Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration Part II: Cuban Ropa Vieja & a Giveaway

During part one of my Hispanic Heritage Month celebration, we explored the cuisine of Colombian and made some fancy-schmancy arepas de queso. This week we are moving on to Cuba! I have always been fascinated by Cuban culture, not only the cuisine. I find it so similar to Brazilian culture, more than other Latin countries.

As I ventured to find a cookbook that would not only have authentic Cuban recipes, but also delve into Cuban culture, I found Memories of a Cuban Kitchen. In this cookbook, the late author Mary Urrutia Randelman tells a romantic story about her early childhood in Havana in the 1950’s and her unforgettable and overwhelming move to Miami. Reading her story, I couldn’t help but feel an emotional connection with her, as I too moved to the US at an early age and experienced similar situations she describes. Besides sharing her personal family story, Mary explains the diverse cuisine of Cuba, complete with a glossary of Cuban ingredients.

Cuban food is mostly known for its pork dishes. Unfortunately, Mike isn’t a fan of pork and, unless its bacon or barbecued ribs, I usually pass on the pig. So, I decided to make the popular Cuban dish, Ropa Vieja. The name of this dish translates to “old clothes”. And, trust me, although the name is not very appetizing, this meal is a knock-out and was perfect for the chilly, beginning-of-fall weather we’ve been having in Seattle. 

The portion in the book yields about 6 to 8 servings. Being that there are only two and a half of us at home, we had plenty of leftovers. I don't know about you, but I almost always find that the next day's leftovers are even better than the day you made it! This was definitely true for the ropa vieja - the tender ribbons of beef soaked up the hearty, tomatoey sauce and had even more flavor!

I will be giving away a copy of Mary Urrutua Randelman’s book Memories of a Cuban Kitchen to one of my lucky reader! So, if you want to explore the amazing cuisine of Cuba this is what you need to do:

How to enter:

-Must be a Food Samba follower (the follow button is on the right sidebar.)

-Leave me a comment answering any of the following: What's your favorite comfort food? Have you ever tried Cuban food? Ropa vieja? What did you think?
*Make sure your comment links back to an email address or provide me with your email so I can contact you if you win!

+1 Point:
Like Food Samba on Facebook. Leave me a separate comment saying you did this.

+1 point:
Follow Food Samba on Twitter, RT the following:

“Win the cookbook, Memories of a Cuban Kitchen, via @foodsamba, as part of a month-long series celebrating #HispanicHeritageMonth :http://bit.ly/qKnBZH ”
Leave me a separate comment saying you did this.

*Giveaway closes Friday, October 7th at noon PST. I will be choosing a winner at random, through random.org. The winner will be contacted through email.

Ropa Vieja
from Memories of a Cuban Kitchen

2 1/2-lb. flank steak, cut in half
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup pure Spanish olive oil
1 large onion, cut in 1/2 and each half thinly sliced
1 large green bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced
2 to 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 cups drained and chopped canned whole tomatoes, or prepared tomato sauce
1/2 cup sherry
Salt and pepper, to taste
1/2 cup finely chopped drained pimientos, for garnish
1/2 cup drained canned early sweet peas, for ganish

Place beef and one bay leaf in a large saucepan, cover with salted water, and cook over low heat, covered, until the meat is tender, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Remove meat from the stock (save the stock for another use), allow to cool at room temperature, then cut the meat into 2-inch chunks.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the oil over low heat until fragrant, then cook the onions, bell pepper, and garlic, stirring, or until the onions are tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes, sherry, and the remaining bay leaf, and cook, uncovered, an additional 15 minutes.
When the meat is cool, shred it with your fingers, season with salt and pepper, add it to the tomato mixture, cover, and simmer over low heat for 30 minutes. Remove the bay leaves, garnish with the pimientos and peas, and serve with rice.


Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration Part I: Colombian Arepas & a Giveaway

For the last couple of days I have been researching a touchy subject: Are Brazilians Hispanic, Latino or both? After much debate and research, my answer has been narrowed down to: Brazilians are Latino, but not Hispanic. The deciding factor was that, technically, the term Hispanic is used to describe someone or something relating to Spain or to Spanish-speaking countries. Brazilians are Lusophones, in other words “Portuguese-speaking”. This discovery kind of bummed me out. Why, you ask? Well, today just so happens to be the first day of a month-long (September 15th – October 15th) celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month. So, does this mean I don’t get to celebrate with my fellow Latina sisters, just because Brazil is the only non-Spanish speaking country in Latin America? Absolutely not!
I may not come from a Spanish-speaking country but, I feel like I need to celebrate this month. Apart from the language factor, I believe that all Latin American countries have a great deal in common. One specific common factor we all share is food. Not only do some of our foods have a trace of similarity, but our food culture is very unique. Everything happens around food!
So, in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month I invite you to learn a little bit more about  a couple of my Latin neighboring countries that are certified“Hispanic”! From now until October 13th, I will be hosting a three-part series featuring a Hispanic recipe from a cookbook, which I will then be giving away! So, let’s get right to it. The first country we will be exploring is, Colombia! 
Colombia, while being one of Brazil’s neighbors, was pretty foreign to me. When it came to Colombian cuisine, I had no idea what a typical dish was. So, on a quest to find more information, I came across Secrets of Colombian Cooking. This cookbook had lots of great reviews, so I decided to buy it and further explore the cuisine of Colombia – boy am I glad I did! This book, by Patricia McCausland, is full of knowledge. The recipes are detailed, ingredients described thoroughly, and stories of Colombian cuisine are told.


After much debate on what recipe I would share with y’all today, I decided to make arepas de queso.  Patricia described these as little breakfast snacks made of cornmeal, butter and cheese. But, what got me hooked into this one was her suggestion of serving it as hors d’oeuvres with sour cream and caviar! Ummm, yes please!
Arepas are to Colombians what pao de queijo are to us in Brazil. Enjoyed as breakfast or as a snack, simple to make and found at just about every corner kitanda. Patricia’s recipe for arepa de queso, is a more modern, less labor-intensive version that she describes as being popular in homes of Colombian cities. You will find the recipe from Secret of Colombian Cooking for arepas de queso bellow.
Now, I’ve got some fabulous news for you! I contacted Patricia, the author of this wonderful book, and was able to have a quick Q&A with her! She graciously agreed to answer some questions about herself and Colombian cuisine:
FS: Tell us a little bit about yourself - what is your background and when did you find an interest in food?
Patricia: I have been interested in cooking since a very young age, as my mother had a pastry shop in our house. I started working after schools and weekends at the age of 13.

FS: In Brazil, feijoada is dubbed the "national dish". Does Colombia have a national dish?
Patricia: Our national food would be sancocho, even though it is prepared slightly differently in different parts of the country. Colombia, like Brazil, is made up of the mixture of Black, European and Native communities and therefore we have a bit of each in our traditional foods. Sancocho is a soup served with many kinds of meat, poultry and seafood, all together or separately depending on the area it is made. It is commonly cooked with plantains, roots and tubers, luke, yucca, name, arracacha, and potatoes.

FS: Can you describe Colombian cuisine and share with us the reason you chose to right a book about it?
Patricia: I chose to write book about Colombian food after I reached the age of 40 and was transferred from Colombia to Panama with my husband. I decided I wanted to write after working more than 20 years in the bakery business. Our food is as diverse as our territory and so, I wanted to leave a heritage to my girls, now leaving their country as young children.

FS: I know with Brazilian cooking, there are some ingredients that are hard to find locally in the States. Is this the same with Colombian cuisine? How can the average home cook get around that?
Patricia: In the States there are many Latino food markets around large cities, and for smaller ones the Internet is very valuable. Food stores that carry natural and organic foods also carry many Latin ingredients and fresh produce.

To learn more about Patricia and to see her in action in the kitchen subscride to her YouTube,

And the post keeps getting better and better… I am giving away a copy of Patricia’s book, Secret of Colombian Cooking, to one of my lucky readers!
How to enter:
-Must be a Food Samba follower (the follow button is on the right sidebar.)
-Leave me a comment answering any of the following:Have you’ve ever had Colombian food, if yes what did you have and how was it? If not, would you like to? What other Hispanic cuisine are you curious to learn more about? How are you celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month?
*Make sure your comment links back to an email address or provide me with your email so I can contact you if you win!

+1 Point:

Like Food Samba on Facebook. Leave me a separate comment saying you did this.

+1 point:

Follow Food Samba on Twitter, RT the following and leave me a separate comment saying you did this:

“Win a copy of Secrets of Colombian Cooking via @foodsamba, as part of a month-long series celebrating #HispanicHeritageMonth : http://bit.ly/pjnE9E ”

*Giveaway closes Wednesday, September 28th at noon PST. I will be choosing a winner at random, through random.org. The winner will be contacted through email.

Arepas de Queso
From Secrets of Colombian Cooking

1/3 cup precooked white cormeal
1/3 cup warm water
2 tsp butter, soft
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 pound grated white farmer's cheese
Oil or butter for cooking

Place the cornmeal, water, butter and salt in a bowl; mix with your hands for about 30 seconds until it has taken the consistency of a paste. Let it rest 5 minutes. Knead with your hands about 1 more miute until a ball of dough forms.

Make an indentation in the ball with your hand, add the cheese and kneadd 1 minute more. Divide and form into 4 small balls.

Place the balls between 2 sheets of plastic and with a havy pan or pot cover flatten to the thickness you desire, from 1/4 to 1/2 inch.

Melt 1/4 tsp of butter in a pan  and set over medium heat. Place the arepas in the pan, and cook about 2 minutes on each side until they have a golden color.


Vovó's (Grandma's) Cold Remedy: Canja de Galinha

How was your Labor Day weekend? Mine was amazing! I went camping for the first time ever – well, besides my 5th grade camping trip to Ft. Flagler ages ago. The familia and I went to Lake Chelan, in Eastern Washington. We spent the holiday weekend boating, barbecuing and making s'mores. And, when it was time to get back to real life, Chelan sent me home with a parting gift: strep throat!

For the past couple of days, I have been in bed, barely able to open my mouth. I finally woke up yesterday feeling a little better with just a little tingle of a sore throat and a persistent cough. So, I mustered up enough energy in me and pull out one of Vovó's old trick to kicking colds to the curb: canja de galinha.

Move over chicken noodle soup, canja de galinha is all one’s soul needs to be soothed and set on the road of recovery. The light, flavorful tomato paste and chicken broth is filled with chicken, rice, potato and carrots. Like the admired American version, canja de galinha is believed by many Brazilians to be a healing soup.  And, besides being flavor-packed, it’s simple and easy to make. This makes it perfect for your kitchen illiterate partner to prepare this for you when you are in bed sick.
What are your favorite cold/sickness remedies? Do you have a favorite chicken soup recipe for when you’re under the weather?

Canja de Galinha

2 tbsp olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 chicken breast, cubed
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/3 cup jasmine rice
3 cups water
4 cups chicken stock
1 medium carrot, cubed
1 red potato, cubed
1/4 tsp ground cumin

In a large sauce pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and cook until translucent. Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Bring heat up to medium high and add chicken breast and sear for 4-5 minutes.  Add parsley and tomato paste and cook until tomato paste is well incorporated. Add rice and saute for about 2 minutes. Add water and cook for 10 minutes. Add chicken stock carrot and potato. Season soup with salt, pepper and cumin. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until veggies are cooked through and soup has reached desired thickness, about


Feijoada: Featured on Flanboyant Eats

Happy Monday, everyone - and happy Labor day! The fam and I are headed to Lake Chelan to go camping this morning. But, before we hit the road I wanted to share some exciting news. Today I am being featured on my girl Bren's fabulous food blog, Flanboyant Eats , as part of her "All Around Latin America" round up in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month! So, if that tantalizing picture up there has your mouth watering, head on over to Flanboyant Eats to learn more about this Brazilian national dish and my recipe for it!


Fried Hearts of Palm with a Spicy Coconut Sauce


Hearts of palm, or palmito, is a very popular ingredient in Brazilian cuisine. As you can probably tell from the name, it is a vegetable that comes from the inner core of certain types of palm trees. They are skinny, white tubes with a very blunt, tangy, artichoke-like flavor and tender, velvety texture. In Brazil, we eat them in salads, by themselves, as well as cooked in hot dishes.

I love palmito in any form, but especially cooked! During my last visit to Brazil, my family and I visited restaurant that served Brazilian-style crepes. I ordered a crepe filled with shrimp and palmito in a coconut sauce. It was amazing! And since then, I have never been able to get the flavor out of my mind. This fried palmito with spicy coconut sauce recipe is a play on that crepe dish I had. The flavor combination is a match made in heaven. The warm and juicy hearts of palm, soaked in the sweet and spicy, silky coconut sauce, marry together perfectly creating samba party explosion in your mouth! 

Fried Hearts of Palm

Canola oil, for frying
1 jar hearts of palm (5 sticks/tubes)
1 egg
1 cup plain bread crumbs
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

Pour enough oil into a large frying pan to \reach a depth of 2 inches. Heat the oil over medium heat until it reaches 350 degrees F.

Working gently, pat the hearts of palm dry with a paper towel and cut in half.

Stir the bread crumbs, salt and pepper in a bowl to blend. Whisk the eggs in another small bowl. Gently dip the hearts of palm in the egg to coat completely and allow the excess egg to drip back into the bowl. Coat the hearts of palm in the bread crumb mixture, patting to adhere and coat completely.

When the oil is hot,  fry the hearts of palm until they are golden brown, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the fried hearts of palm to paper towels and drain.

Spicy Coconut Sauce

1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp onion, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
1 cup coconut milk
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

In a saute pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and sweat until they become translucent. Add tomato and cook mixture for 2-3 minutes. Add coconut milk, cayenne, salt and pepper and let mixture simmer until sauce thickens, about 4-5 minutes.