The New Portuguese Table by David Leite

Book Reviews 2009

Portuguese food is a new interest for us. We have been increasingly fascinated by Portuguese wines, which much of the same character and value of Spanish wines, and so we've been also very interested in the food of the region. So we were just delighted to get a look at David Leite's mouthwateringly gorgeous new book on Portuguese classics made new in the global atmosphere of modern Portugal.

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Title & Publisher: The New Portuguese Table: Exciting Flavors from Europe's Western Coast , by David Leite. Published by Clarkson Potter, 2009.

First impressions: A wide, nearly square hardback book with a dust jacket and glossy pages. It's easily propped open, and the type is well set for visibility — with the exception of the ingredient lists, which are set in all caps, and therefore rather difficult to read at a glance. There are many photos; nearly every recipe has a temptingly-photographed image of the dish.

Number of recipes: About 95, split between the usual categories (Fish and Seafood, Vegetables and Rice, Poultry, Meat) with tantalizing extras that include Sundries (Cilantro Paste, Fish Stock, Smoked Paprika Oil) and Sweets and Liqueurs (Rosemary Custard, Sweet Lemon and and Black Olive Wafers, Milk Liqueur).

The angle: David Leite takes the Portuguese cooking of his family, which he was not enthusiastic about as a youth, and marries it to the more progressive and updated takes on modern Portuguese cuisine that he found in his travels there as an adult. He includes less than a hundred recipes. We appreciate that didn't he go for comprehensive coverage as much as an edited guide to the signature flavors of the region. As a result the book feels like one we'd like to cook through from cover to cover — a narrative of Portuguese cuisine, as opposed to an encyclopedia.

The other stuff: A short but helpful introduction that includes a guide to some Portuguese ingredients and cooking terms, with a special section on wine for Portuguese food.

Strengths: A passionate yet lucid approach to Portuguese cooking. There are plenty of recipes that don't call for too many hard-to-find ingredients, and that still have a good flair of something new. We like how Leite took some perhaps complicated dishes and made them friendly and fresh for newcomers to Portuguese cuisine. The photos are wonderful and a big asset to the book.

Recipes for right now: The Sweet Lemon and and Black Olive Wafers pictured above will be on our Christmas cookie plates. Also, we are dying to try the Milk Liqueur. Later today we will share recipes for duck with black olives, as well as an olive risotto. Other recipes to try: Pork Tenderloin in a Port-Prune Sauce, Fried Cornmeal, Spinach with Toasted Bread Crumbs, Salt Cod in a Potato Jacket, and Lemon-Mint Chicken Soup.

Recommended? Yes. It's gorgeous, lucid, and a great introduction to Portuguese cooking.

• Buy the book: The New Portugese Table, David Leite - $21 at Amazon
• Visit David Leite's food website: Leite's Culinaria

More 2009 Book Reviews
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Clean Food by Terry Walters
On Food & Cooking by Harold McGee
Secrets from My Tuscan Kitchen by Judy Witts Francini
The Perfect Fruit by Chip Brantley
Heard it Through the Grapevine by Matt Skinner
Big Food by Elissa Altman
Edible Schoolyard by Alice Waters
The River Cottage Meat Book by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall
Milk by Anne Mendelson
The New Steak by Cree LeFavour
A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg
Fresh Food From Small Places by R. J. Ruppenthal
Eat Feed Autumn Winter by Anne Bramley
Heirloom Beans by Steve Sando of Rancho Gordo

(Images: Clarkson Potter)

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Faith is the executive editor of The Kitchn and the author of three cookbooks. They include Bakeless Sweets (Spring 2013) as well as The Kitchn's first cookbook, which will be published in Fall 2014. She lives in Columbus, Ohio with her husband Mike.