My hometown, Gulfport, Florida, has a wonderful Cuban restaurant, Habana Cafe.  Last year when I attended the Novelist’s Inc. conference on St. Pete Beach, a group of us visited the restaurant for a delicious, reasonably priced dinner.  I ordered the lechon asada, which is a fabulously roasted pork topped with grilled onions.   I was hooked.

I was sad to miss Habana this weekend when I attended NINC’s 2011 conference, but instead, friends took us to the historic Columbia restaurant at St. Armand’s Circle in Sarasota, where we ate Cuban food on the covered patio.  Life is good.

When I plotted Sunset Bridge, my July 2011 novel, I gave Maggie, a new character for the series, a former lover who was a Cuban-American cop, and of course, a wonderful cook.  I had a hidden agenda.  I was then required to learn everything about Cuban cooking, not an onerous task. 

My first stop was the Internet, where I happened on Three Guys From Miami, a smile-inducing website with all things Cuban, including sample recipes from two bestselling cookbooks.  Of course if Felo was cooking Cuban, I had to do the same.  I settled on frijoles negros (black beans) and went shopping.  The beans were beyond delicious–although be sure to use 6 cups of water, not 9, unless you want soup. 

The Three Guys recipe is now our go-to.  I can’t recommend it highly enough.  We eat these black beans with rice, and although tortillas are not part of Cuban cuisine, we eat them with tortillas, too.   The beans also freeze beautifully.  Last night we had them with roasted vegetables, and the sweet potato in the veggies combined so well with the flavor of the beans, we know we’ve hit on something we’ll look forward to in the future, too.

Visit Three Guys for Cuban culture and cooking.

In the spirit of Cookbook Hoarders United, after discovering one fabulous Cuban recipe, I needed more.  Memories of a Cuban Kitchen was recommended to me by my doctor, a Cuban-American who cooks.  He promised I’d love it, and honestly, talking about food instead of my reason for being in his examining room, was SO much more fun I put it right on my list.  I have my eye on a chicken dish, and I’ll report back.

Remember, you still have a week to try a new recipe and enter October’s giveaway.   Try something new, tell us about it, and enter for a chance to win an autographed novel and a silly kitchen gadget (Mr. Potato Peeler.)  Also this month, try something new from an Internet recipe site.  That counts, too.

What’s your favorite ethnic dish?  Afraid it’s beyond your skills?  Come on, choose something simple, give a new recipe a try, and tell us all about it.  Our mouths are watering.

3 Comments

  1. Nancy Badertscher on October 25, 2011 at 11:40 am

    I’ve printed out the Fijoles Negros recipe – sounds good, and certainly new to us, but what would be a dry Spanish wine – I’m more of a beer woman, and have had to go off that for awhile to be nice to the ulcers I just recently found out I have.

    As for my recipe for the month, since we’ve had a temporary warming trend in GA I’m delaying my soup plans until next month. Instead I am on a spaetzle kick. My spaetzle maker arrived, and I tried out the recipe that came with it. I sprinkled a bit more nutmeg on it when serving, but otherwise it was fine – and so much better than what came in the box I threw out recently! But that recipe wasn’t in a cookbook or on Internet, so I have found a recipe for Kaese (cheese) Spaetzle from allrecipes.com. I’ll be trying it soon. The heading says this is the German version of macaroni and cheese – how can we go wrong with that?

  2. Nancy Badertscher on October 31, 2011 at 9:58 pm

    Thanks for the hint about the wine in the black bean recipe. Nothing like waiting until the last minute with my recipe. Somehow the month got away from me, so we had our Kaese Spaetzle tonight – in the midst of 10 little goblins coming to our door. May not sound like many, but it is the most we’ve had in YEARS! They got Capri Suns, Reese’s Cups and mini Hershey bars.

    The Kaese Spaetzle recipe was from allrecipes.com. It calls for the batter to stand for 30 minutes before using, so I did that, even though the previous recipe I made did not include that. Not sure that made a difference, but I liked this recipe for the basic spaetzle better than the first one I made. The spaetzle was a bit lighter I’d say – not sure if that was because of the resting of the batter, or just a different combo of ingredient amounts. This time I used a bigger pot, so I was done with that part sooner. This recipe calls for cooking sliced onions in butter, then adding the cooked spaetzle, which has been mixed with some Swiss cheese after being cooked, to the onions and then adding more cheese to the skillet. It was really very good! Different from the Kaese Spaetzle I had at the restaurant I mentioned a couple of weeks ago – that was more creamy. I might like to try making this more creamy, but first I think I will check out some other recipes for it to see how they make it. At the head of the recipe it says it is a German version of macaroni and cheese so I guess I was expecting it to be creamy.

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