Cuba Cocina! and some family love

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I found Cuba Cocina by Joyce Lafray years ago (more than 20) while strolling down Michigan Avenue in Chicago with my mother.  We were looking through cookbooks and found this one.  My mother spent quite a bit of time looking through the book and declared it as something we needed to buy.  She bought one copy for me and one for herself.

I took the book home and through the years it has been my go to for Cuban cooking.  One of my favorite recipes is the Coconut Bread.  It is a moist and delicious quick bread (no yeast).  The change I made in the recipe is the 2 cups of heavy cream.  I use 1 cup of heavy cream and 1 cup of half and half.  I find the bread comes out moister.  I also like the yellow rice and chicken recipe, although I don’t add nutmeg, tabasco, asparagus or parsley.  There is a recipe close to my paella recipe.  I rate this book a 4.2/5 and a good add to a cookbook collection or for someone who like good food.

I have amassed a significant collection of recipes from my mother and favorite cousin, Amy. I have spent a bit of time in the kitchen with both of them and each taught me a lot about Cuban home cooking.  One of the first recipes I learned was black beans and bacalao.  I have expanded to add potaje de garbanzo, shrimp Creole, yuca with an olive oil sauce, mojo pork, guava pastries, candied grapefruit rinds, flan and several others.  This is the comfort foods of my youth and dishes I cooked for my kids.  

This post is dedicated to my dear cousin who passed away at the beginning of December of 2020.  I miss you dearly.

Alex and Amy Nov 2017 DC

Black Beans

1 pound (16 oz) dried black beans


8 cups of vegetable broth

1 green pepper

1 small onion finely diced

3 gloves of garlic, minced

1/2 tsp of Bijol seasoning

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon of cumin

3 pinches of salt

1 pinch of pepper

  1.  Pick through the beans and make sure there is no debris, such as small rocks.  Soak the beans overnight in water and 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  The salt helps the outer shell of the beans so they don’t split during cooking.
  2. Drain the beans and place into a pot with a lid. A dutch oven that is at least 4 quarts in capacity is the best option.  Add the vegetable broth or water if you like.  I prefer the broth because it adds flavor.
  3. Cut the green pepper in half.  Cut out the core, veins and seeds.  Place the green pepper into the pot with the bay leaf, onion, garlic, Bijol, cumin, salt and pepper.
  4. Bring the beans to a boil with the lid on.  Take the lid off and bring the heat down to a simmer. You should see small bubbles around the side of the pot.  Stir the beans to ensure that they are not stuck to the bottom, since this can cause some burning.
  5. Cook the beans for one hour.  Test the beans with a fork.  They should be tender and break easily with the fork.  If they are not tender they cook for 15 more minutes and test again.  Keep cooking until tender.  At this point, check to see if the beans are drying out.  You may need to add more liquid to ensure they are plump and tender.
  6. To make sure that the beans thicken, turn up the heat so that some of the liquid cooks off.
  7. Serve with rice.

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