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HAVANA CLUB MANGO MADNESS

HAVANA CLUB MANGO MADNESS

One of our BEST family trips ever was to the Cayman Islands.  It was so beautiful, the people were incredibly friendly and genuinely wanted you to have a great time.  My husband and I like to explore new places while on vacation, so we headed […]

Bolitas De Yuca

Bolitas De Yuca

Some of our best recipe ideas come from just being hungry at the restaurant and wanting to try something new.  Yuca is one of my favorite Cuban staple items.  I happen to love the versatility of Yuca and its familiarity to the potato.  Yuca is […]

Love at First Avocado!

Love at First Avocado!

Growing up, Avocados were definitely not on the menu.  Of course I was aware of guacamole, but it was only an option if we dined out, never on our plates for dinner.  It wasn’t until much later when I was 19 and started dating my husband when my love for avocados blossomed.  My husband is Cuban and Puerto Rican so the avocado plays a very large role in most of their meals.

I remember my first meal with his family, it was his birthday and his aunt Liz came to his house to make his favorite dish.  At the time my daily meals consisted of chicken, salads, potatoes and lots of veggies.  So to my surprise when we sat down to eat, his aunt served me a hefty portion of Bistec en Salsa (steak braised in Spanish tomato sauce), white rice, red beans, tostones and literally half an avocado.  The plate landed in front of me with a disclaimer from his aunt (whom I just met 5 mins prior to being served)

“and you better eat it all”. 

My mothers sentiments of  “a lady always leaves something on her plate” quickly went by the wayside as I began to pick away at this unfamiliar yet delicious dish that laid before me.  Half way through eating, my mother in law noticed I wasn’t eating the avocado. She asked very abruptly “you don’t like avocados? Why aren’t you eating it?”  It was apparent their love for avocados were infinite and mine at the time minuscule.  I didn’t want to offend anyone so I just came clean and said “I’ve never had one like this? What do I do?” It’s quite possible that everyone looked up from their plate in shock and awe.  I quickly interjected and said “well I’ve had guacamole of course… just not plain avocado.”  The look on their faces told a story of betrayal and dismay.  His mom responded with a “mirraaaa… ok. You just take your fork, cut a piece and eat it with either the rice and beans or the steak. Or even one big bite of all of it”.  So I followed suit and did just that.  I WAS HOOKED! The creaminess from the avocado offered a nice compliment to the tangy tomato sauce and balanced the saltiness of the beans.  I made sure to be present for every family dinner so that I could experience this delicious pairing again and again! 

The funny part, was that I still didn’t know what an avocado looked like until I attended one of their large family bbq’s.  His uncle Nelson had a bowl on his table with these weird brown wrinkly looking things  surrounded by limes.  My mother in law picked one up and told me “now this is an avocado!”.  How can something so delicious and brightly colored be so unassuming and strange looking on the outside? (Well that is an entirely separate post but anyways…) she quickly opened one with a knife, sliced and fanned it out on a serving plate for all to enjoy.   Half way through the BBQ I went to grab some of my new addiction and of course it was all gone. I turned to see if my mother in law was near by so she could replenish the plate but she was not in site.  I was spoiled now and couldn’t imagine my plate without any avocado. So I decided to take matters into my own hands (literally) and teach myself how to cut an avocado… besides how hard could it be? I watched her do it so easily. “If she can do it… so can I!” I told myself and I marched into uncle nelsons kitchen, grabbed an avocado and the same knife she had used to cut the others and went for it.  Then… OH MY GOD IM BLEEDING!…the avocado I grabbed was not ripe at all and was hard and when I went to place the knife into the skin it went into my finger instead. Total novice move…just as I turned to look for help, there’s my mother in law. ” what happened? Are you ok?” As Im explaining what happened, she quickly grabbed salt and lime and began going to work on my finger.  This was probably even more painful then slicing my finger open.  From that day, I quickly learned the difference between a ripe avocado vs not so ripe.  

During one of my first trips to Miami I was introduced to the Florida avocado. Most of My husbands Cuban family lives in Miami so every time we go we always make sure to visit.  When I first met my husband’s Cuban side, we were greeted by his 3 small aunts. They were full of energy and swooned over him. It was such an adorable site to see. He introduced me in Spanish, they didn’t speak English and I did not speak Spanish, and they gave me a very warm welcome and we tried our best to communicate as they ushered us into their home and promptly sat us down to eat. They began working in tandem to complete this expansive meal of bistec de palomilla, white rice, black beans, maduros, tostones and an avocado and tomato salad.  It was a site to see as each played a role in order to put on this grand show of a meal. I knew this would be the best meal I ate while in Miami so I didn’t hesitate to dig in.  Oh did my taste buds sing of joy and satisfaction that day. I served myself a little of everything and was happy to see something that resembled a salad on the table.  I never had avocados with sliced tomatoes and onions so I was eager to try. Wowwwww is all I told myself.  I could’ve finished the entire plate of avocado salad but it was my first time meeting them and I didn’t want my first impression to be “Billy’s girlfriend who ate everything and didn’t share”. It was that damn good. Light, crisp refreshing. The tangy citrus notes sang throughout the dish. It was a perfect pairing to the heavy steak, rice and beans.  Especially in the hot climate that Miami offers.  I couldn’t stop eating it and my tastebuds took note of the different flavor profile of the avocado in this salad. It wasn’t like the avocados I had at my mother in laws house. These avocados were light, crisp, and refreshing. A perfect pair to the tomatoes. I leaned over to my husband and asked him why these avocados tasted so different. He was unsure and asked his tia Guillerma and she brought out this large green ovalish thing.  She explained to my husband who then translated to me that this was a different avocado.  Whattttt?? A different avocado than what I was becoming familiar with? If I spoke Spanish back then I would’ve bombarded her with a million questions but instead I just looked amazed and kept eating.  Once we got back home all I could think about was the avocado salad I had.  Since then, I’ve tested numerous avocado salads still nothing compares to the simplistic version of the classic Cuban Avocado Tomato salad. 

The avocado marks the beginning of my journey of love for cooking and culinary career.  To this day my mother in law jokes and tell our customers and guests that  “my daughter in law couldn’t cut an avocado and now she cooks better than I do” 

Please enjoy this recipe as much as I have and continue to. 

Jamie’s Avocado & Tomato Salad

2 whole avocado sliced and diced  (whether Haas or Florida avocado either is fine) 

2  tomatoes (your choice)  sliced thin and into quarters

1 medium red onion sliced thin 

2 table spoons of crumbled feta cheese

3 table spoons of good Spanish extra virgin olive oil 

2 table spoon of red wine vinegar

1/2 of lime 

Sea salt to taste 

Black pepper to taste 

  1. Slice the tomato and avocado into thin slices. Quarter the tomato slices and dice the avocado slices. You want the avocado slices to be slightly thicker than the tomato slices. 
  2. Slice the red onions into thin slices. 
  3. Over the avocado slices squeeze lime juice in order to preserve the bright green color and helps to slow down oxidization process.
  4. Assemble the salad in a bowl by placing the diced tomato and avocado, 1 table spoon of crumbled feta, olive oil and red wine vinegar. Sprinkle sea salt and black pepper and then toss salad until everything mixes together.
  5. Sprinkle olive oil over the top and follow with another sprinkle of red wine vinegar. 
  6. Place on serving plate. 
  7. Sprinkle the remaining crumbled feta over the top.
  8. Let sit at room temperature to marry the flavors and penetrate the tomato and avocado. 
  9. Serve alongside your favorite grilled meat, fish or rice dish.  Even alone as a refreshing salad on a hot summer day. 

Tip! 

I love heirloom tomatoes. When they’re in season I like to mix a couple of firm heirloom tomatoes with Roma tomatoes into this classic recipe. It’s a subtle difference but packs big flavor and the presentation with the Tri colored heirloom tomatoes is pure art on a plate. 

Grapefruit Vodka….for the Win!

Grapefruit Vodka….for the Win!

Whenever we get together with our florida family from St. Johns, its a whirlwind of food, kids and ALOT of drinking.  I always joke and say that I need a detox before and after.  My husband’s cousin Dundi, his wife Betzy and I always try […]

Arroz con Pollo Borracho (Drunken Chicken with Rice)

Arroz con Pollo Borracho (Drunken Chicken with Rice)

During one of my recent trips to visit our family in Miami, I discovered my love for all things cooked with beer…actually… ANYTHING COOKED WITH LIQUOR.  Depending on the choice of spirit, it can really transform a dish and add that extra zing of flavor […]


FAMILY FOOD AND BOOZE

Bolitas De Yuca

Bolitas De Yuca

Some of our best recipe ideas come from just being hungry at the restaurant and wanting to try something new.  Yuca is one of my favorite Cuban staple items.  I happen to love the versatility of Yuca and its familiarity to the potato.  Yuca is a root vegetable also known as Cassava.  It’s is super easy to prepare, just peel, cut into small pieces and boil with a little salt in the water.  Then you can either eat it boiled (yuca con mojo) with a little mojo de ajo or you can take the boiled yuca, refrigerate it for a couple of hours, slice them in strips and deep fry them for Yuca Frita.

At CUBA 312 we use yuca to make our yuca mash. Literally just yuca, fresh chopped garlic, butter, heavy creme, salt and pepper to taste.  One day in the kitchen at CUBA 312 I was talking about how much I love our yuca mash and how hungry I was but I was bored with eating the same thing over and over.  A lightbulb went off and I immediately took some of our mash and flattened it out in my hand and then stuffed it with some of our empanada filling. I then hand rolled it into a ball and dropped it into the fryer.  2 minutes later, out came this beautifully golden bitesize ball of deliciousness.  The outside gave way to a nice crunch, the inside was hot, creamy from the mash and the filling was steamy, tender and salty.  I remember making a few more that evening and having my husband, our business partner Marco, and the entire staff try them.  What a hit! Our Head Cook created a sauce to pair with them but honestly they are delicious on their own.  They made the cut onto our fall menu and   our guests would gobble them up before we could even place the plate down on the table.

 

Stuffed Yuca Balls

Yuca mash ingredients:

2 yuca roots (if you cannot find fresh yuca, frozen yuca is a great substitute)

2-3 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 clove of garlic chopped fine

salt and pepper to taste

 

Filling:

3 boneless skinless chicken breasts

4 cups of water for boiling

1/2 tsp annatto seasoning

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp onion powder

1 tsp salt (or to taste)

1 tsp pepper

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp cumin

1 bay leaf

Peanut oil for frying or canola oil

  1. Boil the chicken breasts in water with all the listed seasonings until chicken is tender and can shred easily with forks. Set aside shredded chicken to cool.
  2. Peel and boil yuca (or if using frozen yuca just place in pot of boiling water) in stock pot with tsp of salt.
  3. Once yuca is soft and tender (similar to boiling potatoes) remove and place in large non reactive bowl. Devein yuca (there will be a long string that runs in the center, just pull it out and discard)
  4. Add heavy creme, butter, garlic, salt and pepper and mash until there are minimal lumps. Set aside, let cool, and then place in refrigerator to set up.
  5. Once filling and mash have cooled you can begin to make the yuca balls. Rub your hands with a little olive oil so that the mixture doesn’t stick to your hands.  Take a golf ball size of yuca mash in your hand, roll it into a ball and smash it with the palm of your hand.  Then take a tablespoon of chicken filling and fold up the sides and roll into a ball then set aside. Continue to roll the remaining balls.
  6. Heat oil in heavy pot to 350 degrees. Drop balls a few at a time and let fry until deep golden brown.
  7. Remove and place on tray and season with salt.
  8. Top with lime zest.

 


All Time Favorites

Bolitas De Yuca

Bolitas De Yuca

Some of our best recipe ideas come from just being hungry at the restaurant and wanting to try something new.  Yuca is one of my favorite Cuban staple items.  I happen to love the versatility of Yuca and its familiarity to the potato.  Yuca is […]

Love at First Avocado!

Love at First Avocado!

Growing up, Avocados were definitely not on the menu.  Of course I was aware of guacamole, but it was only an option if we dined out, never on our plates for dinner.  It wasn’t until much later when I was 19 and started dating my […]