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Livin' la Vida Deliciosa (July 30, 2002)


VIVA la VIDA! We agree completely! Herewith are some marvelous recipes for entertaining Latin-style; they're fun, they're colourful and – ¡ay mamacita! – filled with flavour!

We got the idea from a terrific new cookbook, Viva la Vida, by Rafael Palomino and Arlen Gargagliano, which is filled to bursting with over 90 nuevo Latino recipes that will make your next party a genuine fiesta!

We keep going back to the book to try more recipes; stay tuned, this book is a favourite of ours and will be for you too. Just wait 'til you try the Tequila-cured Gravlax... Viva indeed!

A few years ago we had the pleasure of meeting vivacious Marlene Spieler in her hometown of San Francisco. This prolific cookbook author – Flavors of California and Mexican Main Dishes are two of our favourites – is also a food writer and broadcaster who divides her time between London and California. She's just done Peppers Peppers Peppers, which covers them all – from the familiar sweet green bell to the fiery hot little numbers that are a staple of so many Latino dishes.

Not stopping there, we found Rose Murray's latest cookbook, Quick Chicken, which not only has a zillion fabulous recipes for our favourite bird, but includes great information as well in categories like The Quick Chicken Pantry, Refrigerator and Freezer Staples, and Substitutions. Rose's popular cookbooks would fill a library, and for good reason – her never-fail recipes and ideas mean you'll never be at a loss for dinner again!

On today's menu:

Download these recipes in printable form as an Adobe Acrobat PDF (102 KB)


Tequila-cured Salmon Gravlax

You know we love gravlax, and this one from Viva la Vida is a winner!

The authors say, and we agree, that this has to be one of the easiest and most elegant of appetizers. It's also muy delicioso! The salmon is cured in the refrigerator overnight, ready to serve the following day just as your guests arrive. Hey, watch that pre-party sampling...

Serves 6 to 8 (oh, sure, unless we're there!)

Four 6 oz salmon fillets, pin bones and skin removed
Kosher salt to taste
½ cup finely shredded mint leaves
3 ripe pears, peeled, cored, and cut into ¼-inch-thick lengthwise slices
4 Tbsp tequila
Malanga Chips and Mango and Lime Relish (see below)

Place each fillet on a separate piece of plastic wrap. Lightly salt each fillet. Cover each fillet with a light blanket of the mint, followed by a layer of pear slices. Sprinkle 1 Tbsp tequila over each fillet and wrap tightly in the plastic wrap so that the liquid can't escape. Plate on a platter and refrigerate overnight.

Just before serving, remove the pear, mint and salt from each piece of salmon. Slice the salmon thinly and serve with the chips and relish.

Accompanying wine? Tony recommends...
a crisply dry, medium-bodied white – Sancerre or Muscadet (Loire), Chablis, the whites of Savoie and Jura, Brut champagne.

Malanga Chips

This nutty tropical tuber gives these chips enough flavour to stand out on the own, but they are perfect with the gravlax and other spicy dishes like ceviche.

1½ pounds malanga, scrubbed and peeled (available at Latin and specialty markets)
Peanut oil for deep-frying
Kosher salt for sprinkling

Using a mandoline, the slicing blade of a food processor, or large chef's knife, cut the malanga into very thin lengthwise strips. In a heavy pot or deep fryer, heat 1 inch of oil to 365°F. Working in batches, gently add malanga slices one at a time (otherwise they will stick together) to the hot oil and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until browned on both sides. Using a skimmer, transfer to paper towels to drain. Sprinkle with salt and let cool. Serve now, or store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

Mango and Lime Relish

Fresh fruit and juices plus mint and cucumber combine to make this tangy relish. You'll find all sorts of uses for it – a great accompaniment to fish, or as a perfect little side salad at breakfast or lunch. And hey... it's never too early for tequila!

1 mango, peeled, cut for pit and cut into ¼-inch dice
2 Tbsp gold tequila
Juice of 1 orange
Juice of 2 limes
6 fresh mint leaves, stacked, rolled and cut into fine shreds
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp Pommery or Dijon mustard
1 cucumber, seeded and cut into ¼-inch dice
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a medium glass or ceramic bowl, combine the mango, tequila, and orange and lime juices. Stir to blend. Add the mint leaves, olive oil, mustard and cucumber. Add the salt and pepper and stir. Serve now, or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.


Rose's Roasted Chicken Fajitas

Fajitas are almost mainstream these days, and for good reason. This dish is simple to make and full of taste – your whole family will love it!

In her book Quick Chicken, Rose Murray says roasting the chicken strips and vegetables in the oven not only gives extra flavour to the fajitas, but it is a fast and easy way of making them. We added a dash of hot sauce to kick it up a notch!

Serves 4

1 lb skinless boneless chicken breasts (500 g)
2 Tbsp vegetable oil (25 mL)
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice (15 mL)
1 tsp chili powder (5 mL)
½ tsp ground cumin (2 mL)
2 large onions in wedges
2 large red bell peppers, cut into wide strips
Salt and pepper
8 large flour tortillas
1 cup shredded lettuce (optional) (250 mL)
2 avocados, peeled and sliced
Tomato salsa
Sour cream

1. Cut chicken crosswise into 5 or 6 strips. Toss with half the oil; add lime juice, chili powder and cumin; set aside.

2. Combine onions and pepper in prepared roasting pan. Drizzle with remaining oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add chicken mixture; stir to combine and spread out in the pan. Roast in preheated oven, stirring once or twice, for 20 to 25 minutes or until chicken in no longer pink inside and vegetables are tender.

3. Meanwhile, wrap tortillas tightly in foil and place in the oven for 10 minutes to heat.

4. Transfer chicken and vegetables to a heated platter and serve with tortillas, lettuce, avocados, salsa and sour cream. Have each diner spoon some chicken mixture into a tortillas, top with lettuce (if desired) avocado, salsa and sour cream to taste, roll up to eat.

Accompanying wine? Tony recommends...
a medium-bodied white with good acidity and a touch of residual sugar – Riesling off-dry (Kabinett quality from the Rheingau) or Ontario, New York State Riesling (off-dry).


Mango, Pepper and Peanut Salad

We're not sure of the ethnic origins of this sprightly salad, but who cares, it has a worldwide range of flavours... sweet mango, hot chili, toasted nuts and peppery arugula. Got leftover smoked chicken or tofu? Toss it in!

What we do know is that Marlene Spieler is a terrific cook and writer, and you'll love browsing and eating from Peppers Peppers Peppers!

Serves 4

1 tbsp chopped peanuts or toasted sesame seeds (25 mL)
1 Tbsp vegetable oil (15 mL)
Handful or arugula leaves
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (15 mL)
Juice of ½ lime or 1-2 tsp (5–10 mL) sweet rice vinegar
½ tsp sugar, or to taste (2 mL)
2 Tbsp orange juice (25 mL)
1 ripe mango, peeled and sliced
2 red bell peppers or 6 baby red bell peppers, thinly sliced
½ ripe mild red chili, thinly sliced or drizzle chili oil
2 scallions, sliced thin
1 tsp each: fresh chopped cilantro and mint (15 mL)

To toast the peanuts, heat 1 Tbsp vegetable oil in a wok or skillet. When the oil just begins to smoke, add the peanuts and cook over a medium-high heat for about 2 minutes until golden brown, tossing and turning as they cook. Drain on paper towels.

Arrange the arugula on a plate and dress with a mixture of the olive oil, lime juice, scallions, peanuts or sesame seeds, cilantro and mint. Serve immediately.

Accompanying wine? Tony recommends...
a fruity white without oak – Viognier from Languedoc, Pinot Gris from Alsace, California Sauvignon Blanc


Steamed Manila Clams in a Cilantro-Saffron Broth

Viva la Vida authors Palomino and Gargagliano told us that this is an ideal dish for small get-togethers. Keep plenty of crusty bread handy, because after you eat the clams you'll want to dip into the sauce. They like to serve this dish family-style, with everyone eating from the same dish, along with a bottle of delicious dry white wine.

Serves 4

3 Tbsp garlic oil
36 Manila or littleneck clams, scrubbed
3½ cups chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth
3 pinches saffron threads
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1½ Tbsp unsalted butter
Juice of ½ lemon
1 large beefsteak tomato, seeded and cut into ¼ inch dice
1 bunch cilantro, stemmed and coarsely chopped
Crusty French or toasted whole wheat bread

In a large saucepan, heat the garlic oil over medium-high heat. Add the clams and stock or broth. Bring to a boil and cook for 4 to 6 minutes, or until the clams start to open. Add the saffron, salt and pepper. Cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the butter and lemon juice. Finally, add the tomato and cilantro. Gently stir and simmer for 1 more minute. Remove from heat, pour onto a large platter, and serve immediately with French or toasted whole-wheat bread.

Accompanying wine? Tony recommends...
crisp white wine with lively acidity – Soave from Umbria, Vernacchia di San Gimigniano from Tuscany, Ontario unoaked Chardonnay.

We wish to thank the following for permission to publish recipes and photographs:

Viva la Vida by Rafael Palomino and Arlen Gargagliano is published by Chronicle Books, San Francisco, 2002.
Photography by Susie Cushner.

Quick Chicken by Rose Murray is published by Robert Rose Inc, Toronto, 1999.
Photography by: Mark T. Shapiro

Peppers Peppers Peppers by Marlene Spieler is published by Firefly Books, 1999. Photography courtesy Firefly Books Ltd.


Happily tested by Helen Hatton and Ron Morris.

Download these recipes in printable form as an Adobe Acrobat PDF (102 KB)




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