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Bring a taste of exotic Cuba to your table

By on June 27, 2018 in Columnist with 0 Comments

Bonnie OrrBy Bonnie Orr

Cuba is a tantalizing destination mostly because of its 60-year (1899-1959) reputation of a place where people travelled to be naughty.

Famous celebrities joined wealthy Americans who mixed with infamous mafia members especially during the Prohibition where rum was the best in the world.

For the last 60 years, this island nation has been pretty much out-of-bounds for Americans.

I think the reason to travel to Cuba today — and the reason I went in early May — is that Cuba is a gardener’s paradise. Not only is it lush and green all year long, but the landscape features many of our common houseplants in their native setting — and they don’t have to be coddled!

Even better is the year-around supply of vegetables, both familiar ones and exotic ones. The fruit is universally exotic, delicious and tree ripened. The agricultural-based economy is still centered on sugar and tobacco.

The Cuban cuisine features multiple vegetables and fruit. The most common meats are pork and chicken, and seafood is popular. Most of the dishes call for a much smaller percentage of meat or seafood than many American dishes.

The beauty of the food is that the vegetables are fresh rather than frozen or canned. Tomatoes are included in nearly all main dishes.

This simple dish incorporates into a stew two unexpected ingredients: capers and raisins. The stew is not cooked for very long in order to retain the flavor of the fresh tomatoes. The vinegar adds an accent. This means that less salt is added to the dish.

Create the flavor of Cuba right in your kitchen.

23rd Parallel North Dinner

30 minutes, serves 4

1 pound plain ground pork

1 or 2 chopped hot peppers — your choice

Two onions finely chopped

4 cloves minced garlic

3 tablespoons capers

1 cup raisins

3 cups chopped fresh tomatoes

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Salt/ pepper

In a large frying pan, add the chopped onion and garlic, cook until golden.

Add the meat and the peppers. Cook until the meat is well-done. Drain off the excess fat.

Add the capers, raisins, vinegar and tomatoes.

Cook until well blended — about 10 minutes

Serve with rice and beans. (Recipe below.)

Moros y Cristianos

This is a well-known Cuban dish made with rice and black beans. Its name comes from the Spanish people who settled in Cuba.

Southern Spain had been a Muslim territory from the 8th Century until 1492 (think of Grenada and the Alhambra) when the Spanish reclaimed the country in a civil war and pushed out all the Moors. Because the Moors were from the Middle East their skin was more swarthy than the original Spanish Europeans —hence the name for the dish.

Cook the rice and beans ahead of time.

1 cup white rice

2 cups water

1 cup black beans

4 cups water

salt

Cook the rice in the 2 cups of water with a dash of salt until the rice has absorbed all the water — about 20 minutes.

Cook the black beans in 4 cups of water by bringing them to a boil. Turn off the heat. Let sit for 1 hour. Then cook again for 30 minutes until the beans are tender. Drain the beans.

Then cook the vegetables to add to the beans.

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion chopped

2 cloves garlic

1 red and one green bell pepper chopped

2 large fresh tomatoes, chopped

In a large sauce pan, heat the oil and add the onions and garlic. Cook until golden.

Add the bell peppers and tomatoes. Cook until heated through.

Add the black beans.

To serve, heap one-half cup cooked rice on a plate. Make a well in the middle of the rice and fill it with the black bean mixture. Garnish with a slice of lemon and a sprinkling of sliced radishes.

In the same way that there is nothing as tasty as vegetables freshly harvested from the garden, there is nothing as sweet and tantalizing as tree-ripened sweet-fragranced tropical fruit.

Although, we don’t have access to fresh tropical fruit, you can make a facsimile from the grocery store.

This meal could be pleasantly closed with a fruit salad.

Bonnie Orr — the dirt diva — cooks and gardens in East Wenatchee.

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