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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“I measure life by countries, not years”

This post is inspired by one of my favorite quotes, seen below.  These beautiful words sum up my idea of carefree, uninhibited happiness, while grasping the essence of my everlasting love for travel…

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Upon reading this one stormy afternoon, I felt inspired & excited for future adventures abroad, laced with a refreshing fear of the unknown & all of the endless possibilities that await. So I drew upon my own experiences to come up with my take on what Travel Is….

 Travel is the taste of fresh pastries in a hidden alley coffee shop. It’s a $5 picnic for two on the back of a train. Travel is getting lost on purpose and wandering the streets with no map. It’s meeting a complete stranger on the subway and spending the next 12 hours exploring with them. It’s the lively urban buzz that surrounds you at all times. Travel is a random Wednesday turning into one of the best nights of your life. Travel is the smell of street foods filling the smokey air. And Coca Cola cans printed in different languages. Travel is smiling and nodding and pretending to understand when someone’s accent is too thick. Travel is meeting your soulmate on a random street on a random night at a random concert in a random pub. Travel is flirting with foreign boys and getting them to buy you sandwiches. Travel is taking a nap in the sunshine on a park bench. It’s people watching all day. It’s chip flavors and candy bars you never knew existed. Travel is the taste of the unknown somehow mixed with a faint hint of familiarity of home. Travel is the sharing of stories in a hostel. Travel is jumping into the ocean with new friends in the middle of a storm. It’s blisters on your feet from walking, but not caring. Travel is a burst of energy every morning. It’s being at a music festival and as the sun goes down, in that very moment, realizing how beautiful life is. Travel is being in the countryside and looking up at the same night stars that you’ve seen all your life. Travel is getting lost and finding yourself. It’s crying from laughing so hard with someone who was born on a different continent than you. Travel is learning to appreciate how relaxing a hot shower really is. Travel is listening to a special song on your iPod while gazing out of the train at the green countryside passing by. It’s hiding out in the back of a Starbucks for hours to use the free WiFi.  Travel is learning to not take sh*t for granted. It’s is realizing that it’s okay to not know your path in life yet. It’s realizing that your 20s are your years to explore and figure things out. Travel is beaming with happiness and feeling alive every day.

A few of my favorites…

 

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