A LITTLE FOOD FLIGHT READING
DOM: Rediscovering Brazilian Ingredients by Alex Atala Phaidon, $59.95
LALO DE ALMEIDA THE world’s leading chefs reserve high praise for colleague Alex Atala, the champion of native Brazilian ingredients. ‘‘The most interesting man in the world,’’ trumpets Momofuku’s David Chang; ‘‘A giant among chefs,’’ announces Rene Redzepi, no small fry himself within the cooking fraternity. In this book, issued next month, Atala capitalises on his years of research into the natural wonders on his doorstep, which he has then used in picture-perfect dishes for his upmarket Sao Paulo restaurant, D.O.M. The weighty tome is almost encyclopaedic in its descriptions of more than 40 Brazilian ingredients, many of them familiar — from butters and bivalves to yams and mushrooms — others not (tucupi, jambu, priprioca). There’s an entire chapter on ants (they taste of lemongrass, with notes of ginger and cardamom, apparently), followed by perhaps the world’s simplest recipe, so long as one can get one’s hands on four sauva ants, considered a delicacy in the country’s north. To make ‘‘Ants and pineapple’’, simply peel a pineapple, cut it into four and place the insects on top (no word, however, on whether the critters first need to be dispatched to that great anthill in the sky or, if not, how to stop them running off once positioned on the fruit). The book is quite beautiful — much of the food has been photographed against a black background, highlighting the almost artistic approach Atala takes in the presentation of his bright and bold dishes. Recipes include everything from dainty slices of sirloin served with pickled turnip to sea snail with wakame and tangerine foam. Without access to many of the ingredients Atala calls for — or indeed a kitchen equipped with the hi-tech likes of a Pacojet, dehydrator, sous-vide machine or a Rotavapor — there is little hope the average home cook will be able to recreate many of the dishes, but that’s hardly the point. Atala’s culinary mission has long been to take the ingredients of his homeland to the world stage and this handsome compendium will certainly arouse curiosity.
Clockwise from main picture, Alex Atala in the kitchen; a selection of cachacas at Mocoto restaurant; Vento Haragano steakhouse; a dish at Mani; the grill at Vento Haragano
The food photography reflects Atala’s almost artistic approach