Thursday, November 19, 2009

Guiso de Berenjena (Cuban Eggplant Stew)

This eggplant dish is very healthy in that the eggplant being a vegetable that absorbs a lot of oil doesn't get deep-fried or sauteed in oil instead it is simmered in a savory creole style tomato based sauce with bits of ham, pork or beef for flavor and for freshness minced cilantro or parsley towards the end.

This is my Tata's recipe (grandmother) right now she is at home with us recovering from a fracture she had from a fall, and moved back in temporarily or permanently (the choice is hers I love her) anyways I had 3 Chinese eggplants sitting in the fridge, I was gonna make eggplant in a Chinese fashion braised in "Yuxiang" sauce (sauteed garlic, ginger, scallions, chili peppers, chili bean sauce, soy sauce, salt, sugar brought together with some chicken stock thickened with corn starch to form a sauce can have ground pork, beef, or be vegetarian and if you please some Sichuan peppercorns can be added to add a numbing effect) but knowing my grandmother she wouldn't be able to eat this (doesn't tolerate spiciness and isn't very open to different things) so I wanted to make something with flavors she is more used to.

So I asked her, "Tata I read somewhere about a Cuban eggplant stew do you know a recipe for it or how to make it? Have you ever made it?" she was like sure "do this and that, etc." and so here is the recipe. Let me tell you it was very very delicious and I think I will be making it again :)


-3 large Chinese Eggplants (or 1 large American one) cut into small cubes
-1 large onion minced
-1 green or red bell pepper minced
-4 cloves garlic mashed to a paste or finely minced
-1/2 lbs. ham or beef or pork meat cut into tiny cubes (like less than 1/2 inch small minced)
-1 can 8 oz. tomato sauce
-2 cups beef broth or water
-salt to taste
-1 teaspoon ground cumin
-1/2 bunch of very finely minced parsley or cilantro
-extra- virgin olive oil (generous amount to coat pan well)


(1) Heat oil on medium high, brown chopped meat or ham together with onion and bell pepper, when meat or ham is slightly browned and onions are translucent add garlic, sautee until fragrant.

(2) Add tomato sauce, higher heat to high let it bubble, add beef broth or water bring to a high boil, now add cumin, stir well, taste if it needs more salt.

(3) Add chopped eggplant to boiling sauce, stir well, when boiling cover on medium low for about 5-10 minutes (depends)

(4) Now sprinkle in generous amount of parsley or cilantro and turn off heat. Serve with rice and whatever meat dish you want.

*The meat or ham is added for flavor, it's not the main part of the dish. My grandmother say's you can also use a little ground pork or beef instead of tiny cubed meat, and if you don't have ham that can be cut in chunks just chop finely the sliced ham about 4-6 slices. She doesn't like this vegetarian by the way but if you insist go head it will still be delicious in my opinion (common a sofrito, cumin, and beef broth it's bound to be delicious)

*If using American eggplant you may want to peel it.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Guiso de Carne Con Platano (Cuban Beef and Plantain Stew)

I personally never cooked this at home, I was flipping through one of my Cuban cookbooks "Memories of a Cuban Kitchen" by Mary Urrutia Randelman whom is a Cuban exile from pre- castro Havana, Cuba and has very delicious recipes. Anyways I bumped into this beef and plantain stew she called "Carne Guisada Con Platano" (pg. 129) in the book and had some plantains sitting on the counter top and a large amount of beef chuck so I said, "Why not sounds interesting" of course I did it my way, I only used her recipe as a guideline and inspiration. I use the same spices just different proportions, use lard instead of olive oil (trust me it goes really well here, lard gives Cuban meat dishes a wonderful taste), less wine, don't use beef stock (for what I didn't have it on hand and the beef is gonna boil for a long time in the sauce so there's your beefy flavor) and add a generous amount of cilantro and leave wiggle room for any other changes which I think are fine.

The semi sweet, semi-ripe plantains give it a nice sweetness and plantain taste, BUT and it's a big BUT (haha just kidding) I know some aren't fond of sweet in their dishes, so one could easily use green plantains and end up with a delicious stew, or leftover Tostones or heck if you have the time fry tostones just to add to it (although if you go through the trouble of making them shouldn't you just eat them as a side?)

-1/2 cup lard or olive oil (I use lard)
-4 1/2 lbs. beef chuck cut into 2 inch pieces (you can use beef stew meat to)
-salt to taste
-ground black pepper to taste (I use about 1 teaspoon)
-2 medium onions minced
-2 medium green bell peppers minced
-1 head of garlic mashed (garlic press or mortar)
-1 cup dry white wine
-2 cans 8 oz ounces each tomato sauce
-water (enough to cover meat)
-1 teaspoon dried oregano
-3-4 bay leaves
-1 tablespoon ground cumin
-1 tablespoons sweet smoked Spanish paprika (optional use it if you have it though)
-6 large semi-ripe plantains peeled cut into 2 inch rounds (yellow or yellow with black spots)
-1 large bunch of cilantro, washed, chopped up finely

(1) Pat- dry meat, heat a very large shallow pan on very high heat, when pan is super hot add lard, melt it until it slightly smokes, add beef all in one layer, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Brown meat in lard (this may take a long time, depending on how much liquid your meat releases it took me about 20- 30 minutes)

(2) Meanwhile prep everything, when meat is browned sautee onions, bell pepper about 7 minutes on medium high, add garlic stir until fragrant, deglaze with wine, add tomato sauce and water bring to a rolling boil.

(3) Now add more salt if nesseccary, throw all the spices (cumin, sweet smoked spanish paprika and bay leaves), bring to a rolling boil, cover and simmer on low for about 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours.(4) When meat is tender add plantains, cover and cook an additional 30 minutes, add more water if nesseccary. Finally when plantains are tender stir in cilantro.
(5) Serve with fluffy white rice and whatever sides you'd like :)
I cooked a really large amount you can cut the recipe in half. The reason I cooked so much is because I want leftovers to take to school with me for lunch.

(2) I REPEAT Some people don't like semi-ripe plantains because of the sweetness they impart. You can substitute the semi-ripe plantains for green plantains. Or even if you want to go through the trouble you can add Tostones instead to soak up the deliciousness in that case simmer only 5- 10 minutes instead of 30.

(3) You can use pork instead of beef.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Pulpeta (Cuban Meatloaf)

Pulpeta is the Cuban version of American meat loaf. American meat loaf is usually made from seasoned ground meat binded with eggs and breadcrumbs then baked in the oven usually glazed with ketchup or tomato sauce. In general American meatloaf can be bland and boring (most meat loafs from restaurants and such). Although I must say if done right it can also be delicious.

What makes this Cuban version so different? Well for one the meat loaf isn't cooked in the oven. It is fried on the stovetop until well browned or a golden crust forms, then it is simmered in a delicious creole sauce. Generally it will also have hard boiled egg in the center for looks.

To be honest in my family we never made Pulpeta, I've only read of it, and seen it on other Cuban blogs. I was craving a delicious Pulpeta and since I don't have a family recipe for it or anything then I decided to come up with my own :) This is my version of the Cuban meatloaf.

Ingredients for loaf:

-1 1/2 lbs. ground beef
-1 1/2 lbs. ground pork
-1/2 lbs. ground ham (grind your own in a food processor)
-1 heaping tablespoon sweet smoked spanish paprika
-1 heaping teaspoon hot smoked spanish paprika
-1 heaping teaspoon ground black pepper
-1 heaping teaspoon ground oregano
-3-4 cloves garlic mashed to a paste
-1 1/2 teaspoons salt (more or less to taste)
-3 large eggs beaten (or 4 regular ones)
-1/2 cup bread crumbs or cracker meal
-3 hard boiled eggs

Ingredients for Sauce:

-1/2 cup olive oil (more or less)
-1 red or green bell pepper minced
-1 onion minced
-6-8 cloves garlic minced
-1 can 8 oz. tomato sauce
-1/2 cup dry white wine
-1- 2 cup water
-salt to taste
-1 teaspoon ground cumin
-1/4- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
-2 bay leaves

Garnish (optional):
1/4- 1/2 cup sweet peas

(1) Mix ground pork, ground beef, ground ham, with smoked sweet and hot spanish paprika, black pepper, oregano, garlic, salt, eggs, and bread crumbs/ cracker meal. Form into a loaf and cut open, fill with hard boiled egg and let rest in fridge wrapped in plastic wrap or something for about 2 hours. ALSO PLEASE DO NOT OVER MIX it makes the loaf tougher. The meat less tender

(2) Now heat a large frying pan on high heat till really hot, lower to medium high, kinda high but not super high, add generous amount of olive oil in a large frying pan allow to heat til it barely smokes. Brown loaf carefully on all sides. (Yes this can be intimidating and hard my mom did it for me while I took pictures ha ha) When well browned set aside.

(3) In same pan start forming your sauce sautee onions and bell peppers until onion is translucent about 5-7 minutes on medium high heat, then add garlic and sautee until fragrant another 1-2 minutes, deglaze with wine, add tomato sauce, water, salt, cumin, and bay leaves bring to a boil.

(4) Throw sauce in a deep pot, bring back to boil, add browned meatloaf, spoon over sauce, when sauce is boiling cover and simmer on low for about 25 minutes, flip the loaf carefully to the other side spoon sauce over, simmer an additional 25 minutes. Now add minced cilantro and peas all over.

(5) You can transfer loaf to a large plate to slice it and leave the rest of the sauce in the pot, use sauce to spoon over slices as much as you like. We served it with simple home made mashed potatoes (potatoes, milk, butter, salt and if you wish a drizzle of good olive oil) which we used the sauce from cooking the loaf as gravy to top the mashed potatoes one could also enjoy it with rice, and also served it with a simple salad (onion, cucumber, tomato, avocado with lemon or lime juice, olive oil, and salt)

*Do your best not to make cracks or openings when browning loaf, because when simmering the meat this sounds gross but the scum or blood whatever is in the meat will clump and ooze out, if this happens scoop it out and remove.

*I know not everyone has access to sweet smoked Spanish paprika, or hot smoked Spanish paprika. If you still want to make this just omit it and season with cumin, oregano, and black pepper it will still be delicious but just different. The way I made mine is I wanted it to taste like a cross between sweet savory ham and delicious smokey Spanish chorizo but you can season it however you want, let this recipe be for inspiration, make your own sauce, season the loaf your way, make it yours sometimes the best stuff comes out from experimentation.

*If frying 1 large loaf is intimidating or you don't want such a large loaf you can make two small ones and fry both of them and simmer both together in the sauce.