Cuba Libre!

Cuba, our island nation neighbor is just a scant 90 miles off the Florida Keys. It has been influenced by many different cultures over time and each one has left its mark on the island’s cuisine. You can find Spanish, African and French inspired food and even a bit of Chinese around the Havana area. Surrounded by ocean and blessed with a tropical climate Cuban food features a variety of dishes containing seafood, fruits and root vegetables.

Beans & Rice

A typical meal will include rice and beans, either cooked together or separately. Although rice and beans is a culinary element throughout Cuba, it varies from region to region. White rice and red kidney beans are cooked together with a sofrito and then baked in the oven. The same procedure is used for Congri (also known by the terms Arroz Moro and Moros y Cristianos – literally "Moors and Christians") which instead uses black beans. A sofrito is a sauce prepared with garlic, onions and green peppers and is the base for many Cuban dishes.

Cuban Pork Loin

Meats, when available, are typically served in a light sauce and seasoned with oil, garlic, spices and a citrus juice such as bitter orange or lime. I recently prepared a roast pork loin seasoned with anise, coriander, cumin and zest of lime. The original recipe called for two small pork tenderloins weighing a total of 2 ½ pounds. I used a pork loin of similar weight but is much thicker and required additional roasting time noted in the recipe below.

Our meal was also served with a sofrito rice dish without beans, as well as a corn and black bean salad. The rice was seasoned with bacon, onion, bell pepper, chicken broth and turmeric. The salad gave the plate a pop of color and the recipe is available in our archives under an article on “Summertime Salads”. 

If you want the whole experience, I suggest serving this meal with a traditional Mojito. ¡Salud.  Live, Laugh, Love and Eat Well!

Cuban Spiced Pork Tenderloin

Courtesy of Rachel Ray

Serves 6

Total time 45 minutes to 1 hour

  • 2 pork tenderloins weighing about 2 ½ LBS together (or one loin weighing about 2 ½ LBS)
  • 4 cloves garlic, cracked away from skin or about 3 TBSP minced garlic
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 2 tsp anise seed
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 TBSP ground cumin
  • 2 Limes, zested
  • 2 TBSP grill seasoning blend (McCormick Montreal Steak seasoning) or coarse salt and pepper
  • Olive or vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 450 F. Cut 4 slits into each of the tenderloins (or 8 slits almost through the larger single pork loin) and alternately nest garlic and bay leaves into slits. Place meat on a nonstick baking sheet (I used aluminum foil on a normal baking sheet). Combine the spices. Coat the meat with oil and rub the spice mixture over the loin(s). Place in oven and roast 25 minutes for tenderloins (or up to 45 minutes for loin checking after 35 minutes). Remove from oven and allow juices to redistribute, then slice and serve with sofrito rice and garnish with chopped scallions and cilantro.

Sofrito Rice

Courtesy of Rachel Ray

Serves 6

Total time: about 35 minutes

  • 1 TBSP oil, olive or vegetable
  • 2 slices bacon, chopped small
  • 1 small white onion chopped
  • 1 small green bell pepper chopped
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 ½ cups white rice
  • ½ tsp turmeric or 2 pinches saffron
  • Salt

Heat medium pot with tight fitting lid over medium high heat. Add oil and bacon and brown the bacon. Add onions, peppers, turmeric, salt and sauté 5 minutes. Add broth and bring to a boil. Add rice, cover pot and reduce heat to a simmer. Cook 15 to 20 minutes until rice is tender.

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