How to Make Cuban Coffee

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Cuban coffee is a breakfast staple, an afternoon pick-me-up, or the perfect reason to congregate with friends around ‘la ventana’ at Versailles while enjoying salty croquetas and some chiste. The Miami nectar even has its own hashtag, #305cafecito, denoting the time for the afternoon colada and honoring the city’s famous ‘305’ area code.

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Cuban coffee is part of my everyday routine, and it has become something I cannot live without. I hate to admit that I totally get a caffeine headache by noon if I haven’t had a cup of joe or a colada. The smell of coffee is comforting, and I eagerly anticipate a hot cafe con leche each morning.

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A good Cuban coffee has a solid espumita- and it all comes from beating the sugar with a teaspoon of thick brewed coffee. Apparently some people add sugar into the water in the cafetera so it brews already sweetened, but in my opinion, a Cuban coffee isn’t a Cuban without the caramel crowning glory of rich espuma on the cafecito.

How to Make Cuban Coffee:

  • Cuban Coffee Maker
  • Water
  • Ground espresso beans, preferably Cafe Bustelo
  • Sugar (2-3 teaspoons per 3 servings)

Fill the cafetera with water coming just beneath the circular opening, many Cubans also prefer to fill the water up to the little metal knob on the inside of the cafetera. Insert the metal coffee filter (or coffee percolator) and fill evenly with freshly ground Cuban coffee. Press the coffee down with a small spoon to make sure it is packed in the percolator. I prefer to use Café Bustelo instead of Pilon, but you can use whichever brand you prefer.

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Screw on the lid of the cafetera and leave it open so you can see when the coffee begins to come out. Place on a burner on high heat and patiently stand by the oven waiting for those first few precious drops of the dark elixir to stream out. It is very important that you wait for the coffee to begin instead of walking away and forgetting.

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The very first drops of the coffee are the thickest and the best for making a rich and creamy espuma for a genuine Cuban coffee. Quickly pour about a teaspoon of the fresh coffee into a small stainless steel bell shaped pitcher (apparently this is what it is called) that is holding 2-3 teaspoons of sugar depending on how sweet you like your coffee. Beat the sugar and coffee together with the spoon scraping the granules along the sides of the metal container to break them down. Continue aggressively beating until the sugar forms a creamy consistency the color of caramel.

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The coffee should be finished percolating at this time and you can begin to slowly pour the hot Cuban coffee into the beaten sugar. Mix slowly with the spoon to create the perfect espumita. My mom always said to pour coffee first for your guests since these will have the thickest layer of espumita, and lastly for yourself as the espuma will likely be all gone.

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Guava Almond Oat Bars

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Guava almond oat bars are crunchy, nutty, gooey, and perfectly sweetened with tart guava. Guava is a tropical fruit featured in Cuban cuisine from batidos (shakes), pastelitos, or served simply sliced on Cuban crackers slathered with thick cream cheese. I love eating guava marmalade drizzled over cottage cheese or swirled into plain oatmeal. My abuelos always had Cuban crackers, a bar of guava paste, and Philadelphia cream cheese in the kitchen ready for a sweetly sinful Sunday snack.

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I seem to always have an abundance of Quaker Oats in my apartment. I had been religiously eating them for breakfast daily, but I’m over oatmeal for the time being, so I have to find other uses for these wholesome grains. I recently tried a local brand, Mama’s Guava Bars, whose rich, soft guava bars are made with shortbread crusts. These guava bars are seriously delicious, but I wanted something with a crunchier, nuttier, and thicker crust.

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Guava almond oat bars are warmly scented with cinnamon and fresh nutmeg complimented by a tart gooey guava center. These guava almond oat bars are the perfect treat for an afternoon snack paired with a steaming cup of café con leche and a good read.

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Guava Almond Oat Bars:

Old-Fashioned Oat Crust:
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
Freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup chopped almonds (4 ounces)
1 ¾ cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg; beaten at room temperature
1 cup (2 sticks) melted butter

Guava Filling:
1 jar Conchita Brand Guava Marmelade
2 shells or 1/3 cup diced guava shells

Preheat your oven to 350F. Grease a 13 x 9 Pyrex dish and line with parchment paper. Mix around 11 ounces of the guava marmalade with the diced guava shells and set aside. Mix the flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg with a whisk. Pulse the almonds in a food processor to coarsely chop unless you bought pre-chopped almonds from the grocery store.

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Stir in the old-fashioned oats and chopped almonds. Stir in the melted butter and add the beaten room temperature egg. Lastly, add in the vanilla and your crust is complete!

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Press a little more than half of the crust into the bottom of the parchment lined baking dish. Now top the bottom layer with the guava marmalade mixture. Sprinkle the remaining crust as evenly as possible on top of the guava almond oat bars and press to form a rough top crust. Bake the guava almond oat bars for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly.

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Allow the guava almond oat bars to cool for at least 1 hour- 2 or more hours is ideal so they set well. You can chill the guava almond oat bars in the refrigerator for 20 minutes before cutting into bars.

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Garbanzo Frito

     betttterr

Garbanzo frito is delicious Cuban hash served as a side, over white rice, or for breakfast with fried eggs on top. As a die-hard fan of breakfast, I prefer to eat my garbanzo frito with fried eggs on top with a steaming up of café con leche. This is my abuela’s recipe and my abuelo loved his garbanzo frito. This is one of the many recipes I made with my abuela on the weekends at her house on Biscayne Boulevard.

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I miss my abuelos deeply, and it makes me really happy to make my abuela’s recipes while listening to the Buena Vista Social Club station on Pandora. Classics like “Candela”, “El Cuarto de Tula”, “Chan Chan”, and “Vamanos Pa’l Monte” come on the station making me nostalgic as I dance in the kitchen chopping up veggies for the garbanzo frito.

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The base of this recipe is a Cuban sofrito (I like to say this is the Cuban mire poix). Sofrito is a sauté of green and red bell peppers with onion, garlic, and a little tomato sauce. This is a basis for lots of Cuban recipes besides garbanzo frito like fricassee de pollo and black beans. Garbanzo frito is a homey delicious hash that is my kinda soul food. Other versions are much saucier with considerably more tomato sauce or lots of oil. My abuela’s recipe for garbanzo frito is just right and a wonderful Cuban classic to have in your arsenal!

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Garbanzo Frito

 2-3 tbs olive oil
1 med onion diced
1 med green pepper diced
1 small red pepper diced
3 cloves garlic minced
2 chorizo links, casing removed, and diced
1 cup ham diced
4 ounces no-salt added tomato sauce (optional)
2 cans garbanzo beans (or 1 large can)

The first thing you should do is rinse and drain the garbanzo beans so they can dry. You don’t want to add wet garbanzo beans to the pan which would cause the whole recipe to steam instead of sauté. Set the garbanzos aside and chop your sofrito base of red and green bell peppers, onion, and garlic. Smash the garlic with the flat side of your knife to easily pop the cloves out of their peel.

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Prepping and doing your chopping in advance is best to make this recipe go by quickly. Heat oil in pan on medium heat and add the onions and peppers. Cook till onions are translucent and a bit golden. I allowed the sofrito to cook for 10 minutes or so before adding the garlic. I like to make a little space between the veggies for the garlic and allow it to cook for 1-2 minutes before mixing in. The kitchen will start to smell like a Cuban household filled with the aroma of sofrito in the air.

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While these are cooking you should peel the 2 chorizo links and dice. I bought pre-diced ham to save a step. Do NOT buy smoked ham; it will totally alter the flavor of the dish. Add the chorizo and ham, stir well and let cook for 3-4 minutes. Add the drained garbanzo beans. Let this cook for 8-10 minutes so the garbanzo beans can brown and mix nicely with the other ingredients.

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I might’ve let this go a little longer, stirring every few minutes to get all of the garbanzos a little browned. When nearly done add 4 ounces of tomato sauce (this step is optional, some prefer no sauce while others make this with lots of sauce). I used no-salt added tomato sauce since the ham and chorizo are naturally salty. Do not add any salt or pepper to this recipe, it doesn’t need it and you will risk over salting the dish.

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Mix well and allow to cook and brown a little, mixing every couple of minutes. Cook around 5 more minutes until everything the garbanzo frito deliciously blended and it starts sticking a bit to the bottom of the pan. Throughout the whole cooking process I had the burner between on half way at ‘5’. Serve the garbanzo frito over white rice, as a side dish, or with a fried egg on top for breakfast.

vertical-dish toasty-garbanzos

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