“Recipe: Picadillo con Quimbombo

Picadillo con quimbombo over white rice

A great skillet dinner that does not require a pressure cooker!!!  Picadillo is quick and easy and a favorite in my house at the moment.  Okra goes great with this dish, and can be prepared separately, steamed or boiled with a splash of vinegar, or added with the meat while it is cooked.

“Picadillo con quimbombo”

Tools:

  • Frying Pan
  • Wooden spoon
  • Sharp Knife

Ingredients:

  • Ground pork or chicken
  • Okra
  • Sofrito
  • Tomato Puree
  • Water
  • Vino Seco
  • Salt
  • Lime

Preparation:

  • Over medium-high to high heat add a little oil and the sofrito.
  • Cook for appx 1 minute and then add meat and salt and squirt juice of 1 lime.
  • Cook for a few minutes until meat starts to brown and then add appx ¼ cup (or more as needed) of tomato puree.
  • Add ½ to 1 cup water and let cook on high for about 5 minutes or until liquid cooks out.
  • Add about 2 tsp vino seco (if desired) right after you remove from heat and before plating.

Sides/Accompaniments: -Serve with okra over white rice with sliced avocado or tomato.

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“Recipe: Cuban Mayonnaise”

- “Desired color and consistency for the mayonnaise”

Despite a life-long love for everything edible, I have never developed a taste for mayonnaise.  An unfortunate warning diagram on a tub of mayonnaise in a restaurant I worked at in Austin, Texas depicting a baby falling head-first to its death in aforementioned tub of mayonnaise turned my dislike of mayonnaise into an outright fear of the creamy condiment.  So of course, when I arrived at the house of a good friend for one of my first social gatherings in Cuba back in September, what was on the menu for lunch but Cuban bread and home-made mayonnaise….I was in a pickle!  My fear of offending my host overwhelmed my fear of the Elmer’s glue-colored substance before me, so I spooned on a generous dollop and took a bite.

Cuban mayonnaise is delicious!  Nothing like our yucky, greasy, baby-killing abomination!  It is tangy and garlicky and a little spicy and oh-so-perfect on bread with a few slices of fresh tomato.

I figure if Cuban mayo can convert me, it is a recipe that must be shared with the rest of the world!  Enjoy J

“Mayonesa”

Tools:

  • Sharp Knife
  • Blender
  • Measuring Spoons

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 cloves garlic
  • ½-1/4 white onion
  • 2 tsp coarse salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 Tbsp white vinegar
  • ¾-1 ½ c oil

Preparation:

  • Peel garlic and onion
  • Slice desired amount of onion (based on personal tastes)
  • Smash garlic but do not chop
  • Add garlic, onion, salt, egg and vinegar to blender and blend on high until thoroughly combined.
  • Remove the plastic cap at the top of the blender and begin to add oil.  In a constant, steady stream add the oil to the blender.  Eventually you will actually hear the difference in the sound of the blades as the consistency thickens and the mayonnaise begins to turn white.  When the color and texture appears correct you may stop the blender for a taste test.

“Recipe- Cuban Salad”

One variation of Cuban salad

Salad is a term used very loosely in Cuban cooking.  Basically, if it is a vegetable that is served with the meal and was not cooked with the meat, it is a salad.  This can mean a side of boiled and chilled green beans or okra with a few squirts of vinegar and a dash of salt, or an array of fresh veggies in season at the farmers market with a few squirts of fresh lime.  Ultimately, the salad of the evening depends of what is available in the house or what is in season at the moment.

Notably absent from Cuban salads, however, are the lettuces that practically define our salads in the US.  White cabbage is frequently used to add texture, and bitter baby lettuces, when in season, can appear on Cuban dinner tables from time to time as well… but the main players in these salads are the other veggies.  So if you are hoping to make an authentic Cuban dinner, go run off to your local farmers market and pick up any variety of the ingredients listed below for a nice vitamin and fiber-packed Cuban salad.

                                        “Ensalada”

Tools:

  •  Knife

Ingredients (all optional):

  • Avocado (aguacate)
  • Cucumber (pepino)
  • Tomato (tomate)
  • Cabbage (Col) – shredded
  • Fresh Basil (Albahaca)
  • Okra (Quimbombo)  — boil or steam and then chill
  • Green Beans (Habichuelas) –boil or steam and then chill
  • Fresh Cilantro (Cilantro)
  • Lime
  • Vinegar
  • Oil
  • Salt

Preparation:

  •  Cuban salads are all about the presentation.  If the salad of the night is just tomatoes, you can bet it will be the prettiest plate of “just tomatoes” you have seen.  So slice nicely and arrange decoratively on the plate.
  • The “dressing” is added once the veggies are plated.  The majority of the veggies get a light drizzle of oil, a splash of vinegar, and sprinkle salt over all.  For avocado, try to avoid contaminating it with anything other than fresh lime juice and salt!

“Recipe- Fritura de Malanga”

As further support for my theory that the malanga is like a potato, this dish tastes exactlythe same as potato pancakes!!  With the exception that Cubans will often add a little leftover pork to the fritura before frying it, this Fritura de malanga has the same consistency as the potato pancake, and goes great with fried egg for breakfast or rice and ensalada for dinner.

“Fritura de malanga”

Tools:

  •  Large knife
  • Cheese grater
  • Frying pan
  • Spatula

Ingredients:

  • Large malanga (or potato)
  • Sofrito (aji, ajo, cebolla)
  • 2 eggs
  • Shredded leftover pork (if desired)
  • Milk
  • Salt
  • Oil

Preparation:

  • Peel and wash malanga and shred into large bowl with a cheese grater.
  • Add sofrito, salt, and eggs and mix together.
  • If you need more moisture you may add milk 1 tablespoon at a time until the mixture takes on a nice sticky consistency.
  • Heat oil or butter on a griddle or large skillet over medium-high heat and place ¼ cup of the mixture evenly spaced throughout the pan.
  • Cook for appx 1-2 minutes until brown and then flip, smushing into a disc with the back of the spatula.
  • Serve hot.

“Recipe: Tostones”

“Green plantains, perfect for tostones!”

I can always tell when my Cuban family is planning to make tostones, because the dad is out of the front porch in complete silence with a big knife peeling the plantains,
discarding the skins in a bag and meticulously placing the white plantains in a large pot to be rinsed later.  According to the Cubans, it is bad luck to talk to someone when they are peeling plantains…a job that requires concentration so as to not cut the fruit.

Tostones are kind of like Cuban potato chips, only way better!!!  These can be
prepared in a variety of ways.  For example, using the small, fat plantains, (burros),
you can slice them lengthwise into narrow strips. (See picture)  Or, using the large, traditional plantains (machos), you can chop the fruit into circles and smash them into disks half way through the frying process.  Either way, the end result is the same!

At large Cuban gatherings in the past, tostones were prepared in mass quantities using the same frying oil used to prepare chicharron while the pig cooked over the spit.  (Chicharron is a sinfully addictive but horribly fattening, artery-clogging, life
threatening snack that is scarily popular among Cubans…you basically take the
skin and fat of the pig and cut it into little pieces and fry it until crispy.)  At these large Cuban parties, some of the skin and fat were removed from the pig before cooking to prepare the chicharron, and the tostones were later fried in the same grease while the chicharron cooled.  Then the guests munched on tostones and chicharron while waiting for the pork and congris.

This is a great starter if you are planning on throwing a Cuban dinner party, and you can leave off the garlic and onion if you have any picky eaters coming for dinner.

“Tostones”

Tools:

  • Large sharp knife
  • Frying Pan
  • Paring knife or garlic press
  • Fork

Ingredients:

  •  GREEN Plantains (if the plantains are yellow or black they will be too sweet for tostones)
  • Oil
  • 4-5 cloves Garlic
  • Small White onion

Preparation:

  • VERY CAREFULLY peel the plantains.  Be aware that they may secrete a sticky, white/milky substance, so wash the knife and your hands thoroughly after
    peeling.
  •  Slice or cut plantains in desired manner
  • Prep garlic and onion.  Peel and chop.  Set aside.
  • Pour generous amount of oil in frying pan over medium heat (enough to cover the bottom of the pan and come at least half way up the plantains when added.)
  • Add plantains to pan a few at a time, being careful not to overcrowd the pan.
  • There should not be a sound like frying bacon, only a light sizzle.  These need to cook slowly until they brown only slightly, if the oil is too high they will burn on the outside but not cook.
  • Use a fork to flip plantains once bottom begins to brown.  Remove after 1 or 2 minutes on the other side.  Place on cooling rack or plate with paper towel (to collect oil) when done.
  • When all tostones are ready, turn the flame to high and add garlic and onion to the hot oil.  Swirl oil in the pan for 30 seconds to a minute, allowing the garlic and onion to cook only slightly, but maintain their crunch.
  • Using a spoon, collect the garlic and onion with only a little oil and spoon over the tostones.
  • Serve immediately.

 

“Crisp tostones with flash-fried garlic and

 

 

“Recipe: Cuban Milkshake”

My personal favorite, batido de guayaba

Street-side cafeterias are a common sight as you walk around Havana today.  Vendors sell everything from pizza to hamburgers, hotdogs and ham and cheese sandwiches.   These food stands offer a variety of drinks that range from home-made refresco (usually orange-flavored, these are often water mixed with flavoring, though
sometimes carbonated), fresh juices, guarapo (the juice of the sugar cane….there are no words for how yummy this is on a hot day!) and finally…batido!

Batidos are Cuban milkshakes that are made using any number of tropical fruits
including guayaba, piña, mamey, mango, frutabomba, plátano and níspero.  While popular in Habana, these are best in the Oriente region, where access to cow;s milk (as opposed to powdered milk) enables a richer, creamier drink, using all milk instead of milk and water.

 “Batido”

Tools:

  • Knife (sppropriate size for cutting fruit)
  • Good Blender
  • Cold glasses

Ingredients:

  • Ice
  • Whole Milk
  • Coarse Sugar
  • Fruit (One listed above)
  • COLD Water

Preparation:

  • Peel and core fruits as necessary.  (As a trick, put the fruit in the freecer an hour or so before making the batido, this will make it wasier to handle and
    will make the drink colder.)
  • Add to blender appx 2 cups ice
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 cup milk
  • Fruit (2-3 of guava or banana, 1-2 Mango, ½ papaya or pineapple)
  • Blend on high until ice is completely blended.
  • Depending on the sweetness and water content of the fruits used, you may have to play a little adding more sugar (to taste) and some cold water if the texture is too thick.

Sides/Accompaniments:

Garnish with fruit if desired.  Serve in chilled glass.

“Recipe: Cuban Black Beans”

“Potaje veggies prepped and ready to add to the pot of beans”

More like a hearty stew than a simple bean dish, potaje is a nutrient-rich Cuban meal that is simple and cheap to make.  You can alter the recipe to include more meat,  more veggies, less beans, or whatever you like based on your tastes.  This can be served with rice or alone as a stew in the winter months (referring to YOUR winter months, as the coldest It will get down here is 65…)

(**Technically, when made with black beans, this dish is called guizo, with white beans, judía and with kidney beans, potaje.)

If you have an extra ham or turkey bone from the holidays, this is a great excuse to use it, as you can throw the bone in the soup pot with the beans while you prepare them, adding a great flavor and some additional protein to the potaje.

“Potaje” 

Tools:

  •  Large knife
  • Large soup pot with lid or pressure cooker
  • Ladle

Ingredients (Most Optional):

  • Black Beans
  • Ham Bone
  • Chorizo
  • Green Plantain
  • Malanga
  • Potato
  • Sweet Potato
  • Squash
  • Cilantro
  • Salt
  • Water

Preparation:

  • Place Beans (and ham bone, if desired) in the reina and fill almost to top with water.  Cook for 90 minutes until beans are tender.
  • While the beans cook, peel and chop all veggies to stew-sized pieces.
  • Add veggies and salt to the pressure cooker and cook another 15 to 20 minutes.

US Variation-Without a Pressure Cooker:

  • Prepare the beans, reserving soaking water.  (May add bone to soup pot as the beans cook) When beans are thoroughly cooked and water is black, add the veggies.  Place lid on pot and cook until all veggies are tender.
  • If you choose to use canned beans:  Add 2 cans of beans to the pot with
    liquid.  Fill the pot almost to the top with water.  Add veggies and meat.  Cook with lid on pot until tender.

Sides/Accompaniments:

-Serve over white rice with a squirt of lime and fresh cilantro.

“Potaje served over white rice.”