Retail Therapy – from Marta’s Cuban American Kitchen

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When we arrived in Miami in the early 60’s, we barely had enough money to cover basic expenses. As you can imagine, rent, utilities, and food dominated the budget. Because we left Cuba with just the suitcases we could carry, we were glad to receive donated clothing. We were grateful for other people’s cast-offs. My parents especially appreciated the charity. I don’t think they could have managed otherwise. Trying to clothe five daughters on a ship welder’s hourly wage? Impossible.

But then, something amazing happened. My dad finally found a job in his field, which was engineering. He began working in early spring, so that by Easter, my mom made the announcement that we were going to buy new clothes for Easter.

Seriously, this was an Easter Miracle. And although, we had grown used to “making do,” we rose to the shopping occasion like the true Cuban women we are. Dresses, gloves, hats, purses – the works! I confess that every year at this time, I remember the giddy relief of that Blessed Event.

And I continue to be so very grateful that the only “ropa vieja” I have now, I usually eat with white rice. =D


Crockpot Ropa Vieja

The Meat:
1 ½ – 2 lb. flank steak
½ green pepper, sliced into strips
½ Spanish onion, sliced into strips
2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
2 tsp. Salt
2 tsp. Coarse Black Pepper
1/2 tsp. cumin
½ cup red wine


1) Put all these ingredients into the crockpot in order. Add water to just cover the steak.
2) Set it on low and cook for 6 to 8 hours.

When the meat is very tender (comes apart with a fork), remove from the crockpot and finely shred it into a separate dish.


The Sauce:

The pepper, garlic, and onion from the crockpot
3 Tbsp. Olive oil
2 cups beef broth
1 small can tomato sauce
1 small can tomato paste
1 tsp. oregano
Salt and pepper to taste

With a slotted spoon, remove the onion, garlic and peppers from the crockpot and sauté in a large frying pan. Add the tomato sauce, tomato paste and beef broth.
Add the shredded beef to the tomato mixture and cook together for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Serve with white rice.

Buen Provecho!

12 thoughts on “Retail Therapy – from Marta’s Cuban American Kitchen”

  1. Ropa Vieja, this is the one I’ve been waiting for. Marta you are a goddess!! My crockpot’s coming out the minute I get home tonight. Thank you.

  2. Ziva: Sure, what type of dish? For the watercress (berro) salad I simply toss it with some fresh lemon juice, salt, and extra virgin olive oil. If available, I also add thinly cut green tomato slices. Fried chunks or slices of sweet potato will do just fine, but the ‘true’ boniato variety is the best (by the way, if you’d rather not fry, steamed boniato is also great, as I’m sure you are aware). The sweet boniato/acid watercress contrast would make a great counterpoint to Marta’s yummy version of Ropa Vieja over white rice.

  3. Mamey- thanks, it sounds like the perfect side dish for Ropa Vieja. Steam? Not me, I fry in olive oil, it’s good for you!

  4. Ziva: Right on! I was just throwing a ‘boniato bone’ to those who are afraid of the great Roman>Iberian>Cuban frying continuum. Which reminds me…freshly fried plantain chips could take the place of bread in this ropa vieja reverie!

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