Norman's New World Cuisine

Norman Van Aken, Author, John Harrisson, With Random House (NY) $50 (336p) ISBN 978-0-679-43202-9
The sexiest of peppers flow like lava through the ingredient-intensive but well-constructed recipes proffered by Van Aken, the founder of a Miami restaurant that bears his first name. This is not a collection for cooks whose idea of heat and complexity is a slice of jalapeno atop the guacamole. Cubanelles light up Baked Clams on the Half Shell with Sausage. Scotch bonnet and serrano chiles kick at a Buttered Snapper Baked in a Banana Leaf. And in a margarita spinoff called a Hot Lolita, tequila and Grand Marnier tango with a mix of honey and crushed red pepper flakes. Beginning with such cocktails and moving through appetizers, soups, every type of entree, a bevy of desserts and a ""treasure chest"" of basic stocks and infused oils, the foodstuffs of Asia, Latin America and the West Indies are the stars, often beautifully photographed and sometimes stunningly mixed--as in the Paella Orientale, which combines Thai chiles, arborio rice, bok choy and ""32 tiny clams."" Spiny Lobster basks in a pool of Exotic Tropical Fruit and Black Bean Salsa and is dressed in a revealing Spicy Drizzle made of cumin seed, honey, soy sauce and ginger. Van Aken's running narrative begins in dopey pirate talk (""So, to the decks, mates!.... Sails up!"") but matures into a diary of culinary travels spiced with healthy doses of food quotes from great writers and crowned with a recommended reading list of cookbooks. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/29/1997
Release date: 10/01/1997
Genre: Nonfiction
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