Quick and Easy Cuban Black Beans Sprinkled with Cotija Cheese

I think Cuban foodie purists would chastise me for using canned black beans instead of the long, tedious process of using dried black beans to make this dish.  What would have taken me 24 plus hours only took me about 30 minutes to make.  I like fast results.   I’m an instant-gratification-kind-of-person.  However, I suppose I would disapprove, too, if I heard of a recipe calling for white rice from an Uncle Ben’s Minute Rice to be made into fried rice.  But I don’t judge… just sometimes.

But hey, we all need some shortcuts in life, right?  Especially for those lazy, I mean busy days when you (and by you, I really do mean I) get too caught up on the couch watching endless reruns of trashy reality TV shows, or just plain busy with life.  My excuse?  I forgot to buy the back beans the day before.  Oh, who am I kidding.  I succumbed to the comfiness of my couch catching up on my DVR’ed Celebrity Apprentice (don’t judge me) shows from the last two weeks.

Quick and Easy Cuban Black Beans Sprinkled with Cotija Cheese(from 3 Guys from Miami)

1 large onion, diced finely
1 large green bell pepper, diced finely
3 cloves garlic, peeled, crushed, and chopped
3 tablespoons mojo criollo sauce or 3 tablespoons vinegar
3 cans plain, unseasoned black beans, drained but reserve the liquid
1 bay leaf
3 teaspoons ground cumin (more or less)
Salt and pepper, to taste
Crumbled cotija cheese
Extra virgin olive oil

Take one can of the black beans, and mash them into a chunky paste.

Make a sofrito by chopping onion and green pepper. Heat extra virgin olive oil over medium high heat in a large skillet, and sauté onions and green pepper until onions are translucent.

Add the garlic garlic and sauté another minute or so.

In a sauce pan over low heat, add the beans, sofrito, bay leaf, mojo sauce (or vinegar), and simmer for about 20 minutes. Add the reserved liquid from the canned beans to adjust consistency of the black beans to your liking.  Add cumin, salt, and pepper to taste.

Sprinkle with crumbled cotija cheese and serve with your favorite Cuban entrees.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

Oven “Fried” Platanos Maduros (Sweet Plantains)

Continuing with my obsession of oven “fried” foods, I decided to try it with plantains.  I love fried sweet plantains especially with a good Cuban sandwich, or anything Cuban for that matter.  My first introduction, actually seduction, with fried sweet plantains was when a friend took me to Versailles, a Cuban restaurant in Los Angeles, CA.  When I took my first bite into a plantain, I thought it was just a banana.  But I soon realized that it was better than a fried banana.  It seemed sweeter and starchier… the perfect combo just like savory and sweet.

I’ve fried sweet plantains once before but I find frying foods too messy.  The smell of fried oil also seems to linger around the house for days, clinging to any fabric in the home.  So I try to avoid it at all cost.  So I thought the perfect way to get a fix of fried sweet plantains was to “fry” them in the oven.  It tastes good if you are looking for a healthier alternative.  It doesn’t caramelize the sugars of the plantains as well as frying, but it still sweetens it up.  I might have to suck it up once a year like a holiday and fry these suckers up the next time I want a real, authentic fried sweet plantain.  But this is definitely my “go to” healthier recipe for the rest of the 364 days in the year.

Oven “Fried” Platanos Maduros

2 very ripe plantains (yellow outer skin with black spots, somewhat squishy like a ripened banana when pressed)
Extra virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Peel the plantains, and cut on a diagonal into half inch slices. Place into a medium-sized bowl and drizzle extra virgin olive oil. Toss to coat.

Place the plantains onto a greased baking sheet (I found that the plantains stuck to the sheet even despite it being tossed in olive oil) and roast for about 15 to 20 minutes. Turn the plantains half way through the cooking process. Cook until the plantains are golden brown and tender.

Lechon Asado (Cuban Roast Pork)

I wish there was such a thing as “smell-a-vision” because I would love for you to smell the lechon asado roasting in the oven.  The smell of citrus, garlic, onion, and pork is permeating through the house.  It’s intoxicating.

We just got back from a week vacation to NYC visiting my brother and sister-in-law.  A restaurant that we were excited to cross off our NYC foodie bucket list was Cafe Habana in the Nolita (North of Little Italy) District.  The restaurant was featured specifically for their grilled corn (read the restaurant review) on Food Networks’ “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.”  We went there for dinner and it ended up being one of the best meals we ate in NYC, and trust me, we ate a lot of great meals.  I had the cuban sandwich was to die for.

The sandwich inspired me to recreate this dish at home.  So I starting marinating the pork butt yesterday afternoon, and it is now slowly roasting in our oven.

Lechon Asado (from 3 Guys from Miami)

3 pounds pork butt/shoulder
20 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 cups sour orange juice (or use two parts orange juice to one part lemon juice to one part lime juice)
1 cup onion, minced
1 teaspoon oregano
1 cup Spanish olive oil

Mash the garlic and salt together with a mortar and pestle.

Add dried oregano, onion, and the sour orange juice to the mash and mix thoroughly.

Pierce pork as many times as you can with a sharp knife or fork.

Heat oil in a small sauce pan, add the mash to the oil and whisk.

Pour garlic mixture (save a little for roasting) over pork, cover and let sit in refrigerator for 2-3 hours or preferably overnight.

To roast in the oven, preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Place the pork, fattest side up, in an open roasting pan. Place pan in oven and reduce temperature to 225 degrees F. Spoon extra marinade over the roast occasionally as it cooks. Using a meat thermometer, roast should be removed from the oven when the internal temperature reaches 195 degrees F. — for fork tender, “pulled-pork” quality. (If you want a roast you can slice, remove when the internal temperature reaches 170 degrees F.)

Immediately cover with foil and let rest for at least 10 minutes before slicing or shredding.

Serve with rice, Cuban black beans, and sweet plantains… or better yet, make a Cuban sandwich!

What’s your favorite way of enjoying lechon asado?

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