Cuban cuisine is a blend of Native American Taino food, Spanish, African, and Caribbean cuisines. Some Cuban recipes share spices and techniques with Spanish and African cooking, with some Caribbean influence in spice and flavor. This results in a blend of the several different cultural influences, with strong similarities to the cuisine of the neighboring Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. A small Chinese influence can also be accounted for in the Havana area. There is also some Italian influence. During colonial times, Cuba was an important port for trade, and many Spaniards who lived there brought their culinary traditions with them.

A majority of the dishes are sautéed or slow-cooked over a low flame. Most Cuban cooking relies on garlic, cumin, oregano, and bay laurel leaves and uses a sofrito as a base in main dishes. Sofrito consists of onion, green pepper, garlic, oregano, and ground pepper quick-fried in olive oil.

Meats and poultry are usually marinated in citrus juices, such as lime or sour orange juices, and then roasted over low heat until the meat is tender. Root vegetables such as yuca, malanga, and boniato are common in the cuisine. These vegetables are flavored with a marinade, called mojo, which includes olive oil, lemon juice, sliced raw onions, garlic, cumin, and a little water. The steak recipe below includes all those flavors.

Cuban Style Steak

Ingredients

Marinade
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon steak seasoning
¼ teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon lime zest
3-4 fresh orange slices
1 teaspoon salt
1 flank steak, patted dry

Salsa
1 large jalapeño pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 small red onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons cilantro paste
½ teaspoon hot sauce
1 teaspoon lime zest
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup water
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 teaspoon salt

Directions

To make the marinade:
Combine the marinade ingredients together in a large ziplock bag.
Add the steak, close the bag and massage the marinade into the meat; set aside for 30 minutes or refrigerate for up to 12 hours.

To make the salsa:
Combine the jalapeno, onion, cilantro, lime juice, water, oil, honey, hot sauce, salt and lime zest in a serving bowl for a chunky salsa-like consistency.

To cook the steak:
Light a grill or grill pan and 
oil the grate. Remove the steak from the marinade, letting the excess drip off. Grill over moderate heat, turning once, until lightly charred and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part registers 125°, 10 to 12 minutes.
Remove steak to a serving plate and cover loosely with aluminum foil; let rest for 10 minutes before thinly slicing against the grain.

Serve the steak with the salsa.

Bake the squash and tomatoes in the oven at the same time.

Oven Baked Spiralized Butternut Squash

Ingredients

1/2 of a butternut squash spiralized or 2 containers of spiralized butternut squash from the market
Olive oil
Salt & pepper to taste
Sauce
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of fresh parsley
4 tablespoons of parmesan cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Place the squash noodles on a large baking sheet, with sides, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss the squash to coat it all.


Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, tossing the squash once or twice with tongs during the cooking process. Place the squash in a serving bowl.
Heat the butter, and garlic in a small microwave dish or small pan. Pour the butter sauce over the squash and toss. Add the parsley and cheese and toss again. Serve immediately.

Stuffed Tomatoes

Ingredients

2 medium ripe tomatoes
½ cup cooked spinach or swiss chard, drained
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons Parmesan Cheese

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.
Combine the spinach, mozzarella, garlic, olive oil & red pepper flakes in a small bowl – set aside.

Cut a thin slice off the top of the tomatoes and remove the seeds & juice. Season the insides of the tomatoes with salt and pepper. Using a spoon, fill each tomato with the spinach stuffing mixture. Place in a small, shallow baking dish. Sprinkle the top of each tomato with 1 tablespoon of Parmesan cheese. Bake 20 minutes and serve.

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