Start being mindful to support Latino businesses whenever and wherever possible.

24.   Start volunteering in the community or rededicate your commitment to do more. Siempre se puede mas.

25.   Learn about issues affecting Latinos like English only, immigration, affirmative action, welfare reform, education, youth, violence, drugs, teen pregnancy, and child and spousal abuse.

26.   Speak out against immigrant bashing, prejudice, racism and sexism when you see it occur.

27.   Help build solidarity in and among the Latino communities.

28.   Write letters to local newspapers about Latino issues, and also write about positive efforts, events, and achievements.

29.   Serve as a volunteer in English classes to help immigrants learn English.

30.   Help with citizenship drives to aid immigrants in becoming citizens.

31.   Help out with voter registration drives and vote!

32.   Take quiet time for yourself to gather your thoughts and see if you are paying enough attention to the key areas of your life: the physical, mental, social and emotional, and the spiritual.

33.   Write a poem or a letter to someone you love.

34.   Tell your parents you love them and say a prayer of thanks.

35.   Tell your spouse more often that you love him or her; he or she needs to hear it more often.

36.   Learn how to be a better parent in this ever changing complex society.

37.   Do what is necessary to promote the health of Latino family unity.

38.   Teach the youth the value and "coolness" of being a peacemaker when it comes to violence in this "in-your-face world" and how to act in a cool way to "quash it." Keep the peace. Even if you are treated unjustly by others, never treat other persons or groups unjustly to even things out.

39.   Pass on the best of Latino family values to your children, nephews, nieces, grandchildren, and god children.

40.   Give support to fatherless/motherless Latino families.

41.   Learn to become a better role model for yourself and others.

42.   Teach young people to say thank you/Gracias and Gracias a Dios.

43.   Be mindful of those who have lost love ones or who have been ill, and be caring.

44.   Do random acts of kindness for Latinos and all people in need of kindness and compassion.

45.   Learn to grow and appreciate the many beautiful cultures and rich traditions of others. Avoid being a cultural chauvinist. Be open to people, experiences and life.

46.   Work to help build a diverse, technologically sophisticated and cosmopolitan society with decent human values and principles.

The above actions will help us pass on our traditions and values to our youth and future, la nueva generacion of the 21st century.


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If you eat fajitas, listen to Selena, have studied the Spanish-American War, read Julia Alvarez, visited Miami, or seen Charlie Sheen in a movie, you're probably aware that Latino culture is an integral part of American life. But most Americans do not know much about Latino history, or realize the impact it has on the politics, economy, and culture of American life. Everything You Need To Know About Latino History covers the contributions of Spaniards, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, Dominicans, and Central and South Americans whose cultures have given us everything from chocolate to chili peppers, from mambo to machismo, and from Desi Arnaz to Oscar Hijuelos. Presented in a question and answer format, this revised edition includes new information on Central and South Americans, the largest group of new Latino immigrants, the passing of Proposition 187 in California, and how Latino women are playing a larger role in politics and the arts. This accessible reference book is perfect for both the history buff and the curious reader who want to learn more about Latino American history.

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     See Himilce Novas in Wikipedia   



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