The New Portuguese Table by David Leite
“Tomatoes and oregano make it Italian; wine and tarragon make it French. Sour cream makes it Russian; lemon and cinnamon make it Greek. Soy sauce makes it Chinese; garlic makes it good.” – Alice May Brock
I’d like to add an addendum to that quote and add this line, “David Leite makes Portuguese Cooking the star of the Mediterranean cuisines with his new cookbook, The New Portuguese Table.
If you aren’t already familiar with David Leite, you should be, because he is one of the forces of the food industry to be reckoned with. His website Leite’s Culinaria is perhaps one of the best food sites on the web. You can visit it and see for yourself at his website Leite's Culinaria.
He is a three times James Beard winning writer and publisher, his columns are seen in food related publications everywhere, and he is one of the nicest, (and funniest) people I have encountered on this road of culinary greatness. If anyone belongs in a “Cooking Hall of Fame”, David just earned his place with his fabulous new book.
As with most of us who grow up in the kitchens of fabulous cooks, we take their cooking skills for granted. Sometimes we rebel against our ethnicity in our quest to belong to America’s melting pot, and until we reach that magic age when our mothers, grandmothers, or in many cases, fathers and grandfathers are no longer around, and we miss the foods of our youth, do we set out to re-explore and recreate them.
This is precisely what David has done in his book. As a young book growing up in a Portuguese community in Fall River Massachusetts, he really didn’t want much to do with his Portuguese heritage. As he says so well in his book, “I sat in my parents’ closet stuffing Hostess cupcakes into my mouth, praying to be blond and blue-eyed, with a last name of Fitzgerald or Abernathy."
In my case, it was growing up in an Italian household in Brooklyn, but all of us have traveled that road at one time or another. It was the same feelings that prompted me to write my own families cooking heritage “Cooking with Love”, so that my families' future generations, when they finally awoke from their escape from who they were, could then reconnect with their roots.
David has taken this even one step further with an amazing collection of Portuguese recipes, a fabulous travel log into Portugal itself, and a amazing pictorial accompaniment to both the food and the country. Move over Sonnets from the Portuguese, there’s a new kid on the block, and he’s kicking your butt!
Included in the book are recipes not only from David’s family, but from his years of living in Portugal to research the book, he brings a collection of “new Portuguese” cuisine to the table.
He provides a detailed guide to Portugal’s food for those of you who may be lucky enough to travel to Portugal. He gives you the provinces, what to eat, and what to drink in all of them. He tells you how to stock a Portuguese pantry, the history of the recipes, the only thing he doesn’t do is come and cook in your kitchen...pity!
The photography, provided by Nuno Correia is amazing, you can smell the food right off the pages, place yourself in the countryside of the travel photos, and through David and Nuno collaboration you immerse yourself in the Portuguese culture and become a part of Portugal itself.
This is a cookbook that no kitchen should be without. Whether you are a fan of Portuguese cooking or not, there is something in this cookbook for everyone. From the Spicy Pumpkin Seeds, to the Green Olive Dip, from Sea Bass with Fennel and Orange to Roast Chicken with Potatoes, from Black Eyed Peas with Onions and Red Pepper to Cornbread, to the divine Rice Pudding Redux, there is something for everyone is this book. As David says, this is the “New” Portuguese Table. The ingredients used in this book are the ingredients found in everyone’s pantry (unless you happen to be one of my sons who have nothing in the cabinets until I come to visit.)
BUY THIS BOOK!!! BUY THIS BOOK!!! BUY THIS BOOK!!!!
(Whew, once was not enough to say it)
Introduction: Confessions of a Late Blooming Lusophile
1. Portuguese Parsed
2. The Portuguese Pantry
3. Little Bites
5. Fish and Shellfish
8. Eggs, Vegetables and Rice
10. Sweets and Liqueurs
If you love Italian Food, French Food, Spanish Food, and have never tried Portuguese food before, I think you will be most pleasantly surprised, and soon, you’ll be a fan. For me personally, this book was a trip down the culinary memory lane of my youth because many of the food were very similar to my own upbringing; the fried dough from David’s grandmother, the Baccala on Christmas Eve, my Aunt Frances’ table filled with her Portuguese dishes prepared lovingly for my Uncle Manuel (who was of Portuguese descent) while he sat smoking his cigars… Thank you David for making me remember!
As my father would say, "If you cook it with love, it will always taste delicious."
Once again, the book should come with a warning: When reading this book you may be tempted to cook everything on the pages, gain a hundred pounds and become supremely happy and sated.
I always include a recipe from the book I am reviewing and this is no exception. As always, it is difficult to make a choice, but I decided to pick the Sweet Lemon and Black Olive Wafers as my choice as I found the combination intriguing in a cookie. David says that he had this at a dinner party and forgot to get the recipe so he recreated it himself. I just found this link of David making the cookies in a video - check it out...
Sweet Lemon and Black Olive Wafers:
1½ cups all purpose flour
½ cup mild oil cured black olives, rinsed quickly if particularly salty, and coarsely chopped
¼ cup sugar, plus more for coating
¼ teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons grated lemon zest
1/8-teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of Kosher salt
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large egg, beaten
1. Position a rack in the upper third of the oven and crank of heat to 375ºF.
2. Stir together the flour, olives, sugar, baking powder, zest, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk together the oil and egg, pour the mixture into the dry ingredients, and mix with your hands until the dough no longer looks dry and holds together when squeezed, 1 to 2 minutes
3. Fill a small bowl with sugar and set nearby. Pinch off 1 rounded tablespoon (about 1 ounce) of dough, roll into a ball, and coat it with sugar. Place it in one corner of a sheet of parchment cut to it your baking sheet, place another piece of parchment on top, and using a rolling pin, roll the ball into a 3½ to 4-inch circle, a scant 1/16 inch thick. The edges will be ragged; that’s how they should be. Repeat with 5 more wafers on the same sheet. Lift off the top sheet and slip the parchment with the cookies onto the baking sheet.
4. Bake until the wafers are edged with brown and pebbles on the top, 10 to 12 minutes. Side the parchment onto a wire cooling rack. Repeat with the remaining dough. Once cooled, the wafers will keep in an airtight container for several days, but I doubt they’ll stick around that long.
It is not often that I purchase a cookbook that I actually cook from. In fact, other than Ina Garten, off hand, I can’t recall too many that I use. However, I know that I will be trying recipes from this book. The statistics say that if you shop for a cookbook and see two recipes in a book that you are tempted to try you will buy the book. This book is surely a winner, because I want to try almost everything (sorry David – I’m not a fan of Cod) but everything else is a go for me! Again, buy this book, you won’t be disappointed!
Book Title: The New Portuguese Table
Author: David Leite
Category: Ethnic Cookery
Publisher: Clarkson N. Potter a division of Random House
Publishers Address: 1745 Broadway, New York, New York 10019
Description: Hard Cover
Photographs: Fabulous color photography of both food and Portugal
Reviewed by: Elise Feiner - August 25, 2009
David, you did your mother, aunts, and grandmother proud. You have put Portugal back on the culinary map…congratulations
The New Portuguese Table can be ordered by scrolling down to the bottom of the blog to our Foodfanataholics Cookbook Nook, go to the sidebar on the right and click on Cookbook of the Month, clicking at the top of the blog on the sidebar, or by visiting David’s website.