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  • Isabel's Cantina
  • Written by Isabel Cruz
  • Format: Hardcover | ISBN: 9780307352743
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Isabel's Cantina

Bold Latin Flavors from the New California Kitchen

Written by Isabel CruzAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Isabel Cruz

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When Isabel Cruz opened her first small restaurant in San Diego, she cooked what she loved to eat: simple Latin comfort food spiced with the Pacific Rim flavors she knew from her old Los Angeles neighborhood. Her trademark blend of Puerto Rican, Cuban, Mexican, Japanese, and Thai cooking allowed her to cut some of the calories and fat so often found in Latin food without ever sacrificing taste. Soon, the nutritious, flavorful, easy-to-prepare meals Isabel had cooked every night for her family took California by storm.

In Isabel’s Cantina, she shares the deceptively simple recipes that make her five West Coast restaurants so popular, as well as many of her own personal favorites. By relying on the boldly flavored ingredients common to both Latin and Asian cuisines—like mangoes, limes, chiles, mint, ginger, coconut, and cilantro—Isabel’s healthful dishes are never bland. She gets things going with starters such as Grilled Vegetable Salad with Sofrito Vinaigrette and Shrimp Bites Wrapped in Greens. There’s Grilled Mahi-Mahi with Jalapeño-Ponzu Sauce, Green Chile Posole with Pork, and New York Strip Steak with Baked Plantain Fries. Gone are heavy refried beans and white rice, replaced by Chipotle White Beans and whole-grain Power Rice. In an invaluable chapter, Isabel reveals how to dress up any meal with healthy sauces and salsas, such as Papaya-Mango-Mint Salsa and Avocado Salsa Cruda. Desserts, drinks, and even brunch dishes round out her collection of recipes for every part of the day.

Blending fresh flavors with an eye for health, Isabel’s signature Latin food with Asian accents is not only good for you but—most important—it’s delicious.


Halibut with Cherry Tomato-Habanero Salsa and Cucumber-Cilantro Sauce
Serves 4

Halibut is my favorite white fish: It is simple to prepare and the perfect canvas for vibrant flavors. The habaneros, used here in moderation, add just enough heat to make this interesting. The cucumber-cilantro sauce adds a fresh finish to this colorful dish.

   • 1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
   • 1/2 medium red onion, thinly sliced
   • 1 to 2 habanero chiles, to taste, halved, seeded, and thinly sliced
   • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
   • 4 tablespoons olive oil
   • Kosher salt
   • Four 6-ounce skinless halibut fillets
   • Cucumber-Cilantro Sauce (recipe follows)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a medium bowl, combine the tomatoes, onion, chiles, and mint. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Toss gently to combine.

Lightly season the fillets on both sides with salt. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Place the halibut fillets in the hot pan. Brown for about 2 minutes on each side, then transfer to the oven and bake until opaque throughout, 8 to 10 minutes.

Put the halibut fillets on plates and top with a scoop of the tomato salsa. Spoon some of the Cucumber-Cilantro Sauce around the fish. Serve the remaining sauce on the side.

Cucumber-Cilantro Sauce
Makes about 2 cups

   • 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
   • 1 cup diced, peeled cucumber
   • 1/2 cup lemon juice (about 4 lemons)
   • 1/4 cup olive oil
   • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Puree the cilantro, cucumber, lemon juice, olive oil, and salt in a food processor or blender until almost smooth with just a bit of texture. Cover and refrigerate until serving, or for up to 2 days.
Isabel Cruz

About Isabel Cruz

Isabel Cruz - Isabel's Cantina

Photo © Gregory Bertolini

Isabel Cruz is the owner of five restaurants along the West Coast, extending from Coffee Cup in La Jolla and Isabel’s Cantina and Seaside Cantina in San Diego, California, to Dragonfly in Ashland and Isabel in Portland, Oregon. Isabel, who grew up in Los Angeles, now lives in San Diego with her husband and two sons. This is her first book.

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