Clockwise from delicious: Cabbage salad, Delight Soy 'chicken' savory stew, mango salsa, yellow rice & black beans, fresh avocado, spicy blue cornbread.
Intros and Inspirations
I first became curious about Cuban cuisine during our month-long tour in Florida this past February. When I asked some locals if I might find some vegan-friendly Cuban food, laughter was a common response. It was then I realized that if I were to try the cuisine, I would have to discover it in my own kitchen. While in the back of my mind, I did not make a move until my good friend Bonnie decided to have a Cuban-themed dinner party and I was inspired to make some accompaniments to her delicious roasted yucca, tangy stewed Delight Soy chicken, yellow rice, & beans (see above picture).
Since I'm new to Cuban cooking, I can directly trace the recipes upon which I've based my veganized versions. These are linked at the bottom of each recipe. The three dishes I chose were mango salsa, spicy cornbread, and flan. I changed them up a bit. If they were wearing trousers, they are now in a tutu.
History of Dish
According to Salsa Shack, salsa ("sauce") has been around since 3000 BC and was also made by the Aztecs using chiles, tomatoes, & tomatillos. The salsa included here is based on a version you will find in most Miami Cuban restaurants (minus the mango).
Corn bread (in our version blue corn bread, thanks to a certain purchasing decision by my beloved) can be traced to the Native American culture. When European settlers arrived, they ate bread made of corn out of necessity, and it was considered a sacrifice. Similarly, I remember my father saying that he could not eat corn bread due to having suffered through it as a child in Greece when nothing else was available. We can assure you this version will cause delight, not suffering.
I dislike Flan and flannish gelatinous desserts. I could not resist the challenge, however, of making something that is almost 100% based on eggs and cream, vegan. I must say this was delicious and I'll be making again but adding walnuts and other flavorings. Flan can be traced to Roman times when an excess of eggs made recipes using them popular. This version is salmonella and recall free!
You might wonder, how are these dishes Cuban? Cuban cuisine is a fusion of many different cuisines. That top ramen you're eating right now might be Cuban and you don't even know it.
Yield and Pre-heat
- Enough salsa for a dinner party.
- Enough corn bread for a dinner party, or 16 squares (who don't like to partay).
- Enough flan for a party and leftovers the next day, or 3 large or 6 small flan.
~ 1 ~ :: Mango Salsa ::
- 1 whole mango
- 6 cloves of garlic
- 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
- 1 T lemon juice
- 3 T white vinegar
- Juice of one lime
- 2 T white vinegar
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- Salt to taste
Cut mango into small cubes, then the cubes into smaller pieces, and marinade in 2 T of the white vinegar and the lemon juice and stir in a sprinkle or pinch of cayenne pepper. Let sit for an hour or two.
Afterward, toss the garlic, cilantro, 1 T white vinegar, and juice of one lime into the blender. Strain the marinade from the mango into the blender as well. Blend until mixture is green.
Heat up the olive oil in a cast iron or other pan until warm but not smoky. Turn off the heat then stir in the blended mix and mango bits. Serve warm. Or cold. We don't care. It's tangy and delicious. Reminds me of Greek meets Spain meets Thailand. Maybe that's Cuban.
Don't hate me because I'm beautiful.
Based on: http://icuban.com/food/mariquitas_salsa.html
~ 2 ~ : : Spicy Blue Cornbread ::
- 1 cup blue (or yellow) cornmeal
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 T sugar
- 2 t baking powder
- 1 t Salt
- 1/2 t freshly ground black pepper
- 2 T ground flax
- 1/4 t cayenne pepper
- 1/4 cup silken tofu
- 1/4 slice of banana
- 1 cup soymilk
- 1/4 cup Oil
- 1/4 cup Corn kernels (1 ear of corn)
- 1/4 cup canned mild or hot green peppers
Earth Balance for greasing pan.
- Preheat oven to 425F.
- In a large mixing bowl, mix together the dry ingredients: cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, pepper, cayenne, and flax.
- In a separate bowl, mash the silken tofu and banana together.
- Add the soy milk, oil, chiles and corn to the wet mixture. (Scrape/cut the corn from the cob with a knife)
- Make a well in the center of the dry mix and stir in the wet mixture.
- Pour the batter into a 9-inch greased baking pan and bake 20 minutes or until cornbread separates slightly from the sides of the pan.
- Place the pan on a wire rack to cool, then cut the bread into squares and serve warm.
Fluffy, sweet. Tangy, light.
Based on: http://www.bigoven.com/recipe/63630/spicy-cornbread-with-green-chiles
~3~ :: Flan ::
I was unable, with two tries, to make a good caramel. I can only refer you to a recipe and a few tips and hope that you can show me the way. Or, I can share my recipe for "Harder 'n Peanut Brittle." In any case, it worked well enough to create a nice coating on top of this flan.
- 1 cup sugar.
- 1/8 cup water
Put sugar and water in a sauce pan and stir to dissolve into a thick, sticky syrup. Then, DO NOT STIR. Only shake the pan. (Stirring makes the sugar crystalize.)
Place it on the stove top over medium-low heat. Holding the edge of the pan with a hot pad, tilt the pan from side to side as the sugar melts and caramelizes.
When all the sugar has melted and become a golden brown liquid, remove the pan from the stove. Pour into the bottom of ramekins. Work fast to ensure it does not harden too much prior to custard step.
For the Custard:
• 2 cups coconut milk
• 1 T agar-agar flakes*
• 1/2 cup extra-firm silken tofu
• 1 1/2 T sugar
• 1 T vanilla extract (or rum extract)
• Pinch of salt
- Place the coconut milk in a medium saucepan and sprinkle with the agar flakes. Let sit for 10 minutes. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes, or until the agar has dissolved.
- Put the tofu, sugar, vanilla, salt, and coconut milk mixture in a blender and blend until very smooth.
- Pour into the ramekins over the syrup, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 1/2 hours. Though I must say mine was ready sooner.
- To remove from the ramekins, dip the bottom in hot water for about 15 seconds, then turn over onto a plate.
* Note: for my version, I used the Agar Agar in powder form pre-mixed with sugar from the Asian store. Therefore, I increased the amount in this recipe to 2 Tablespoons since it was less concentrated Agar Agar. Feel free to experiment for desired firmness. Let me know if you have different results.
Deliciously mild mango salsa is perfect with chips, yucca, or like a blanket marinading your broiled tofu or seitan creations.
The flan is custard-y and holds up with just enough melt like kind words to sad ears. The cornbread is moist and spicy-sweet and I think I'm going to make some more right now.
Bonnie's yucca, stew, & yellow rice/beans were delicious -- a good filling meal with several textures, tastes, and shapes. Feel free to post your Cuban recipe ideas below. Or better yet, bring me a plate.
Plate showcasing Bonnie's roasted yucca.