RECIPES AND STORIES FROM THE CUBAN KITCHEN
2016 has been the year of growing my cookbook collection. I've gained some fun cookbooks as very thoughtful gifts and even purchased a few, yet the one cookbook that stood out visually and gave immediate vacation inspirtation was this cookbook here, CUBA! recipes and stories from the cuban kitchen.
By first impression, this Cuba! cookbook is absolutely attractive. The cover features a timeworn kitchen with bold blue cupboards and a contrasting white countertop. The major focal point of the cover is a generous pile of ripe fruits (fruits commonly found throughout the caribbean and featured in the cuisine), conveying the tropical theme of this cookbook, in case you didn't happen to know what cuban cooking entailed.
The cookbook, just as the title says, "Recipes and Stories from the Cuban Kitchen," is just that, a collection of the authors' experiences while traveling and eating about within their five years of documenting this country. The stories share much of the modern life and culinary history not commonly shared on the mainstream news; such as the black market flan.
Besides the large number of recipes and food photographs found in this cookbook is my favorite part, the unorchestrated portraits of the cuban people who opened their kitchens and shared their family recipes with the authors. The authenticity of cuban daily life is demonstrated with the many unposed images shared. One photograph features a child standing in a doorway wearing no more than a t-shirt and underwear, a few more page turns and you'll spot photos of people casually lounging around in a relatable way. Another standout feature of this cookbook is the photographs of dilapidated walls and linens which serve as the backdrop for much of the recipe text. This cookbook is a far cry from perfectly placed and stylized images commonly found in a martha stewart catalog.
THE COOKING PART
The recipes I made from this cookbook were interesting, pumpkin flan, steamed dumplings, and black bean soup with crema. Each recipe unique in flavor and preparation, I had never associated pumpkin with cuban cuisine and being a fan of pumpkin I had to make this the same day i opened the book (photos on this post are from my pumpkin flan cooking experience). The recipe directions are easy to follow, and not excessively involved, no hidden techniques and nothing super involved and or delicate like making croissants or pate choux, just everyday cooking techniques.
The table of contents divides the recipes into sections like "basic training," "pots and pans," "azucar," and "with a twist." The basic training section covers standard cuban staples such as black beans, yellow rice, fried plantains and fish stock, while the pots and pans section is where one pot meals reside such as the spicy black bean soup with lime crema. My favorite section, azucar (sugar), is where you will find an assortment of desserts featuring coconut, guava, and lime flavors, as well as recipes for well known spanish sweets like coconut tres leches cake and pumpkin flan.
Overall a great cookbook; one that can make any frozen microwaveable meal preparer feel inspired to cook a real meal.
Preheat the oven to 350F
Combine the 1/4c. sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat. Heat without stirring until the sugar begins to turn golden around the edges of the pan. Gently swirl the pan rather than stirring it until all of the sugar turns to amber-colored caramel. Pour the caramel into a 9 by 5-inch loaf pan and tip the pan to coat the entire bottom evenly. Set the pan aside.
Whisk together the eggs and the remaining 1/4 c. sugar until combined. Stir in the vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and pumpkin. Add the three milk's and continue stirring until the mixture is smooth and homogenous. Pour the custard over the caramel in the loaf pan.
Set the filled loaf pan inside a 9 by 13-inch baking pan. Pour hot water into the outer pan until it comes halfway up the sides of the loaf pan. Bake until the flan is nearly set in the middle. 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Cover the flan and refrigerate it for at least 8 hours or overnight.
Run a knife around the edge of the chilled flan and invert the loaf pan onto a appropriately sized platter. Side the flan and serve.
1/3 c. plus 1/4 c. sugar, divided
2 tbsp. water
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 c. pumpkin puree
1 (14oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 (12oz) can evaporated milk
1 c. whole milk
notes on the recipe*
This recipe for the custard works very well, however the introduction for the caramel did not work, three attempts and they all failed so I switched over to a caramel recipe I've used in the past.
Also the custard needs salt. something is missing on day one of enjoying the flan and that is the salt. The flavors marry by day two but it still needs salt.