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    Cuban Cuisine continued...

    "The heart and soul of Cuban cuisine is the "sofrito," a saute of onions, green peppers, and garlic in olive oil," Lindgren says.

    Cuban cuisine is also based on the flavor of citrus, according to Raul Musibay, the third co-author of the Guys from Miami Cuban cookbook.

    "We use tangy orange juice with crushed garlic, black pepper, and oregano to create mojo, a garlic/citrus marinade that adds a distinctive Cuban flavor to many meats -- especially roasted pork, which is probably the most popular meat for Cuban-Americans," says Musibay.

    Everyone knows a Cuban party is not complete without roast pork, black beans, white rice, fried plantains and yuca with oil and garlic, Lindgren says.

    "You don't find many vegetable dishes in Cuban cuisine, at least not the nonstarchy ones," adds Castillo. "Instead, the Cuban diet includes plenty of root vegetables, such as yuca, boniato, and malanga."

    And what's on the Cuban dessert cart?

    "On an island where sugarcane is king, it's no surprise that Cubans love sweet desserts," Lindgren says. "Cuban flan, arroz con leche, and warm flaky pastries stuffed with fruit filling feature an abundance of sugar."

    Tropical fruit flavors are popular in ice creams, milkshakes, and as filling for cakes and pastries, Lindgren says: "Guava paste and guava jelly are big favorites and find their way into just about everything."

    Cuisine of Puerto Rico

    Puerto Rican cuisine also reflects the influence of Spaniards, along with that of Africans and Native Americans.

    The original inhabitants of the island now known as Puerto Rico were the Arawaks and Tainos. Their diet was thought to include corn, sweet potatoes, cassava, tropical fruit, and seafood, according to the Encarta encyclopedia.

    Spanish explorers arrived in 1493, adding beef, pork, rice, wheat, and olive oil to the island cuisine. When African slaves arrived on the island, they contributed their cuisine as well.

    The flavors from combinations of rice, beans, spices and different meats are what make Puerto Rican cuisine unique, says Adelinna Fargas, chef and owner of a Casa Adela, a Puerto Rican restaurant in Manhattan. Although Puerto Rican food is often well seasoned, it also is not overly spicy.

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