Ropa Vieja was not on the tables in Cuba, at least not to my memory. What I remember includes a fresh squeezed glass of orange juice, a whole roasted pig, a hand-held pizza, the smell of rum, and the best tasting chocolate ice cream I’ve ever eaten.
A week and a half from now I'll be packing my bags for another latin country--Ecuador-and I'm counting down the days the same way I would count down the days to summer break when I was in grade school. I always thought I would be a jet-setter. At one point I dreamed of being a National Geographic journalist, then a translator, and then a coordinator for an international NGO.
It of course turned out that none of those paths made sense for me. In fact, I quite like my sense of home, but wanderlust itches at my heart here and there. Usually it's satisfied by a trip to the kitchen and an exotic spice blend: maybe a curry, something with West African influence, or a dish reminiscent of my time in South America.
Ropa Vieja is one of those dishes for me: a bite of somewhere else. I have come to love it. It’s a one-pot wonder that comes together in 30 minutes or less, depending on what pace you are moving at. So turn on the rumba music, tie your apron and get out a skillet.
A week and a half from now I'll be taking more mental notes about Ecuadorian recipes than I'll be able to remember.
Serves: 4 | Total Time: 30 minutes
For the filling:
- 1/2 white onion
- 1 stalk celery
- 2 bell peppers (red and yellow)
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 pound ground beef
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 teaspoons oregano, dried
- 2 teaspoon paprika, ground
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne, ground
- 1/8 teaspoon cloves, ground
- 1/8 teaspoon allspice, ground
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper, ground
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons capers
- 1/4 cup sliced black olives
- 2 tablespoons parsley
- Slice the onion and bell peppers, and chop the celery. Heat the coconut oil in a skillet over medium heat. When the oil glistens, put the onions, peppers, and celery in the pan and sauté until the onions turn transparent.
- Add the beef to the pan and use a wooden spatula to break it up into grounds. Cook, stirring occasionally, until browned on all sides.
- Mince the garlic, and add it to the skillet along with the spices: oregano, paprika, cayenne, cloves, allspice, salt and pepper. Stir, and then pour white wine into the pan and stir again, bringing to a simmer.
- Add the canned tomatoes, capers and sliced olives and mix in. Allow to simmer for 5 more minutes, and then top with parsley and serve hot over rice, cauliflower rice, or along side tortillas.