Chef Gilberto Cetina, Katherina A. Díaz, and Glberto Cetina Jr. took guests on a culinary voyage to the Yucatan peninsula of Mexico on Friday May 25th. The trio presented their co-authored cookbook, Sabores Yucaactos: Un recuerdo culinario a Yucatán, which includes over 140 recipes directly from the Yucatan. Sabotes Yucatecos, published by WPR books, is the first English cookbook written by a chef from the Yucatan. The book contains over 100 full-color photographs and won First Place Award for Best Cookbook in the Latino Literacy Now's 2013 International Latino Book Awards.
On Friday, the team celebrated the release of their Spanish-language edition and sampled eight original recipes from the book. The highlights included a refreshing citrus salad, called Xec, Sikil pac, a Mayan dish made of ground sunflowers, and Ceviche de pescado, seafood salad, and Agua de Chaya Agua, a bright green drink made from a leafy green vegetable native to Mexico.
Chef Cetina is also the owner of the award-winning Los Angeles restaurant, Cichén Itzá, The restaurant, is located in South Los Angeles’s Mercado La Paloma, a community center that caters to small businesses and local vendors. Since its opening in 2001, Cichén Itzá has become famous for its generous portions and fresh ingredients—it presents a regional take on Mexican food. Although they offer standard Latino fare, such as burritos and tostadas, Cichén Itzá focuses on Yucatán cuisine.
Cetina described the process of writing the cookbook as very organic—he dictated recipes to Díaz once a week for five years. Díaz adds that they did not research recipes or Yucatán cuisine; the team drew from their culinary family traditions and memories of great meals. Cetina jokes that he called his mother or his wife if he was unsure of any recipe and that he did not use his restaurant to test recipes. Instead, he sampled recipes at home, with family, and through Díaz’s book club. Cetina dedicated the Spanish edition cookbook to his wife, whom he fondly calls Gordita.
Sabotes Yucatecos arises from Cetina and Díaz’s love traditional food and, what Díaz calls, the growing interest in Latino regional cuisine. Cetina adds that he hopes readers will be able to experience the Yucatán culture through the area’s signature dishes. His son, Gilberto Cetina Jr., says that the cookbook is full of memories. He hopes readers will try the recipes and make their own memories with family and friends. Sabotes Yucatecos is meant to be shared—most recipes serve 5-8 people and can easily be doubled for parties and large gatherings.
The cookbook provides a comprehensive, easy-to-understand guide to Yucatán cuisine. As, Díaz explained, this region represents a blend of cultural influences; Lebanese, Spanish, Mexican, and Mayan foods all contribute to Sabotes Yucatecos. Cetina calls the cuisine mestizo, because it blends the best parts of many cultures. He feels it reflects his own background. Instead of being a “classical fusion” of two different influences, Yucatán dishes are a true integration of flavors “transformed by time”. As Cetina explained,”food brings people together.”