Winner IACP’s First Book | Julia Child Award
The New Portuguese Table won the 2010 International Association of Culinary Professionals’ First Book | Julia Child Award. It was presented at the annual conference, which was held in Portland, OR. You can check out all the finalists here.
Publishers Weekly [Starred Review] This is the perfect cookbook for lovers of salt cod, and it just might be the perfect cookbook for those who dislike the mild, Atlantic fish. Leite, a three-time James Beard award winner and proprietor of the Web site LeitesCulinaria.com, offers a wealth of recipes for the brackish dried fish, including a traditional version of pastéis de bacalhau (salt cod fritters) and a newfangled mini salt cod sandwich that is the Portuguese equivalent of McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish. By highlighting the eclectic ingredients and modern techniques that define the country today, Leite brings the often-overlooked foods of Portugal center stage. This fully illustrated book begins with an extensive glossary of Portuguese staples, plus a port primer and an introduction to Madeira, and ends with a chapter devoted to workhorse sundries such as fiery piri-piri paste and smoked paprika oil. Along the way home cooks are introduced to a delectable jumble of dishes that range from classic to contemporary. A comforting adaptation of the fabled stone soup is enlivened with spicy chouriço sausage; simple-yet-elegant duck breasts are sauced with white port and black olives; and a dip made with anchovies, green olives, cilantro, and whole milk is surprisingly harmonious. The desserts are comparatively docile—molasses cookies, baked custard tarts—but the recipe variation for fatias douradas (Portuguese sweet bread French toast) is truly over-the-top.
StarTribune.com Cookbooks with Year-Round Appeal Who knew Portugal was so exciting? Leite, of the online site leitesculinaria.com, gives us a taste of the foods found today in the land of his heritage, and such foods, from Salt Cod and Shrimp Fritters to Grilled Chicken Breasts with Spicy Coconut Sauce. With gorgeous photos of the recipes and country.—Lee Dean
The Montreal Gazette Favourite cookbooks of 2009 The New Portuguese Table: Exciting Flavours from Europe’s Western Coast, by David Leite (Potter, $37.95). This book is a stand-out for two reasons: First, it focuses on Portuguese cuisine, a rarity on the cookbook scene. Second, the writing is superb and fully engaging. You’ll find all the classics here, like caldo verde, cataplana, grilled chicken slathered in hot sauce, pork with clams, white beans and sausage, and plenty of custard desserts. Portuguese cuisine has a habit of coming off as stodgy, but this book breathes new life into dishes that merit a place in the spotlight. And with such beautiful photographs, extensive headnotes, glossary of terms, notes on ingredients and superb recipes, first-time cookbook author Leite has been winning accolades.— Lesley Chesterman
Publishers Weekly Best book about a not-so-obvious cuisine The New Portuguese Table: Exciting Flavors from Europe’s Western Coast by David Leite and [photographer] Nuno Correia (Clarkson Potter). Whatever your stance on salt cod, Leite, a three-time James Beard–award winner and proprietor of LeitesCulinaria.com, has a recipe for it you’ll like. In this gorgeous book, he highlights ingredients and techniques that define Portuguese cooking today. Stone soup enlivened with spicy chouriço sausage; simple-yet-elegant duck breasts sauced with white port and black olives; a dip made with anchovies, green olives, cilantro, and whole milk are just some of the other gems here.
Time Out New York Eight Best Cookbooks for Holiday Gift Giving
The New Portuguese Table by David Leite (Clarkson Potter)
Heft: 256 pages | Damage: $32.50 | Difficulty: 5
Though Portuguese cuisine gets short shrift in American homes and restaurant kitchens, in his first cookbook, Portuguese-American food journalist David Leite makes an awfully strong case for squeezing it into your repertoire. His compact guide to the foods of western Iberia is packed with mouthwatering recipes—bacalhau fritters, caldo verde, spicy Azorean pork—stripped down to work in even the most cramped New York apartment.
We tested: Risoto de pato. Short-grain rice + shredded duck + chopped chorizo + rich duck broth + a hint of orange = a delicious facsimile of George Mendes’s duck rice at Aldea (one of the best new restaurant dishes of 2009).—Jay Cheshes
Sacramento Book Review Portuguese cuisine is rarely given the same consideration as the food of other European countries, but David Leite’s book, The New Portuguese Table, illustrates that it clearly deserves a closer look.
The recipes in the book are enhanced by engaging stories, detailing their history as well as many of the chefs and cooks who created them. Generally succinct and straightforward, the recipes highlight the balance that exists between Portugal’s rich culinary history and its burgeoning modern food scene. Old world dishes like Caldo Verde, a flavorful soup made with potatoes, greens and spicy sausage, are classically simple, featuring traditional ingredients. In contrast are the contemporary dishes that are either new to the culture entirely or presented anew by way of flavor twists, uncommon ingredients and non-traditional cooking techniques. A recipe for Grilled Chicken Breasts with Spicy Coconut Sauce demonstrates how this country’s cuisine is now heavily influenced by Africa, Asia and beyond, while another for Salt Cod Sandwiches offers a playful variation on an age-old, popular ingredient. Many recipes accentuate the Portuguese people’s fervor for spicy foods and include components like piquant sausages, fresh and dried chiles and the ubiquitous Piri-Piri sauce. Neophytes will be comforted by a detailed pantry section that includes suggestions for substitutions for difficult-to-find ingredients.
In addition to the recipes, there is a concise but detailed “gastronomic tour” of Portugal’s major provinces offering the reader a bit of insight into the history, geography, and the vast cultural diversity that exists throughout this tiny country.—Andrea Rappaport
Library Journal If your finances don’t permit a trip abroad this year, perhaps this cookbook will provide some comfort—though it might just reinforce your urge to hit the sunny beaches of the Algarve. Leite, a noted Portuguese American food writer and publisher of the James Beard Award-winning web site Leite’s Culinaria (leitesculinaria.com), begins by outlining Portugal’s diverse regional cuisines and then describes traditional ingredients. From there it is a straightforward listing of appetizers, soups, fish, meat, poultry, vegetable/egg/rice dishes, breads, sweets, liqueurs, and condiments, with approximately 150 recipes overall. Each recipe begins with a paragraph relating its background, which adds to the book’s homey feel. The recipes, many inspired by Leite’s memories of his grandmother’s cooking, are designed for the home cook and generally don’t require exotic ingredients, although a supplier for salt cod may be necessary. A list of sources is provided for the few hard-to-find items, and color photos add to the presentation. Full of delicious-sounding recipes, this title is sure to appeal to adventurous cooks wanting to try a new ethnic cuisine and will also be popular with Portuguese American communities.
The New York Times’ Book Review Summer Reading RecommendationsThe New Portuguese Table: Exciting Flavors from Europe’s Western Coast. By David Leite. (Clarkson Potter, $32.50, available in August.) Is Portugal the new Spain? A thoughtful look beyond salt cod.
Bon Appétit Three-time James Beard Award winner Leite has written a foodie love letter to a European nation. The culinary profile of the 13 historic provinces, along with a shopping guide to the Portuguese pantry, are great, but the real payoff is the 130-plus recipes that range from the veggie-rich caldo verde to such new classics as scrambled eggs with asparagus and fresh cod.—Dana Dickey
Saveur [An] Iberian gem. The New Portuguese Table by David Leite, a prolific food journalist who founded the website LeitesCulinaria.com, is the best book on the subject of Portuguese cooking in years. Leite, whose parents emigrated to the U.S. from Portugal, is captivated by the way cooks there have pointed their under appreciated cuisine in new directions. He dutifully catalogs Portugal’s iconic wines and traditional foods–we learn how to make clams and chouriço in a copper cataplana–but we also get decidedly new-school preparations like cheese-stuffed pork tenderloins and Filet-o-Fish-inspired salt cod sandwiches. Trad or mod, this is some winning home cooking.—The Editors
Fine Cooking When award-winning food writer David Leite journeyed to Portugal to explore his native cuisine, he was struck by how different it was from the rustic Portuguese food he’d been raised on in [Massachusetts]. Since his father’s emigration in the 1950s, new ingredients and cooking techniques have flooded Portugal. Modern chefs are reinterpreting classic fare to delicious effect, borrowing flavors from India, Asia, and Africa. In the hands of one witty chef, for example, chicken in a pot becomes an aromatic grilled dish that Leite dubs Chicken out of a Pot and onto the Grill. He spotlights this new Portuguese fare and rounds out his recipe collection with plenty of classic family favorites, like spicy Grilled Shrimp with Piri-Piri Sauce, a Portuguese beach shack standard.
The Miami Herald Stretching from the Minho River on its mountainous northern frontier with Galicia to the dry Algarve in the south, Portugal occupies most of the western coast of the Iberian Peninsula. And though it once ruled half of the world, it has enjoyed far less of the culinary limelight than its neighbor, Spain.
It’s a pity, as Portugal is home to a diverse, soulful cuisine anchored in its austere peninsular past and seasoned by its centuries as a colonial power. Between the 15th and the 19th centuries, missionaries, sailors and settlers carried Portuguese cooking techniques to Brazil, Angola, Mozambique and parts of India, China, Malaysia and Japan. There they mingled with local ingredients to create dishes bursting with flavor, like the coconut milk-enriched moquecas of Bahia and the rich curries of Goa.
To their credit, contemporary Portuguese cooks have readily incorporated the spices and hot peppers of the former colonies into their food. David Leite, creator of the influential website www.leitesculinaria.com, tells the story of this evolving cuisine in his first book,The New Portuguese Table.
The son of Portuguese immigrants from the Azores Islands who settled in Massachusetts, Leite gives us the fresh perspective of an unwilling insider who becomes smitten as an adult by the cuisine of his family. As a child, he writes, he wished to be “blond and blue-eyed . . . with a last name of Fitzgerald or Abernathy.” After his grandmother died in 1992, however, he realized that many of her Portuguese dishes had died with her, and began to document his mother’s cooking: “I fervently jotted down whatever she did, because the last thing I wanted, as she likes to put it, was for any deathbed recipe-dictation sessions to be cut short by the big guy upstairs.”
The turning point in his growing culinary fascination was a trip to Portugal and its islands, Madeira and the Azores, where he found much more complex cuisines than he had imagined. “Discovering the similarities and differences between classic and contemporary dishes obsessed me,” he writes. It is this quest that informs his book. Beautifully illustrated, The New Portuguese Table is a smart, delicious and highly personal travelogue through both memory and terrain.
For me, the proof of a good cookbook is the feeling that I must start cooking from it as I read. Leite’s book sent me to the kitchen after just a few pages to try his fried stuffed olives, a dish I came to love at a Portuguese-run hotel in Salvador da Bahia. Then it was on to Alentejan-Style Pork with Clams (carne de porco Alentejana), a classic combination of pork, clams and potatoes in a cilantro-flavored broth. Grilled Chicken Breasts with Spicy Coconut Sauce, Leite’s version of a Mozambiquan dish spiced with devilish piri-piri peppers, was terrific, too.
For dessert I had to try his pastéis de nata, a well-known Portuguese sweet, and was grateful for the clear instructions and the tip on finding the right molds. I buy these golden baked custard tarts in Ironbound, the Portuguese community along Ferry Street in Newark, N.J., and enjoyed them warm from the oven in Macau, the former Portuguese colony in southern China.
In Leite’s book, you will not only find recipes that will whet your appetite but an endearing story of self-discovery that will send you to the kitchen—and perhaps to Lisbon to learn more about the new world of Portuguese cooking that we have been missing.—Maricel Presilla
The Huffington Post My attitude problem began a few years ago when I came home from work to find the latest Williams-Sonoma catalog sitting in my mailbox, and there it was: a home foamer. This was during the heyday of molecular gastronomy, when everyone and his brother was trying to turn a steak into a Twinkie, or a lake trout into an Apple Charlotte. Anyway, as far as I was concerned, it spelled disaster and the destruction of home cooking as I knew it. Mostly, I was right. Because honestly, what home cook needs a foamer when all he or she is trying to do is get a good-to-great meal on the table, or feed junior after his soccer match? Who the hell needs to be able to turn expensive parmigiana reggiano into something supposedly revolutionary that also looks remarkably like spittle, just to serve it to her book club, or her mahjong team? I certainly don’t.
And frankly, neither does David Leite.
Years ago, I predicted to David, author of The New Portuguese Table and founder of Leite’s Culinaria, that eventually, the culinary world would crumble under the truffle oil-infused weight of too-rich cookbook advances, television chef bobbleheads (to quote Tony Bourdain), and charmless home kitchens-as-operating rooms, where so-called cooks used their Vikings to store sweaters even as they fleetingly attempted to replicate Ferran Adria’s ground-breaking, magical creations in the confines of their own flat screen television-bedecked suburban lairs. What the world needed, I announced, was an honest return to the real world, to the true home kitchen where devoted and dedicated cooks like my grandmother and yours created ages-old dishes that had legs long enough to stretch back to the old country. And in a perfect world, these cooks would have enough bravery and gumption to make those traditional dishes their own while also respecting the past. And there would be nary a foamer in sight. This—the reintroduction of traditional cuisines to a culinary landscape buckling under the burden of pretense and inauthenticity—would be where the new cultural food revolution would take place.
I didn’t expect the backlash to happen as quickly as it did, but I’m delighted that it has. And amidst a throng of new cookbooks celebrating indigenous cooking-as-revolution, I was delighted to see that David’s was among them.
Full disclosure: David is a colleague, and back when I was an editor at Clarkson Potter, I made the introduction between the author and the editor who would go on to acquire his book. I honestly wasn’t sure where it would go; David was writing about Portuguese cooking, and all I knew of it, being a Jew from Queens, was bacalhao, which I love (probably because of my affinity for salty fish, like belly lox). I worried that the book would be packed with a ton of variations on the dish that starts out life stiff as a plank and turns into fluffy goodness, even without a foamer. I was terribly wrong.
At this point in our American culinary lexicon, we know little to nothing of Portuguese food, beyond what our immigrant population has brought with them; luckily, I live in New England, where the Portuguese population is sizable, and so I know my way around the ubiquitous and mouthwateringly spicy linguica (which I often lightly steam and then grill, for a supple yet toothsome heightening of both salty heat and meatiness), the fritters, the textural mosaic that is kale and potato soup, and the pastéis de nata—that light, baked custard-filled paper-thin pastry for which I would sell my soul. But beyond that, I’m totally clueless, and the fact is that most Americans fall into line right behind me. Portuguese food is to Americans today what French food was to us in the 1950s: a mystery attached to stereotype and presumption. Back then, we presumed, like expectant virgins unaware of how good it can really be, to know French food as cloying pastry and creme sauces and little lamb chops wearing anklets. Today, we presume to know Portuguese food as linguica and kale soup, and salt cod, and the other stuff served in restaurants in areas like Provincetown, and New Bedford Massachusetts. And that’s it.
In Leite’s The New Portuguese Table, the author performs a multitude of feats: first, he provides the sort of culinary travel guide to the country of his ancestors that rivals Samuel Chamberlain’s Bouquet de France. Second, wearing the hat of teacher, he introduces, with great specificity, a multitude of regional delicacies presented in such a way so you know exactly what to eat and drink wherever you are in the country, from the Beiras to the Algarve. Finally, he presents recipes ranging from the most remarkably parsimonious—potato skin curls with herbs, and mayonnaise made with milk and no eggs—that speak directly to the country’s innate frugality, and the joy found in making something spectacular out of virtually nothing, to the more extravagant and modern, like pork tenderloin in port-prune sauce. Everywhere are references to the people who taught him, who housed him, and who educated this man who had never traveled to the country of his ancestry until he was an adult. And in the interest of parsimonious brevity, Leite accomplished this all in a comparatively slim volume.
The recipes are straightforward and uncomplicated, the photography magnificent, but I will not get into those specifics here: there are blogs that will do that, at length, mine included. But at a critical time in the culinary world, when traditional and authentic cuisine married to the interest in culture (think Afar, and Saveur) is mercifully beginning to overtake its bobble-headed B-side, Leite’s book is a stunning passport to a food and a people virtually unknown to most Americans, even though they are only five hours away from our mainland.
So, a culinary revolution without foam. Who’d have thought? Instead, entry to Europe’s most unsung and secret edible frontier, tied to an ancient people, and a world that has one foot in the past, and one in the delicious future. I’d book passage right now.—Elissa Huffington
Gluten-Free Girl David Leite’s meals invite us all to the table. Plates of black-eyed peas with onions and red pepper, casserole dishes filled with braised partridge and roasted root vegetables, grilled chicken with crisp bits of skin, the warm orange of pumpkin soup in a soothing blue bowl — this is family food. These are dishes meant to be shared with a big group of people, elbows on the table, hands waving in the air while stories are told, spoons plunging in, and the only silence the sigh of happiness at the taste of that kale and sausage soup. If you look through this book, and you aren’t hungry by the end of your perusal, I suggest you have your pulse checked.”—Shauna James Ahern, Gluten-Free Girl
Forward Magazine In his introduction, David Leite describes his years of ambivalence with twenty-first-century Portugal, a country seemingly unhinged from his parent’s romanticized image. Leite’s travels in Lisbon, Porto, and afield, were always tainted by modernity, by a sense of lost innocence. Not until a boisterous dinner around a friend’s kitchen table, eating an adapted Portuguese classic of partridge escabeche nuanced with Indian and Asian spices, did he have his aha! experience. “At that moment it was clear to me what I had to do: embrace this meal, this dining scene, this Portugal. Just because the Portuguese pantry and table had changed since my father left in 1958 didn’t mean Portugal was any less authentic….I now, it seemed, had twice as much to learn, see, and eat. Discovering the similarities and differences between classic and contemporary dishes obsessed me.”
A three-time James Beard Award-winner for his food writing, Leite opens with a chapter titled “Portugal Parsed,” superbly describing each of the country’s thirteen historical regions, including detail on the local foods and wines. His section on the Portuguese pantry provides a primer on the meats, cheeses, beans, seafood, vegetables, herbs, spices, and other ingredients unique to the nation’s cooking. What can readers expect recipe-wise? A great many dishes surprising in their Portuguese distinctness. As a country bordering the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, Portugal brings something new to the table with an unpretentious satisfaction component sure to gain in popularity here in the United States.
aaBarnes & Noble Review The New Portuguese Table: Exciting Flavors from Europe’s Wetern Coast was included in “The Long List: 50 books, CDs, and DVDs to get now.” It shared space with only one other food book, Jason Sheehan’s Cooking Dirty.
Gastronomer’s Guide “Top 5 Food Books for Fall 2009” David Leite’s The New Portuguese Table, the cookbook I’ve been waiting for all year, does not disappoint. It is a primer for the oft overlooked cuisine of Portugal and a jewel box of information with background on the eleven regions and a glossary of necessary ingredients. Its recipes marry the old and weathered traditions of Portugal’s past with the new cuisine that is Portugal today. David Leite, James Beard Award—winning writer and publisher of the site LeitesCulianria.com, began his journey into Portuguese cuisine first by being born to a Portuguese family whose lives centered around food, and second by realizing that if he didn’t do something about it, the recipes of his grandmother would be lost. Leite traveled throughout Portugal attempting to re-experience the food he had grown up with, but in the end discovered that Portugal had changed and adapted its cuisine. The people Leite met along the way, from restaurateurs to chefs, helped inform his research, allowing him to present Portugal’s cuisine in a broad new light. The collected recipes not only hint at old Portugal but present a new Portugal that is embracing fusion cuisine. With recipes such as salt cod fritters, cilantro bread soup, and braised beef shanks, among many others, this cookbook truly delivers fun, exciting, and accessible cuisine to an American public that is just beginning to discover what a little country like Portugal has to offer.—Joseph Erdos
Blackbook.com For perhaps the first time ever, Portugal is generating a little buzz in NYC. Aldea, the chic new spot near Union Square, is a major reason why. Chef George Mendes uses Portuguese classics as a taking off point for serious haute cuisine. The approach reflects a burgeoning movement back in the old country. James Beard Award-winning author David Leite has been on top of the trend for years and has just dropped a gorgeous cookbook on the topic. The New Portuguese Table shows the way fresh spices and flavors are being used “to enhance and refresh, not obliterate” the ancient recipes.
The book tours readers through the diversity of Portugal’s eleven provinces (plus two islands), with convenient breakdowns of what to eat and drink in each area. Equally useful is a rundown of the Portuguese pantry, which includes a pronunciation guide, should you be fired up enough to hop a TAP flight. The recipes mix Leite’s family favorites with combinations that have never seen print before. The directions aren’t overly complex, although Leite includes plenty of detail so that even a kitchen hack like myself can suss out how to do things. Although Portuguese cuisine isn’t the most familiar (unless you’re from particular parts of Red Sox Nation), the ingredients are readily available—for those that are harder to track down, Leite lists viable substitutes. Portugal once had an epic colonial reach, and traces of a far-flung empire can be glimpsed in the flavorings. Lamb meatballs reference the region’s Moorish history with touches of ginger, cumin, and cinnamon. The partridge recipe picks up coriander seeds and curry powder, the latter reappearing in a preparation for spicy mussels.
There’re also simple recipes for staples like caldo verde (green soup), sweet bread, and piri-piri sauce. What I like best is the way this book opens a window onto an extensive world of tastes that are mostly unknown in the states. Sumptuous photographs by Nuno Correia make you want to roll up your sleeves and dive right in (as every good cookbook should.) The website Leite’s Culinaria has a bunch of recipes to get you started, like a trippy lemon and olive cookie.—by Ethan Wolff
Mexico Cooks! David Leite, one of the best food writers around, has published a brand new book: The New Portuguese Table (Clarkson Potter). Beautifully written, filled with glorious photographs and fascinating stories, the book belongs on your cookbook shelf. Better, yet, the book—well-used, smeared, and spattered from your Portuguese culinary adventures—belongs on your kitchen counter! Like me, you’ll be thrilled with The New Portuguese Table…the book is superb. Outstanding in every respect. ***** [Five Stars]
FROM THE BACK OF THE BOOK
“David Leite’s The New Portuguese Table is in fact three superb books in one volume: a thrilling travelogue, a thorough guide to Portuguese regional dishes and ingredients, and a transporting kitchen companion. The recipes in will not only spirit you to an exotic, alluring place, they’ll change the way you cook. We’ll wager that after making Potato Skin Curls with Herbs, you will never look at potato peelings the same way again!”—Matt Lee and Ted Lee, authors of The Lee Bros. Simple, Fresh, Southern
“David Leite takes you right to the heart of the good stuff, scrupulously (and appetizingly) exploring and explaining an egregiously overlooked and unappreciated range of flavors and ingredients. Portugal once ruled the known world, and the recipes in this book are — in many ways — the history of the world — on your plate.”—Anthony Bourdain
“This book begs the question why, in heaven’s name, have we ignored Portugal for so long? David Leite’s Portuguese dishes practically stand up and salute with flavor. And he is smart about the Portugal he portrays. The temptation is to look only to the past and the traditional, but David knows cuisines are restless, ever shifting beings. He gifts us with the land of his family as it was and as it is now. We’ll be cooking from this book for a long time.”—Lynne Rosetto Kasper and Sally Swift, authors of The Splendid Table’s How to Eat Supper
“I am very impressed with The New Portuguese Table. It is a welcoming, wonderful, satisfying, and passionate cookbook, an enticing view of Portugal through the lens of its food. David Leite is a terrific writer and he has a lot to teach us about one of Europe’s most extraordinary and diverse cuisines. Bravo!”—Paula Wolfert, author of Mediterranean Clay Pot Cooking
“Long overlooked in our culinary literature, Portugal’s rich, historic cuisine finally has a passionate and knowledgeable ambassador in David Leite. Keenly aware of what modern American cooks want these days, Leite has compiled an incomparable collection in which every recipe is as rewarding to eat as it is simple to make. Bravo David!”—Anya von Bremzen, author of The New Spanish Table