Cuban Cookin’

Escape to the romance of Havana with your loved one for Valentine’s Day this year! Valentine’s Day, or Lover’s Day as it is known by Cubans, is widely celebrated as the day many sweethearts become engaged or get married. Get in the mood with this spirited menu and do some Cuban Cookin’!

All recipes serve four.

Chocolate-Covered Strawberries
8 oz. chopped, good-quality dark, milk or white chocolate bars
16 large strawberries (preferably with stems attached)
Place finely chopped chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. In order to keep chocolate tempered so that it is shiny and snappy once cooled and covering the strawberries, the temperature must not exceed 90 degrees F. Microwave the chocolate at 20 percent power in 15-second increments stirring regularly, or heat chocolate on very lowest temperature in saucepan on stovetop for 10-15 minutes until chocolate is smooth. Wash and dry strawberries thoroughly. Dip the lower half of each strawberry in melted chocolate, swirl to take it out of the chocolate, place on aluminum foil on a plate, and place in refrigerator. Remove from fridge 20 minutes before serving, peel off foil and place on attractive platter with glasses of champagne.

• Roll chocolate-dipped strawberries in shredded coconut or finely chopped nuts.
• In addition to strawberries use a variety of fruits: blackberries, raspberries, sliced pears, fresh figs, sliced banana, or dried apricots, dates or figs.

Ensalada Cubana
(Cuban Salad)
1-2 heads of crispy lettuce
2 tomatoes, sliced
1 avocado, sliced
½ red onion, peeled and finely sliced
6 radishes, sliced

¼ cup lime juice
¼ cup vinegar
½ cup olive oil
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Salt & pepper

Shred the lettuce and spread evenly on a serving plate. Arrange the tomatoes, avocado, onion, and radish around the platter. Mix the dressing ingredients and drizzle desired amount over the salad.

Enchilado De Camarones
(Shrimp With Picante Sauce)
4 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. butter
1 cup each, chopped onion and diced sweet pepper (canned is fine)
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups drained diced or crushed canned tomatoes
¼ tsp. crushed red pepper (optional)
2 tbsp. tomato paste
¼ cup white wine or water
1½ tsp. ground cumin
½ tsp. each, salt, pepper and sugar
2 lbs. shrimp (peeled and deveined)
¾ cup green olives (whole or sliced)
Chopped cilantro (optional)

In a large pan, heat the olive oil and butter. Add the onions and sweet pepper and sauté until they become soft. Add the garlic cloves and sauté for an additional 2 minutes. Add the tomato, red pepper, tomato paste, wine, cumin, salt, pepper, and sugar and stir. Raise the heat to medium-low. Let sauce simmer for 15 minutes. Add the shrimp and simmer for 5-8 minutes until shrimp is pink and cooked through. Add olives, remove from heat, top with cilantro, and serve with rice.

Arroz Azafran
(Cuban Yellow Rice)
1½ tbsp. olive oil
½ cup onion, finely chopped
½ cup sweet pepper, finely chopped
1 cup raw, uncooked rice
½ tsp. salt
2 cups chicken broth or water
¼ tsp. dried saffron or turmeric (optional, but creates a beautiful golden color)
1½ tbsp. butter

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan and sauté onions and peppers until translucent. Stir in rice and salt, and sauté briefly until the rice is golden. Add chicken broth and saffron and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover and cook for 20-30 minutes. Stir in butter just before serving.


With Lori Ross, Southern Boating Magazine February 2017