In pursuit of new cuisines to try out in the kitchen, a visit to the library turned out quite productive leading me to this interesting find – a cookbook of Cuban recipes, “Cuba! Recipes And Stories From The Cuban Kitchen”. Its hardbound cover was not only eye-catching but the photography inside was artistic – not only of the recipes, but also of the Cuban people in their natural settings. I liked its simple ingredients and a seemingly authentic feel to its featured dishes. No doubt, this book would contain recipes that would be great additions to my collection.
This cookbook became a timely choice as I planned the menu for a dinner party with a visiting family from Philadelphia and some local friends. This gathering has taken place for the past several years, coinciding with a conference on farming that our friends attend each year here in Central Pennsylvania. It’s a gathering in our house that is joyously anticipated, catching up with each other while the kids do the same with their own little friends, having fun running around the house playing their little games. The drinks are poured, appetizers are passed around and the merriment lasts all night with good food, great company and lively conversation.
These gatherings give me the opportunity to really get into cooking. In prior years, I’ve always prepared Filipino dishes. It began as an introduction to them of my native cuisine. The menu would pretty remain the same each year as “requested” by our guests – Lumpia Shanghai (small egg rolls filled with shrimp and ground pork), Wonton Soup (wontons filled with the same filling as the Lumpia) and Pancit (a stir-fried noodle dish, the Filipino version of Chinese Lo Mein) and a green salad (made with Napa Cabbage, edamame and assorted vegetables with an asian peanut dressing). Our friends come with the best wines and a delicious dessert.
But this year had to be different – our friends had embraced gluten-free diets. The wheat found in wonton wrappers and noodles would not do this time. Thus begins our adventure with Cuban cuisine!
Among the amazing choices in the book, I chose “Crispy Pork with Mango Salsa” as our appetizer. Marinated morsels of pork shoulder in lime juice, fresh garlic and spices.
The pork is deep-fried into a lovely darker shade of brown, nicely-crispy and served with a beautiful mango salsa. Our guests loved it all!
No Cuban meal would be complete without…..Beans and Rice! This is the very best recipe I have used making this latin staple. Having bacon bits as part of it is a very nice touch.
Our main course was “Ropa Vieja”, a familiar recipe in latin cuisines. Of course I had to try their version and it turned out perfect – aromatic and oh-so-flavorful. Made in a dutch oven and simmered for a few hours, the beef chuck was tender and succulent.
Added to this delectable line-up, we also had an Avocado-Feta-Salsa Dip with tortilla chips as a second appetizer. Mojitos were flowing, thanks to the Hubby. Our friend brought King Cake for dessert, along with Cookies & Cream, Coconut Chip and Alumni Swirl Ice Cream from Penn State University’s Creamery. Anyone who’s been to The Creamery knows their ice cream is the best ever!
Having been my first time making each of these recipes, I was a bit nervous. But they did not disappoint – this dinner was a hit, happy bellies and expanded palates all around!
I so wish I could share all of the recipes online! Check if your local library has this book and give it a test-drive. It’s a winner, for sure. I know which cookbook I am buying next!
“Cuba! Recipes And Stories From The Cuban Kitchen” by Dan Goldberg, Andrea Kuhn and Jody Eddy. Published in 2016. Hardbound ISBN# 978-1-60774-986-8.