Cuban Black Bean Shakshuka

Cuban inspired version of this one-skillet dish with black beans and sofrito. Shakshuka is a savory Israeli breakfast of poached eggs in a spicy tomato sauce with peppers and onions seasoned with cumin and paprika. Shakshuka is traditionally served with bread or pita on the side and some fresh parsley sprinkled on top. Cuban black bean shakshuka with goat cheese and cilantro is my take on the traditional dish.

The shakshuka black bean sauce came together easily in the skillet with red and green bell peppers, cumin, ground oregano, and plenty of spicy garlic. The aromas of sofrito are a classic Cuban cooking scent and the holy grail for most of our recipes. The scent quickly filled my small apartment and warmed up the cold winter morning.

I added extra tomato sauce to my black beans and vegetable stock to make them saucier than normal. Once the sauce simmered for 15 minutes I made little nests for the eggs and cracked them into the bubbling black beans before baking in a hot oven for 10 minutes. I topped my Cuban black bean shakshuka with globs of goat cheese and fresh cilantro with warm thick-sliced toast on the side. This black bean shakshuka is a great spin on the classic Mediterranean breakfast and perfect for brunch and entertaining.

Cuban Black Bean Shakshuka

  • 1 can low-sodium black beans
  • 1 8 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 red bell pepper julienne
  • 1/2 green bell pepper julienne
  • 1 Spanish onion julienne
  • 3 cloves of garlic julienne
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt (easy on the salt since the Goya packet has sodium) and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup vegetable stock, chicken stock, or water
  • 1 packet Sazon Goya Sin Achiote (without Annatto)
  • Pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 4-5 eggs
  • Goat cheese crumbles for garnish
  • Fresh cilantro leaves for garnish

Serve with warm, toasted Cuban bread, lime, and sliced avocado or sliced banana on the side.

Preheat your oven to 400F. Dice or julienne your onions, both bell peppers, and garlic for the sofrito. Add olive oil to a hot cast-iron skillet and sautee until translucent. Add the garlic. Next add the tomato sauce and let simmer and bubble for a few minutes on low to medium heat. Add the cumin, oregano, bay leaf, salt, pepper, and sazon goya seasoning packet. Stir well and add the can of undrained black beans. Stir and add a half cup of vegetable stock, chicken stock, or water. Let the sauce simmer for 15 minutes.

Make little indentations in the sauce to crack the eggs into. Once you have cracked the eggs into the black bean sauce bake the Cuban black bean shakshuka in the oven until the eggs are set to your liking, about 7 to 10 minutes. I like my eggs to be on the runny side so I put then in the oven for 8 minutes. Enjoy this black bean shakshuka with warm toasty Cuban bread and sliced avocado or even some banana. This one-skillet dish can be made easily for brunch or with left over black beans. Enjoy!

 

Cuban Vaca Frita

Vaca-Frita

Vaca frita’s crisp deliciousness is most transcendent when you get off a flight at MIA and rush over to Versailles to welcome your palate back home. Whenever I go back to Miami I have my mandatory must-haves, and vaca frita is one of them- like croquetas, pan tostada with café con leche, Publix subs, pastelitos, Pollo Tropical, and if I’m lucky Mary’s Coin and Laundry Pan Cubanos.

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Vaca frita is tender shredded flank steak marinated with garlicky mojo and fried crisp with white onion. Garnished with a squeeze lime it is best enjoyed with los tres amigos- friojles negros, arroz blanco, y platano maduros. Vaca frita is a Cuban classic that is one of my favorites. This is a dish I most often order out and rarely have cooked at home.

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When I was cooking this vaca frita recipe I realized hadn’t made this not even once since I last cooked it with my abuela. Sometimes I feel like I am stumbling through the steps with vague memories and recipe doubt, but this vaca frita was seriously perfection. Crispy. Flavorful. Home.

vaca frita picture perfect

Vaca Frita

For the steak:

  • 5-2 lbs flank steak (falda)
  • 1 large onion cut lengthwise, reserve half
  • ½ green bell pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1-2 bay leaves (hoja de laurel)
  • Enough water to cover the steak
  • ¼ c dry white cooking wine (vino seco)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil for frying

For the mojo:

  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Juice of one lime

To serve:

  • Lime wedges
  • White rice, black beans, and platano maduros

Rinse the flank steak and add it to a heavy pot. Add half of the onion, half a green bell pepper cut in large chunks, 2 whole garlic cloves, and 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp oregano, 1 tsp cumin, the bay leaves, and freshly cracked black pepper.

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Cover with the flank steak with water. Bring the water to a boil then turn the heat down to a low simmer and cook for 2 to 2.5 hours uncovered. Add water if needed (I didn’t) to avoid the pot from burning. DO NOT cover the pot while the flank steak is cooking and be sure to stir every once in a while so nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot.

While the flank steak is cooking away make the mojo. Mash the 4 garlic cloves with 1 tsp salt and 2 tbsp olive oil with a mortar and pestle. Add the juice of one lime and mash a little more. Set aside.

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Remove the flank steak from the cooking liquid and shred with two forks while hot. Discard the onion and garlic, and keep the bell pepper. Remove the thin skin off the green bell pepper and mash it while hot. Mix the mashed green bell pepper with the shredded beef and add the mojo. Let it sit and marinate for a few minutes while you prepare the onions. Take this time to start cooking the white rice.

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Slice the other half of the onion. Sautee the sliced onions in 2 tbsp olive oil until slightly tender. Remove the onions from the oil and mix in with the mojo-marinating shredded flank steak. Add a little more oil to the pan as needed and get nice and hot. Seriously if your pan doesn’t start out hot the meat will just steam instead of getting crispy. Flatten the shredded beef out to cover the bottom of the pan so all of it can get nice and crisped. Cook the vaca frita about 5 to 6 minutes on each side. Squeeze lime and sprinkle a little salt before serving the vaca frita. Enjoy vaca frita with white rice, black beans, and a lime wedge on the side.

Cuban Mango Avocado Salad

Mango Avocado Salad

Summer is a celebration of all that is tropical and good in this world. Mangoes, lychees, avocado, mamey, anones, and star fruit galore- this is what my summer is made of. Summer in South Florida is filled with ripe mangoes and everyone you know either has a mango tree or a friend or relative with a mango tree.

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The air around homes with mango trees is sweet with ripe and rotting fruit baking in the hot Florida sun as many don’t pick or enjoy the fresh mangoes fast enough and they fall to the ground fermenting. When I lived in Coral Gables I would walk my dog Chloe and mangoes would literally fall at my feet from neighboring trees. Coral Gables is a tropical paradise with limestone houses, shady banyan canopies and palm lined streets. In the summer the tree lines are often dotted with red ripe mangoes and bright lychees ready to fall at a moment’s notice. You might even catch a Macaw on the branches or a tall white Egret on your street corner. This recipe is the cousin of the classic Cuban avocado salad with the addition of fruit. Cuban mango avocado salad is a simple summer recipe that uses the freshest of seasonal ingredients and lets the ripe fruit shine.

Mango Avocado SaladMango Avocado SaladMango Avocado Salad

The scent of ripe mango will always remind me of South Florida summers and riding home with Publix bags filled with this tropical delicacy from family and friends fortunate enough to have a mango tree of their own! This summer Cuban mango and avocado salad is perfect for grills, picnics, large parties, and quick and easy meals.

Mango Avocado Salad

Cuban Mango Avocado Salad

  • 1 avocado diced
  • 1 ripe mango diced
  • Pickled red onions
  • 4-6 small heirloom tomatoes quartered
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp pickling juices

Marinated Red Onions

  • 1 small red onion  sliced
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 5-7 juniper berries
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • Enough water to cover the red onion

Soak the sliced red onions in cold ice water. Soak for 20 minutes and then drain. The thin film on the red onion will naturally separate and becomes easy to peel right off like in the picture below. Next add the red wine vinegar, sugar, and juniper berries (optional), and make sure to top with water to cover. Let the red onions marinate for at least 30 minutes covered in the fridge.

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Dice the mango and quarter the tomatoes. Add diced avocado* and top the salad with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add the marinated red onions to your taste. Drizzle the mango avocado salad with the olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. Gently mix and enjoy! Try this recipe with roasted chicken, anything off the grill, fresh fish, really anything you like and make sure to enjoy the summer produce while it lasts.

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**Note: I used Haas avocados in this recipe, but the crisper watery Florida avocado is my favorite here. Sadly I could not find them in New York, so the creamy Haas will have to suffice.