Saturday, September 26, 2009

Menu 10: A Cuban Dinner

Picadillo (Mexican [Cuban as well] Meat Hash)
David, the fellow who cuts my hair, and his partner Jason recently traveled to Cuba as part of the 40th anniversary celebration of the Vinceremos Brigade. They had very full days beginning with early morning field work, meetings with Cuban dignitaries, long bus rides, and evening parties with music, dancing, and rum. I asked about the food, of course. Not a great report: meal after meal of rice and beans and very plain chicken. So I began to think about what a really wonderful simple Cuban meal might taste like and this is what I imagined.

1½ pounds lean ground beef (or a combination of ground beef and pork)
1 large onion, chopped
3 tablespoons oil
2 fresh tomatoes or 4 fresh Romas, seeded and chopped
1 cup canned diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon chile powder (molido, ancho, or passila)
2 teaspoons salt
½ cup raisins
¼ cup slivered green olives
½ cup slivered blanched almonds
A mix of chopped parsley, cilantro, and green onions, optional
Corn or flour tortillas, warmed in the oven or microwave
Sour cream, optional

1. Cook the onions in a sauté pan or pottery skillet until translucent and soft. Add the meat and cook until done. If you are using the pottery skillet, keep the heat on medium to prevent cracking. This process will take longer.
2. Add all the remaining ingredients except the almonds. Bring to a simmer and cook until most of the liquid has evaporated.
3. Stir in the almonds. Place in a serving bowl or bring the pottery skillet to the table and sprinkle with the optional parsley, cilantro, and green onions.
4. Fill the tortilla with a nice amount of the picadillo and sour cream, as desired. Wrap and eat with your hands.

4-5 servings
Adapted from Elena Zelayeta’s Elena’s Secrets of Mexican Cooking

Ensalada criolla (Creole Salad)

1 large avocado, peeled and pitted, cut into chunks
2 medium tomatoes, seeded and diced
½ medium red onion, sliced thinly
6 tablespoons Vinagreta Cubana (see below)
Salt to taste

1. Right before serving, place the avocado, tomatoes, and onions in a mixing bowl.
2. Add the vinaigrette and mix to combine. Season with salt to taste.

4 servings
Adapted from Alex Garcia’s In a Cuban Kitchen

Vinagreta Cubana (Cuban Vinaigrette)

1 teaspoon Grey Poupon mustard
1 small garlic clove, pressed
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice or white vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Salt and black pepper to taste

1. Combine the mustard, garlic, and lime juice in a small mixing bowl. Whisk in the olive oil in a steady stream.
2. Add the parsley, cilantro, salt and pepper and mix thoroughly.

Makes ¾ cup
Adapted from Alex Garcia’s In a Cuban Kitchen

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