Cuban food lovers, put down your forks and stop in at Books & Books in Coral Gables tonight at 8 p.m. to talk rice and black beans and more with Raquel Rabade Roque, author of The Cuban Kitchen, owner of Downtown Book Center in Miami, and co-founder of the Miami Book Fair.
Her new paperback is loaded with 500 recipes ranging from classic, home-style plates like ropa vieja and pescado asado a la cubana to authentic, but uncommon, items such as Farmer-style Rabbit, made with aguardiente. Many of the recipes come from her family's collection, but others are attributed to famous writers, local chefs, and patriots.
Available for $20 and published by Alfred A. Knopf, the cookbook also features fun photos of Cuban icons, brief anecdotes about the featured dishes and their origins, and a smattering of "secrets" scattered throughout the book. (For example, "How to rinse rice," "How to store a pig overnight," and "Tips for the crispiest frituras.")
Roque set a few minutes aside to share her story with Short Order:
New Times: How is this cookbook different from any other Cuban cookbook out there?
Raquel Rabade Roque: It's actually encyclopedic in range, and it was always my intention to include and record basically every Cuban recipe for posterity. It's transitional and evolves into new trends in Cuban cuisine.
What's your favorite recipe and why?
My favorite recipe would have to be the arroz con pollo because it is the ultimate comfort food and great fun to garnish. It is my celebration dish!
I noticed you mentioned Mitch Kaplan of Books & Books on your acknowledgements page. What's your relationship to him?
Besides being lifelong friends and fellow booksellers and co-founders of the Miami International Book Fair, Mitchell and I share a store at the [Miami International Airport]. I am also a staff member of Mitchell's great team at Books & Books.
What other books have you written?
This book is an expanded, revised and new edition to Cocina Cubana. When I was asked to do my own translation into English, I just naturally started to add the evolving recipes, different anecdotes and [I] basically [began] writing a whole new book.
Will you be serving any of these delicious dishes at your book signing tonight?
Yes! We are giving away samples of Maxima's plantain soup, timba (guava paste and white cheese) and the ultimate tropical sangria. The Cafe at Books & Books is featuring upscale Cuban paninis, a very cool Cuban ceviche platter, as well as the soup. Not to mention the live music from the great Grammy-nominated Conjunto Progreso.
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What's your favorite Cuban restaurant in Miami?
I would have to give you one for each hour of the day! Because after all, we eat Cuban in Miami 24/7. Some perennial favorites would have to include Palacio de los Jugos, Islas Canarias, El Rinconcito Latino, Lucerne Bakery, La Rosa... Get the picture?
I really think and would like to stress that Cuban food is economical for today's budget-minded cook. Also, with the variety of root vegetables, it is a great organic from-the-farm-to-the-table alternative! But above all, I want everyone to have fun with the cooking and the culture.
Hungry for more? Check back Monday for Roque's Cuban sandwich recipe.