Monday, March 22, 2010

Fufu de Platanos - Sweet Plantain Mash

I am making some Fufu today, just because I had some plantains that were getting really ripe in the house. It is really easy to make and I like adding onions, garlic, and bacon to it so that you get the sweet and salty taste all in one bite. I am not really sure that this is how it was ever made in my home, my grandmother was more likely to boil up some platanos maduros and mash them up with a fork without any other embellishment.

Here is what you'll need. It is an overcast and rainy day in Miami, so the lighting for the pictures stinks.

Cut up the plantains into chunks.

Peel 2 cloves of garlic. Put the plantain chunks and the garlic cloves in a pot of water and boil until the plantains are tender. About 20 minutes.

Chop a small onion. It will be about 1/2 cup.

While you are boiling the plantains, heat up 1 tablespoon olive oil and add the chopped onions. Cook until the onions are translucent.
I don't know how to fry bacon, so I just microwaved 3 slices of Boar's Head pre-cooked bacon. Then I chopped it up.

Once the plantains are tender, carefully remove the plantain from the boiling water.

You can peel the plantain with a fork and knife.

Mash up the plantains and the garlic cloves. Add in the bacon and the onions.

This is a great side dish for just about anything -- palomilla steak, chicken, picadillo.
  • 2 very ripe sweet plantains (almost black), chopped into 1 1/2 inch chunks
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 3 slices of cooked bacon, chopped
  • 1 small onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil


  1. Place the sweet plantain chunks and garlic cloves in a pot of water and boil until tender.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a pan. Add the onions and cook until translucent over medium heat.
  3. When the plantains are tender, remove from the water, peel and discard peels. Mash the plantains and garlic cloves.
  4. Add the cooked onion and chopped bacon to the plantain mash and mix until well combined.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Just Because My Tia Married an Irishman

My Tia married an Irishman last December. He is a great man and we all love him. I don't think anyone who has ever known him can say an unkind thing about him. When they first started dating, my brother began calling him T.G.B. (Tia's Gringo Boyfriend). We have thought of changing his name to T.I.H (Tia's Irish Husband), but that doesn't sound right so we are sort of stuck on T.G.B.

Most of us in the family found this whole wedding thing hilarious. It's not that we are unconventional, but they had been dating for over a decade and my Tia had sworn that she would never marry again. Over the decade of dating, whenever anyone asked her when she would marry T.G.B, Tia always said that they could just be like Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell. I guess the "Why screw up something that worked so well?" was her mentality. It was also amusing that they would be doing the whole Church wedding since the bride and the groom are both in their fifties. The groom often commented that they had to hurry up and get married before it became a "Medicare wedding". We had bridal showers, rehearsals, rehearsal dinners, and a lovely wedding reception. Most of the things that she had managed to avoid the first time down the aisle. But we all had a lovely time and now we have this whole Irish clan to call family.
I personally found Tia marrying T.G.B. hysterical for another reason. Many years ago when I was dating people with last names like Smith, Baker, Johnson, Armstrong, my aunt took me aside and told me..."You can date all the gringos you'd like, but I think that when you decide to marry you should look for someone Cuban, because gringos just don't understand us." I guess she did find a gringo who understands us.

So in honor of the newest members of our family, I am making a Chocolate and Guinness cake to celebrate St. Patrick's Day.

Here is what you will need for the cake batter.

In a large pot melt the butter in the beer over medium heat. When it is all melted, remove from the heat and let it cool for a couple of minutes.

Add in the sugar and sift the cocoa.

In a small bowl, mix together the yogurt, eggs, and vanilla.

Mix it all up.

Add in flour and baking soda and whisk until it is combined.

I decided to add a few chocolate chips. Sift them with a dash of two of cocoa powder so that they don't sink to the bottom of the pan.

Mix in the chocolate chips.

Butter and flour a round spring form pan, and pour in the batter. Place the pan in an oven preheated to 350˚.

The baking time depends on the size of your pan. A regular 9 inch spring form pan would be about 40 minutes. I used small, individual spring form pans. The cooking time was about 25 minutes. Let the cake cool completely.

This is what you will need for the frosting. (Oops, I forgot the butter.)

Whip the heavy whipping cream.

Combine the cream cheese, butter and vanilla, until blended. Add the confectioner's sugar and mix in.

Fold in the whipped cream.

Add a thick layer of frosting. The frosting should look like beer head so don't smooth it out or try to get too fancy. So I will have a slice of cake and raise a glass of Guinness to honor our new Irish family.

  • 1 cup Guinness
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips (I used dark chocolate chips.)
  1. In a large pot, melt the butter in the beer. When it is melted add the sugar and sift in the cocoa powder. Remove from the heat and let cool for a couple of minutes.
  2. In a small bowl, mix the yogurt, eggs and vanilla. Add that to the pot with the beer mixture and mix.
  3. Add the flour and baking soda, and whisk until combined.
  4. Add the chocolate chips. Mix until combined.
  5. Butter and flour a round spring form pan and pour in the batter. Place the pan in an oven preheated to 350˚. Bake for about 40 minutes. The baking time depends on the size of the pan. Let the cake cool for a little while before removing the spring form.



  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 1/4 cup of confectioner's sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2/3 cup of heavy whipping cream


  1. In a bowl whip the heavy whipping cream.
  2. In a separate bowl combine the cream cheese, butter, and vanilla extract.
  3. Add the confectioner's sugar to the bowl with the cream cheese mixture and mix until well combined.
  4. Gently fold the whipped cream into the cream cheese mixture.
  5. Glob some of the frosting on top of the cake. It should look like beer head so don't get fancy.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Fanciful Fridays: Merenguitos - Meringues

It's Friday, so I figured we should make a dessert to get the weekend started. Merenguitos are one of my Tia's all time favorite desserts. I made merenguitos for the first time last December a few days before her wedding and they were devoured within seconds at a family gathering. I had never attempted to make them, because everyone always said how difficult they were to make especially with the humidity in Florida. I had never seen anyone make merenguitos. As my grandmother would say, why spend so much time in the kitchen making merenguitos, when you can buy a bag of them for 99 cents. I was surprised that my first batch turned out well and were actually simple to make. All it takes is time. I suppose my punk will have a couple when she gets home from school today.

Don't' be intimidated by them. All you need is two egg whites, 1/2 cup of sugar, and a mixer.

It is easier to separate the egg whites while the eggs are cold. Place the egg whites in a clean mixing bowl and let the egg whites come to room temperature (about 30 minutes).

With your mixer, beat the egg whites for about a minute until they get frothy. Then, with the mixer running slowly add the sugar and keep mixing at a medium high speed for 7 to 10 minutes.

You will then have stiff peaks.

Preheat your oven to 200º F. Place a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet. You can either use two spoons or a pastry bag to form the merenguitos. Today I decided to use a spoon and make my merenguitos a bit rustic looking.
Place the baking sheet in the oven and bake for 2 hours. Do not open the oven door for the first half of the baking time. I rotate the baking pan after 1 hour.
Turn off the oven and leave the merenguitos in the oven with the oven door slightly ajar so that the merenguitos can finish drying out.

  • 2 egg whites, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup superfine sugar


  1. Beat the egg whites on medium speed until frothy, about 1 minute.
  2. Slowly add in the sugar while you continue to beat the egg whites on high speed. Continue to beat until stiff peaks form, 7 to 10 minutes.
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 200º F.
  4. You can either mound the meringue onto the baking sheet using a spoon or you can use a pastry bag to pipe the meringue.
  5. Bake the merenguitos for about 2 hours. Rotate the pan after one hour.
  6. Turn off the oven and open the oven door a crack and leave the merenguitos in the oven for at least one more hour to dry out.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Cuban Shepherd's Pie

I decided to make a Cuban Shepherd's Pie since I had already made Picadillo. All you need to do is replace the potatoes in a the traditional Sheppard's pie with sweet plantains. I will be taking this over to my grandmother later.

Sweet plantains for those of you that aren't familiar with them are the very ripe plantains. They have a partially black or all black peel and will be soft to the touch. The darker the peel the sweeter (and mushier) the plantain is.
I used 2 plantains. I sliced them into about 2 inch rounds (leave the peel on) and place them into a pot and covered them with water. Boil until tender. About 20 minutes.

When the plantains are tender, carefully remove them from the pot. You can easily remove the peel now. I use a fork and knife to remove the peels to avoid burning my hands. Mash up the plantains with a fork. This mash is called "Fufu de Platano".

Place your picadillo in an oven-proof baking dish. Leave enough room to add the fufu de platano.

Cover the picadillo with the fufu de platano. And place in an oven that has been preheated to 375 ˚ F for about 10 minutes or until it is all heated through.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Picadillo - Meat Hash

Today I am cooking up Picadillo. It is one of my favorites and easy to make. My daughter loves it with white rice. She, of course, thinks it is chicken and who am I to tell her any different. This version has raisins and the olives. I love getting a bite that has a raisin and an olive in it. There is just something absolutely delicious about the sweet and salty mix. I don't like olives, but somehow they just taste divine in this dish. It is the only time you will ever catch me eating an olive.

Some Cuban restaurants add potato cubes, but I don't. You can also fry up a sunny side up egg and place it above the Picadillo and rice. That is called, Picadillo Al Caballo.

You will need ground beef, garlic, raisins, a small onion, white cooking wine, tomato sauce, olive oil, olives with a pimiento center, ground cumin, ground oregano, and Sazon Completo.

Finely chop up the onion. You should get about 1/2 cup. By the time I was done chopping the onion, I looked like I had just finished seeing the hospital scene when Debra Winger dies in Term of Endearment. I was a mess.

Finely mince about 4 cloves of garlic. You should have a well rounded tablespoon of garlic. I love garlic!

Now you are going to make a Sofrito. Add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil to a pan over medium heat. When the olive oil starts heating up, add the onion and cook until it starts to get translucent. Then add your garlic and cook for about 1 minute. Add 3 tablespoons of tomato sauce and cook for about 2 minutes.

Add the beef and use your wooden spoon to break up the pieces.

Add ground oregano, ground cumin, Sazon Completo, and white wine. Mix it all together.

Add the rest of the tomato sauce and mix it all in. Cook until the meat starts to brown. About 10 minutes.

Add the raisins.

Add the olives. Mix it all together. Cover the pan and lower the heat to medium low. Allow the flavors to blend.

I like to eat the Picadillo over a bed of white rice. Enjoy!



  • 1 pound ground beef (I use ground sirloin)

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion (about 1 small onion)

  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic (about 4 cloves)

  • dash of ground oregano

  • 1/2 scant teaspoon ground cumin

  • 8 oz can of tomato sauce (divided)

  • 1/4 cup raisins

  • 1/4 cup olives with pimiento, halved

  • 2 teaspoons Sazon Completo

  • 1/4 cup white cooking wine


  • Heat olive oil in a pan at medium heat. Add the onions and cook until they begin to get translucent. Add the garlic and cook for about 1 minute. Add 3 tablespoons of tomato sauce and cook for about 2 minutes.
  • Add the ground beef and break up any large pieces with a wooden spoon.
  • Add the wine, the Sazon Completo, ground oregano, ground cumin and mix together with a wooden spoon.
  • Add the remaining tomato sauce and blend together. Cook until the meat begins to brown, about 10 minutes.
  • Add the raisins and olives. Cover and lower the heat to allow the flavors to blend.
  • Serve over a bed of white rice.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Sopa de Platanos - Plantain Soup

My grandmother loves Sopa de Platano. Although it is simple to make, my grandmother prefers to go to the nearby Latin American Cafe and buy it. By now she knows the restaurant prepares this soup on Mondays and she and her sister usually head out there to get their fill. But don't be fooled, although she buys the soup she may still tell you that she made the soup as she serves it to you. It would not be the first time that either my grandmother or Tia did that.

My aunt had once invited a family over for dinner and wanted to impress them. Not knowing how to cook she decided to order Arroz con Mariscos (a seafood rice dish). She brought home her order, emptied out all the food into her own serving platters and then disposed of all the take out containers. During dinner one of her guest asked her how she made the wonderful dish and my Tia just started listing the ingredients she thought were in the dish and then her husband said that the preparation was "un secreto de su esposa" (his wife's secret). And her guest was none the wiser.

My Tia is slicker at this type of deception than my grandmother. At least my Tia hides all the evidence that it was a take out order. She has been know to do this with desserts and pies at Thanksgiving dinner.

The soup is actually very simple to make. All you need is green plantains, some broth, 2 cloves of garlic and some salt.

I peeled 2 green plantains and cut them into chunks. If you have never done that, you may find it easier to cut off the ends and then make 4 cuts from one end to the other. Then you should be able to peel it. I then put the plantain chunks in a pot and added water to cover the plantains. I also added 2 peeled cloves of garlic and boiled the plantains until tender. Reserve the water when done.

I then mashed the plantain chunks and the 2 garlic cloves with a fork and added about 1/2 cup of the reserved boiling water.

I heated about 5 cups of meat broth. (I had left over meat broth from boiling the flank steak for my Ropa Vieja.) Then I added the mashed green plantains and garlic and less than 1 teaspoon of salt. The soup will start to get thick.

I like to serve the soup with a couple of mariquitas (plantain chips).



  • 2 green plantains, peeled and sliced into 1 inch rounds
  • 5 cups meat broth
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • scant 1 teaspoon salt, to taste


  1. Place the plantains and garlic into a pot. Cover with water and boil until tender. Reserve the water.
  2. Mash the plantains and garlic and add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of the reserved water.
  3. Heat the broth. Add the mashed plantain and garlic mixture. Cook on a medium-low heat until the broth starts to thicken.
  4. Salt to taste.