La Cocinera Cubana 

So I’m down in Miami with the family, lying on the beach in a sea of sun-loving Florida trash and along comes Marcus, this fast-talking attorney I know from Brooklyn Heights. He’s got zinc oxide smeared down his nose and across his cheeks; in his hand, a ziplock carrying a pair of sunglasses, a wad of cash and two cigars. He immediately introduces himself to my father and hands him a stogy, which Dad promptly lights up. Next, he offers to take us all to dinner at this “real authentic Cuban place” later on that evening. My dad wants to see if our new lawyer friend knows what he’s talking about when it comes to assessing authentic cuisine.

At 8pm, we are greeted outside the restaurant by Marcus and a multi-generational Cuban family. Next thing I know, we’re sitting around a long table, feasting on ropas viejas (the Spanish word for old clothes, which is literally what the dish looks like), the Cuban version of chicken soup, pulled pork sandwiches and Cuban flan. Dad’s at the end of the table, deep in conversation (en espanol) with the family patriarch. Not only was the food authentic, so was the experience of eating with a wonderfully generous Cuban family. On the way out, we all exchanged hugs and kisses. Marcus gave me the “I told you so” look and we headed back to the hotel for mojitos. In retrospect, Miami ain’t so bad when you’re in good company.

Cuban Chicken Soup
Serves 6
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 white onion, chopped
2 quarts chicken broth
I bunch carrots, peeled and chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
2 chicken breasts, sliced into bite- size pieces
1 avocado, sliced
1 small bunch cilantro, leaves removed
Lime juice to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, heat the olive oil and add the onions and garlic. Cook until soft. Add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Liberally salt and pepper the stock. Turn down to a simmer and add the carrots, celery and chicken. Let cook for 10 minutes. Add the avocado, cilantro and lime juice once ready to serve.

Serve with: Mojitos
I always knew Ernest Hemingway liked his cocktails, but I never pegged him as a mojito man. Alas, it’s true. While living in Havana, Hemingway spent a fair share of his time at a bar called La Bodeguita, where he became a fan of the Cuban rum, lime juice and muddled mint magic that is a mojito. To make your own, place six mint leaves, three lime quarters and a teaspoon of sugar in a glass. Muddle the mix with a wooden pestle or spoon until the sugar dissolves and you can smell the mint. Add ice, two ounces of light rum and a splash of club soda. This kind of beverage screams “drink me outdoors with friends on a hot day,” but sipping a mojito as you curl up with a copy of The Old Man and the Sea may be just as gratifying.                   -Brook Fischer


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