Cruz, owner of five restaurants on the West Coast, is known for her version of Latin comfort food-simple, healthy dishes influenced by the various cultures and cuisines she was surrounded by growing up in L.A. like Cuban, Mexican, Japanese and Thai. Cruz highlights such ingredients as "mangoes, limes, coconut, chile peppers, mint, ginger, and cilantro.... These are my flavor building blocks." The "Starters" section includes Seared Tuna Wontons with Avocado Salsa Cruda, which are "a little nod to Japan but 100 percent California." Empanadas are made with turkey for a lighter meal as are Cruz's "Albondigas," Latin meatballs. The "Main Courses" chapter includes fresh, healthful dishes like Steamed Red Snapper with Hearts of Palm and Ginger, and Green Chili Posole, a Mexican stew. The "Rice, Beans and Other Sides" section includes recipes for Quick Black Beans, Brown Rice with Barley, and Sweet Plantains. The "Salsas, Sauces and Marinades" are used in specific recipes throughout the book, but can be added onto almost any dish. Included are Chipotle Corn Salsa, Guava Sauce, and Red Bell Pepper Sofrito. The options are endless in this bright debut, and Cruz convinces that "Latin food can be healthy and light and still be delicious, and that today's Latin food is a blend of the cultures that surround it." (Aug.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Isabel's Cantina: Bold Latin Flavors from the New California Kitchenby Isabel Cruz
When Isabel Cruz opened her first small restaurant in San Diego, she cooked what she loved to eat: simple Latin comfort food spiced with the Pacific Rim flavors she knew from her old Los Angeles neighborhood. Her trademark blend of Puerto Rican, Cuban, Mexican, Japanese, and Thai cooking allowed her to cut some of the calories and fat so often found in Latin
When Isabel Cruz opened her first small restaurant in San Diego, she cooked what she loved to eat: simple Latin comfort food spiced with the Pacific Rim flavors she knew from her old Los Angeles neighborhood. Her trademark blend of Puerto Rican, Cuban, Mexican, Japanese, and Thai cooking allowed her to cut some of the calories and fat so often found in Latin food without ever sacrificing taste. Soon, the nutritious, flavorful, easy-to-prepare meals Isabel had cooked every night for her family took California by storm.
In Isabel’s Cantina, she shares the deceptively simple recipes that make her five West Coast restaurants so popular, as well as many of her own personal favorites. By relying on the boldly flavored ingredients common to both Latin and Asian cuisines—like mangoes, limes, chiles, mint, ginger, coconut, and cilantro—Isabel’s healthful dishes are never bland. She gets things going with starters such as Grilled Vegetable Salad with Sofrito Vinaigrette and Shrimp Bites Wrapped in Greens. There’s Grilled Mahi-Mahi with Jalapeño-Ponzu Sauce, Green Chile Posole with Pork, and New York Strip Steak with Baked Plantain Fries. Gone are heavy refried beans and white rice, replaced by Chipotle White Beans and whole-grain Power Rice. In an invaluable chapter, Isabel reveals how to dress up any meal with healthy sauces and salsas, such as Papaya-Mango-Mint Salsa and Avocado Salsa Cruda. Desserts, drinks, and even brunch dishes round out her collection of recipes for every part of the day.
Blending fresh flavors with an eye for health, Isabel’s signature Latin food with Asian accents is not only good for you but—most important—it’s delicious.
In 1991, Cruz, a single mother of two with no formal training, opened a restaurant ("naively," she says) in San Diego, serving the food she had grown up with. "Improbably, it thrived," and today she has five restaurants up and down the West Coast, from La Jolla, CA, to Portland, OR. Her Puerto Rican family lived in a melting-pot neighborhood, with neighbors from Cuba, Mexico, Peru, Japan, and Thailand, and her cooking reflects influences from all of these cuisines, with an emphasis on healthy eating. Cruz has an engaging style, and her recipes are simple but fresh. For most collections.
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Read an Excerpt
Halibut with Cherry Tomato-Habanero Salsa and Cucumber-Cilantro Sauce
Halibut is my favorite white fish: It is simple to prepare and the perfect canvas for vibrant flavors. The habaneros, used here in moderation, add just enough heat to make this interesting. The cucumber-cilantro sauce adds a fresh finish to this colorful dish.
• 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
• 1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
• 1 to 2 habanero chiles, to taste, halved, seeded, and thinly sliced
• 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
• 4 tablespoons olive oil
• Kosher salt
• Four 6-ounce skinless halibut fillets
• Cucumber-Cilantro Sauce (recipe follows)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine the tomatoes, onion, chiles, and mint. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Toss gently to combine.
Lightly season the fillets on both sides with salt. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Place the halibut fillets in the hot pan. Brown for about 2 minutes on each side, then transfer to the oven and bake until opaque throughout, 8 to 10 minutes.
Put the halibut fillets on plates and top with a scoop of the tomato salsa. Spoon some of the Cucumber-Cilantro Sauce around the fish. Serve the remaining sauce on the side.
Makes about 2 cups
• 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
• 1 cup diced, peeled cucumber
• 1/2 cup lemon juice (about 4 lemons)
• 1/4 cup olive oil
• 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Puree the cilantro, cucumber, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt in a food processor or blender until almost smooth with just a bit of texture. Cover and refrigerate until serving, or for up to 2 days.
Meet the Author
Isabel Cruz is the owner of five restaurants along the West Coast, extending from Coffee Cup in La Jolla and Isabel’s Cantina and Seaside Cantina in San Diego, California, to Dragonfly in Ashland and Isabel in Portland, Oregon. Isabel, who grew up in Los Angeles, now lives in San Diego with her husband and two sons. This is her first book.
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