Mayan Cuisine By Daniel Hoyer, Gibbs Smith, Publisher, 2008. Hardcover. $35; 224 pages
For those who love Mexican food yet feel they've exhausted the borders of that cuisine, this cookbook will open up new flavors. Mayan food traditions hail from the Yucatán Peninsula down to Belize and Guatemala, influenced by Europe, the Caribbean, Africa, and the Middle East. You'll find familiar dishes here, like colorful salsas and tamales, but also a wealth of less-familiar meat and seafood salads and soups. Many dishes begin with a homemade recado—a thick seasoning paste that lays the flavor foundation. Recado Colorado (Red Seasoning Paste) is based on ground annatto seeds, looks like thick red clay, and tastes deeply earthy. It's what gives the spectacular banana leaf-wrapped Cochinitia Pibil (Pit-Roasted Pork with Yucatán Spices) its flavor and fragrance, and Caldo de Venado (Venison Soup) its gorgeous color.
Here is traditional food that seems so fresh. Hoyer is helpful and encouraging; he understands the limits of American markets and is careful to offer lots of substitutions. This book offers recipes that the cook can trust will not just work but also deliver delicious results.
GIVE THIS TO: Serious cooks interested in authentic new flavors. —Ann Taylor Pittman