In WITF's Kitchen with Chef Donna Desfor

Review - iCuba!: Recipes and Stories from the Cuban Kitchen

Written by Chef Donna Desfor | Jan 17, 2017 3:18 PM
iCuba

¡Cuba!: Recipes and Stories from the Cuban Kitchen, by Dan Goldberg, Andrea Kuhn, Jody Eddy.  Copyright © 2016 by Dan Goldberg and Andrea Kuhn.  Published by Ten Speed Press

Our Summary:

It's only in recent memory that Cuba became the idea of a vibrant and culturally rich, food-centric destination.  But authors Dan Goldberg, Andrea Kuhn, and Jody Eddy take you into the real Cuba - vibrant and culturally rich, with a food culture inspired by the world and made delicious by the people who farm and raise their ingredients.  It is through the rich photos, intimate stories, and culturally diverse recipes - that the authors have translated into doable recipes stateside - that makes ¡Cuba! a celebration of a people's food culture that was once taboo, but somehow almost familiar. 

What you need to know:

Get it:  ¡Cuba!: Recipes and Stories from the Cuban Kitchen, by Dan Goldberg, Andrea Kuhn, Jody Eddy.  Published by Ten Speed Press, September 20, 2016: $30.00 Hardcover.  (Amazon $22.48; Kindle $15.99)

See it: Vibrant color photos of each finished dish, save a few basic (rice and stock) recipes, plus vibrant colorful photos of the people and places of Cuba.

Make it:  91 recipes across 10 cleverly titled chapters, like "snack & chat," "dim sum & a little rum," and "pressed and starched."  Component recipes appear as stand-alone recipes in the book.

Our Review:

If you were to think of ¡Cuba! as a love letter it would take but a few minutes, flipping through the vivid photographs or reading a paragraph or two from its pages, to understand how deep the authors' love runs for the Cuban people and their remarkable culture.  The book - conceived, researched and written before the travel ban from the United States to Cuba was lifted - explores Cuba's home kitchen cooking, as much as it celebrates the common people's culture.  It's an intimate look at the people of Cuba who, through their recipes and words, show themselves.

Admittedly, the recipes are the authors' interpretation - or more precisely, the "Americanization" - of their celebrated meals during their travels through Cuba.  Though as you read the recipes and the stories, you still manage to understand that each recipe is as much about ingredients and technique as it is traditions integral to Cuban cooking and a desire to connect around a kitchen table.

The book follows a classic progression through the recipes starting with the basics, like rice and beans, stocks and sofrito, and then moves through snacks, light bites, seafood, one pot meals, sweets, and cocktails.  You'll be transported from the geography of your kitchen as you read stories that introduce a recipe or an entire chapter, and then delightfully return as you read the recipe and find that the ingredients are common staples in our grocery stores and markets.  And while many of the recipes are humble, the sauces and condiments that are included in the book are highly flavored.  They match specific recipes, Fresh Corn Tamales with Poblano Sauce, Ribs with Guava BBQ Sauce, or Fried Plantain Chips with Mojo, but their flavor alone suggests you'll find utility for them beyond this book.

¡Cuba! does an excellent balancing act between the classic vegetable and starch based staples, fish and seafood dishes, and the celebrated proteins - chicken, beef, and pork.  Representing a level of luxury and abundance reserved for special occasions and honored guests, the recipes that use these ingredients invite a sense of gathering, even if it's your family gathered for a weeknight supper.  But what ¡Cuba! manages to do (better than anything else in the book) is include and celebrate the influences of world cuisine on Cuba's daily food culture.  Dim Sum and Asian street food, African spices and South American rustic fare, dot the pages of ¡Cuba! without making your feel like you've left this country.

While ¡Cuba! won't satisfy any cooks need for gourmet Nuevo Latino cooking, it will capture your heart and satisfy you in ways you didn't imagine.  Straight-forward, often humble food, spiked with cultural influence and flavor, you will enjoy these recipes and preparing them for people that come to gather and celebrate around your kitchen table.

The Recipes (Reprinted with permission from ¡Cuba!: Recipes and Stories from the Cuban Kitchen, by Dan Goldberg, Andrea Kuhn, Jody Eddy, Copyright © 2016. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Random House LLC.):

Fried Plantain Chips (Marquitas) with Mojo Sauce
Mojo Sauce Recipe (Separate)

Steamed Cuban Beef Buns

Crispy Pork with Mango Salsa

Published in Donna Marie Desfor

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