Salsa in the kitchen

A food photo blitz: Latin Women's Initiative on the flashy road to two-language cookbook success

A food photo blitz: Latin Women's Initiative on the flashy road to two-language cookbook success

The hustle and bustle in Mary Tere Perusquia's kitchen had been churning for almost 10 days as internationally renowned food photographer Ignacio Urquiza toiled away photographing what seemed like an endless parade of enticing Latin dishes.

It was the final hours of an extensive photo shoot for the Latin Women's Initiative upcoming cookbook, Latin Flavors: A Taste of Our Heritage. The spacious kitchen and breakfast room in Perusquia's Tanglewood home and even the four-car garage were filled with the aromas of various dishes ranging from tinga pork to Mexican chocolate cake.

"Taste this, taste this," was the chorus from Heather Simpson, Roni Atnipp, Patty Dominguez and Perusquia, the ring leaders in an 18-month effort that culminates in publication of the bilingual cookbook in October. In early summer, they were still trying to narrow the selection of recipes to 150 from the remaining 165 that had all passed muster. 

LWI sent out the call for recipes more than a year ago and the result was a treasure trove of unique, old family favorites. Mothers and grandmothers of LWI members contributed as did the members themselves. Recipes from Cuba, Argentina, Spain, Colombia, Mexico and Venezuela are in the mix that have been tested five to six times in both Spanish and English versions. Polvorones (Andalusian shortbread cookies), poblano souffle, gazpacho, shrimp in escabeche — the offerings are taste bud tempting.

When the hardcover book goes on sale for $39.99 just in time for holiday giving, it will be unique due to the bilingual aspect done on such a sophisticated scale combined with its charity angle. Proceeds benefit LWI programs. Sponsors such as H-E-B, which provided the invaluable seed money for the project, are helping cover production expenses.

Atnipp is the experienced hand behind the project. She oversaw development of the Junior League's award-winning Stop and Smell the Rosemary cookbook, of Luby's commemorative Recipes & Remembrance and of Andrea White's Passionate Supporter. Talented Houston designer Linda Limb is on board to create the pages that are surely to entice thanks to Urquiza's beautiful photographs.

Herewith, one of the recipes from Latin Flavors.

Shrimp in Escabeche

Serves 12, advanced preparation required

1 ½ cups apple cider vinegar
1 garlic head, cloves peeled and whole
3 medium white onions, thinly sliced
20 whole black peppercorns
6 carrots, thinly sliced in 1/8-inch rounds
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup olive oil
Salt to taste
1 small can (7 ounces) jalapeños en escabeche (pickled jalapeños)
2/3 tablespoon ground Mexican oregano
2 bay leaves
2 limes, thinly sliced
4 pounds medium shrimp

In a large saucepan, boil vinegar, garlic, onion and peppercorns until onion is translucent. Add carrots, pepper, olive oil and salt, and simmer five minutes longer. Remove from heat and add jalapeños, oregano, bay leaves and lime slices. Marinate overnight.

Boil shrimp then peel, devein and refrigerate. Once cold, add to the marinade and mix well. Check seasoning and serve as an appetizer.

Tip: Successful boiled shrimp is easy if you bring a large amount of water to a rolling boil and add ½ to ¾ pound of shrimp at a time, removing them with a slotted spoon immediately after they begin to float and turn pink. Repeat in batches until all shrimp are cooked. This technique prevents the shrimp at the bottom of the pot from getting overcooked.

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Food stylists Julie Hettinger, left, and Laura Cordera work with renowned food photographer Ignacio Urquiza of Mexico City. Photo by Shelby Hodge
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Roni Atnipp, from left, Heather Simpson, Patty Dominguez and Mary Tere Perusquia are forces behind the Spanish/English cookbook. Photo by Shelby Hodge
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The pork roast is cooked in a cloak of rock salt before being shredded for a photograph. Photo by Shelby Hodge
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Ignacio Urquiza photographed more than 80 dishes in 10 days of intense shooting. Photo by Shelby Hodge
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The cookbook stalwarts gather in Mary Tere Perusquia's kitchen between shoots. Photo by Shelby Hodge