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.