Tuesday, October 6, 2009


I love Cuban Food, especially when I can add a little extra kick to it. The other day at the Hilo Farmer's Market I saw a woman sitting at a little table with a sign that said, PLANTAINS $1 a bunch. That is all she had, big fat plantains. I smiled!

They are shorter and fatter than the ones I used to buy on the mainland. But after cooking these plantains I found them to taste even better and they certainly were the same texture as green plantains I have had from Latin America, much different than bananas, which until now were my only substitute for plantains. I do have a small plantain tree, but it will be a while before it has plantains on it. I immediately knew what I was going to make for dinner. I stopped by Abundant Life and bought some black beans and when I got home I took some smoked ham hocks out of the freezer. I had a boneless turkey breast tenderloin marinating in sour orange and lemon pepper already, the perfect accompaniment to the star of the show, Tostones! Who knew that a side dish would be the star? Recipes to follow.

I started the morning off by soaking the black beans and went off to work in the garden.

So some of you are probably asking, What are Tostones? Firstly they are a Cuban staple and sometimes found in other Latin cuisines such as Puerto Rican. They are twice fried green plantains. Tostones should be crisp and golden on the outside and tender on the inside. One secret is to simmer the first fry gently in oil the first time so that they cook until tender in the middle and don't get to hard and brittle to flatten. Tostones are flattened with a wooden gadget called a tostonera or a large bottomed flat glass will do.

At El Buganvil outside of Havana the tostones are made into little cups, tostones rellenos and then they are filled with picadillo, black beans or crab salad. But I made the traditional flat tostones.

Here is the recipe for tostones and Havana Style Black Beans:

  • Peel the plantains with a sharp knife, removing only the skin.
  • Slice into 3/4 inch slices
  • In a deep fryer or pan heat at least 1 1/2 inches of oil to 340 degrees.
  • Fry the rounds gently until they just start to turn golden (2-3 minutes)
  • Remove and drain on paper towels.
  • While still warm flatten to about half of their original thickness.
  • Dip in warm salt water then place on paper towels to drain.
  • Shortly before serving time, heat oil to 375 and fry until crisp and dry in small batches.
  • Sprinkle lightly with salt (I use smoked salt.)
  • Keep warm in a 200 degree oven if not serving immediately. I serve with lime slices.

Cuban Black Beans

Step 1
1 # Black Beans
2 quarts water
1 ham hock
6 garlic cloves peeled and smashed
1 tablespoon salt
2 bay leaves
1 habanero pepper cut in half
  • Clean beans and cover with water for at least 8 hours or overnight. Strain.
  • Add all ingredients and bring to a boil then reduce heat & simmer on low for an hour or till beans are barely tender, skimming scum if it develops.
  • Remove the ham hock to cool and then shred meat.

Step 2
1/4 cup Olive Oil
4 pieces thick cut bacon cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 large or two small red onion chopped finely
1/2 red bell pepper (green is traditional but I prefer sweet red) chopped finely
2 carrots chopped finely
8 garlic cloves peeled and finely minced
1 jalapeno pepper seeded and chopped (I usually use a habanero)
1 Tablespoon dried Mexican Oregano (or Greek if you don't have Mexican)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons salt
Juice from one lime
1 cup dry sherry
1/4 cup raw sugar
  • Heat olive oil in a large saute pan.
  • Fry onion, peppers, and carrots. When the onions are starting to show color, add the garlic & spices.
  • After a few minutes de-glaze the pan with the sherry and simmer for a few minutes. Add sugar and then pour into the beans.
  • Simmer with the beans for a few minutes and remove 1 cup or so of beans and use an immersion blender to puree.
  • Return the smooth beans to the whole beans and shred the ham hock meat into the beans.
  • Cook until the sauce is like a thick gravy and serve with queso fresco, onion, lime and cilantro. I also add a small bowl of finely chopped habanero on the plate.

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