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La Cocina de Mama: The Great Home Cooking of Spain    by Penelope Casas order for
La Cocina de Mama
by Penelope Casas
Order:  USA  Can
Broadway, 2005 (2005)
* *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Noted chef Jacques Pepin has endorsed Penelope Casas' new cookbook with these words, 'Penelope has finally opened the door to one of the most delicious lesser known cuisines - Spanish home cooking! I can't wait to cook La Cocina de Mama for my family and friends.'

High praise, indeed. But not unearned. Penelope Casas is the foremost American authority on Spanish food and the author of the bestselling Tapas. Don't skip the Introduction. Too much good advice there to miss. Casas urges the use of a mortar and pestle 'to put you in the mind-set of the past and to achieve the authentic taste of Grandma's cooking.' She advocates the use of olive oil - to sauté, to fry, to marinate, and even to use in desserts. Explaining the reasoning behind her words, she suggests using lard! Fried foods! Gasp! Can it be good for you? Spain has the third highest life expectancy in the world. Mull that over.

There are seventeen regions in Spain and Casas has included recipes from all of them, along with profiles and 'casual chats with those who contributed recipes.' La Cocina de Mama is full of hints and tips and knowledge you will need to recreate the 175 recipes presented for your edification. They range from Tapas to Soups to Vegetables, and so on - just what you expect a cookbook to feature. But don't forget these are all probably new ideas for you and a different look at dishes - there's a whole world of good food waiting for you.

Me? I plan to try the Shrimp Pancakes. And the White Gazpacho. And the Vegetable Paella. And the Fish Fillets Layered with Tomato, Capers, Bread Crumbs and Cheese. And the Orange Cake. And the ... drat. I'm sure I'll like almost anything in this lovely book.

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