Simple in concept, but complex in flavor. That’s how one food writer recently described Cuban cuisine. In fact, there are two distinct styles of cooking on the island: the classic and the new, or nuevo Cubano. The classic style uses the generations-old techniques (sautéing or slow-cooking over a flame) and spices (garlic, cumin, oregano and bay leaves). Its influences come from Africa and neighboring Caribbean cultures.
The nuevo style adds a variety of herbs and spices from other cuisines and emphasizes presentation. The food tends to be spicier, thanks to the many Haitian and Jamaican immigrants who brought to Cuba their taste for hot peppers. A staple of both new and classic Cuban cooking is a marinade called mojo, which is generally made of hot olive oil, juices, sliced raw onions, and spices like garlic and bay leaves.
Classes in Cuban cuisine are offered at Impressive Chef in Nashua (603-891-3520, http://www.impressivechef.com), which includes a store that sells gourmet ingredients and cookware. The classes are taught by Johnson & Wales-trained chef Michelle Fiumara-Montgomery and others. She shared a few of her recipes for a Cuban meal.
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This article appears in the January 2004 issue of New Hampshire Magazine