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Nuevo Cuban

Recipes from the cookbook “To Cook Is to Love” (inspired by the late, lamented Mucho Gusto cafe).

Use fresh or frozen vegetables to make fritters. Jim Scherer / Styling by Catrine Kelty

TIP Do not crowd fritters. They need plenty of room in the oil.


(Vegetable Fritters)

Makes about 30

¾ cup all-purpose flour

1½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

½ easpoon pepper

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

1 egg (beaten)

½ cup milk

1½ cups chopped fresh or thawed frozen vegetables (try broccoli, asparagus, cauliflower, and carrot)

Canola oil for frying 

Combine the dry ingredients and spices in a small bowl and set aside. In a large bowl, combine the egg, milk, and vegetables. Gradually stir the dry ingredients into the vegetable mixture and mix thoroughly.

In a deep fryer or in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat, heat 2 to 3 inches of oil to 350 to 375 degrees. Drop the battered vegetables by the spoonful into the hot oil. Fry only a few at a time, turning as needed until they are brown on all sides. Drain on paper towels and place in a warm oven until ready to serve.



(Chicken With Rice)

Serves 6 

3 to 5 pounds chicken legs, with skin removed

1 cup naranja agria (bitter orange juice) or ½ cup orange juice and ½ cup lime juice

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

½ teaspoon cumin powder

½ teaspoon (crushed) dried oregano

2 tablespoons aceite achiote (recipe follows) or a pinch of crushed saffron threads and 2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large green pepper, coarsely chopped

1 large onion, coarsely chopped

6 garlic cloves, diced

1 8-ounce can tomato sauce

3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth

½ cup pitted green olives

3 cups long-grain rice, parboiled or converted

½ large red bell pepper, sliced into long, thin strips

½ cup frozen green peas

2 tablespoons dry white wine

In a nonreactive dish, marinate the chicken legs in the naranja agria and salt, black pepper, cumin, and oregano for a few hours or overnight.


In a large, heavy casserole or wide, shallow Dutch oven, warm the oil over medium heat. Add the chicken legs (reserving the marinade), adjust the heat to medium-high, and cook. When lightly browned, remove the chicken from the pot and set aside.

Add the green pepper and onion to the pot and cook for about 3 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, stir in the garlic, and cook about 2 minutes longer or until the onion is translucent and tender. Return the chicken legs to the pot. Add the tomato sauce, chicken broth, olives, and reserved marinade, cover, adjust heat to medium-low, and cook slowly until the chicken is nearly done, about 30 minutes.

TIP: Do not crowd fritters. They need plenty of room in the oil. -

Add the rice, stir, cover, and cook slowly for 20 minutes more or until the rice has absorbed all liquid. Remove from the heat and let stand for about 5 minutes. While the rice rests, in a small saute pan, warm the red pepper strips and green peas in the wine until thoroughly heated. Fluff the rice with a fork and transfer it, with the chicken, to a serving platter. Decorate the rice and chicken with red pepper strips and green peas.


(Annatto Oil)

Makes 1 cup

Many traditional recipes call for saffron when making yellow rice dishes, but I prefer this inexpensive, old-fashioned alternative. Annatto seeds can be found in Hispanic markets or in the international aisle of many supermarkets. Because annatto oil is a powerful coloring agent, be careful not to spill it. It will turn your favorite kitchen towel or your carpet bright orange.


2 tablespoons annatto seeds

1 cup olive oil

Combine the annatto seeds and the oil in a medium skillet. Heat the mixture over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until oil becomes very fragrant and develops a deep orange color, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. Strain the oil to remove the seeds (I use a paper coffee filter inserted into a funnel).  Store in a covered container and refrigerate.


(Avocado Sauce)

Makes about 2 cups of sauce

This savory, spicy sauce is delicious with seafood.

2 Hass avocados, peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks

¼ cup pitted green olives

2 tablespoons capers

1 clove garlic

1 small onion, quartered

1 fresh jalapeno pepper

1 teaspoon black pepper

¼ cup lime juice

In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade, combine the avocados, olives, capers, garlic, onion, jalapeno, black pepper, and half of the lime juice, then process until smooth and creamy. Transfer the sauce to a storage container with a tight-fitting lid. Pour the remaining lime juice over the sauce. When ready to serve, stir the sauce thoroughly.

 Excerpted from To Cook Is to Love, by John Verlinden. Order it at muchogusto.com. Send comments to cooking@globe.com.