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Latin derivations explode boredom

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The worst thing about having "favorite" foods is getting into a rut. You know, the same old stuff, from the same old haunts, on the same day of the week. It's best to avoid yawning routines and cuisine by stretching the horizons of cooking experiences.

The appeal of new cookbook Viva la Vida by Rafael Palomino ($24.95, Chronicle Books) is in its spins on traditional Latin recipes, so that even a staid dish such as empanadas takes on a new flair when crabmeat and sweet plantains are buried beneath the crust.

Palomino's recipes are alive with new possibilities, like a Latin gravlax of salmon cured with mint and tequila, or potato salad mixed with shrimp, corn and mangos. The tuna and avocado ceviche recipe makes my mouth water and has introduced me to the magnificent blending of avocado and mustard.

The recipes, more than 90 in all, range from salsas to desserts to drinks, with every one an adventure.


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