Latin music and Latin dance have a special pizzazz and vibrancy. That goes for Latin cooking as well, especially as practiced by Daisy Martinez, Latina cook extraordinaire and one of the hottest new stars on the Food Network. Daisy: Morning, Noon and Night gives you the recipes and quick expertise that will earn you olés galore. Daisy augments her own family food memories with dishes she and her family enjoyed while traveling in Spain and South and Central America, dishes that showcase the fabulous mosaic of flavors found in the very varied cuisines of these countries. Daisy begins at the beginning, with some great takes on that oh-so-necessary morning meal. Orange-almond-scented Torrijos, aka Spanish French toast, or comforting Breakfast Polenta are super ways to start the day. For lunch, make a big pot of Peruvian Beef Noodle Soup, then serve up Braised Chicken with Coconut Milk and Curry, a Puerto Rican and Dominican dinner standby. Latin-accented cocktail parties, dinner parties and grand buffets get their due, too, made all the easier with menu and prep schedules. Señora Martinez has a warm, intimate style, with suggestions for substitutions and descriptions of ingredients that may not be familiar. And she’s added great header notes and tales of her travels. Gracias, Daisy!
The passionate baker
Committed bakers are a breed apart, delighting in precise details and exacting in the execution of their craft. I’m an occasional baker who needs an inspirational kick, but who’s always thrilled with both the end results and the process. John Barricelli, a third-generation baker with the best training and credentials, host of PBS’s “Everyday Baking from Everyday Food” and owner of the SoNo Baking Company & Café, provides that irresistible impetus to whip out the baking ingredients, plus 150 inspirational recipes written for the home baker in The SoNo Baking Company Cookbook. His breads, cakes, cookies, cobblers, crisps, tarts, trifles, scones and savories have their roots in traditional European and American favorites and range in style from the classics, like dense, super-fudgy brownies and Strawberry Shortcake, to the more modern, such as a flourless White Chocolate Mousse Roulade. Barricelli shares his secrets gladly, peppering his excellent instructions with “technique tips,” tricks he’s picked up that ensure the best results. And he offers his list of must-have items for the basic baker’s pantry, plus all the storage info you need to keep your creations in tiptop condition, should you not gobble them up on the day they’re made. This is a fine source for either the novice who needs encouragement or the veteran who wants new variations.
At home with Rachel
Rachel Allen, a TV cooking star in Ireland and England, has an easy, comfortable way with food that’s showcased in Favorite Food at Home, her American debut. With full-page, full-color photos throughout, including many of Rachel’s pretty face and her adorable children, it’s an attractive addition to the finding-joy-in-feeding-friends-and-family-at-home genre. She’s not heavy on local, seasonal or sustainable; she just wants you to make food that satisfies and pleases, that brings everyone together at the table without much muss or fuss. Although Rachel was brought up in Dublin and lives in Ballymaloe, her cooking is not “Irish”—though you might try the rich Porter Cake for St. Patrick’s Day. Some of her dishes have international accents, from asparagus-studded Risotto Verde to Moroccan Lamb Tagine with Lemon and Pomegranate Couscous to Thai Pork with Coconut Coriander Sauce, and many are innovative takes on the familiar, like Spicy Salmon Cakes, Duck, Lentil and Cabbage Salad, or Roast Leg of Lamb with Garlic, Rosemary and Olive Paste. Separate chapters feature picnic fare, foolproof food for kids, edible gifts and an array of comforting sweets. Real food for all occasions.