Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Albondigas Con Salsa de Tomate (Meatballs in Tomato Sauce)

This is my grandmothers recipe for Meat balls in tomato sauce. It is a Cuban version of meat balls of course though every cook and culture probably has their own style of doing it. For example my mother's meatballs taste COMPLETELY different in flavor but that will be for another post.

My grandmothers recipe tastes very smokey and hot BUT it is not spicy! Cuban food can be hot but not spicy at all. It get's the smokey hot taste from black pepper and cumin.

-1 1/4 pounds ground beef
-2 eggs cracked and beaten
-1/2 cup of cracker meal or breadcrumbs, seasoned Italian breadcrumbs also work here
-1 onion minced
-1 bell pepper minced (I use 1/2 green and 1/2 yellow)
-1/2 a head garlic finely minced mashed to a paste (mortar and pestle or garlic press)
-1 cup tomato sauce (you could use canned my grandma for this dish uses already prepared "Ragu Sauce" that comes in a bottle like container sometimes "Mushroom Flavored" or "Meat Sauce" flavor)
-1/2 a bunch of Italian flat leaf parsley only the leaves finely minced (if you hate parsley like my mother use "Cilantro" but when I'm cooking this dish I think parsley goes best with it)
-2 teaspoons cumin
-2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper (I grind whole peppercorns in my mortar with a pestle)
-2-3 teaspoons salt more or less to taste

(1)Get the ground beef in a large bowl, add 1/2 of the minced onion, 1/2 of the minced garlic, 1/2 of the minced parsley, some salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, 1 teaspoon cumin, and the cracker meal and eggs. Mix well but don't over mix just enough to incorporate everything. Form the ground beef into medium small ball shape.
(2)In a deep pan heat generous amounts of extra-virgin olive oil, sautee the minced onions and bell pepper on medium high for 6 minutes until translucent and fragrant, add the garlic and sautee 2 more minutes, add the other 1 teaspoon of cumin and pepper and sautee 1-2 minutes.
(3)Now add the tomato sauce and dilute it with some water to desired consistency (about 1 cup water depends how thick sauce is it will cook down a bit and thicken as it continues cooking so keep that in mind), stir well, bring to a boil taste for salt and adjust to taste, add the meatballs in one layer cover for 10 minutes then uncover and flip it to the other side cover and cook another 10 minutes.
(4)Uncover, to test for doneness get one meatball and cut in half if it is not pink in the middle it is done. Now garnish with parsley.
Serve over white rice. My grandmother sometimes use to cook spaghetti (according to package instructions) drain it and toss with the meatballs and tomato sauce, this would be a Cubanized "Spaghetti and Meatballs" ha ha!

Arroz Frito Con Huevo y Jamon (Egg & Ham Fried Rice)

This is my grandmothers version of fried rice, very simple, straight forward, and delicious. It's good for a quick breakfast, lunch or dinner...Wait isn't fried rice Chinese? Well Cubans eat it to, it's part of some of the Chinese influence from early Chinese migration to Cuba and Fried Rice became popular. There are tons of variations of fried rice, there is no correct way of making it, it can have almost anything in it, some people use it as a way to get rid of leftovers, and use up old rice.

Some general rules though are to use leftover cold rice that way your fried rice has the right texture. If you use fresh cooked hot rice it will become sticky and clumpy when frying it together with the other stuff, and fried rice is suppose to be a little loose and not feel wet. If using the same day, make sure to cool the rice first.

-3 eggs (beat the eggs with a pinch of chicken bouillon, a little soy sauce and 1 teaspoon sugar, or if you don't want to just salt)
-2 cups leftover cooked cold or room temperature rice
-1/2-1 cup chopped pork ham
-1 onion minced
-4 clove garlic finely minced
-soy sauce to taste (I used 1 tablespoon)
-1/2 cup or 1 cup peas (for color)

(1) Get beaten seasoned eggs, and heat oil on medium high heat in a pan, add eggs and cook them like scrambled eggs, kind of swish them a little and be gentle, make them sort of like a omelet. Set aside and chop em up a bit.
(2) Add more oil to pan not a lot, heat it up on medium high and add onion, garlic, and chopped ham, sautee together until fragrant and onion is slightly translucent.
(3) Add rice and break the rice up, you don't want any clumps of rice, it should be a little loose, when rice is heated through and well mixed, drizzle with some soy sauce (about 1 tablespoon more or less to taste), fold in cooked eggs and peas.
(4) Your done! Very simple. I had this for breakfast this morning with some "Cafe Con Leche" (shot of Cuban coffee diluted in a cup of hot milk)
P.S. You can use leftover "Lechon Asado" instead of ham (Cuban Roast Pork marinaded in citrus then roasted yum... recipe for that some other time in my home we usually do it with lime but sour oranges are the best I'm waiting to go visit a friend to get some sour oranges from their garden for a good cuban roast pork).

Monday, September 29, 2008

Higado Encebollado Con Papa Frita (Liver and Onions Served with French Fries)

This is the Cuban version of "Liver and Onions" it's simply seasoned marinaded beef liver steaks cooked quickly then in the drippings we sautee lots of onions cut into rings and smother it. Usually serve it with thick cut homemade french fries and white rice (that has been steamed with a little salt and some olive oil) and some limes to squeeze over the liver when eating it.

This recipe uses the SAME EXACT ingredients as "Higado a la Vizcaina" which is a liver, onion, and potato stir fry. The only difference is the procedure and the amount of certain things which creates a totally different feel to the dish and everything is mixed.

Very important for you to know this dish has to be served hot just after cooking as soon as possible for it to be it's best. In my home we already have the plates warmed the hot rice served and the french fried as well as the table ready, that way we just fry the liver steaks and immediately put on plate hot and family can get it and sit down to enjoy it hot, while cook the onions quickly and serve it over liver.

-1 ½ lbs. beef liver
-6-12 cloves garlic (pressed through a garlic press or mashed in a mortar to a paste)
-1 or 1 1/2teaspoon ground cumin
-1 1/2- 2 teaspoons salt or more to taste
-3 tablespoons white vinegar
-2 medium red onions cut into medium thin rings
-4 or 5 medium russet potatoes peeled and cut into thick juliennes
-salt to taste
-Oil to deep-fry, brown and sautee stuff
-4 limes or more (depends how much you use to serve and like squeezed over it)

(1) Beef liver washed, cleaned, remove nerves, silver skin, and fat leave as clean as possible even if you must waste some of the liver meat. I buy 1 ½ lbs because I end up throwing ½ after cleaning. HUGE TIP when buying liver make sure your butcher shows you all sides of it because if the entire back area or not seen area has lots of nerves and holes IT IS NO GOOD tell him to get you another because nerves and other bad parts curl and give a very hard texture sometimes. UNLESS YOU ARE POOR PLEASE JJUST CLEAN IT WELL AND REMOVE ANY QUESTIONABLE AREAS THE FINAL RESULT IS WORTH IT.
(2)Now marinade the liver by adding the ground cumin, salt, garlic, and vinegar and mixing it all well together. Cut the onions into rings and place over marinading liver. Close and seal well in whatever you put the liver in and marinade around 1 hour (if your in a hurry you don't have to marinade it and just season and continue, but marinading will give best results for this) I KNOW THE LIVER LOOKS GREY IN THE PICTURE BUT IT'S NOT BECAUSE IT IS BAD SIMPLY SINCE I TOSSED IT WITH THE VINEGAR THE VINEGAR IMMEDIATELY DESTROYS THE DARK RED COLOR AND STARTS TO WORK INTO THE MEAT WITH IT'S ACID.
(3)Get the potatoes peeled and cut into thick, put them in a bowl with water. Heat enough oil on medium high to deep-fry or pan-fry for about 5 minutes more or less, to test it you can dip the end of a wooden spoon if it bubbles or sizzles oil is hot enough. Now drain the potatoes well and pat dry. Add to oil to fry in one layer, but it's okay if you have to crowd some in (I did) let this fry on medium high uncovered for about 20 minutes every 7 minutes you can move around and turn them until golden. Then drain and set aside on a plate with paper towels uncovered and lightly salted. Set aside.
(4)Now that potatoes are done, get you liver, heat a skillet or wok on the highest heat you have available, heat the oil until you see a small whiff of air or breath (like steam sort of like smoking it's very slight and light) it has to be hot, add the steaks in one layer, fry until well browned and cooked on one side then turn, if your unsure if it is fully cooked feel free to cut an opening to check if it's done. You may need to cook in probably 2 batches if your wok or skillet isn't big enough (I did because I had 6 medium liver steaks).
(5)Quickly set aside and add a little more oil, sautee the ringed onions from the marinade until it get's rid of raw taste deglaze pan with some fresh squeezed lime juice (have on hand).
(6)Serve liver immediately, put some of the cooked onions over it, serve with rice and the fried potatoes as well as some lime wedges to squeeze over liver. The freshly squeezed lime is important! It won't taste as good or the same without some freshly squeezed lime over it.
P.S. Very comforting Cuban meal, you could serve with a raw salad of your choice (usually thin sliced into rounds or half-moons cucumber, tomato, onion, lettuce dressed in olive oil, lime, and salt. My mom likes to mash 1 garlic clove to a paste and add it to the salad dressing for a garlicky taste similar to Mojo de Ajo but a very light version) but then again... potatoes and onions are veggies why eat salad (or so I tell myself ha ha)

ALSO you could serve it with some Cuban Black Beans but I didn't because I had for lunch a huge bowl of leftover "Potaje de Frijoles Colorados" (Cuban Red Bean Stew) so now more beans for the day :)

On seperate note Joan Nova from a blog called "Foodalogue", I would like to give her a "thank you" on my blog for presenting me with this "cute" award:

It's purpose is simply to show appreciation among food bloggers,

Thanks now I feel more special ha ha. I also got another award from Nuria from "Spanish Recipes" (one of my favorite blogs) titles "I <3 style="font-weight: bold;">Chocoholic awards go to 4 blogs that I enjoy the most:
(1)Spanish Recipes by Nuria which is mostly Spanish cooking from Barcelona written in english to share with others.
(2)La Cocina de Lechuza by Pilar Lechuza, very simple tasty home style Galician cooking blogging all the way from Galicia, Spain. It's in Spanish though so good luck translating,
(3)Maangchi from maangchi.com because she puts so much heart into it, she takes time to record videos, answer comments, make sections for ingredients, etc. she even made a little book about her cooking. I love her Korean food, I am lucky to have a Korean store nearby and will be cooking more Korean food thanks to her :)
(4)Marlyn from "My Cuban Traumas" she is just so consistent with her posts lately and has some great desserts. Mostly Cuban cooking focused.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Potaje de Frijoles Colorados (Cuban Red Bean Stew)

This is my grandmothers recipe for "Potaje de Frijoles Colorados" (Cuban Red Beans Stew), this is a heavy thick stew made of red beans with pork, potatoes, winter squash, Cuban sofrito made in bacon grease heavy on the garlic seasoned with Cuban spices predominantly cumin and a hint of oregano and or bay leaves.

It can be served in a large bowl over white rice, or the rice can be on the side. If you don't want rice you can eat it with crusty bread or bread with garlic and olive oil or another way make "Pan Frito" (heat olive oil with a bit of garlic and toast it in the oil) this with a nice raw salad on the side and a sweet desserts to top it of closing the meal with a shot of Cuban coffee is comfort.

This stew is anti-kosher as it relies heavily on pork for great flavor.

-2 cups large red kidney beans
-1 1/2 pounds pork stew meat well cleaned rinsed well in water and maybe cleaned with some lime juice then rinsed again
-1 small pork bone (optional) clean same way as pork meat
-salt to taste at least 2-3 teaspoons
-2 heaping tablespoonfuls of bacon grease or lard or about 1/4 cup olive oil
-1 large green bell pepper (or 1/2 red bell pepper and 1/2 green bell pepper)
-1 onion minced
-6-12 cloves of garlic finely minced (mashed or through a garlic press)
-1 can 8 oz. tomato sauce
-1 teaspoons cumin
-1/2 teaspoon oregano or 2 bay leaves (one or the other not both)
-1 lbs. Calabaza, peeled and cut into medium chunks (may substitute for "Kabucha" squash, "Butternut Squash", or other orange colored winter squashes)
-2-4 small potatoes cut into chunks peeled

(1)Wash beans well and soak over night in enough water to cover beans and pork 2 inches.

(4) Boil beans, with pork and two bay leaves, add about 3 teaspoons salt (or else your pork may be bland) cook together until tender.
(3 ) Make a sofrito heat 1/2 lbs bacon chopped or bacon grease or lard. Make sofrito by sauteeing onion and bell pepper til tender and translucent, then add garlic and sautee til fragrant. If using tomato sauce add and stir in now.

(4) Add the sofrito (sauteed onion, garlic, bell pepper, and tomato if used) to the beans along with calabaza and potatoes. Season with more salt if needed, add cumin. Allow everything to boil together for about 25- 30 minutes until potatoes and calabaza are tender
(5)Uncover, your done. It should be somewhat thick if it isn't you added to much water or you can thicken by mashing some of the beans in it.
-You can add Spanish Chorizo if desired my grandma always made it without for some reason.

Flan de Queso (Cheese Flan)

Almost all Spanish speaking countries and others in their cuisine have the dessert "Flan", Mexicans, Central Americans, South Americans, Cubans and other Carribean nations, Spain, France calls it "Creme Caramel", Filipinos call it "Leche Flan" etc. it is very popular.

The recipe I am making is from a Mexican woman who is very elderly that my mother takes care of, she was in the mood for some dessert one day and shared the recipe with my mother, and so my mother shared it with me, today was a scorching hot day here in Californias south so I actually went with my mother to work (again her work is taking care of this lady and since her oven is electric and doesn't heat the house I borrowed her kitchen to make the flan and then came back home that way my house wouldn't over heat.

This is my first attempt at making a type of flan on my own. "Flan" is a firm caramel custurd. Flan has many variations, but usually the basic one is condensed milk, evaporated milk, eggs, and vanilla extract with a light caramel syrup on it.

Other variations are fruit flavored, or there is a more elaborate one called "Choco Flan" which is deviles food cake with a layer of flan on top. (My aunt taught me the "Choco Flan" she calls it "Pan Impossible" but that will be reserved for a later blog post.)

Again the flan I am posting today is my mother's friend recipe. It has cream cheese incorporated into it, the cream cheese makes it more dense and heavy flan, which feels like a cross between a traditional flan and cream cheese. I suggest you try it out. She simply calls it "Flan" but I call it "Flan de Queso" because well regular flan has no cream cheese.

Unfortunately I really don't have my own family recipe for many Cuban desserts since my grandmother never made the elaborate desserts (well my Dad say's she used to when he was young but she lost practice with age) but what she did teach me was stuff like "Majarete" (sweet type of corn pudding), "Natilla" (cuban rich vanilla pudding infused with cinnamon and lime peel), "Pudin de Pan"(bread pudding), "Frituritas de Malanga Dulces En Almibar" (Malanga Fritters in Cane Sugar Syrup and just about any fruit and certain things in heavy cane syrup), "Arroz Con Leche" (rice pudding), Frituritas de Guayba Con Queso (deep-fried wontons stuffed with cream cheese and guava paste) those will all have their own posts later on, can't make them all to often or at once or I'd gain a bunch of weight.

Main Ingredients:
5 eggs (both whites and yolks) (I used 8 originally but re-did it with 5 it's better that way)
1 can evaporated milk
1 can sweetened condensed milk
1 package 8 oz. Cream Cheese (Philadelphia cream cheese)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Ingredients for caramel coating:
1 cup white sugar

(1)Blend all main ingredients in a blender in 2 seperate batches or 1 each batch blend just until incorporated

(2)Put sugar in a metal pan on medium heat stirring occasionally until it darkens and reaches it's caramel point.

(3)Immediately pour into mould and move around gently to make sure it coats the mold well it will harden fast

(4)Now when it hardens add main ingredient mixture, but pass it through a strainer
(5)Cover tightly with foil and put a top if your mold has it.
(6)You need a deep large pot filled with hot water that you boiled in it, add the flan mold that is well sealed, put in a oven that is heated to 350 degrees fahrenheit. Or just a cake pan that your flan mold can fit in.
(7)Leave in oven about 45-60 minutes, check it occasionally and poke with a knife to check if it is done, if it comes out clean it is ready to remove.
(8)Now cool it completely (this may take a while) when refridgerate when it's cool, when ready to present, put a plate on top and invert it, it will fall flat upside down and now the caramel coating will be exposed.

P.S. You can add sugar to the batter if you want but we don't like it overly sweet in my house it's already sweet enough from the caramel and the sweetened condensed milk but feel free to add more sugar to the blended ingredients if it suits your taste more.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Café Cubano (Cuban Coffee)

Cuban coffee, it pretty much is the Cuban version of espresso which is a very concentrated form of coffee drink that is sweet and infused with sugar. It is usually done in an Italian Stove Top Espresso Maker.

The Cuban Coffee is done with either "Bustelo", "Pilon", or "La Llave" brands of espresso other wise it won't taste the same. In my household we have always used "Bustelo" and it may sound concieted and biased but I think Cuban coffee is the best coffee! Haha!

In the mornings it is usually served as "Cafe Con Leche" in which you dilute 1 shot into 1 cup of hot whole milk and have with some buttered and sugared bread or any pastry.

Cuban coffee just shoots me with a jolt of energy and really wakes me up, it makes me jolly and happy and I get all wierd and laugh tons (must be the caffiene running through my veins). In a Cuban household the Cuban coffee is not something just for adults we give it to little kids to, I remember drinking this stuff since I was small, my mother (who isn't Cuban and wasn't used to this would forbid me from coffee, but my lovely grandmother whom I call "Tata" would always sneak me my shots of espresso then I would get all jolly and hyper)

My grandmother always said that the reason Cubans talk so fast, and have vibrant in your face personalities is because they drink this so often she said (being sarcastic) in Spanish, "Quando llege a Cuba miraba tantos Gallego con los nervios de punta que quando se ajuntaban no solo se entendian entre ellos, y siempre corriendo pa'donde evan, porque en casda esquina se tomaban un cafe cubano" which translates to, "When I arrived at Cuba for the first time, I saw all these Galicians (she reffered to Spanish immigrants to Cuba or those of Spanish descent) running around talking extremely fast they where wired from the Cuban coffee they drank at every corner)

My grandmother never made it with the fancy "espumita" (foam formed with the creamed sugar) she just dumped the sugar in before serving, she said, "Que espuma ni que nada, yo ago todo a lo Gallego (deciendo a lo bruto) a mi que me emporta la espuma chico sabe igual"
transaltes to, "What foam? I do everything carefree, what do I care about the foam and what not, it still tastes the same boy" haha I love her.

Today I was feeling a little blue and 2 shots of these revived me, made me energized, and feel a bit jolly it gave me a boost to go and do exercise and relieve some stress, better than drinking some "Mojitos" right? haha.

Ingredients and things you will need:
-Italian Coffee Pot (you know the espresso maker that goes on top of stove)
-Cafe Bustelo or Pilon (the brands used for Cuban espresso)
-water (duh)
-sugar (this is suppose to be sweet)

(1)Fill the bottom part up to the first part of the first line on the rim with drinking water.

(2)Fill the strainer with the Bustelo Coffee, pack it firmly in, then connect it back on to the bottom part.

(3)Put the really top part on. Put on stove on medium heat.

(4)Now put about 4 heaping tablespoons sugar (this is sweet remember) it's about 1/2 tablespoon per small tea cup or whatever it's called, mine makes about 8 servings, put the sugar into a small pitcher.
(5)When the coffee pot starts to fill with some coffee, turn of heat, and pour a small amount into the sugar, and whisk it with a spoon or fork to cream the sugar, meanwhile put the pot back and turn heat back on and wait for it to be done.
(6)Now when coffee is done pour it into the small pitcher carefully and the creamed sugar will make a sugary foam on top. Pour into the little cup and savor the moment.
Swirled it a bit so you can see the coffee under the foam blanket