coco cabana

one thing was on my mind all week. Cuban food. Black beans, jerk-mojo spiced pork, Ropa Vieja, rice, fried plantains, croquettas.  I decided to create a probably-less-than-authentic-but-still-bomb version of some Cuban grub. So I got out my new *ombre-turquoise* Le Creuset pot and started a hearty black bean soup.

I have a soft spot for a warm, silky soup in the winter. I also have a soft spot for….toppings. Toppings can make or break a dish in my opinion.  I decided to make my version of a robust Cuban-spiced black bean soup, loaded with some of my favorite toppings: Monterrey Jack cheese, salsa, cilantro, avocado (because I put avocado on everything), and a mango-red onion salsa to amp up the Cuban-ness of this dish. It kind of steered off road, into the direction of a Mexican black bean soup.  If it was up to me, I would have put some jerk shredded pork or succulent mojo grilled shrimp on top of my soup mound to highlight some extra Cuban flavors. And some crispy plantains. Instead, I worked with what was available, and I loaded it right up with my toppings. I paired my soup alongside brown rice and some chicken fajita leftovers that I had.  I don’t ever use recipes (“what kind of food blog is this?”). Personally, I operate best by mixing, matching and playing around with my own ingredients and flavors. One day I will write my pairings down and create a recipe. For now, I will link some creative actual recipes for a mean black bean Cuban soup below.

My soup base consisted of black beans, fresh tomatoes, canned Rotel tomatoes, onions, garlic, shallot, chicken broth, 1/2 of a bell pepper, and lots of cumin, all simmered together and then blended into a thick soup. I chopped up a perfectly juicy mango, a handful of red onion, a few stalks of chopped cilantro and tossed it with lime juice to create a bright salsa for my meal.  In the end, my dish ate more like a burrito-bowl on steroids but it sure did hit the spot. (recipe links below)

Vegetarian Cuban black bean soup

Chicken & kale black bean soup w/ friend plantains

black bean soup with chipotle & chorizo

Pumpkin & coconut milk black bean soup

Sriracha, coconut black bean soup with sweet potatoes

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mango salsa prep

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AOE (Avocados On Everything)

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A Souper Summer

One of my favorite parts about summertime is the food.  The juices from fresh fruits drizzling down my chin as my taste buds soak up the sweet nectars, veggies & meats & seafoods hot off the grill with beautiful char marks & nothing but a drizzle of olive oil & a sprinkle of sea salt, sweet & savory gourmet popsicles in flavors like Kiwi Banana Honey & Grapefruit Orange Blossom Margarita (King of Pops, hands down the best popsicle you will ever taste, is an Atlanta icon…have a browse and/or drool at  their genius flavor pairings here).

But above all, one thing I always find myself craving on those days when you step outside and it’s so humid that your sunglasses fog up, is a cold home made soup.  You can almost taste every fresh fruit & vegetable that goes into a home crafted chilled soup.  It’s like taking all of the best, plumpest, proudest growings from the garden & inviting them to an exclusive summer party in the form of a bowl of soup.  One of my favorites is the Spanish legend, Gazpacho.  Slurping Gazpacho takes me back to last summer in the brutal dry heat of Madrid, Spain, sitting under a patio umbrella slowing eating a bowl & with every bite really appreciating all of the components that marry together to create the perfect bite (or slurp).  So simple yet so refreshing. It’s never a bad idea to wash it down with a large glass of fruity Sangria, either.  I recently made my own batch of my Spanish favorite, & it came pretty close to hitting the same spots on my tastebuds & in my heart as it did that summer in Madrid.  I didn’t use a recipe…but I have included the links to an array of creative takes on a beautiful bowl of gazpacho. Enjoy!

Classic Gazpacho

With Shrimp

Watermelon Peach

Mexican Style

Zucchini & Sweet Pepper

Heirloom Tomato & Avocado

Smoky Gazpacho with Chorizo

Sweet Corn Basil
My gazpacho prep

My gazpacho prep

Blending everything together

Blending everything together

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Add some sliced avocado, fresh cilantro, red onion, a few diced jalapenos & a drizzle of olive oil!

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Final Product!

Madrid Style

Madrid Style

london calling

Ever since I ventured to London for the first time 2 years ago, a part of me was left behind there.  I was fortunate enough to live there for the summer, & London Town proved to be unlike anywhere else I have ever been. I like to think I am fairly well traveled, I’ve explored a good chunk of Europe with nothing but a small suitcase, my best friend, & the Couch Surfing app on my iphone. But something about London intrigues me like no where else. A city so alive & bustling with countless forms of vibrant energy, patiently waiting to be discovered inside every street market and ivy covered pub. Its like every Tube stop is a new realm of the city-with it’s own little story, just waiting to be unraveled & consumed by the eager adventurer. Whenever I visit london it feels like I’ve never been there before, in a sense. I love that about it, you can feel so comfortable but a complete stranger at the exact same time. London is a city with almost a magical quality, you never know what you are going to stumble upon and it becomes clear that even if you spend your entire life in this city, you will never see it all. I am captivated by a deep longing for adventure & exploration on a new level. For me, the phrase “anything is possible” truly comes alive in London. I become engulfed with the overwhelming sense of knowing that, at all times, even on a rainy Tuesday night, there is & will always be something going on. There is a certain lively urban buzz & always happening factor that defines London. It’s up to you to jump in and let the city take you on a journey.

When in London I also always seem to appreciate the beautiful yet simple things in life more…chic tucked away cafes with white tables & freshly cut flowers in glass mason jars, fashion thats weird in the best way walking down the streets of Shoreditch, the overwhelming aroma of robust spices & mouth watering curries on Brick Lane, freshly made baguette sandwiches & crisps in flavors like “Mozarella & Pesto” & “Lobster Bisque” lining the shelves at the corner shop, the buzzing of drunk people & slurring of different languages on the rowdy top deck night bus ride home, & a good afternoon rain storm while you are tucked away inside of a small cafe sipping tea & watching the world pass by outside. For all of these reasons, & many more, I always have a constant urge & longing to be back in my favorite city. Its like an itch that I can never get rid of, it always comes creeping back just patiently waiting for me to scratch. For now I will have to wait until the time is right to travel back across the pond, but in the mean time I thought i’d share my love, passion & deep longing for a place that is embedded in my soul via my first blog post. Enjoy