RV Cuisine

The taste of Nuevo Cuba

Getting a taste of nuevo Cuban cuisine

by Kimberly Shellborn
The fresh ingredients of this recipe shown chopped up in small bowls, green pepper, olives, raisins, onions and tomato sauce.
Cuban cooking success is in the fresh ingredients. — Photo courtesy Rival Marketing, LLC

When I started reading To Cook is To Love I got engrossed in the story of Mama Aida. As she described the dishes she made for certain settings or memorable occasions in her life, I found myself wanting to cook every one one of the dishes—and I wanted to cook them immediately.

But which recipe to start with? The choice was narrowed down by finding a recipe that I had all the ingredients for. One of the beauties of To Cook is to Love is that it uses basic ingredients that you can find in most pantries or in your local grocery store. As I didn’t want to have to run to the store, I had to make do with what I had in my fridge and pantry. 

I decided on Picadillo en Tamal (Beef Hash in Tamale Pie, page 218) and aguacates rellenos (stuffed avocados, page 260). 

Picadillo en Tamal (Beef Hash in Tamale Pie)

Ingredients:

One 500 gram (15 oz.) can of whole kernel corn (drained)
Half a small onion, quartered
Hal a small green pepper (quartered)
2 cloves garlic
1 cup stone-ground whole-grain cornmeal
28.5 gram (2 tablespoons) milk
28.5 gram (2 tablespoons) olive oil
2.5 gram (1/2 teaspoon) salt
2.5 gram (1/2 teaspoon) ground black pepper
1.25 gram (1/4 teaspoon) cumin
1 recipe picadillo (recipe to follow)
125 gram (1/2 cup) tomato sauce, optional
115 gram (1/4 pound) cheddar cheese

Steps:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 C (350 F) and prepare a 22 cm x 33 cm (9”x13”) pan by treating it with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Place the first 10 ingredients in a blender pitcher, pulse to combine and then puree.
  3. Spread half the corn mixture into the bottom of the pan.
  4. Spread the picadillo over it. For a juicier filling, add the tomato sauce into the picadillo prior to adding it to the pie.
  5. Top the picadillo with the rest of the corn mixture to create the top crust of the pie.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes or until the pie is bubbly and heated through.
  7. If desired, sprinkle the top of the pie with cheddar cheese about halfway through the cooking time.

Picadillo (Savory Ground Beef)

This is a base recipe that is used in many of the recipes throughout the book.

Ingredients:

700 gram (1-1/2 pounds) ground beef
1 large onion (chopped)
1 large green pepper (coarsely chopped)
3 cloves garlic (minced and crushed)
2.5 gram (1/2 teaspoon) salt
2.5 gram (1/2 teaspoon) ground pepper
1.25 gram (1/4 teaspoon) cumin
1.25 gram (1/4 teaspoon) dried oregano
500 gram (18 ounce) can tomato sauce
125 gram (1/2 cup) green salad olives (coarsely chopped)
125 gram (1/2 cup) raisins

Steps: 

  1. In a large skillet, brown the beef, onion, green pepper, garlic and dry spices.
  2. Stir the ingredients and break the ground beef up as it cooks to ensure there are no lumps.
  3. When thoroughly cooked, drain the fat from the ground beef mixture.
  4. Add the remaining ingredients, stir and cook slowly over low heat for 15 minutes.

I found this recipe not only delicious, but very simple to make. My children (6 and 11 years) even ate everything up and came back for seconds. 

Aguacates Rellenos (Stuffed Avocados)

This is a lovely appetizer or salad.  It is very easy to prepare but is showy, so it is a great dish to make for guests.

230 gram (1/2 pound) medium shrimp (prepared, cooked and coarsely chopped)
230 gamr (1/2 pound) crab meat
4 scallions (cleaned and finely chopped)
1 large egg (hard boiled and finely chopped)
70 gram (1/4 cup) green salad olives (finely chopped)
125 gram (1/2 cup) nonfat plain yogurt
15 gram (1 tablespoon) ketchup
5 gram (1 teaspoon) lime juice
1.25 gram (1/4 teaspoon) paprika
30 gram (2 tablespoon) parsley (finely chopped)
salt and pepper to taste
2 large avocados
1 package salad greens

Steps:

  1. In a large bowl, combine the shrimp, crab meat, scallions, egg and olives.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt, ketchup, lime juice, paprika and parsley.
  3. Pour the dressing over the seafood mixture, toss lightly to mix, season with salt and pepper and refrigerate to chill.
  4. Rinse the avocados thoroughly, slice in half lengthwise and remove the pit but leave the skin on.  Cut a small slice off the bottom of each half so each avocado will sit flat on its serving plate.
  5. Make a bed of salad greens on each plate, place an avocado half on top, and mound with the seafood salad.

Enjoy a taste of Cuba!

Read the review of To Cook is to Love

Get your copy of To Cook is to Love at muchogusto.com.

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