Behind the Seasoning: Cuban Island Spice
Think of Cuba and you’ll likely be picturing the booming years of the very early 1950s: the Tropicana Club, music and dance, a steady supply of rum, fashionable Panama hats and Cuban heels, Cuban cigars, and hedonistic tourists. You may not immediately think of the food, which is a shame. While simple in preparation and presentation, Cuban food is rich in flavor. Cuban cuisine is a product of many cultural influences including Spanish, Portuguese, West African, Afro-Caribbean, French, and Chinese.
Think of Cuba and you’ll likely be picturing the booming years of the very early 1950s: the Tropicana Club, music and dance, a steady supply of rum, fashionable Panama hats and Cuban heels, Cuban cigars, and hedonistic tourists. You may not immediately think of the food, which is a shame. While often simple in preparation, Cuban food is rich in flavor.
What is the story behind Cuban Island Spice?
Cuban cuisine has a wide variety of cultural influences including Spanish, Portuguese, West African, Afro-Caribbean, French, and Chinese. For many Cubans, food is about family as much as it is about sustenance. The preparation of a dish is family heritage, laden with stories and history, passed from generation to generation.
Many Cuban-Americans have adopted some of the ingredients and traditions of their new home while still retaining the integrity of their homeland favorites. Cuban Island Spice is inspired by this rich cultural history and appreciation of culinary tradition.
We wanted to create a seasoning that could be used to create delicious Cuban favorites like Ropa Veija, Steak Palamillo, and Vaca Frita. This seasoning also had to be versatile enough to be used for spicing up tamales or empanadas, tostones, even pizza!
What is in Cuban Island Spice?
We started with the foundations for authentic Cuban cooking: sofrito and adobo.
Sofrito is a base sauce, originating in Latin cuisine, which is traditionally made with fresh chiles, onion, garlic, tomato, cilantro, and parsley; this medley of ingredients is then cooked in olive oil.
Adobo roughly translates as ‘to stew’ and is a common food preparation throughout Latin America. Cuban style adobo commonly includes a sauce of garlic, salt, cumin, lime juice and oregano.
Our first order of business was to use spices to create the same layers of flavor. Using powdered lime leaves, we were able to replicate the brightness traditionally imparted by lime juice. We added a few herbs to enhance the flavor of parsley. Finding the ideal balance of sofrito and adobo ingredients was the final step.
How do you use Cuban Island Spice?
Our Cuban Island Spice is flavorful and family-friendly (not a spicy blend!). For a Cuban inspired family feast, start with arroz con frijoles (rice and beans).
- Add some Cuban Island Spice, onion, and bell pepper to black beans.
- Top white rice with these flavorful black beans before serving.
Another Cuban favorite, lechon asado (roast pork) is easy to recreate. If you are a fan of pulled pork, this is a must try. Generously rub a pork shoulder with Cuban Island Spice and let dry marinate overnight. Cook in the oven, low and slow, or in a crockpot and shred before serving.
After tasting the finished product, the first thing that came to mind was one of our favorite sandwiches: the Cubano. Our twist on this Florida classic uses a combination of chicken and pork (flavored by a Cuban Island marinade) but feel free to use the traditional ham. If you’ve never had a Cubano but love ham and cheese sandwiches, this is a must-try recipe.
Maybe that versatility is part of the reason it’s been flying off the shelves at many of our stores. It's quickly become a customer favorite and we look forward to hearing about the fantastic recipes you’re creating with this easy-to-use seasoning!