Monday, May 31, 2010

Coquitos: Mini Coconut Balls

I had about 8 oz of grated coconut in syrup leftover from when I made the pastelitos de coco, so I decided to make coconut balls or coquitos.  I've never made these before, and I had a hard time finding a recipe.  (Coquitos are better known as an eggnog like beverage from Puerto Rico.)  Either way I found a recipe for coco quemado but that is not what I wanted, so I combined a couple of different suggestions from different recipes and this is what I came up with. It's very simple. And they tasted very good.

Strain your coconut. Put the syrup in a sauce pan and the grated coconut in another. Add 1 teaspoon of sugar to the grated coconut and a half teaspoon of vanilla extract. Stir these ingredients over medium heat until most of the liquid has reduced. With a melon baller form your coconut balls and place them on a greased cookie sheet. Place them in a 375 preheated oven for about 15-20 minutes until they start to brown on the bottom. I later turned on the broiler for just about 3 minutes to brown the tops.

While your coconut balls are in the oven, add a teaspoon of sugar to your syrup and cook on medium heat to thicken. (I know it's syrup, it's already thick... thicken it more.) Sprinkle the syrup with a spoon over your baked coquitos and let cool.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Crab Cakes Made With Angel Hair Pasta

So I was looking at a recipe for Salmon Patties at The Tiny Skillet, and I remembered this recipe for crab cakes.

  • 6-8 oz canned lump crab meat
  • 1-2 tbsp parsley, chopped
  • 1 egg
  • 1 heaping tablespoon of mayo
  • 1/4 lb cooked angel hair pasta
  • salt and pepper
  • a dash of hot sauce
  • oil for frying
  • fresh lime juice to taste
  • Cocktail sauce for dipping
Boil your pasta. Angel hair pasta cooks very quickly so don't walk away. Drain and let cool.  Open your can of crabmeat and drain. Pour your crabmeat in a bowl and add your chopped parsley. Add your pasta and mix together. Add your egg and stir. Add your mayonnaise. Your pasta should not be long, so you can cut it up before you incorporate it into the bowl, or if you forget, as I did, cut it up already mixed in.

Heat oil in a heavy skillet. Separate a tablespoonful of your mixture and form into a small ball. Drop into the heated oil. Repeat this process browning your fritters on all slides with a slotted spoon. Makes 12.

Well, I guess my mind has been a little frazzled lately since I omitted sauteed onions which I had intended to add, but no one complained. I kept my mouth shut.

Ensalada de Pollo: Chicken Salad

1/2 a roast chicken
3 medium red potatoes
1 apple
1 cup of sliced olives
3 heaping tablespoons of mayonnaise
salt and pepper to taste
pimentos and petits pois for garnish

So I had about 1/2 the roast chicken leftover from last night. I pulled the meat off the bones and cut it into small chunks.  I peeled the potatoes and cut them into large rounds and boiled them. (I didn't want to cut them into small cubes yet because I forget and walk away, and come back to find mush, so I cube them later.) While your potatoes are boiling, peel your apple (I used a green granny smith because I like the tartness of it, my grandmother would use the red delicious) and cut it into little chunks. Slice your olives. Drain and rinse your softened potatoes in cold water then cut them into cubes. Place all your ingredients in a bowl and mix in the mayonnaise. Garnish with pimentos and petits pois. (I tend to cut my "chunks" rather large because I have picky eaters who like to pick certain ingredients out of their food, you can cut your ingredients smaller and make the salad more pasty.)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Pastelitos de Coco

This is so simple, I'm almost embarrased to post it. I love coconut, but my husband won't eat it and neither will my daughter, so when I bought a 17 oz can of Grated Coconut in syrup I had to think up ideas. Pastelitos de coco are readily available in Cuban bakeries which means I'm out of luck.  It was difficult just finding the coconut in syrup. Anyway, I still have at least 1/2 of the coconut in the fridge now, so I'll soon be making something else.

For these pastelitos:
1 box Pepperidge Farm puff pastry sheets
grated coconut in syrup
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water

Spread out one defrosted pastry sheet and cut in three along the folds. Cut those in half. You should have 6 pieces. Brush your sheet pieces along the edges with your egg. With a slotted spoon (you don't want much of the syrup) scoop about three tablespoons worth of the coconut onto the center of  3 of the pieces. Top with the remaing pieces. Press along the edges.  Repeat these steps with the second pastry sheet. Place on a cookie sheet sprayed with a non-stick spray. Brush more egg on the tops and place in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes (I really didn't time it, so keep an eye on it). In the meantime, melt the sugar in the water on low. Brush this atop the pastelitos when you take them out of the oven. Decadent!

Arroz con Salchichas: Yellow Rice with Hotdogs?

My mother always made arroz con salchichas with the Vienna Sausage that come in a can. I personally have never liked that sausage, so I'm making it with some party sized turkey franks that I had in my freezer since New Years (I know!). I'm going to follow Nathans basic recipe for yellow rice click here with the addition of the franks, and I'm going to attempt to cook the whole thing on the burner (as opposed to the rice cooker).

1 small to medium size onion, chopped
1/2 green bell pepper, or red (whichever you have at hand)
4 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
the equivalent of about 4 regular sized hotdogs sliced
3 cups rice, long grain
4 1/2 cups water
salt to taste
olive oil
a dash of cumin
a dash of bijol
(Bijol is also know as "achiote" or "annotto" powder and it is used for coloring rice. It is used to replace the very expensive saffron in many recipes. Bijol does not really duplicate the saffron flavor, but it does have a unique flavor all its own that is unmistakable in Cuban dishes.)

Sautee your onion, garlic and pepper in olive oil, add the franks, and sautee for a few more minutes. Add the water with bijol, cumin and salt. Bring to a boil and add the dry rice.  Stir. Cover and simmer on low for about 20 minutes. Check at about 15 minutes to adjust for water and to fluff.


Roast Chicken

Hello everyone. So, I have cooked this week, I just haven't made any Cuban food. Spaghetti last night, hamburgers the night before, sushi the night before that. I defrosted a chicken yesterday, and I guess I'm just not in the mood to take the time to make the mojo and marinate the darn thing for a few hours, so I guess I'm still not making Cuban food. I preapred a dry rub:

1 tbsp rosemary
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp garlic powder (I am being lazy, aren't I)
1/2 tbsp paprika
1/2 tbsp onion powder

I rubbed the chicken inside and out, then I flipped the bird — I placed it breast down — in a 350 degree oven for about 2 and 1/2 hours. (I've always heard that if you place it breast down then all the juices run into the breast, I do this with turkey at Thanksgiving also)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Carne Fria

I think by now, those of you who have been following this blog are aware that I am learning as I go. Oh yes I've been cooking Cuban food for many years and there are some dishes that I have mastered, but a handful of recipes isn't enough to fill a blog, so I have to venture into unchartered waters. I have never made carne fria before. I remember standing next to my grandmother in the kitchen watching her prepare this dish, so I'm not unfamiliar with it, I've just never made it.  This is a cold meat loaf this is usually served at parties along with crackers.  I encourage comments that may point out something that I may have missed or a better or simpler process for preparing carne fria. So here we go on another adventure.

I'm not exactly sure that I had exactly these propotions, but these are the ingredients I used. The easiest way to prepare this dish with is with a food processor, if you don't have one, chop everything very finely. You will need:


1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground pork
1/2 lb ground ham
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp cumin
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp worchestershire sauce
1 medium sized onion
queen sized pimento stuffed olives (optional)

4 eggs well beaten
1 1/2 cups cracker crumbs

For the water
4 garlic cloves, whole
1 onion, cut into 4
1 bay leaf
2 tsps salt
1 tsp oregano

Grind your pork and ham in a food processor if you bought it whole. You can drop in your onion and galic in the food processor as well. Take off your rings, this gets messy: in a large bowl combine your ground beef, pork and ham along with the onion, garlic, cumin, salt, worchestershire suace, bread crumbs and eggs.

In the meantime, in a large pot bring approximately 4 quarts of water to a boil with the garlic, onion bay leaf, salt and oregano.

Separate your meat mixture in three and shape into a flattened square. Lay out our olives in a row in the center horizontally and bring the meat up from the side to form a cylinder. Double wrap with in cheesecloth and tie the ends with twine. Repeat this for the other two rolls and drop them in the boiling water. Cover and reduce the heat to simmer for two hours. Add more water as needed.

After the allocated time has passed take the loaves out of the water and remove the cheesecloth. Wrap each roll in aluminum foil. Let cool then refrigerate for at least 24 hours. Slice and serve with crackers or bread  – goes well with a cold beer.

Friday, May 21, 2010

When Mojo Met BBQ Sauce

I'm not going to tell you guys to follow my instructions for BBQ pork spare ribs because I'm no expert and there are plenty of prize winning barbecue recipes out there. I'm only going to offer a suggestion to Cubanize the BBQ sauce.  I'm making two large racks of ribs tonight. I'm combining mojo with a regular bottle or Kraft Orignial BBQ sauce.

For the mojo
1/2 head of garlic pressed
3/4 cup lemon or lime juice
3/4 cup orange juice
1 tbsp oregano
1 tbsp onion powder
2 tbsp salt

Mix this with the bottled BBQ sauce and spread it on your ribs.

Have plenty of napkins on hand.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

White Rice #1

About a week ago I posted Pedro's Cooking Tip for making white rice. I made it this way today.

If you want to make the tastiest white rice ever (and according to Nitza Villapol, this is the TRUE way of making white rice the Cuban way) do it like this:
  • ALWAYS use the proportion of 1 cup of dry rice to 1.5 cup of water.
  • Never rinse the rice if it's enriched and packaged. It's unnecessary and you will NEVER get the rice water to run completely clear ... Anyway. Let's say you are making 2 cups of dry rice. Therefore, you need to measure 3 cups of water in a shallow flat-bottom pan (by shallow I mean with no steep high walls).
  • To the water add salt to taste, one large clove of garlic pressed, minced, sliced or however you like to cut it, but in very small pieces.
  • Add the juice of 1/2 lime (or lemon) to the water and let it come to a gentle boil.
  • Simmer for about 3 minutes. Add the dry rice and distribute evenly over the entire bottom of the pan making sure it's completely covered by the water.
  • Let it come to a boil again (about 1-2 minutes) and then reduce heat to a minimum ( my stove has 6 settings; at this point I turn it to setting number 2) and simmer on this very low heat, COVERED with a lid, for 10-15 minutes).
  • Uncover, fluff with a fork and check for tenderness. If it's still a little tough, add 1/8-1/4 cup of water and keep it on number 2 until the grain is tender (tender; not mushy or sticky).
  • At this point, sprinkle some extra virgin olive oil on top ( maybe 1-2 tablespoonfuls, depending on taste), fluff and serve.

I made two cups.  I found that I did need to add a little more water, and it took a little longer than the time mentioned above, but it did turn out very tasty and fluffy.  I found that the shallower pan cooked the rice quicker and the addition of the garlic and lemon juice really made it flavorful.  A dish on it's own.  Yum!

 P.S.  I have received other suggestions for rice in the comments section, and I will be posting and trying out those directions as well.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Panetela: Pound Cake

 Panetela with whipped cream topping for the picture's sake. I like it plain or with ice cream.

I remember helping my grandmother make this panetela when I was barely four years old. She was very strict about how it was done, down to whether to stir to the left or to right, back and forth or all around. No electric mixers for her. The flour needed to be sifted three times. Everything was done very precisely.

As the years passed and my adult life became complicated, I pulled out the electric mixer, skipped the sifting, and hoped for the best, but the end result is not the same. So here it is as my grandmother instructed down to the triple sifting.

2 cups flour, sifted three times
2 tbsp baking powder (incorporate this into the flour)

1/2 cup (1 stick butter, not margarine)
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract (the real thing)
pinch of salt

Let your butter sit at room temperature until soft. Let your eggs sit at room temperature so they are not cold straight from the refrigerator.

Using a fork, in a large bowl combine your butter with 1 cup sugar until creamy. Beat your eggs in a separate bowl and drop them into your mixture. Mix. Add your tsp of vanilla. Now switch over to a spoon. Slowly add a little bit of your flour (mixed with the baking soda) into your mixture and blend by  moving your spoon back and forth only (folding the batter), not circular (I know it's obsessive compulsive, what can I say?) dribble a little milk... back and forth, pour a little flour...back and forth, dribble a little milk...back and forth . . .  you get the picture. Somewhere in the middle of this routine add a pinch of salt. Back and forth. Once all your ingredients are combined into a smooth batter, pour this into a large baking pan or two smaller pans that have been greased.

Place in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Do not open the door until you've seen through the oven window that it is golden on top. Check for doneness by sticking a toothpick in the middle. You know the routine. To store it, you can cover the pan and refrigerate it.
Note: This is a basic recipe for panetela, from here you can elaborate. More to come in future postings. 

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Let me start by saying don't make this yet because I've never made it before and I haven't tasted it. You need to wait 24 hours. I'll let you know tomorrow. OKAY, its tomorrow Wednesday, May 19th.  I give this a thumbs up! I found that it needed a little salt, but once I put it on a saltine cracker it was fine. The fish maintained it's firmess. I will note, that I neglected to put in 2 bay leaves in the oil along with the other spices, and I should have done that, so please include that in the recipe.

According to
Of Spanish origin, escabèche is a dish of poached or fried fish, covered with a spicy marinade and refrigerated for at least 24 hours. It's a popular dish in Spain and the Provençal region of France, and is usually served cold as an appetizer.

Okay so I got this idea this morning reading the blog of one of my newest followers. Nathan made sardines in escabeche. Click here.

Of course, I can't find fresh sardines here, nor frozen for that matter, but it looked so yummy that I had to make it with something. I opened the freezer and I had tilapia fillet. As a child, I remember my mother making this with swordfish.  I didn't like it. It was always too dry, but then again my mother is not known for her cooking.  I didn't want to make a large batch just in case I repeated my mother's creation, but just from tasting it tonight I think I've got a winner. You can use just about any fish or shellfish you prefer.

I'm making mine a little differently than Nathan described in his link above.

To make this escabeche I used

4 tilapia fillets (about 1 lb)
3/4 cups olive oil
1/2 cup vinegar
1/2 red onion sliced
6 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp oregano
1 tbsp salt

Flour your fish fillets on both sides. Slice your onions. You need not peel your garlic, just press it with the side of your  knife. Warm your olive oil on medium high and brown your fillets. Remove the fish from the oil and place in a glass or ceramic bowl. Lower the heat of the oil. You should have a lid handy in case you encounter splattering from here on. Drop in your onions and garlic. Let this cook for about 10 minutes. Add your paprika, oregano, salt, pepper. Stir and let it simmer for about 5-10 more minutes. Carefully (keep your lid handy) add your vinegar. Let this simmer for about 5 minutes. Pour your mixture over your fish. Let it cool, cover and refrigerate for 24 hours.  (I also threw in about 1 tsp of chopped hot pepper that I had frozen in the refrigerator.)

I'll be back tomorrow to tell you if it's a go. It looks good though, right? It's good.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Empanadas de Carne

For Sharline:

I'm going to be using frozen Goya discs. I am going to fry the empanadas. I will look into finding a recipe for a good dough that can be fried and made from scratch. If you have one, please leave me a comment. Thanks.

I usually make a Cuban picadillo and use the leftovers for the empanadas, but today I decided to make the filling Argentinian style. (It turned out really good, my husband gave me a thumbs up!)

1 1/2 pound ground beef
1 large yellow onion chopped (I use red, remember the yellow make me cry, so half a large red onion for me)
1/2 cup green olives, finely chopped
2 tablespoons raisins
1 tablespoon ground paprika
1 tablespoon cumin
Salt to taste
olive oil
1 cup water
3 hard boiled eggs, finely chopped

vegetable oil for frying

Brown your ground beef and drain. In a skillet sautee your onions in a little olive oil, add your ground beef and all other ingredients except the eggs. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes. Let cool.

Boil your eggs and chop them. Incorporate them into the ground beef mixture.

Shhh! When I went to grab my raisins, I realized I was all out. That's why there is no picture of the raisins. So I chopped up a couple of prunes instead, and I actually think it tasted better than the raisin. Don't tell my husband! LOL!

Defrost your discs and lay them out on a working surface. Wet the edges of your disc with water (use your fingers).  With a slotted spoon place about 2 of tablespoonsful of your ground beef mixture in the center and fold over. Using a fork press the edges together. (Make sure the side ares sealed, you do not want oil to seep into them when frying).  Repeat this process for all your discs.  At this point you can refrigerate or freeze those that you don't not plan to eat right away.

Heat about an haf an inch of oil in a heavy skillet and place your discs one or two at a time (depending on the size of your pan) into the hot oil. Watch the heat, turn it down if the discs brown too quickly. Brown on both sides and remove to a paper towel-lined plate.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Frituras de Malanga: Malanga Fritters

First let me start by thanking Pris for mailing us a box of five very large malangas. Yay Pris! Thank you.

Malanga is a root vegetable popular in the tropics and South America. There are actually two different malangas: Malanga blanca considered the true malanga, which grows on dry land. The other is malanga amarillo which grows in wet bog-like areas. Malanga are about the size and shape of a regular white potato; the outside skin of the malanga is brown and somewhat hairy. It generally weighs 1/2 to 2 pounds, but can be heavier. The interior has an extremely crisp texture and can vary in color from cream, yellow or pink. 

For Pris: Malanga Recipe #1: Malanga Fritters

These are the proportions
for about 3 cups of grated malanga
1 teaspoon salt, more or less to taste
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 egg
2 tablespoons parsley, chopoped

Vegetable oil for frying
Lemon wedges

Peel malanga and place in cold water. The spots that arise are okay, just make sure you remove all the skin and rinse under cold water. Using a hand grater, shred coarse; there should be about 3 cups. My malanga was so big, I only used half of it. Add garlic, salt, egg and parsley. Blend together with a fork until eggs has coated the whole mixture. In a frying pan, bring your oil to medium high heat. Form malanga mixture into loosely packed balls in the palm of your hand, using about 1 1/2 tablespoons of mixture for each. Drop into the hot oil and brown well. Do not crowd fritters while cooking. If the fritters are browning too quickly lower the heat, as we want them to cook thoroughly. Keep in a warm oven as you fry all remaining. Serve with lemon wedges and parsley garnish. (I didn't have lemon, so I sprinkled with a little lime juice, some of you may want to sprinkle with hot sauce as well.)

Please note: One of our readers has left variations of his malanga fritters recipe that you can view here and a sweet dessert variation here Thanks Nathan.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Paella with a little help from my friend Goya

Shortcuts. We have to take them sometimes depending on our resources: time, accessible ingredients, expense, knowledge. I don't have access to fresh mussels or clams or lobster (can't afford it anyway), basically most of what I can get my hands on is frozen. I had one package of Spanish chorizo that I found in the back of my pantry (surprise!) from a care package sent to me at Christmas. I'm not an expert at making paella, and with my track record for making rice (I will learn, Pedro!) I wouldn't risk ruining this dish with undercooked or overcooked rice, so I prepare the yellow rice separately in a rice cooker. There are quite a few step involved so I've taken a million pictures. Here we go.

1 large onion, chopped
6-8 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1 lb shrimp
1 lb scallops (or any other seafood)
1 package Goya paella mix (basically this brings seasoned yellow rice and a can of squid in a sauce)
2 cans octopus
3 chorizo links, casing removed, sliced
chicken (I used pre-cooked chicken breast pieces, you may use 2 boneless chicken breasts, sliced)
dash or Worchestershire sauce
dash of soy sauce
dash of hot sauce
salt (see note below)*
olive oil
chicken buillon (optional)
t tbsp capers
1/4 cup red wine
1 tbsp tomato paste
Pimentos for garnish

I buy my raw shrimp with the shell on. Remove the shells and devein your shrimp . Place these shells in a pot with about 6 cups of water and one chicken buillon. Bring to a boil. Strain. Keep the broth.

In a large pot, sautee your onions and garlic in olive oil while you slice your chorizo. Add these to the pot. Add your chicken. Sautee for a while. Add a couple of laddlefuls of your broth and the tablespoon of tomato paste. Add your canned contents (squid and octopus). Add your soy sauce, hot sauce, Worchestershire sauce and your scallops. Add your capers and red wine. Simmer for a while. Add your raw shrimp. When the shrimp turn pink remove them from the pot and set aside. (Don't allow anyone into the kitchen at this point, or your shrimp could disappear). Let your pot simmer uncovered on low for about 30 minutes. In the meantime, prepare your rice according to instructions substituting the broth for the required water.

Once the rice is done, incorporate this into your pot. Stir. Put your shrimp back in. Garnish with pimento.

*Be careful with your salt on this dish. Remember the chorizo is salty, soy sauce is salty as is Worchestershire sauce, the buillon is salty as well as the canned seafood. Taste as you go.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Pedro's cooking tip: White Rice

A tip for you and your readers:

If you want to make the tastiest white rice ever (and according to Nitza Villapol, this is the TRUE way of making white rice the Cuban way) do it like this:

ALWAYS use the proportion of 1 cup of dry rice to 1.5 cup of water.
Never rinse the rice if it's enriched and packaged. It's unnecessary and you will NEVER get the rice water to run completely clear completely... Anyway. Let's say you are making 2 cups of dry rice. Therefore, you need to measure 3 cups of water in a shallow flat-bottom pan (by shallow I mean with no steep high walls).
To the water add salt to taste, one large clove of garlic pressed, minced, sliced or however you like to cut it, but in very small pieces.
Add the juice of 1/2 lime (or lemon) to the water and let it come to a gentle boil.
Simmer for about 3 minutes. Add the dry rice and distribute evenly over the entire bottom of the pan making sure it's completely covered by the water.
Let it come to a boil again (about 1-2 minutes) and then reduce heat to a minimum ( my stove has 6 settings; at this point I turn it to setting number 2) and simmer on this very low heat, COVERED with a lid, for 10-15 minutes).
Uncover, fluff with a fork and check for tenderness. If it's still a little tough, add 1/8-1/4 cup of water and keep it on number 2 until the grain is tender (tender; not mushy or sticky).
At this point, sprinkle some extra virgin olive oil on top ( maybe 1-2 tablespoonfuls, depending on taste), fluff and serve.
You can eat this rice all by itself. It' so good!
(I use Mahatma Long Grain Jasmine Rice by personal choice, but you can use any rice that is long grain, so it won't get sticky and starchy). I have a really nice rice cooker but prefer to make my white rice the traditional way, just as I described it here. Hope you like it.

Thank you Pedro, I'll be trying it this way soon! 

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Arroz con Huevos Fritos y Plantanitos Maduros

It has happened to all of us. We open the refrigerator and it's basically empty; the cupboards are in the same bare condition. What to make for dinner? If you are Cuban, there is always white rice in the house. Eggs are a staple in every household, and if you're lucky, there's a ripe plantain sitting around. This is such a simple dish, and a satisfying, tasty one, that it requires basically no explanation.

Cook your white rice using whatever method you prefer. Fry your plantains (click here). Fry a couple of eggs per person until crispy on the edges and soft in the middle. Place them over a bed of white rice, with a couple of plantains on the side. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Now what? Slice your eggs over your rice and mix it together. You can cut up your plantains and toss them in the mix. It's gooooood!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Frijoles Negros: Black Beans

Black beans are a Cuban household staple. We all grew up on black beans.

I was always afraid to make black beans because both my mother and my grandmother would make them in a pressure cooker, and as a child I was told to stay away because they were very dangerous. Then in my twenties, a relative of mine broke her arm making black beans in a pressure cooker (long story).  For many years I would buy canned black beans, which really do not compare.

Finally, my aunt from California who makes really tasty black beans, gave me her recipe and no, it doesn't require a pressure cooker. My slightly varied recipe follows:

1 lb dry black beans
1 large onion, diced
4-5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, sliced
2 tsps cumin
1 tbsp salt
1 bay leaf
5 slices of bacon
large green olives
olive oil

Soak your black beans overnight in enough water to cover by 2 inches. Discard those that float to the top. The next day, pour your soaked black beans into a large pot with enough water to cover about 3 inches. Add your bay leaf, salt and 1 tbsp olive oil. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to low.

Cut up your bacon slices into smaller pieces and cook them until they have rendered enough fat to satuee your onions, garlic and peppers until the onions are translucent. Pour all of this into your pot of beans. Stir, cover and let simmer on low for about 2 hours or until your beans are tender.

At this point you can remove your bacon pieces and the bay leaf. Cubans like their black beans rich and thick usually over rice. Check the consistency of your beans. If you prefer a black bean soup you may have to add water, if you want them thicker then heat uncovered for another half hour or so to reduce.

The quality and freshness of beans will vary the cooking time needed and the amount of liquid they will absorb, so adjust accordingly.

Treeco Tree: Empanaditas de Guayaba

Since I learned this recipe directly from my mother, and today is Mother's Day, I thought I would share this story with you.

We arrived in this country in the summer of 1962. One night in late October there was a knock at our door. My mother opened the door to find two boys, dirty and shoeless with their begging hands extended. She quickly ran into the kitchen and retrieved some slices of bread which she tearfully handed to them, blessing them in Spanish and explaining it was all she had to give. Then she sat at the kitchen table to cry.
What's wrong with you, my teenage uncle asked?
I didn't know that in this country there was such misery and hunger. Those poor boys!, my mother bawled.
What? …  They're in costume. It's Halloween!

This was new information to absorb. What concept was this? Children going door to door begging for food? The holiday was explained to her by those who had come years earlier. The next year, my mother was prepared. She baked for several hours the night before and wrapped each Empanadita de Guayaba in aluminum foil.

A couple years later when my sister and I were old enough, my grandmother would walk us from house to house,  Now remember, she taught us,  when the door opens you say the magic words "Treeco Tree Alloween!" Years later we realized the magic words were "Trick or Treat Halloween;" nevertheless, be they in English or Spanglish, we never got a treat as good as our mother's Empanaditas de Guayaba.

The ingredients for this recipe are few, but it is time consuming. You have been warned.

8 oz cream cheese
1/2 cup (1 stick) of butter or margarine (please note, I had erroneous written 1 cup and have fixed it to 1/2, sorry for those of you who may have tried this with the wrong measurement, if it worked then yay! The picture is correct)
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
guava paste
1 egg beaten

Let the cream cheese and butter soften. Add the flour and mix together. Use your hands to knead into a ball and refrigerate for a couple of hours. It will be crumbly at first and you will think that I was off my rocker with the measurements, but keep kneading it, it will come together.
Cut up the guava paste into small pieces. (If you've never heard of it or cannot find it where you are, then you can Americanize this recipe with any other kind of fruit paste or jam).

Take a small portion of your dough and roll it out on a lightly floured surface to a thickness of about  1/8 of an inch or thinner. I know you don't have a ruler in the kitchen and it is ridiculous to try to figure out, so thinner than pie dough will suffice. You can use a cookie cutter or a drinking glass will work well also to form round shapes. Place one piece of guava in the center and fold over. Press the edges closed with a fork. Repeat this process. Put a layer of egg wash over the top and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes (check on them, I don't use a timer and ovens are temperamental). Warning: Filling is hot! Let them cool before you try them.

Happy Mother's Day!

For all the moms, I hope your day is special, full of laughter and good food.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Preparing a Cuban Pork Shoulder Roast

I decided to make a pork shoulder for Mother's Day along with black beans and white rice. I like to marinate my pork shoulder for at least 24 hours. This is how I prepare it.
one 9 lb pork shoulder
8 cloves garlic pressed
8 cloves garlic peeled and sliced in half
2 tbsp salt
1 tbsp rosemary (chopped or pressed)
1 tbsp oregano
1 cup lime juice
1 cup orange juice

Remove your pork shoulder from the packaging and rinse it under cold water. Stab it (yes, stab it) with a small knife several times in different spots inserting a piece of garlic as you go (push the garlic in as far as you can).
Prepare the marinade (mojo): in a bowl,  pour the lime juice and orange juice, add your pressed garlic, oregano, rosemary and tablespoon salt. Pour this over the pork shoulder and rub the spices into the meat, sprinkle more salt and pepper all over. Cover and refrigerate until the next day.
The next day place your pork shoulder covered with aluminum foil in a pre-heated 350 degree oven. Roast for 5 to 6 hours until fall-off-the-bone tender.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Fricase de Pollo: Chicken Fricase

It's been a really long time since I've made fricase. I'd say over a decade, but I think I remember it well. Let me warn you that there a many steps involved, so if you are pressed for time you can most definitely take short cuts (i.e. bottled mojo, canned chicken broth, pre-cut chicken, etc).

  1. 1 whole chicken cut up in 6-8 pieces
  2. 1 cup sour orange (or 1/2 cup lime juice plux 1/2 cup orange juice)
  3. 4-6 cloves garlic, pressed
  4. salt and black pepper
  5. oregano
  6. olive oil
  7. 1 large onion, chopped (note: I use red onion because all the others make me cry, red onions tend to be quite large, so when I say 1 large onion, I mean a LARGE onion)
  8. 1 green pepper chopped
  9. 1 bay leaf
  10. 1 cup vino seco (I used white table wine, that's what I had handy)
  11. 8 oz tomato sauce
  12. handful of raisins
  13. handful of pimento stuffed olives, whole
  14. 1 tsp capers
  15. 1 cup chicken broth or water
  16. 1 large potato cubed
  17. 1 carrot stick, sliced

We're going to make a quick mojo to marinate our chicken for at least one hour before cooking. I always prefer pressed garlic, but if you don't have a mortar and pestle nor a garlic press then you can chop it finely.  Press your garlic in about 1 tsp of salt. In a large non-reactive bowl pour one cup sour orange (I know you don't have it, or never heard of it, just combine 1/2 lime juice and 1/2 orange juice straight from the fridge  - I can't find sour orange here either), the garlic and a dash of oregano. Place your chicken pieces in the marinade making sure they are coated evenly and liberally sprinkle with salt . Refrigerate for one hour or longer.

For this type of recipe I buy my chicken whole to ensure I get the neck, gizzards, backbones and wing tips to make broth/soup. If you are squimish about putting your hand into the cavity of the chicken or about cutting it up yourself, then by all means buy it already cup up in sections. And if you are super squimish you can use boneless chicken breast. 

Coat the bottom of a heavy skillet with olive oil. Remove your chicken pieces from the marinade (don't discard the marinade) and lightly brown the chicken on all sides. If they start to stick to the bottom, add more olive oil and reduce the heat. Remove the chicken from the skillet. Now, with the olive oil still in the pan, sautee your onions and green peppers, return your chicken pieces to the pan along with the marinade. Add the tomato sauce, bay leaf,  wine, broth or water (see below for homemade), olives and capers. Cover and let simmer on low for about 1 hour. This will appear watery, but the potatoes that we add later will thicken it.  Chop your potato and carrot. Add the potato and carrot and let simmer for another 20 minutes. Once your potatoes are tender turn off the heat and let you fricase sit for about half an hour before serving. Serve with white rice and fried plantains.
I made this in the morning and after letting it cool I refrigerated it. I reheated it for dinner.

The Broth:
This is the perfect opportunity to clean out your refrigerator vegetable bin. If it's not moldy, it's fair game. In a pot drop in your spare chicken parts (neck, gizzards, back, etc.) with about 2 quarts of water , now drop in whatever you find: limp celery, a carrot stick, some loose cloves of garlic, that chunk on onion that you only used a piece of and then forgot, lettuce, a little parsley, a tomato, in other words whatever you find because we're not going to eat this vegetables. We will strain the broth later. I also add a couple of cubes of Knorr Chicken Broth. Bring all of this to a boil for about ten minutes then reduce the heat to low and walk away. Check back on it in now an then, let it simmer for at least an hour. You will have way too much broth. Strain it, and freeze it. You can pick off the pieces of chicken if you so desire to eat them; otherwise discard everything except the liquid.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Ensalada Rusa: Russian Potato & Egg Salad

I came across this recipe searching for something new to make, and it sounded very familiar. I'm pretty sure that my grandmother used to make this.

There are five main ingredients: potatoes, carrots, sweet peas, hard boiled eggs, mayonnaise

In doing some research I found that this basic recipe varies greatly. Ingredients that can be added are: beets, tuna, olives, green beans, asparagus, apples and sweet corn

I'm sticking with the basic salad plus olives.

The proportions are:
4 medium potatoes, peeled, cubed and boiled
4 large carrots, scraped, cubed and boiled
4 large eggs, hard boiled and chopped
1 cup drained cannet sweet peas
1 cup mayonnaise
half a dozen pimento stuffed olives, sliced
a dash of paprika
salt and pepper to taste

I'm going to cut this recipe in half, since this is not something that will keep for too long.  There's not much for instructions, once you've chopped, sliced and boiled, you need only assemble.