Despite a lifetime of research, I’m always discovering something new in Cuban food. While it reminds me not to take anything for granted, less pleasant is knowing that my nearest and dearest have been holding out on me. That’s how I felt when I discovered that harina – cornmeal simmered to a creamy state and topped with peppery sofritos and poached or fried eggs, ham or chorizo, shimp or crab – was a Cuban comfort food staple that everyone was having but no one was talking about. I’d enjoyed Italian polenta prepared this way, but I hadn’t realized there was a take on it that was much closer to home – just not my home. Read more
Posts from the ‘Cuba’ Category
It’s not really news that you should see what tops the ingredients list of certain foods and rule out anything lab born. Still, we all have our blind spots and for me its guava in all its forms. Easy enough for most to avoid, except for Cubans to whom its practically a food group, I get as far as seeing red color #20 and think better of it. When I’m in Miami, this isn’t a problem. I can always find freshly made poached guavas, pastes and jellies in local markets. Visting Jamaica this past November, my suitcase was weighted down with jarred preserves where the most intense add-in was clove and maybe a dash of nutmeg. In New York, I have fewer options. Read more
It’s always strange to me when I see flan listed as special on a dessert menu. Far from specialized in Cuban restaurants, it’s not rare to find an all-flan menu – de leche, de queso, de calabaza, de mamey and of course – de coco. Yet somehow I never get tired of it. If it hadn’t been brought to the New World via Spain, Cubans would have had to invent it. Most Latin American countries have their own version of this dessert and, while I can’t pretend to be neutral, in the case of flan I think it has to go to Cuba. For me it’s about the caramel. Made directly in the mold, the sugar cooked long enough to go dark amber without becoming bitter (though personally I like it a little bitter). I love the ritual of holding it just over the flame and watching it go clear then dark. It can get away from you easily but it’s always fun to see how far you can take it. Read more
Just back from Miami where I spent the last week running for a great cause that was covered here and here, I’m still playing catch up. Fueled by countless cortaditos, I took advantage of my time there to start research on an upcoming project I’m really excited about, see friends, laugh with my family, and well eat…a lot. Heading to the gate, I had the disorienting feeling that I was leaving home to go home that always comes over me after a long visit. So while I get my bearings, I wanted to keep it simple with this repost of arroz blanco, including the plaintive email in the comments from my sister who inspired it.
Brought to the table in perfectly rounded mounds with an order of black beans, served in heavy chafing dishes on buffet tables, or ladled out of giant cookers from the kitchen counter, white rice hides in plain sight. Though a staple throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, white rice specifically anchors every Cuban meal. Its primacy partly due to large waves of Chinese immigration, I can’t imagine a better blank slate for beans, shredded beef stews, picadillos and plantains. I probably end almost every post with the words “serve over fluffy white rice” but had yet to include a recipe. When my sister texted me to find out how to make it. Rushed and reluctant to text back, I wondered why she didn’t just look it up here, then I checked and realized it wasn’t on my site. Oops. Read more
A few months ago, when my friend Achy (whose fantastic blog you can find here) was visiting, I invited her over for a Cuban breakfast then thought better of it. For the most part, Cuban breakfast is cafe con leche and pan tostado. The coffee I could make but I have yet to find good Cuban bread north of Tampa and a latte doesn’t really justify a trek to Brooklyn. Making it an early lunch instead, I made a tortilla Española and tomato and avocado salad but wanted to offer something more. Read more
I had planned on a new post but plans were hard to hold onto this weekend – temperatures soared, ovens broke, and friends got married. So in lieu of a new post, I decided to let life be life and repost one of my favorites from last summer.
But Is It Cuban?
Looking back at my summer posts, I noticed a lot of limes on the side or off in the corner – standing by to restore the balance to anything too heavy, too rich, or just too fried. With Labor Day coming up, it’s was only right to bring them front and center in a key lime pie. I thought it would be a departure from my Latin American desserts when I came across a few references to the Cuban pastel de limón. Made with juice from limones criollos – also known as key limes – and condensed milk, the custard is topped with meringue, and poured into a cookie crust made from galleticas Maria. Could the key lime pie be Cuban? According to Maria Josefa Lluria de O’Higgins, a version of the pie was brought to the Florida Keys in the late 1860′s with Cuban settlers during our war for independence. Other alleged sources include self-made Florida millionaires, their cooks and local fisherman. While I can’t pretend to be impartial, I will say this – creole limes, condensed milk, meringue – it certainly sound like us. Read more
When it’s warm, I miss the cold and when it’s cold I miss the warmth, though I miss my Snoopy sno-cone machine more than both combined. This weekend I tired out different granizado recipes for a Devour post armed with little more than a metal pan and a fork. I never get the results I want from my ice maker and there are worse places to spend a boiling New York summer day than half in the freezer. Loading up on guava, passion fruit, and mango pulp from a nearby market, I headed home and started mixing. Read more
Last week, for no particular reason, the idea of brunch bothered me. Though I’m sure it’ll pass (most likely around 1130ish next Saturday), the designation of brunch as the catch-all weekend shared meal just didn’t interest me. Normally, I enjoy it – the poached eggs, the flowing coffee, the kicky cocktails, the displaced Brooklyn washtub bands strumming away. But I wanted to cook for friends this weekend and it wasn’t going to be ebleskivers and mimosas (again nothing against either). Read more
There are so many stories around the mojito but the one I hope is true is that its name comes from the African word for “mojo” or casting spells. This makes perfect sense because, as a friend pointed out, mojitos make everyone happy. Assuming all other conditions are equal and in moderation, a strong mixed drink can make someone pensive or low key, exhilerated or stupefied, wild or reckless, but a mojito – happy. It’s even hard to think of a mojito without smiling, it’s a charming little cocktail. Read more