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Love that Latin Cuisine

Cuban and Puerto Rican flavors spice up the melting pot.
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Cuisine of Puerto Rico continued...

Foods indigenous to the island include coriander, papaya, plantains, and yampee (a tuber). A spice blend called adobo is used as a base for many dishes, and is rubbed into meats before being roasted. It's made by crushing together peppercorns, oregano, garlic, salt, olive oil, and lime juice or vinegar, says Ana Maria Mendez, an attorney of Puerto Rican descent who has studied Puerto Rican cuisine.

Another spice mixture is sofrito, which helps color and flavor rice, soup, and stew dishes with a yellow mixture of annatto seeds, onions, garlic, coriander, and peppers browned in olive oil.

"Many Puerto Rican dishes also use a sauté of onion, tomato, and green bell pepper along with the sofrito," adds Mendez.

Beans and rice are popular. So are chicken with rice, meat pies, fried plantains, rice, and pigeon peas seasoned with smoked ham or bacon, meat or cheese turnovers called empanadillas, and all sorts of soups -- including chicken and rice soup, which often contains chunks of pumpkin, says Mendez.

Most parts of the pig are used in Puerto Rican cooking, and pork is the main event at most holiday tables and celebrations, be it barbecued pig, pork blood sausages, ham and pineapple, or smoked cutlets.

Puddings, including rice pudding, bread pudding, and coconut pudding, are a favorite treat. Flan (a type of firm custard) is also popular, along with cakes (rum cake, guava cake, banana cupcakes, sweet-potato cake), cookies, and tarts. Tropical fruits, including coconut, guava, papayas, and mangoes, abound on the island.

And let us not forget, Puerto Rico is the world’s leading rum producer. So plenty of rum is used in recipes, too!

Cuban and Puerto Rican Recipes

Here are some recipes to get you cooking, Cuban and Puerto Rican-style.

Cuban-Style Black Beans

WebMD Weight Loss Clinic members: Journal as 1/2 cup "starchy foods and legumes with 1 tsp fat maximum"

The authentic Cuban dish would not use canned beans, of course, but this is the easier way to go.

2 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup diced green bell pepper
3/4 cup chopped sweet or mild onion (if available)
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons dried oregano flakes
2 cans (15 ounces each) black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup beef broth (chicken or vegetable broth can be substituted)
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste (optional)

  • Heat olive oil in medium nonstick saucepan over medium heat. Add bell pepper, onion, garlic, oregano and saute mixture for about 5 minutes.
  • Add 2/3 cup of the beans to the pan. Using a potato masher, mash the beans briefly. Stir in the remaining beans, oregano, broth, and vinegar. Cover saucepan and simmer until the mixture thickens and the flavors blend, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste if desired.

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