Drawing on his Cuban heritage and professional experience (he runs N.Y.'s Patria restaurant), Rodriguez ties invention to tradition in this bold collection of soups and stews. Peppers are frequent components, as are plantains, peanuts and achiote oil. Many dishes, such as Meatball Soup and Creamy Peasant-Style Potato Soup are simple. Others require patience, time and skill. The 29-Ingredient Lent Soup called Fanesca calls for cooking each of four ingredients--salt cod, dried limas, lentils and great Northern white beans--separately and then combining them with many other vegetables and flavors. A handful of ingredients will be unfamiliar to Anglo chefs; a glossary defines most unusual items, such as dende oil, malanga and pisco. Dividing the meals into four sections (meat and poultry; fish and seafood; bean and grain; vegetable and fruit), Rodriguez (Nuevo Latino) lets his creativity range through Roasted Acorn Squash Soup; Mango, Ginger and Lime Soup; and Corn Mush with Chorizo. He ventures into more exotic territory with Goat Stew, Sea Urchin Soup and Tripe Soup, which permits no substitute for four cups of pork blood. Rodriguez isn't one to coddle his readers. In the Seafood Soup Operetta headnote, for instance, he writes that one must ""know intuitively when to add the ingredients to the pot to keep from over- or undercooking them."" (Jan.) FYI: Rodriquez won the James Beard Foundation's 1996 ""Rising Star Chef of the Year"" award.