My own brand of recipe alchemy intervenes in Cuban cuisine. This Meatless Monday post makes over some signature Cuban food into a healthier vegetarian/vegan version.
- cucurucho – a dessert made with nuts, fruit, coconut and honey.
Described as ambrosia-like this dessert can be quite cloying and the addition of honey renders it non-vegan. The make-over? Apart from substituting honey with an alternative liquid sweetener and reducing the amount of it not much else needs to be done to make this dessert ‘healthy.’ Try a fruit salad approach by drizzling a minute amount of agave or maple syrup over top of fresh seasonal fruit, freshly grated coconut (store-bought shredded coconut will work too) and sprouted nuts.
- chorote – a breakfast drink made with chocolate, coconut milk, sugar, vanilla and corn or cassava flour (helps make drink rich and thick)
Chocolate for breakfast?! Yes please! I can get used to this but the added sugar diminishes the nutritional value of the other ingredients. The make-over? Omit the sugar, substitute the flour with a vanilla flavoured vegan protein powder and make sure to use unsweetened dark chocolate with a minimum 70% cacao content. If you have coconut milk powder, use a few teaspoons and combine with 200 mL of water and the other ingredients over medium heat until the chocolate is melted. No coconut milk powder? No problem. Just use reduced coconut milk instead. Or use half water and half reduced coconut milk to lower the fat content yet maintain a rich creamy taste.
- Moros y Cristianos – simply beans and rice
Often made with black beans, white rice and some sort of animal stock, this dish is easily made healthier and vegetarian. The make-over? Use vegetable stock (or mushroom for a more ‘meaty’ impersonation) and whole grain rice instead of white. Reduce the amount of oil and salt normally called for in the recipe by at least half to up the health quotient. See ‘authentic’ recipe here.
- Cuban sandwich – ham and cheese on white
Spotted everywhere, this sandwich seemed to be the street food of Cuba. The make-over? Clearly get rid of the ham! Substitute it with baked seitan, tempeh or tofu in a marinade of pineapple juice, sodium-reduced soy sauce, a little liquid smoke, a bit of oil and a pinch of ground cloves. Use a smoked vegetarian or vegan cheese and build your vegetarian/vegan Cuban sandwich on two thinly sliced pieces of whole grain bread. Or use just one slice if you would prefer less bread.
See our sister site Weal World Travel for some background info on food in Cuba: Nutrition & Travel: Cuba