I was born and raised in Puerto Rico… but I am Cuban at heart.
To my friends in Puerto Rico… I am almost Cuban. To my family in Miami, I am 100% Puertorra. I live in both worlds simultaneously and to me, it’s all just part of being the daughter of a Puerto Rican mom and a Cuban Dad Kinda like “café con leche”.
Many of the flavors and foods I love so much, I learned from my Dad. He taught me to eat guava paste with cream cheese, croquetas, Medianoches and Cuban Sandwiches, rice with black beans, tamales en hoja and in cazuela, guava pastelillos, patelillitos de carne, frutabomba and mamey milkshakes… and yuca with Cuban mojo, amongst many other things.
Whenever I boil some viandas, the local way we refer to root vegetables and tubers, I like to eat them with a side of onions that taste like Cuban mojo. The reason I don’t go out and make mojo from scratch is because it takes a lot of olive oil for just me in one serving. So I came up with this simplified version that hits all the flavor notes of Cuban mojo in a simple, perfect for one person’s serving.
Cuban Mojo Onions
1 medium sized onion, it could be white or yellow, sliced to your desired preference
About 2tbs Olive Oil
2 cloves of garlic
The juice of 1 lime
Salt and Pepper to taste
- In a small sauté pan over medium high heat, add the olive oil and the sliced onions. I like to slice them thick, as if you were making onion rings. Sauté them to soften them more than for them to acquire some color. So when the pan starts to sizzle, I usually turn down the heat level to medium. Add some salt and pepper to season and draw out the moisture and soften the onions.
- Peel the garlic cloves and mash them a bit with the side of your knife. Add them to the pan like that. The purpose is for the onions to get the garlicky flavor without having to do a lot of work. Stir everything together to continue to soften the onions and garlic together.
- When the onions have become soft, add the juice of the lime directly in the pan. It’ll sizzle… at this time, you can turn the heat off and leave in the pan. The onions will not brown after you add the lime juice and that’s the way it’s supposed to be.
Serve over boiled potatoes, yuca, malanga, yautía, taro root, or anything else you want to give some Cuban flair to. This is a very easy side dish that will leave you wanting more…
I will be honest… I learned this recipe from somewhere on the Internet. The thing is… I can’t remember where or who to give the credit to.
I made this recipe for the first time about 3 years ago when I was staying with my sister for the birth of my nephew, who turned 3 recently. I was craving eggplant… and I wanted an easy way to make it without frying it, which you all know is my favorite eggplant preparation. I did it at home in Puerto Rico and also at my sister’s after scoring a huge bag of eggplants at The Boys Farmer’s Market.
I vaguely remembered what I did the initial time I made it. So who knows, maybe I did came up with THIS version after all.
Eggplant and Goat Cheese Bake
1 medium eggplant, find one as light as possible, peeled and diced
1 pint of grape tomatoes, divided, all cut in half
1 tbs of dried basil, I use freeze dried
2 cloves of garlic, minced
4 ounces of goat cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste
¼ cup Parmesan cheese, optional
Brown Rice Fettuccini, I use Tinkyada brand
- In an oven-proof dish place all the diced eggplant pieces. Drizzle with olive oil, minced garlic, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss all to combine well.
- Add over the eggplant half of the grape tomatoes that you’ve cut in half already. Leave aside the rest of the tomatoes.
- Sprinkle the dried basil over the tomatoes. Add the goat cheese inc crumbles over the tomatoes. Drizzle a final stream of olive oil over everything and a last sprinkle of salt and pepper to make sure everything is well seasoned.
4. Place in a 375F oven for about 40 minutes. Turn off the oven.
5. Boil water to make the pasta according to the package directions. I use Brown Rice pasta, but you can use your favorite brand/kind
6. Drain the pasta, return to the pot and add the eggplant bake. Mix well to combine. Add Parmesan cheese, if using. Add the fresh tomatoes you set aside earlier. This adds an element of freshness that contrasts really nice with the creaminess of the baked eggplant.
Serve with your favorite salad and baked plantains on the side… This is so easy to make ahead and just re-heat when you’re boiling the pasta. Easy dinner without a lot of tending to it.
Have you ever heard of durian? It’s also known as jackfruit in some places…
Everywhere I have looked, they refer to durian as a fruit. A very stinky fruit at that… a fruit so stinky it has been sometimes banned from being carried in public transportation. Apparently is that stinky…
In the Food Network it is always presented as a challenge, because when you get past that stinky impression, apparently durian is a very sweet and delicious fruit used in many desserts. Cooks just need to get over the initial impression to be able to fully enjoy durian in all its glory.
However in India, I was presented durian as a vegetable… huh?
They told me that durian, when unripe is considered in India as a vegetable and cooked in curries and sauces to be eaten as a vegetable. When fully ripe, apparently is when the distinctive odor develops, then it turns sweet and is considered a fruit.
This is an example of the ways we were offered durian during our latest Indian trip… I kinda liked it. I tried it at the last portion of the trip when I was already tired of eating foods so heavily seasoned with cumin. So it’s not fair to the durian that it was made with so much of what I don’t enjoy. But I am willing to give it another try.
Have you ever eaten durian? In a sweet or savory preparation?? Please share…
I firmly believe that God or the Universe, however you prefer to say it, puts the right people in our path for us to learn and grow… And Annie Mariel has been a real blessing in my life. It’s as if God, in his all-knowingness, understands and knows exactly the type of person you need in your life at a certain time in your life.
We got along almost immediately since we met each other about 5 yrs ago in a conversational French class. We have lots of things in common – we’re both consultants, we both enjoy anything French, we both enjoy to travel, we follow yoga and spiritual practices, we are both vegetarians… bueno, almost vegetarians because Annie Mariel still eats seafood and shellfish on occasion. But she gets my idiosyncrasies of being vegetarian. She has passed on to me her love of running and we even applied to run the Amazing Race together… (oh boy!!!)
Annie Mariel is a great supporter and fan of KarmaFree Cooking… and for my last supper of 2012 she wanted to contribute by bringing a salad. She knew I was going to cook pasta. She asked me to make it as light as possible, so I pleased her by making the sauce all tomato, instead of mixing it with some cream or half and half, like I like to do on other recipes. She told me she would surprise me with the salad… and that she did.
This salad had a little bit of everything… and it was delicious! I asked Annie Mariel if I could feature her salad in KarmaFree Cooking and she agreed. I hope I make her proud. Try it for yourself…
ANNIE MARIEL’S COMPOSED SALAD
Sliced Red Onions
Crumbled Blue Cheese
Toasted Almond Slices
Crispy Fried Onions
Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing
- In a large bowl add all the ingredients. Toss lightly to combine
- Dress the salad with vinaigrette.
Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
½ cup extra virgin Olive Oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Sal and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- Place all the ingredients in a empty glass or mason jar. Shake well to combine. Let rest for 10-15 minutes to allow the flavors to combine well.
- Serve on top of your favorite salad.
My un-married friends (which is not the same as being single) and I like to get together and celebrate ourselves, our friendship and the Xmas season. We were also celebrating the new remodeled kitchen at one of my friend’s… She invited us all for a night of music, great company and Madelyn’s cooking.
That’s the funny thing… my friend loves to cook, and she does it very well, but when she invites, Madelyn does the cooking. I do not mind at all because it gives me a chance to showcase a few recipes I’ve had in the works. Tired of the same Xmas food fare people eat at most parties during the season, I planned a healthy pasta menu with low-fat cheeses and tons of flavors. Annie Mariel would bring the salad… something composed, that’s her type of cooking.
This pasta dish is super simple and you don’t even need to cook the pasta beforehand. Due to time and availability this time around, I made this recipe using regular semolina pasta, but I have certainly made it using brown rice pasta and whole wheat pasta. In none of those cases I have pre-boiled the pasta. There is no need to do that as long as you have enough liquid for the pasta to cook in. The liquid will come from the tomato sauce and the liquid in the filling. This is a mix and bake recipe perfect for entertaining or a pasta night with the family.
CHEESE, SPINACH AND MUSHROOM STUFFED MANICOTTI
1 box of whole wheat manicotti
1 box of Pomi chopped tomatoes
16 oz tub of part skim ricotta cheese
16 oz tub of cottage cheese
1 cup of grated Parmesan Cheese, divided
1 cup of shredded Italian Cheeses, divided
1 cup frozen spinach, mostly thawed and finely cut
1 packet of button mushrooms, finely chopped
½ onion, chopped finely
1 clove of garlic, smashed
2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
¼ cup of toasted pine nuts
1 tbs basil, chopped – I use the freeze dried kind or Italian Seasonings
Salt and pepper to taste
- Pre-heat oven to 350F.
- Let’s put together the filling…
- In a medium skillet over medium-hi heat, add a drizzle of olive oil and add the onion, garlic clove and mushrooms. Mix together and cook without stirring too much so the mushroom get to brown and caramelize. Move them once in a while, but leave them alone for periods of time and allow them to get brown.
- When the mushrooms are brown and fragrant, and to me they smell like steak, believe it or not, add a splash of soy sauce and a splash of balsamic vinegar to season. Add the thyme leaves and sauté a few times. Discard the pieces of garlic you may find and set aside.
- In a separate bowl, mix together the ricotta, the cottage cheese, ½ cup shredded cheeses and ½ cup Parmesan cheese. Also add the toasted pine nuts and the spinach, squeezing any extra liquid from it, but it does not have to be super dry. We want some moisture still because it will help cook the pasta. Also, add the cooked mushrooms. Mix everything together. Season with salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil and set aside.
- In another bowl, add the chopped tomatoes, a drizzle of olive oil, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and season with salt, pepper and the basil or Italian seasonings mix. Mix everything together to combine all ingredients well.
- Transfer ½ the sauce to the bottom of a 9” x 13” baking dish. I used a disposable baking dish because I do not bring my vegetarian-only dishes to anyone’s home where I am not 300% they’re vegetarian just like me.
- Using a small spoon, fill each dried manicotti sleeve with the cheese/spinach/mushroom filling we just did. Place each manicotti sleeve one next the other in the baking dish. Some will go one way, the rest across, but they should all fit. This is the most time consuming part of the process. Keep on going until all manicotti sleeves are filled with cheese. If you have any leftover filling, like I did, don’t worry. I have a Round 2 recipe for you to use it in a new different application.
9. Pour the rest of the tomato sauce over the filled manicotti. Top with the remaining shredded Italian cheeses and grated Parmesan.
10. Place in oven for about 30 minutes to allow the pasta to cook in the tomato sauce. You’ll notice when the sauce is bubbling and the pasta has softened. If the top is not golden brown, turn the broiler on and allow the cheeses to get crispy on top. When it’s golden delicious, I turn the oven off and leave the pasta in there for another 15 minutes to let it finish cooking with the oven’s residual heat. This will ensure the pasta is cooked, yet still al dente.
Serve with your favorite side dishes… and for us Puerto Ricans that means sweet plantains are on the menu too. We also served it with Annie Mariel’s awesome composed salad. It may not have been the traditional typical Xmas menu, but it was my last cooked meal of 2012 and I LOVED it!!!! I hope you love it too.