My new obsession is to travel to Cuba.
Ever since the U.S. and Cuba established a more open door policy (aided, in part, by Pope Francis), I’ve wanted to go to the country that has for so long been verboten to American tourists.
You might say my interest started in the third grade, when a boy named Christopher came to sit next to me in Mrs. Armentour’s classroom. Christopher and his family had just moved to the United States from Cuba, a country that sounded exotic and fascinating. Christopher’s father was in Cuban prison (a story I never heard mentioned again) and his mother had taken Christopher and his brother to her native United States. It was all very alluring and mysterious.
Perhaps part of Cuba’s allure is that is has been cut off from the United States for so long, during the years of Castro’s rule and subsequent domination by the Communist Party.
Cuba was discovered and claimed for Spain by our pal Christopher Columbus, although Ameri-Indian tribes inhabited the island just 93 miles off the coast of the U.S. before he arrived.
Cuba’s culture is a blend of Spanish and African, with emphasis on rich music and healthy, flavorful cuisine.
The cuisine features a lot of black beans, citrus fruits, more black beans, saffron rice, mangos and more black beans. (I happen to LOVE black beans.)
But this shrimp dish highlights the citrus flavors I conjure up when I imagine an island visit.
The hot pepper tempers the sweetness of the juices, and the spices say “island” to me! This dish gets its flavor from whole, healthy foods!
10 cloves garlic
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp hot red pepper flakes
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 tsp ground cumin, optional
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 to 2 lbs large to jumbo raw shrimp, peeled and deveined
kosher or sea salt, to taste
Start by making a paste of the spices, using a mortar and pestle (or a bowl and a heavy spoon). Mash the garlic, pepper, oregano and red pepper flakes until they form a chunky paste. You can also use a food processor. Whisk this into the orange juice, lemon juice, lime juice and olive oil and add cumin.
Separate the sauce in half and set half aside. Add shrimp to the other half and marinate in the refrigerator for 15 minutes (no longer or the citrus will cook the shrimp, ceviche-style).
Drain the shrimp, but reserve the marinade.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shrimp and sprinkle with salt. Sauté for 30 seconds.
Cook an additional 2 minutes or until the shrimp are cooked through. Remove to a warm platter.
Increase the heat to high and add all the sauce. Bring to a boil and cook until sauce reduces by half and thickens. Pour over shrimp and serve immediately.
Nutritional Information: Calories Per Serving: 508, Calories from Fat: 269, Fat: 30 g, Trans Fat: 0 g (4 g Saturated Fat), Cholesterol: 320 mg, Sodium: 331 mg, Potassium: 271 mg, Carbohydrates: 15 g, Fiber: 1 g, Sugar: 6 g, Protein: 46 g.
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