Our Very Own Paladares

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I know I’m not alone when I say that I’d like to visit Cuba one day.  It’s definitely on my travel bucket list.  With regulations easing up, it looks more and more feasible that I’ll be able to make this dream come true and eat in one of the authentic Paladares.  In Cuba, a Paladares is a restaurant run by self employers, usually family run, and often in the home of the family.

Recently I was with a few good friends and they told me that their husbands were sailing to Cuba in May.  Everything about this trip sounds amazing.  They are taking a large catamaran with two captains on board.  As a woman who grew up going to sailing camp, the thought of sailing to Cuba is more than just a little enticing, but alas, it’s not my time yet.  But lucky me, we decided to have a Cuban themed brunch to celebrate the guys upcoming trip.  You can always count on me to say yes to an opportunity to cook good food and eat and drink with friends.  We did so yesterday.

Our hosts were incredibly gracious and made each of us feel welcome and loved.  While the house was impeccably designed and needed no further decoration, our host had added her special themed touches to take the brunch up another notch.  We planned this event in my favorite potluck style.  Every couple brought something delicious to the table.  I can only offer the recipes for the food that I took to the brunch,  but I had to show all of the wonderful food that was there.  I made my own version of pulled pork, tostones, and black beans, but the menu was so much more than my small contribution.  In a way, we created our very own Paladares, and that, along with great fellowship, filled my cup.

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Pulled Pork and Tostones
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Black Beans with fresh avocado
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White rice with cilantro
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Black Beans with Cilantro
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Cuban Panini’s with ham and pickles made with an amazing homemade caramelized onion bread
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American take on a Cuban sandwich made with crescent rolls
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Fresh Watercress salad with thinly sliced red onion, avocado, lime and a light vinaigrette
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Flan so shiny that it’s impossible to take a picture without a reflection of my hand
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Mojitos made with freshly squeezed lime juice and muddled mint. 
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Champagne, Prosecco, White Burgundy and a Rum sampling were provided by our generous hosts, as well

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Crockpot Pulled Pork

Ingredients:

4 pound pork shoulder-trim excess fat
1 medium yellow onion thinly sliced
sea salt
cumin
black pepper
1/2 cup organic apple cider vinegar
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cups chicken broth
14 ounce diced tomatoes
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 tbsp lime zest
Juice of 1 lime

Pat pork shoulder down with paper towels and season with sea salt, fresh cracked black pepper, and cumin.   Drizzle olive oil into the base of the crock pot and scatter onion into the base.  Place pork shoulder onto the nest of onions and pour chicken broth, vinegar, and tomatoes into crockpot.  Mix in the brown sugar and turn crockpot to low.  Simmer for 6 hours until the pork is done and will easily shred with forks.  Remove the pork and use two forks to shred.  Once shredded,  squeeze the fresh lime juice over the pork and add lime zest and another sprinkle of cumin.  Enjoy!

Spicy Black Beans

Ingredients:

16 ounce dried black beans
4 cups Chicken or Vegetable broth
1 large jalapeno, seeds removed and diced
1 large fresno pepper, seeds removed and diced
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3 garlic cloves minced
2 tbsp. olive oil
salt
pepper
cumin

In a large stock pot, add beans and pour boiling water over beans until they are covered.  Cover with a lid and let them sit for two hours.  Drain beans.  While the beans are draining, add olive oil to pot and heat to medium high heat.  Add onion and stir often until softened.  Add peppers and garlic and continue to stir.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and cumin and cook until fragrant. (2-3 minutes)  Add beans back to pot and cover with broth.  Bring to a boil and simmer on low for 2 hours.

Tostones

Ingredients:

4 large plaintains
canola, olive, or coconut oil to fry plaintains
cumin
salt
pepper
lime zest

Peel plaintains and cut on a diagonal into 2″ slices.  Heat a large frying pan with the oil of your choice.  The oil will need to be deep enough to meet the tops of the plaintains.  Heat oil to medium high heat.  Carefully add plaintains and fry for one minute and flip and fry another minute.  Remove and drain on a paper towel.  Use a glass to smash each piece into half the width and return to frying pan and repeat.  Remove from pan and place back onto a fresh paper towel and sprinkle with fresh lime zest, cumin, salt and pepper.  Serve hot!