— Silvio Canto, Jr. (@SCantojr) December 23, 2014
Please listen to our Cuban food show with Marta Verdes Darby, editor of “My big fat Cuban family“;
Sonia Martinez, author of “Tropical taste“; and,
Frank Burke, friend of the show and contributor to American Thinker.
And we got to wish Marta’s mom “Happy 100th” birthday!
Last, but not least, we remembered “leche condesada” and growing up Cuban.
— Silvio Canto, Jr. (@SCantojr) February 22, 2014
Marta and Sonia are ‘tesoros del exilio”. They cook and write about Cuban food.
In fact, Marta’s website is one “recipe after another”, as you can see in her latest from her blog post.
Sonia lives in Hawaii and has quite a cookbook of tropical recipes.
Let me say this: You will love these ladies. You will get hungry, no matter what time of the day you listen to our show.
Click here to listen:
The Cuban American experience is diverse and very interesting.
On one hand, there are those Cubans who stayed in South Florida and grew up there. They attended schools full of other Cuban exiles. They walked on streets beaming with “Cubanismo” or the smell of “cafe cubano”. They were never really separated from Cuba.
On the other hand, the rest of us settled in places like Chicago (Carlos Eire), Virginia (Jorge Ponce), Louisiana (Humberto Fontova) or Wisconsin like me. We had to find “cubanismo” by getting together with other Cubans or playing those Beny More LPs on our turntables.
Speaking of the second group, we chatted this week with Tersi Agra Bendiburg, a “Cubana” who grew up in Georgia.
Her family story is similar to mine, and perhaps yours:
“Tersi had vivid memories from her childhood in post-revolution Cuba. She remembers soldiers walking through her house, taking inventory of everything her family owned. A year later, when they were to leave the country with nothing –not even her parents’ wedding rings, the soldiers returned to re-inventory all the contents of the house. She also remembers her father hiding a young man in their home (who had been shot by soldiers) until he could be passed along safely.
At age, ten, Tersi’s family moved to Mexico City where they stayed with a distant relative while her parents applied for political asylum in the United States. That Christmas was the first time Carmen, age 3, had ever seen Christmas lights because religious celebrations had been halted after the revolution in Cuba.It was a wonderland. On the Dia de los Reyes, Three Kings Day, Tersi wrote to the kings to let them know Tersi and her family were no longer in Cuba, but were, instead, in Mexico City so they would know where to bring presents. Her parents were so worried that Tersi had written a letter and they had no money to buy her a present. It was then that she spoke with a relative from Decatur, Georgia who told Tersi that the kings had left presents for her and Carmen in Decatur, and that in the future she should direct her letters to Santa Claus because the kings said the coffee in America was too weak for men from the east and the icy streets were too much of a challenge for the camels. Sure enough, when they arrived in Decatur, both girls had presents waiting for them.In Decatur, the Agra family was sponsored by the First Baptist Church of Decatur. They never needed welfare since they had a little furnished apartment and Mr. Agra began work almost immediately. Tersi attended Oakhurst Elementary where she had the famous spinach incident, and many other adventures.That first Halloween in the United States Tersi ran home with a pillowcase full of candy. She dumped it out and said, “You just say trick-or-treat and they give you candy!”“What a country!” Her father exclaimed.”
Yes, what a country indeed!
Today, Tersi tells children the wonderful stories of Latin America and others:
“Latin American FolktalesConsists of a large collection of age-appropriate folktales and legends from Latin America. Tersi explains how these stories crossed the Atlantic from Europe and Africa centuries earlier and became part of the Latin American folklore. The use of songs and musical instruments moves the stories along. Students are encouraged to join in for songs and refrains during the stories. A workshop for grades 5-12 on how to research, collect, and adapt folktales can follow the presentation.Georgia: Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something BlueOffers a memorable collection of legends, stories, and anecdotes taken from the folklore and history of Georgia to bring its rich culture to life right before the students’ eyes. This program is especially suitable for eighth grade students who study Georgia history.Coming to America: Red Clay StoriesRaises awareness and builds understanding about the difficulty immigrants face in adjusting to a new country and putting down roots through bittersweet stories.Day of the Dead: A Scary Name for a Beautiful Celebration!Tells how this Mexican holiday of celebration and remembrance reflects the values and customs of the two very different cultures of Europe and the Aztecs. Tersi explores the roots of the Day of the Dead in All Saints Day from Europe and a number of celebrations of the Aztec and other indigenous peoples.Our Holiday Table: a Multicultural FeastTells how real holiday dishes inspire stories drawn from the three cultures that came together to make up the Spanish-speaking Caribbean: Native American, European, and African. “
Enjoy the show: CLICK HERE TO LISTEN!
USA Today’s fluff piece on the “World’s 10 best cities for coffee” features a stop in Havana:
[…] In Cuba, coffee is basically its own food group. A vital part of each day, steaming little cups of Cafe Cubano—espresso mixed with sugar as it brews—or Coradito—espresso topped with steamed milk—mark the morning, signal the end of a meal, and are a perfect excuse to stop and linger with a friend, new or old. To drink coffee in Havana is to join the rhythm of the city, and after a drop in Cuban coffee production, the country is now rebuilding its growing economy to meet the dedicated demand of its people. Cuban exiles in Miami have made the Florida city another great place for an authentic Cafe Cubano. […]
Nice. Cuban dissidents and the opposition always have a little cafecito before the Cuban Gestapo beats the shit out of them and throws them in jail…
Every now and then I get invited to be a guest on someone’s radio show and talk about my life and about Cuban food. I never, ever say no, but that’s not important right now.
Tonight at 7 pm Pacific, I’ll be a guest on Silvio Canto Jr.’s radio show, along with the lovely and talented Sonia Martinez, another amazing Cuban cook who lives in Hawaii and knows everything there is to know about Cuban food. Go visit her wonderful blog, Sonia Tastes Hawaii. I’m honored to share air space with these two.
I’ve done Silvio’s show before and we can barely get through the first hour because we all get so excited talking about Cuban food.
Tonight’s show promises to be no different. I can hardly wait.
The first topic is…..*drum roll please*
If you’d like to call in to the show, the number is (646) 478-4933.
Again, that’s tonight, Tuesday, September 4th. 7pm
I’m only about 5’4″ in person, but on the radio, I sound waaaay taller.
Call me. Let’s talk croquetas.
I have spent the last three days thinking about what I want to say about our experience in San Antonio and Cooking With the Troops.
My family has talked and talked and rehashed almost every detail of our weekend, multiple times. And I’m still at a loss for words to describe all that we experienced. I’m just going to post lots of photos and try to give you a feel for what we experienced.
When I first received the invitation to join Cooking With the Troops in Texas in July, I didn’t hesitate before I agreed. I can think of no higher honor than doing what I do best to say thank you to those who have sacrificed everything for my personal freedom.
I don’t have photos of the troops we served because so many of those that we met over the weekend gave up their limbs and a normal life so we could continue to enjoy the freedoms that we do. Many were waiting for prosthetics. The Warrior and Family Support Center is a beautiful home-like healing facility with an air conditioned kitchen (Thank you, God!). I was grateful that we could be there to do this one act of charity for these, our best and bravest.
They are absolutely heroes and it was our great pleasure to serve them. What an honor!
But let me tell you about the Amazing Volunteers (or Team Cubanaso):
The first thing I want you to know about these people, (including my own family) is that when asked if they were interested in doing this, (San Antonio, Texas in July, people!) not one of them hesitated. “Of course. What can I do?” And that was the attitude that carried through the entire weekend.
The guys from Dos Cubanos Pig Roasts (Texas, you are sooo lucky!) brought their expertise, four pigs, and their families. (Yay! More Cubans!) I think that might just have to be a separate post altogether. (Go “like” them on Facebook right now, please.)
Pig Roasting is their specialty, but Joey Lay and Jorge Carmona were able and willing to help in the kitchen as well. (Yes, that’s Jonathan working on his professional photo-bombing skills, but that’s not important right now.)
Of course, Val from Babalú was there knee deep in Cajas Chinas and pig fixins.
Because this was a service to the military, they named him Point Man on the Pigs. He proved more than capable in his role (thank you, Val and Caja China people)! They started preparing the coals at 5 am.
By 9:00 am, it was time for the Pig Flip.
The pigs were done by 10:30. And the aroma went out in a cartoon-like-smoke-with-a-beckoning-hand and by 11:00 the guys were gathering around to get their first taste of the lechón asado, Cuban-style.
Once the pigs were done, Val came in to help my sons, Adam and Jon cut (more!) onions & garlic for the mojo for the yuca.
Our menu? A typical Nochebuena feast:
We spent all of Thursday and most of Friday morning prepping for our Friday lunch. Which meant cutting pounds and pounds of onion, garlic, and peppers for the Sofrito Que Se Le Perdio a Santa Barbara (as my mom would say).
We had 3 vats (VATS!) of Black Beans that turned out delicious thanks to the hard work by Val and Amy Kikita and the generosity of Conchita Foods. At this point, the aroma from the sofrito, the beans and the pigs had people wandering hungrily into the kitchen, which was great.
There was a lot of fun and camaraderie happening in the kitchen, along with a lot of hard work. (We Cubans would call it “relajo.” =D)
Chef Ellen Adams of Red Hot Dish was responsible for dinner that night (couscous!) and Heather Solos of Home-Ec 101 was everywhere you wanted her to be. Both of these amazing women were so willing to lend a helping hand, and always with a smile. (When I grow up, they are who I want to be.)
Here’s Jonathan helping with Ellen’s fabulous couscous.
My family fell in love with these guys (yes, even you, Mike Russo!) and I’m pretty sure the feeling was mutual.
I can’t stress enough how every one of these volunteers pitched in wherever they were needed. We worked hard and long and shoulder to shoulder. And we bonded. We bonded in that gosh-that-was-exhausting-work-and-more-fun-than-it-should-be way. Every single person had that “What can I do?” attitude.
Let me just take a moment to talk about my kids.
Thing one: I was so happy they were all able to go on this trip. And I had all four of them with me all weekend – win!
Thing two: They all surprised and amazed me with how willing they were to step up and do whatever was required. What began as helping-mom-do-her-thing became a labor of love for them individually. I loved that they took ownership of the preparations themselves.
Thing three: No way would I have been able to prepare my share of the food without my family. I am completely at a loss. They went way above and beyond any expectations I had and I’m completely grateful and oh, so proud of them all.
Let me introduce you to Jorge, who managed the beautiful Warriors & Family Support Center at Fort Sam Houston. He is Puerto Rican and provided us with our music while we worked (and managed to locate some espresso for us Cubans). In fact, it was a little emotional prepping all this Cuban food with support from Celia, Beny, and Willy. 😉 Thank you, Jorge! (He was still gushing about the amazing food we provided as we were saying our goodbyes.)
I was quite proud that I managed (with lots of help) to prepare 300 of my famous Homemade Pastelitos de Guayaba.
Although the volume was obviously much, much greater than anything I ever make, I felt like I was feeding my own family. I know it sounds corny, but with every dish we felt that same way. Like we were feeding family. (Maybe that’s why everything tasted so great?)
But then there was the fiasco with the rice, because really, could everything go perfectly smoothly when you’re making lunch for these many people?
I confess that I had no clue how to make rice for 250 people (300 was the final count.). So Adam and I winged it and we got some rice that was cooked on top but hard on the bottom. We also managed to burn some. At 10:30, with the 12:00 deadline looming, the rice was a mess and I was close to having a breakdown.
Jorge Carmona’s family to the rescue! They had done congris before at a pig roast event and had encountered the same problems. “Just take small batches, add water, and cook in the microwave.” Without hesitation, they stepped up and did just that and rescued the rice. I don’t think I could be more grateful. What’s better than having a Cuban cook in the kitchen? LOTS of Cuban cooks in the kitchen. 😉
Amazingly, we Cubans managed to get the food out and on the tables at 12:00 military time. This is quite a feat when you usually run on Cuban time. =D
The warriors and their families came through the line and even though the food was foreign for many of them, they ooh-ed and aah-ed and came back for seconds and dove right into the yuca con mojo and the plantains (Thanks, Goya Foods!) without a second thought.
I was most pleased when the guys with the Hispanic surnames came through. They recognized the music. They recognized the food. “Is that guava??” And they were grateful for this “little piece of home.”
Much gratitude to the CEO of Cooking With the Troops, Blake Powers of Blackfive who pulled us all together for this amazing experience and gave us the opportunity to serve. Thank you, Blake and cwtt.org. We have all been forever changed by this experience.
And to Mr. Bob Miller, Chief Cook and Bottle Washer and All Around Classy Guy.
I thank you all for the privilege of serving side-by-side with you.
I don’t have words to express the gratitude and admiration I feel for the volunteers, the warriors and their families. Thank you all for your service.
Let it be known that we Cubans are very proud Americans.
Making Cuban coffee is more art than science.
I think I learned how to make Cuban coffee when I was about 8 years old and able to maneuver in the kitchen without hurting anything. It wasn’t just a matter of making the coffee itself, there had to be a frothy topping to that café and just the right amount of sweetness. Of course, like anything else, some people can make it happen with apparently less effort than others. Hence the artistry.
My dad always smelled of a pleasant mix of Vitalis, puros, and Bustelo. If Cuban music is the soundtrack of my life, the aroma of freshly brewed espresso is the fragrance.
Obviously, you can use a fancy espresso machine to get your café made for you at the press of a button. Or if you’re in Miami, you are probably within walking distance of your afternoon coladito. We who are here in the exilio-del-exilio have to make our own.
I’m from the old espresso-maker-on-the-stovetop school of Cuban coffee making.
Because of the ESPUMA. That’s what we call the frothy stuff on top. (I would say “espumita,” but the stuff I’m talking about is much more powerful than the diminutive suggests.) Killer Espuma – I should trademark that! – is a matter of personal pride in our family. Today, my daughter, Amy Kikita, who is The Official Family Killer Espuma® Maker will share her secret for the Perfect Cuban Espresso with Killer Espuma®. 😉
(By the way, she doesn’t really talk like that, but that’s not important right now.)
In keeping with today’s theme of All Things Coffee, I am grateful for the generous folks at IMUSA® for providing today’s fabulous giveaway gifts.
Thing 1) An old-school (of course!) Aluminum Espresso CoffeeMaker in RED. (It’s the same as the beautiful red one in the video.) Along with a set of four RED espresso cups & saucers.
Thing 2) A nine piece Stainless Steel Espresso Set. Beautiful, no?
They also have a wonderful and varied line of espresso related items. Check that out right here.
(cross-posted at My big, fat, Cuban family)
Sometimes my family sits around and has noisy, opinionated and pointless discussions. (Hello? Cubans!) In this case, we were discussing the wonders of plantains and engaging in the Eternal Cuban debate:
Maduros or Tostones?
It depends on the main dish you’re serving, of course. I mean, I love a good tostón with garlic sauce. (Who doesn’t?) But I tend to be partial to sweet plantains or maduros.
In the midst of this discussion, my mom threw a wrench into the works when she declared rather regally and with great finality: “Platanos en tentacion.” (Rougly translated: Plantains in temptation. I know. I said roughly.)
Of course, you don’t just throw out a random suggestion like this with a group of noisy and opinionated Cuban women who all have their own particular versions of how to cook things.
It was like throwing gas on a fire.
“If you don’t have enough rum, they’re not as good.”
“The rum makes takes away too much of the sweetness.”
The discussion went on and on and even though I had not made these before, I quickly determined that they would be most tasty with just the cinnamon-caramel-glaze and it seemed to me that the rum was a bit superfluous anyway. (See? Opinionated.)
So, my daughters and I started messing with maduros and came up with a rather to-die-for concoction and took those maduros to the Next Level. Seriously.
They turned out so amazing that I’m convinced you could travel through time after eating these.
What I could not completely determine, however, was whether these caramel-glazed plantains would be better served as a side dish or as a stand alone dessert? Maybe over ice cream?
Platanos en Tentacíon
*I decided the frozen maduros, which could be heated through first, worked well enough. Frying plantains would make them a little too heavy for this dish, but that’s not important right now.
“But why is the rum gone?” ~ Captain Jack Sparrow
When it comes to Noche Buena, the menu doesn’t really vary at my house: Lechón asado, frijoles negros, arroz blanco, yuca con mojo, etc. You know the drill. (I’m sooo not complaining.)
Where I do get to play in the kitchen and flex my creative muscle, is for breakfast/brunch. Actually, I excel at this, but that’s not important right now.
On Christmas morning this is what will be coming out of my kitchen: Crepes. Not just any crepes, but Dulce de Leche Crepes, people. Last time I showed you how quick and easy it is to make dulce de leche in your crockpot. This is the next logical step.
[Note: I learned how to make these when I visited the Betty Crocker Kitchens in Minneapolis over the summer. Of course, I’m happy to share. After all, it’s Christmas, and I’m a giver. ;-)]
Dulce de Leche Crepes
De aqui pa’l cielo!
Miss me yet?
I haven’t been cooking as much as I’d like (or as much as my family would like, but that’s not important right now). That doesn’t mean I haven’t been busy.
I’ve been experimenting with food and presentation and recipes and tastes.
I’ve also been experimenting with tape. Video tape. (I know. Shut up.)
Today’s offering is Me *takes bow*, making dulce de leche, in the crockpot. One day when I have my own cooking show, this is what it will be like.
Only then, I will definitely have a crew to clean up after me. (Right? Right?? Come on, you guys…)
Crockpot Dulce de Leche
It’s been raining like crazy here in So Cal.
And when weather happens to us we really don’t know how to act: “Should we wear shoes? Does anyone have a jacket? I know I have an umbrella in here somewhere from the last time…”
Seriously, we just don’t “do” weather.
And so last week we found ourselves stocking up on provisions and hunkering down to ride out this long winter storm siege. (The storm lasted five days, but that’s not important right now.)
I had my mom with me (she’ll be 96 soon) and she kept saying this would be perfect weather to make chicken soup. Actually, she had no intention of making soup, she was hinting LOUDLY as only Cuban mothers can, that what she really wanted was for me to make the chicken soup.
Okay, so I love homemade chicken soup, too.
Let me clarify, I love MY homemade chicken soup, so I decided to go ahead and make it. When there was a break in the clouds I ran out to the store and got my ingredients.
That’s when I began to see the first signs of the coming storm: “You’re not going to use cilantro in the soup, are you? I hate cilantro.”
With as much patience as I could muster, I explained the lovely qualities of good cilantro and that once you cook it, it loses it’s bite, but the flavor remains. She wasn’t believing me, and the cilantro went in after a lot of “harrumphing.”
“That’s too much cumin!” Nobody likes that much cumin!” I decided to take my chances with the cilantro and cumin. (But, to my credit I did manage to feel a little guilty. =D)
“Who adds yuca to a soup?”
Obviously I do, but I decided to ignore the thinly veiled criticism and add the yuca anyway. It adds such a nice texture…oh, never mind.
When I added the ripe plantains, (Did I say you could watch me cook? Or make noise about everything I put into the pot? Don’t answer that!) she made loud (loud!) disapproving noises. The plantains should be green and a little salty, she said. (This was one of those moments that I’m sure has played out anywhere Cuban mothers and daughters find themselves in the kitchen together, but I digress…)
Again, I took the high road and chose to let the final product become my personal defense.
I endured her criticism on through, “Are you washing the chicken now?”
“No… Yes. I’m just cooling it so I can handle it.” All the way to “Lemon juice?” That doesn’t go into chicken soup! Everyone knows that!”
Apparently, I don’t know things that everyone else seems to know. (Yes, that was sarcastic. Shut up.)
But…I do know how to make a mean Cuban-style chicken soup.
She sacrificially tasted my soup…
“This is the best, most amazing chicken soup I’ve ever had!” I realized that that was as much of an apology as I was getting. I wondered if she just felt bad and was now trying to be polite.
But when she asked for seconds, I could finally see a break in the storm. =D
Sopa de Pollo (Cuban-style Chicken Soup)
1 bunch green onions, chopped up
1 small bunch of cilantro, chopped up into small bits (unless you love cilantro, go mellow on this, but don’t skip it.)
1 Tbsp. cumin
3 Tbsp. olive oil ( for sautéing)
3 Tbsp. white flour
8 cups of chicken stock (2- 32 oz. containers)
8 chicken thighs (keep the skin and bones on for now, they add to the flavor)
1 yuca peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes (I use frozen)
2 red potatoes, unpeeled, cut into cubes
2 ripe, cooked plantains (I use frozen – these add a surprising sweetness), sliced into rounds
6 oz. super thin fideo noodles. (again, go mellow on the noodles as they can easily take over the entire dish)
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
sea salt and black pepper to taste
1. Sauté the green onions, cilantro, and cumin in olive oil. Quickly whisk in the flour.
Keep whisking to avoid lumps. (When the cilantro cooks, it looses it’s bite and leaves an incredible flavor. Don’t skip the cilantro!)
2. Immediately add 1 cup chicken stock, and continue to whisk until well blended.
3. Remove this mixture from the pot into a bowl and set aside.
4. Place chicken thighs and remaining chicken stock in an 8 quart stockpot.
Bring to a boil.
5. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.
6. Add the yuca, potatoes, and plantains.
7. Simmer for another 40 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.
8. Remove the chicken thighs from the soup and run under cold water in a colander to cool.
9. Skin and debone the soft chicken, manually shredding it into bite-size pieces.
10. Return the chicken to the chicken stock-onion-cilantro mixture.
11. Add the chicken-chicken stock-onion-cilantro mixture to the soup.
12. Stir in the fresh lemon juice and the noodles.
13. Continue cooking for at least 8 to 10 more minutes or until noodles are soft.
14. Add sea salt and pepper to taste.
It turns out that chicken soup is very soothing to the nerves. Who knew?