Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Cuban Connection

After 30 some years of living in Tampa, Cuban food is part of me now. Chicken and yellow rice has become a staple in our diet, my grandson's favorite. It starts slowly when you come here. First you have a Cuban sandwich or Cuban toast and Cafe con Leche (strong coffee with hot milk). My son went to visit his relatives in Missouri when he was young and asked for black beans and yellow rice. At first they thought he was kidding, but his stepmother found the ingredients and made the black beans. The family wasn't impressed. No flavor. They didn't know the small touches, garlic, peppers, onions, vinegar, olive oil, bay leaf, pork jowl to season the beans just right. (Though no one can beat them at making great northern or pinto bean soup!)

It is different today. Black beans are much more popular than they were back then. It is hard for me to judge since I use them almost weekly. Anyway you gradually become more adventurous until you are a bit of a gourmet. I don't eat Cuban food as often as I would like since my husband is not a fan of garlic but I did go to a favorite little Cuban eatery last night and I thought you might like to hear about the offerings. Cuban food is famous for huge servings and cheap prices. I went to Pipo's which has been a favorite for years. The flavor was not what I remember though from the little hole in the wall I used to visit. This restaurant was much prettier but I think the food has been Americanized. The prices were a little higher, too.

I had the speciality, roast pork and yellow rice. It was good but not as brown and rich and garlicy as I remember. It is traditionally marinated with a mojo sauce of sour orange, onion and garlic and cooked until it falls apart. Here are some other offerings from the menu:

Boliche - eye of round stuffed with chirizo sausage
Palomilla Steak - breaded steak with garlic, onions and lime
Milanesa Steak - breaded steak with marinara, chopped eggs, peas, parsley, pimentos and cheese
Ropa Vieja - shredded flank steak in a rich stew with onions and peppers
Picadillo - ground beef with onions, peppers, capers and olives
Russian Trout - breaded fish filet with white wine and butter sauce with onions, chopped eggs, peas, pimentos and parsley
Caldo Gallego - rich spicy soup of navy beans, potato and turnip greans. (I think my old version used to have chirizo. I add a lot of hot sauce especially when I have a cold.)
Fried Plantains - Crispy, salty, slightly sweet banana-like chunks.

Ymmmm! All served with huge mounds of delicious yellow rice, black beans and chewy Cuban bread.
I have decided. When my neighbor, Sylvia, gets home from her travels I will buy the ingredients and have her make us a feast. She often brings down homemade black beans but I want to taste her Palomillo Steak and her Boliche. She also brings flan which is actually not a favorite even of mine. I usually like custard deserts, but flan is not one of my favorites. I don't know how to tell her though since it is made with love, expensive ingredients and a great deal of trouble. Have I made you hungry? I am eating yellow rice for breakfast! Would have cuban toast, too, but we don't have any.


  1. Cuban food is one of my top three favorites. I have a Cuban friend who has promised to send "real" Cuban recipes, I'm still waiting. Soon I hope. I use several from The Columbia Restaurant.

  2. Columbia Restaurant is the best!

  3. loved reading all of this...i am going to have to try something...

    good to see you at farmhouse, my friend

    kary and teddy

  4. You're right! Cuban food grows on you! Try some cinnamon in your black beans... I did impulsively one day and it rocked!!
    Love, Steph
    PS- LOVE your new blog! I always enjoy coming to your house and finding out there's dinner!