African flavors in Cuba

Black-eyed peas and okra are popular in many areas of the world, but I’m especially familiar with them as a part of Southern U.S. cuisine.  In Cuba, these vegetables were introduced into local cuisine in much the same way as in the American South – African slaves brought them along from Western Africa. The African influence on Cuban cooking is also obvious with many uses of the plantain. Here are a couple of tasty Cuban recipes for black-eyed pea fritters and okra creole.

Frituras de Carita (Black-eyed Pea Fritters)
½ lb. black-eyed peas
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. salt
Ground black pepper
4-6 Tbsp. water
1 egg
Bread crumbs
Vegetable oil for frying

Rub the beans to remove their skins, and boil for about 15 minutes until softened. In a food processor, process the beans, garlic, salt and pepper. With motor running, add water and process until smooth. Mix in egg.

Heat oil to 375 degrees for frying. Roll balls of the batter into bread crumbs and fry until golden brown on all sides. Drain on paper towels and keep hot in a 250 degree oven until all are fried. Serve hot, sprinkled with lime juice and salt.

Quimbombo con Mojo Criollo (Okra with Creole Sauce)
1 lb. okra, fresh or frozen
1 slice bacon
1 onion, sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 green pepper, diced
1 bay leaf
3 whole cloves
1 c. tomato sauce

Slice the okra into 1/2-inch pieces, and soak in cold water with lime or lemon juice. In the meantime, fry up the bacon until browned, crumble and saute onion, garlic and pepper in the same pan. Add tomato sauce, bay leaf and cloves, salt and pepper to taste. Drain okra and add to the mixture. Cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes, remove bay leaf and cloves before serving.

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