I know lots of friends have been reading my books during Hispanic Heritage month. Since you’re home, maybe you’d like to try some recipes – straight from the pages of some of my picture books and novels?
Café con leche is Merci and Lolo’s breakfast drink. Cuban coffee is basically espresso that is heavily presweetened. To make a proper con leche, brew your espresso in whatever type of machine you use. (Here below is my collection.) My mom used to put 2 – 3 tsp of sugar in the percolator, but some folks add it to the coffee after it has percolated.
To finish, heat equal parts milk and add to the coffee.
Another variation – cheating a bit, but it was Tía Isa’s favorite. She called it, simply, “la leche.” Heat a mug of milk, adding 2 tsp of sugar. Then dissolve 1 T of instant espresso into the milk.
Batidos are smoothies, basically, with a creamy backdrop. Lolo loves batidos de mamey or batidos de piña, but here’s a recipe using strawberries and bananas, which are easier to find. Tía Inés was probably the expert at these.
- 1 c strawberries with the tops sliced off
- 1 banana
- 1 T sweetened condensed milk
- 1 T sugar
- 1 T fresh lime juice
- 1 ½ c crushed ice
Put all ingredients in a blender and garnish with a cut strawberry. Other fruits to try when the summer months return: a mix of watermelon and papaya
Key lime Pie (with shortcuts) We all know this is Merci’s favorite dessert, and it plays a key role in Merci Suárez Can’t Dance, which comes out next spring. Here’s a simple recipe for you.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
- Prepared pie crust, store-bought cinnamon graham cracker crust
- 3 egg yolks
- 1 can sweetened condensed milk
- 5 T lemon juice
- 5 T lime juice
- 2 tsp grated lime zest
How to: Combine egg yolks and condensed milk in a bowl and mix on high until it looks light and fluffy (5 minutes). Gradually beat in the lime juice and zest. Pour the filling into cinnamon crust pie shell and bake about 8 minutes until knife comes out clean. Cool, top with whipped cream, and enjoy.
From Mango, Abuela and Me
Abuela and Mia made a cooking experience into a language lesson as they made empanadas. These are fried dough crescents, filled with either meat or with a sweet guava paste.
Here’s the traditional method to make the dough. There is also a frozen, pre-made variety from Goya, if you choose to go that path, but I have turned away from that brand in recent months. Whichever method you chose, remember that Cuban empanadas are traditionally fried, not baked.
- 3 c sifted flour
- ½ tsp baking powder
- 1 T soft butter
- 1T vegetable shortening
- 1 T sugar
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 eggs beaten
- ¼ cup cinnamon water (one cinnamon stick soaked in boiling water)
How to: Mix flour and baking powder on a cutting board. Form the flour mixture into a circle and then make a hole at the center. Into that hole, place butter, shortening, sugar, salt, eggs, and cinnamon water Work the flour and wet ingredients into a dough until it is smooth and elastic, not sticky. When you’re ready, roll out dough thin and cut into circles about 5 inches around. Fill them and fry to golden brown in 350-degree oil (just a couple of minutes). Drain on paper towels.
Guava and queso blanco: One slice of guava paste* and a thin slice of white cheese at the center of each disc. Fold over and pinch edges closed with a fork.
Picadillo filling: I made picadillo a few weeks back, so here’s the recipe.* Leftovers make a great filling. Use 2 T of picadillo filling in the center of each empanada. Fold over and pinch edges securely with a fork before frying.
These recipes and more can be found in two of my favorite cookbooks: Miami Spice* by Steven Raichlen (Workman Publishing) and Cocina Cubana* (Spanish edition) by Raquel Roque (Vintage Español). ¡Buen provecho!
*Disclosure: Bear in mind that some of the links in this post are affiliate links and if you use them to make a purchase I will earn a commission. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. I post them for your convenience and hope you will make your purchases where you are most comfortable.