Oil. Lots of it. Cubans may not have much in material goods, but they seem to have an endless supply of cooking oil. The food is just more Cuban if it has more oil. So when a friend of mine came over for dinner the other day, I pulled out the jug and got to work.
Making frijoles negros (black beans) for Cuban feast
The first thing to do when preparing your Cuban feast is to make frijoles negros (black beans). This is a Caribbean and South American staple, and each country has their preferred method. Cuban beans are kind of soupy and are eaten on white rice, twice a day. To give some flavor to the frijoles, you add sofrito, a concoction of onions, peppers, garlic, Goya Adobo, and a bit of tomato paste cooked in lots of oil!
You’d have to be pretty lucky to have beef in Cuba, but if you did, you’d make ropa vieja (old clothes), a tomato-meat sauce with red peppers (again cooked in lots of oil).
Plátanos fritos and malanga – Cuban staples
Time to get out a new pan for some deep-frying. Plátanos fritos and malanga are other staples to the Cuban diet. The fried plantains are cut up into discs and fried. Then they’re mashed flat and fried a second time (don’t forget to add salt). Malanga is a root that looks like a potato with a purple hue. It’s also fried.
Cuban salad – the closest Cubans get to healthy
We need some healthy food in here – how about a salad? The Cuban salad is lettuce, cabbage, and tomatoes, with a dressing of – you guessed it – oil and vinegar (mostly vinegar, because we used all the oil for cooking).
And for dessert, arroz con leche, or rice pudding as we know it. I had this for the first time in Cuba – rice, milk, and sugar in the blender, with a bit on cinnamon on top afterwards – que rico!
And if you have a big party, like I did before I came back home to Canada, you’ve got to have a huge, sugary cake! This is immediately followed by karaoke.
I’m convinced that the only reason Cubans aren’t exploding out of their clothes is that they walk everywhere. So now I must make the choice – less oil or more exercise?
— Amber only makes Cuban food once in a while (about as often as she goes to the gym).