If you've been reading The Perfect Pantry for the past couple of years, you know about The Downsizing. When my husband Ted and I moved from the log house in Rhode Island to a small apartment in Boston's South End, we consolidated everything, from furniture, to cookware, to art and shoes and camping gear. And, yes, cookbooks. What began as a collection of close to 1,000 found new homes in local libraries (including our Little Free Library), nonprofit agencies, and friends' kitchens. In the end, I kept fewer than 100 cookbooks.
What made the cut, and why? Some are classics, some encyclopedic, some oldish (and others newish), some locally-produced paperbacks acquired on my travels, and some... well, I just couldn't let them go. Stick around on Saturdays to find out what's still on my cookbook shelf.
Why I've kept it: One of the highlights of our trip to Cuba in 1996 was a lobster dinner in a paladar, a restaurant run in the private home of a Cuban family in Varadero, a beach community on a narrow spit of land east of Havana. Rosa welcomed me into the tiny kitchen as she prepared lobster in a tangy (but not spicy) tomato sauce. I didn't take notes about the recipe, but the taste memory stayed with me.
Back home, my search for an authentic version of that langostas enchiladas (lobster in savory sauce) led me to A Taste of Old Cuba, and as often happens with really great cookbooks, I began to cook my way through more of the traditional Cuban cuisine. Throughout the book, the author, who grew up playing on the beach in Varadero, recounts stories of her charming childhood in the Cuba of the 1920s-30s. You can't help but be transported.
A shrimp version of the lobster recipe has become one of my favorite -- and easiest -- dishes to make for entertaining, and I've shared it here on the blog: Cuban shrimp in savory sauce.
There are also a few variations of Moros y cristianos (black beans and rice).
Bookmarked, to try next: arroz con camarones en olla de presíon (rice and shrimp in the pressure cooker)
Do you have A Taste of Old Cuba, or other Cuban cookbooks, on your bookshelf?
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