Evolution of Latin American cuisine is focus of new cookbook

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(flip horizontal): “I can’t deny that I’m Peruvian and have a weakness,” Chef Virgilio Martínez says of ceviche, which have seen centuries of fusion when the Spanish introduced limes and Japanese technique improved the handling of fish. Photo by Jimena Agois.

The expanse of Latin America reaches from the tip of Chile to north of Mexico, from Rio Grande to Cape Horn. With the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, coral reefs, tropical forests, and wetlands, the region encompasses 50% of the world’s biodiversity. When the Spanish and Portuguese made their historic arrival, ingredients were introduced and cuisine changed. 

“We have been through 500 years of fusion,” says Chef Virgilio Martínez. He has worked on a collection of recipes from the area, using foods that were emblematic of neighborhood restaurants and maintaining traditions as a point of reference. “Neighborhood food represents your values and your ideals,” he continues. “The way you are connected to food and to farmers, you can see authenticity and people celebrating their identity.”

Virgilio Martínez and his staff at Central in Lima, Peru were most recently recognized with the number four position on the World’s Best Restaurants list. He is the Director General of Mater Iniciativa, and his latest collection of recipes is “The Latin American Cookbook.”

Street Cart Ceviche (Ceviche carretillero)
Serves 4
Preparation time: 20 minutes

Street cart ceviche is the most straightforward, common form that you will find in Lima’s cevicherías, not to mention in beach shacks and market stalls. It can also be served with mixed seafoods, which vary depending on region and time of year. Shrimp, octopus, squid, and scallops are common. Some like to fry one of the ingredients, usually the squid, which adds a crunchy texture to the dish.

Ingredients 

  • 2 cups/16 fl oz (475 ml) lime juice
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
  • 8 oz (225 g) fish trimmings
  • 1/2 ají limo, seeded and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro (coriander)
  • 1 lb 8 oz (680 g) fresh white fish fillets (such as seabass or sole), cut into 3/4-inch (2-cm) chunks
  • Cancha serrana (Toasted Andean Corn Kernels, page 114)
  • boiled corn kernels
  • boiled sweet potato (1/2-inch/1-cm) slices

Instructions

  1. Put the lime juice, celery, half of the onion, garlic, ginger, and fish trimmings in a blender, with a couple of ice cubes.
  2. Blend for 3 minutes on high speed. Strain into a bowl.
  3. Add the ají limo, remaining onion, and cilantro (coriander), then season with salt.
  4. In another bowl, pour the mixture over the fish and mix together.
  5. Serve immediately with the Cancha serrana, corn kernels, and sweet potato on the side.


Virgilio Martínez traverses the sprawl of regional recipes and the evolution of dishes with the introduction of ingredients in “The Latin American Cookbook.” Photo courtesy of Phaidon.

Credits

Host:

Evan Kleiman