It's no big surprise, considering that there are far and away more books on various Asian cuisines and the foods of the Mediterranean than there are of the second half of the Americas.
But Rafael Palomino, a successful New York chef, is spreading the nuevo Latino gospel in "Viva la Vida."
It is an attractive book in many ways. The unfussy layout and taste-tempting color photographs by Susie Cushner first draw readers in. The recipes will make them want to get into the kitchen.
A native of Bogota, Palomino strays beyond Colombia's borders for specialties of neighboring countries. From Cuba, he borrows sandwich de media noche. This midnight sandwich is piled high with roast port, smoked ham, white cheddar and pickles.
Peru is represented by papas a la huancaina, an intriguing dish that tops cooled, boiled, sliced potatoes with salsa mixed with crushed saltines, evaporated milk and spices, served on lettuce leaves.
Skipping to Brazil, skewered shrimp is bathed in a marinade of garlic, olive oil and Caipirinha, that country's national rum and lime cocktail. The grilled shrimp is served with a dipping sauce made of the rum concoction mixed with mango nectar and pineapple juice.
Fruit juices and nectars, all easily found in U.S. markets, play key roles in many preparations, and for ingredients that are less ocmmon, Palomino thoughtfully suggests acceptable substitutions. If you can't get to an ethnic market for aji mirasol or aji amarillo, two Latin ground chili powders, he directs you toward cayenne. Malanga chips, served alongside ceviche and also crushed into a coating for foods, can be replaced by Terra brand chips.
The author's classical French training with Michel Guerard lead him to some Euro-Latin fusion, such as empanadas stuffed with lamb, Nicoise olives and goat cheese. He suggests snacking on the pastries with a mango and lemongrass sangria.
Palomino draws on memories of his Bogota childhood as much as he does on his American restaruants' menus. There is lechon asado, crispy-juicy roast suckling pig that is the traditional centerpiece of his family's Christmas dinner and such simple dishes as arroz moro, the Palominos' version of rice and black beans, made both colorful and delicious with green onions, corn kernels, diced tomato and roasted garlic, all seasoned with a sazon spice mix (or cumin if that's not at hand). Viva la vida translates to "long live life," and Palomino's easy-to-follow recipes carry the promise of a very palatable, as well as long and healthy life. -San Francisco Chronicle