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!

 

 

Jalapeño, Bean and Chicken Soup

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Jalapeno, Bean & Chicken Soup


Hey there Fall. How ya’ doin’? Well, I just wanted to say thanks for cooling things off just enough for me to have a nice fire inside and for making me fantasize about soup and chowders.
After B’s fishing trip last weekend, I just knew that he’d come home with a cooler full of fish, leaving me no choice but to make Court Bouillon and have a fire pit party, but alas, the weather pushed our little fishies too far off shore. (Insert me crying my heart out here) After a week of canned soup trials, I was left craving so much more. Don’t get me wrong, there were a couple of cans and even bagged soup that were quite decent and were greatly appreciated with my turkey sandwiches last week. None of which did I give a second thought. What I was left with was a desire to eat some really great soup.
Some twenty plus years ago, I worked for a restaurant in my hometown. During the day I worked in the office and looked forward to eating lunch with my boss on occasion. These lunches were the best. We would raid the kitchen for the leftover soup specials and usually make a grilled cheese sandwich to accompany our soup. One of my favorites was her very simple Beef and Vegetable soup. It was made with love and quality ingredients. Isn’t that the secret, really? It’s all about the right ingredients. So during my reminiscing of the olden days of soup, I went about my quest for a new soup recipe. For the lovers of spice in my house, I needed to create something with Jalapenos. I hope you’ll enjoy it as much as we did.

Jalapeno, Bean and Chicken Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 Whole rotisserie chicken de-boned and shredded
  • 1 Whole white onion-diced
  • 2 large garlic cloves-minced
  • 2 tbsp. cumin
  • 2 tbsp. cilantro (I used dry for this recipe)
  • 2 15 ounce cans Cannellini Beans-rinsed and drained
  • 1 Cup Plain Lowfat Yogurt
  • 1 15 ounce can Black Beans-rinsed and drained
  • 4-6 large Jalapeno Peppers-de-seeded and diced
  • 1 15 ounce can of diced tomatoes-reduced sodium
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tbsp Canola Oil
  • 1 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 4 Cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth
  • Sour cream for garnish
  • 4 limes for garnish
  • fried tortilla strips

Directions:

Coat the bottom of an enamel pot with canola oil and add butter. Heat on medium high heat. When butter has melted add the chopped onion and cook for 3 minutes, then add the chopped jalapeno peppers and stir. Cook for another 2 minutes and then add chopped garlic and tomatoes with juice and stir to combine. Pour in all of the cannellini beans and stir to combine. Pour in 1 cup of chicken broth and bring to a simmer. At this point I use my immersion blender to blend everything in the pot. They are inexpensive and a great tool. If you do not have one, just pour mixture into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth and pour back into pot. Add the cumin, cilantro, yogurt and mix well. Pour in the black beans and fold in the chicken and the remainder of the chicken broth and stir. Bring to a boil and then reduce to low heat and cover for one hour. You’ll need to stir every 10-15 minutes.
To serve, pour into a bowl and top with a dollop of sour cream, a hefty squeeze of lime and tortilla strips.  Enjoy!

I’m counting down to my lunch break today, so I can have a little more of this soup and perhaps take a moment to think of my sweet boss who made me soup and grilled cheese sandwiches on rainy days. Oh how I still miss you Linda.

Black Bean & Chorizo over Polenta

Black Bean & Chorizo over Polenta

Ingredients:
10 oz Rotel-Diced tomatoes with Lime Juice & Cilantro
16 oz Chorizo
2-16 oz cans black beans
4 oz Extra Sharp cheddar Cheese
8 oz Manchego Cheese
1 Cup Polenta
2 Cups Chicken Broth

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
Start by removing the chorizo from its casings and cook in a saute pan until done. It will take around 7 minutes. While this is cooking, start a pot of chicken broth boiling. When it comes to a boil, whisk in the polenta. This will take 3-4 minutes of constant stirring. Drain the black beans and rinse. Grease a 10×13 casserole dish-I used olive oil. Spread the cooked polenta on the bottom and then pour beans on top. On top of the beans spread the Rotel. Next layer is the chorizo and finally top with shredded manchego and cheddar. Bake for 10 minutes and serve. Dollop sour cream on top with a little avocado. Yummy. This will serve 10-12

Terrible Picture of a Wonderful Salad

Terrible Picture of a Wonderful Salad

I absolutely cannot stop eating this salad. I have seen a lot of variations of Black Bean, Corn and Avocado salads and none have let me down. This is my version and I hope you like it.
Black Bean, Corn and Avocado Salad
Ingredients:
16 oz frozen sweet whole kernel corn
2-15 oz cans of Black beans rinsed and drained
1 tsp sugar
Juice of 2 -3 limes
1/2 chopped Serrano pepper with seeds
1/3 bunch of cilantro chopped finely
2 whole avocados cut into small chunks
1 large clove garlic minced
2-3 tbsp of olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
Boil the corn in water for 2 minutes and then drain and run cold water over the corn. Throw everything together in a bowl except for the avocado. You will want to add this within 30 minutes of serving to prevent the browning. You may notice a little browning in my picture since this picture was taken a day later as I continued to eat this at every meal. This will easily serve 12 unless you have a crazy avocado addiction as I do. It’s a great summer side dish. I ate it by itself for dinner last night and it was perfect for me. 🙂 Bon Appetit!