Cook the Books! July: Gran Cocina Latina with Maricel E. Presilla


We are headed into the 2nd half of Cook the Books! Can you believe it? At over 850 pages, July’s selection is our largest cookbook yet. Yes, you read that right. A veritable encyclopedia, if you will. It is an enormous cookbook. And not a fluffy cookbook either. It is absolutely crammed with recipes (more than 500!) and loads of both useful, and thought-provoking, information.


Funny enough, Briggs and I seemed to have chosen a lot of cookbook authors that hold doctorate degrees, or at least were in PhD programs. Dorie Greenspan (gerontology), Noah Bermanoff (law), and now Marciel Presilla with her PhD in medieval Spanish history. From this I will deduce that the world of academia might drive one to cook. In her case, her academic mentor taught her to learn history from every angle and this led to an exploration of how Iberian colonialism shaped the cuisine of Latin America. She is inspired by both the creation of a broad, border-less Latin American identity as well as find what is being preserved of very traditional and regional ways.

So exactly what is in this great book? Just about everything. After a chapter on what is considered Latin America, along with some history, she hits off with a chapter on The Latin Kitchen. A lovely discussion of space (being married to an academic who writes about and creates specific spaces, I can tell you that academics love themselves some chats about space!) sets the stage and tone. The usual introductory things are discussed, such as tools and how to have a well-stocked Latin kitchen in the United States. However, Marciel also brings forth the idea of a kitchen as a source of liberation (I love this!), the connection of cooking and love, as well as superstitions and kitchen lore.

The next chapter is about the layers of Latin flavor, including 8 pages devoted to peppers – variety, uses, preparation, and flavor. In this chapter she talks about the layering of flavors – sour, sweet, salty, hot, and savory.

Beyond the far-from-basic introductory chapters are:

  • Table Condiments
  • Tropical Roots and Starchy Vegetables
  • Squashes, Corn, Quinoa, and Beans
  • Rice
  • Drinks
  • Little Latin Dishes
  • Empanadas
  • The Tamal Family
  • Cebiches
  • La Olla: Soups and Hearty Potages
  • Salads
  • Breads
  • Fish and Seafood
  • Poultry
  • Meat
  • Hot Pepper Pots: Adobos, Secos, Saices, Picantes, Sajtas, Pepianes, and Moles
  • Dulce Latino

Whew, right?

I have no idea at all where to start cooking, but I sure hope Briggs and I can sort out an official Cook the Books! Dinner Party this month, because I have an unopened bottle of Peruvian pisco in the bar cupboard from a trip my parents took to Peru awhile back that is begging to be turned into dinner party cocktails (Pisco Sour anyone?)

So, friends, I am off on a family road trip for the next 10 day, so things will be quite around here and my cooking will consist of making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, but I can’t wait to dig into this cookbook!

Need to catch up with Cook the Books?


Comment moderation is enabled. Your comment may take some time to appear.