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With two celebrated restaurants and two highly acclaimed cookbooks to her name, Zarela Martínez is considered one of America’s foremost authorities on Mexican cooking. In this book, the companion to her thirteen-part public television series, Zarela takes us on a tour of the Mexican state of Veracruz, a lush, skinny strip of land bordering the Gulf and home to some of Mexico’s most accessible and inviting dishes. It was here that the Spanish first landed in the sixteenth century, and sustained Spanish influences ...
With two celebrated restaurants and two highly acclaimed cookbooks to her name, Zarela Martínez is considered one of America’s foremost authorities on Mexican cooking. In this book, the companion to her thirteen-part public television series, Zarela takes us on a tour of the Mexican state of Veracruz, a lush, skinny strip of land bordering the Gulf and home to some of Mexico’s most accessible and inviting dishes. It was here that the Spanish first landed in the sixteenth century, and sustained Spanish influences give the food an easygoing Mediterranean character that is appealing even to people who don’t normally like “Mexican” food. Olive oil, olives, capers, raisins, and almonds are common in simply prepared dinners, while complex blends of difficult-to-find chiles and other spices are largely absent. The state’s 450-mile-long coastline is broken up everywhere by waterways teeming with shellfish. As a result, there is a wealth of little dishes that involve nothing more than some seafood, olive oil, and garlic with a handful of seasonings: wonderful soup-stews, fresh fillets stuffed with seafood mélanges, appetizers such as Shrimp Salad in Avocado Halves and Garlickly Stir-Fried Shrimp, and the state’s most famous dish, red snapper a la veracruzana. At the same time, Veracruz's strong Caribbean orientation and powerful Afro-Cuban legacy offer plenty of choices for cooks who want kitchen adventure. The Veracruzan table also features innumerable variations on tortillas that make wonderful little meals.
In all, Zarela provides more than 150 dishes that are perfect for parties or even ordinary suppers: Crab and Avocado Salad, Orange-Flavored Chicken, Wild Mushrooms in Vinaigrette, and Coconut Layer Cake.
Much more than a cookbook, ZARELA'S VERACRUZ is also a mesmerizing travelogue and an absorbing portrait of Mexico’s most exuberant state.
"Praise be indeed to Zarela Martinez, impassioned evangelist for Mexican food."
The Wall Street Journal
Camarones al Ajillo (Garlicky Stir-Fried Shrimp)
Makes 4 servings
This is a ubiquitous dish in Veracruz and Cuba, as well as Spain (where it is called gambas al ajillo). I have eaten and loved many versions, but I think my all-time favorite is the one served at Las Brisas del Mar in Boca del Río. Most cooks just throw the garlic and chile into a pan to fry, then add the shrimp. This produces a good dish but doesn’t equal the distinct tavors that Tomasita Meléndez achieves by marinating and stir-frying the shrimp before combining them with the separately cooked garlic and chile. I also love the richness of the spoonful of luxurious garlic-butter paste that Tomasita adds. Another interesting touch is the use of small dried chiles (árbol or dried serrano) instead of the commoner large guajillos. The heat and chile tavor seem to diffuse better with the small chiles. You can vary the amount to taste, but since they are used whole, they shouldn’t make the dish too incendiary.
In Veracruz, people eat the shrimp with corn tortillas. Cubans sop up the oil with bread.
1 large head garlic, separated into cloves and peeled 1 teaspoon coarse salt, or to taste Juice of 2 limes Freshly ground black pepper 1 pound shrimp (any size; I generally use small), peeled and deveined 3 tablespoons olive oil 3 tablespoons vegetable oil 20 árbol or dried serrano chiles (see page 45) 1 tablespoon Garlic Butter Enrichment (below; optional) Lime wedges for garnish
With a heavy pestle, crush 2 of the garlic cloves to a paste with the salt in a medium bowl. Stir in the lime juice and a good grinding of black pepper. Add the shrimp and toss well to combine. Let stand for 5 minutes; drain and set aside.
Using a mortar and pestle or the tat of a heavy knife blade, crush the remaining garlic cloves just enough to bruise the surface while leaving the cloves nearly intact. Add 1 tablespoon each of the olive and vegetable oil to a small skillet and heat over medium heat until rippling. Add the bruised garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 2 minutes, or until golden. Add the chiles and cook, stirring constantly, for another minute, being careful not to scorch the chiles. Set the pan aside.
In a medium skillet, heat the remaining 4 tablespoons olive and vegetable oil over medium-high heat until rippling. Stir in the garlic butter, if using. Add the drained shrimp and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes, or until they change color. Add the garlic-chile mixture and cook, stirring constantly, just to heat through, about 1 more minute. Serve at once with lime wedges.
Ajo Preparado Garlic Butter Enrichment Many cooks in the port city and throughout Sotavento—the prime fish and seafood areas of Veracruz state—swear by a sauce enrichment consisting of pureed garlic cooked in butter. Sometimes onion is added as well. People make up the mixture, or buy a prepackaged version that I’ve seen at street markets, and add it to all sorts of prepared seafood dishes to give an extra dimension.
I suggest using a tablespoon for a dish to feed 4.
1/2 cup garlic cloves (from 2 large heads of garlic) 1/2 cup cold water 2 tablespoons butter
Puree the garlic with the water in a blender or food processor. In a small saucepan, gently melt the butter over medium heat, not letting it bubble. Add the garlic puree and cook without stirring for about 5 minutes, or until the water has evaporated and the mixture is bubbling up in ploppy craters.
Let the mixture cool to room temperature, then transfer it to a small container. It will keep, tightly sealed, for up to a month in the refrigerator.
Copyright © 2001 Zarela Martinez. Reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.
Preface xiii Where It All Began, and How 1 Places and People: A Tour of Veracruz 5 Lively but Accessible: The Cooking of Veracruz 39 Equipment 40 Ingredients 41 If You Really Want to Cook Like Me 71
Appetizers and Little Dishes 76 The Veracruzan Corn Kitchen 111 Soups and Soup-Stews 141 Fish and Seafood 166 Poultry and Eggs 196 Pork and Beef 235 Vegetables and Side Dishes 264 Sauces and Sauce Enrichments 298 Sweet Breads and Desserts 332 Beverages 358
Mail-Order Sources 365 Shopping Sources 367 Index 369
Posted December 17, 2011
I have purchased all three of Zarela's books. They are all great and very enternaining reading. In her introductions to the book and her recipies, she gives a very detailed description of the different local regions and customs. On "Zarelas Veracruz", she gives you the grand tour of Mexico's state of Veracruz. The ingredients are readily available at local markets. And the recipies are truly authentic as prepared in the local regions.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.