I admit I nearly walked straight out the library door when looked on the hold shelf for my on-loan copy of Gran Cocina Latina, the latest challenge cookbook from my virtual friends over at Cook the Books.
I mean this thing is massive, not just in terms of its 902 pages, but for sheer heft. It weights in at just shy of 2.2 kilos, or 4 lb 13 oz. And it’s dense, with a lot of history and back story, recipes flipping over a page (a big no-no for me and my grubby fingers) and a lot of cross-referencing to previous instructions which are often (irritatingly) cross-referenced to the wrong page. It’s sloppy editing that got me annoyed before I even thought about what I might want to cook.
I pushed my way through that one, but a long weekend work day stymied plans to head out for ingredients to Kensington Market Latino heaven to pick up some of the mildly obscure ingredients. I improvised, with a scallop cebiche
and an avocado salad.
I will admit first off that I didn’t follow the recipes properly for any of these. The scallop cebiche in the book used juice that wasn’t available in local stores, so I used the clam dressing for scallops, and the red pepper was an (inspired) addition to the onion avocado salad, where I also cut the garlic to one clove from an astonishing three. The avocado salad (dressing of onions, garlic, olive oil and lime juice) was very, very good, and the fried plantains made me wonder why I’ve never cooked them before. The cebiche was ok by Day Two, but pretty tasteless on Day One, and the spouse, who only now tells me he doesn’t really like sushi either, raced off and cooked his portion. That’s not a good sign.
But will I use the recipe book again? Or would I actually go out and buy it?
I think not. It would take up 2-1/2 inches of valuable bookshelf space, and needs too many ingredients that I don’t normally cook with to make it worth while. And while there were recipes I liked the look of, they all had specific ingredients I didn’t have to hand, and the faulty cross-referencing irritated me madly. The first cebiche recipe I looked at had frozen tumbo juice (with passionfruit juice as a substitute), and mirasol pepper, which was supposed to be explained on page 54. Page 54 talked about recado and sazon, whatever they may be.
Let’s face it. Maybe I’m just not a recipe book person. Feel free to take any cook book reviews with a pinch of the proverbial salt.
But there again I seem to remember it’s an ice cream book next month. I’ve never made ice cream. Should I give that one a swirl?