I don’t know why this never ceases to surprise me, but most people I meet have never eaten Cuban food. Now, considering the sum total population of 11MM people on the island, you would think “hey, Damaris – that’s to be expected.” Now, whenever I meet someone, it feels like it is my mission from the universe to make sure they experience Cuban food, Thai food, Korean food, Japanese food, and Vietnamese food – at a minimum (and in that order). It isn’t always the simplest thing to quickly cook up some Cuban black bean stew or some ropa vieja – but gosh darn it, I will at least fry up some Cuban empanadas.
If you have experienced at least a simple (and incredibly, crazy delicious) street food from each of these places, I feel like my universe debt is paid. Because we need to cover our bases in order – we’ll start you off with Cuban. Empanadas were one of the first Cuban dishes I ever learned to make. My mom taught me, and this was one of our tag-team recipes, where she would prepare the filling, and then I would shape and close the empanada. If you have little ones of your own, you might find this is a great recipe for keeping those little hands busy without making a lot of mess.
There are so many different doughs and fillings you can use to make empanadas that this recipe is just the way to open a door to a world of creativity. You can go sweet, salty, gooey, crunchy. Our personal favorites use either picadillo, or guava paste and cream cheese. The Cuban kitchen is all about being resourceful – using what’s available, using up leftovers, making the most of everything. These are a great way to enjoy the heck out of some leftover meat, veggie, or rice dishes. Do me a favor – help me ease my debt to the universe, and go make yourself some empanadas. I promise this is one debt that’s actually very fun to repay.
We’re going to talk about Guava Strawberry Pie during this post, but first let me tell you a story. I met a man earlier this week who said he worked as a psychologist. He was a man of quickfire questions who left little time for replies. Yet, somehow, you left his side feeling as though you had shared your innermost self with him. He asked me, at one point, in his speed-questioning way, what had been the overarching lesson I had gleamed from my father. Pressed for time and without much time to think, the reply came on its own, “Do what you need to do, when you need to do it, and enjoy doing it.” Without of a moment of hesitation, he asked me the same question about my mother. Again, there wasn’t time to think this through. Yet again, the reply came on its own. “Love others to the best of your ability.”
Wow. How is it that in twenty seconds of my time, this man brought about two things about me that even I didn’t know? Why have I never really asked myself these questions? I was shocked, a little lost in reverie, as he went on to explore his own curiosity within my psyche. It was certainly an experience, and a very pertinent one in my life. Today, I want to celebrate the two people who have celebrated my efforts, who have loved me through my annoying phases and my know-it-all ones, and who have encouraged me to get past those phases. These people have sacrificed more for me than I have ever sacrificed for everyone in my life put together.
In their honor, this recipe brings in a hint of Cuban flavor to it with some guava and lime. It is very traditional for Cuban sweets to revolve around tropical fruits. In honor of the new things that their love allowed me to experience, I’ve incorporated a few of my favorite American flavors. Won’t you indulge me by indulging in this sweet treat? This pie really is “the best of both worlds.” Sweet, homey, and delicious. Grab some vanilla ice cream and a warm piece of pie, and let the memories take you where they may! I will gladly join you.