Whenever I’ve tried to describe malanga to someone in the past, it’s usually limited to: “well, it’s kind of like a potato.” Do you like potatoes? If you don’t…I just, I don’t know what to do with that. But if you do, think of malanga as potato’s long, thin cousin (because we all have one). It’s a starchy root vegetable with a good deal of nutritional value and a lot of digestive benefits. In Cuban cuisine, this style of puree is typical for a lunch meal, and would commonly be eaten for lunch with an egg over-medium on top.
Growing up, I heard countless tales of the miraculous healing powers that this puree has for the stomach. You’ll have to be the judge on that, but, whether or not it has the power to heal, it can definitely be a deliciously fluffy side dish to many a Cuban entree. That being said, this is probably not the first thing I would make for someone trying Cuban food for the first time. This is more of a second-date dish (if you date your food, that is). My husband just laughed out loud at that last sentence – apparently “dating my food” is very me. Well, ain’t no disguising the truth.
Now, as a proper Cuban, I have a love affair with garlic. I do my best to dial it down for the sake of everyone’s breath, but let’s face it, garlic is a wonderful thing. I’ve included just a hint of garlic in this recipe, but it really makes all the difference between a bland puree and a tasty side dish – don’t skip it! As always, I’d love to know what changes/additions/subtractions you have found to make tasty twists on this recipe!
Here’s a short story for you, my friends. Once upon a time, there was a girl who searched to the ends of the Earth for a dinner roll recipe that would suit her needs. She found many different varieties…some buttery, some hard, some yeasty, some crusty. But no recipe in all the land gave her exactly what she wanted: long-lasting fluffiness and perfect texture, delicious flavor, and easy technique. One day, when this girl was supposed to be taking a break from blog recipes, she accidentally created a magical recipe that was everything she had ever hoped for. She tested it again, and again it came out perfect. “It can’t be!” she cried. And she proceeded to stuff her face with bread.
Guys. That was based on a true story. I may have never mentioned this before – but bread is one of my very favorite things on this planet. I am extremely picky about it, and it is very often my favorite part of the meal at restaurants. There is just nothing like bread fresh out of the oven. Nope. So, after years of looking for a rolls recipe that could be enjoyed for dinner, but then also enjoyed for the rest of the week with breakfast and lunch – I’ve found it. And, even though I was supposed to be taking a break… I just have to share it.
This recipe is very tweak-able. If you want sweet bread, add some more honey. If you want cheesy bread, add your favorite grated cheese. If you want herbs, add some herbs. Have a party with it! And let me know how your tweaks turned out! I’d love to hear about some variations on this recipe.
***************RECIPE UPDATED 11/22/16***************
When I was first learning to cook, I used to follow my mom around the kitchen, writing down everything little thing she did. The difficulty of learning to cook from any seasoned Cuban chef is that they rarely measure anything. So, as she was about to toss a handful of something into the pot, I would grab her hand and pour whatever she held into a measuring cup. Believe it or not, these were the beginnings of my Cuban cuisine education. After years of learning through studying, cooking, and a lot of trial and error, I can at least say this: I finally understand my mom.
Admittedly, I have been delaying posting Cuban recipes – and this one in particular. It’s hard to explain, but the Cuban kitchen has a lot to do with learning how flavors complement each other and adjusting to your audience. It has very little to do with careful measurements. That being said, you will find over time that experience with Cuban cuisine will allow you to make your own adjustments.
Now, as this is a post about a black bean stew – let me start by saying this. I have known many people who claimed they didn’t eat beans – that they didn’t like them. To this day, I have never met a person who wasn’t converted by this dish. This recipe belonged to my grandmother. In Cuba, she was famous for her black beans. She passed it on to my mother, who passed it on to me. I am delighted to be able to share it with you. In Cuba, dishes vary by the region from which they originated. Some Cuban black bean stews include pork or other meats for flavoring, but this one (my favorite) is completely vegetarian and emphasizes the decadent taste of the actual bean without being boring like so many bean dishes are.