Monday, April 20, 2009

What's missing in Cuba

We just got back from a week of basking in Cuban sun.

I went to Cuba once before with my good friend Andrea for spring break my last year of high school only a few short years ago (I wish) and I swore I would never go back.

It wasn’t a political statement and it wasn't because of the company or the lack of great beaches.

It was the food.

Even with my unsophisticated teen-aged palate, I had never tasted such bland food. I think Andrea and I pretty much survived on plantain chips at the bar and cashews we brought from home. Even the food on the plane trip home tasted like a gourmet feast.

This time around our family was in search of an inexpensive beach holiday on which we could re-connect and relax together. Cuba seemed to match all of our criteria, but could we survive a week on chips and nuts?

It turns out that not only was the beach was glorious and the company wonderful; some of the meals were downright spectacular.

Aboard a catamaran on a snorkeling trip to Playa Bonita, we had one of the best lunches of the week. Fresh fish, seafood and this killer paella was spread out before us in a rustic, open air building in the middle of an uninhabited beach.

My lack of Spanish prevented me from getting the actual recipe from the lone gentleman who whipped up the feast, but this easy version I made once we were home, was very close.

Playa Bonita Paella

1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 lb chorizo sausage, cut into small slices
1 large onion, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 green pepper, diced
5 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups chicken broth
1 can diced tomatoes (28 oz size)
2 cups short grain rice
1 lb small clams in their shell
1/2 lb squid cut into thin slices
1 pound medium raw shrimp, peeled and de-veined
1 cup frozen green peas
1/4 cup minced parsley leaves

1. Heat olive oil in a very large saucepan. Sauté the chorizo sausage. Remove from pan and reserve.
2. Add onions, peppers and garlic to pan and sauté until soft.
3. Pour in stock and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Add the rice and reduce temperature to medium low. Stir in chorizo and simmer on the stove for 20 minutes.
4. Add clams, squid, shrimp and peas. Cover and cook another 10 minutes or until clams have opened and squid and shrimp are cooked.
5. Stir in parsley, taste and season with salt and pepper before serving.

Now if only I could find a way to recreate this at home...