Last year around this time, my BFF Ayesha came for a visit and we headed down to Key West for a weekend getaway. Even though I live in Florida, these getaways within my own state still feel like a vacation. The sun just seems hotter and brighter, the skies are bluer and the carefree attitude of being away soars!! Afternoon tropical drinks and light, easy meals filled our days. Ayesha and I share a passion for food, easily being able to spend hours chatting away about recipes, ideas to recreate our own and always seeking out-of-the-ordinary places to dine!
One hot afternoon walking down Duval Street we passed by a Casablanca style bar/restaurant, which unfortunately, the name is long forgotten. Large fans overhead sent cooling breezes down to the small round tables. Cuban influence in Key West is very present in music, shopping and food. This little place caught our attention for a much needed break from the heat and a small bite to eat. Mojitos are always my drink of choice when dining on Cuban/Latin cuisine; the cooling minty taste is so refreshing on a hot day.
One of the dishes we ordered were nachos ala Cuban style. Tortilla chips were replaced with Plantain chips and covered with Picadillo; a Cuban dish consisting of ground beef, tomatoes, pepper, Spanish olives, garlic and spices. Picadillo is usually served with white rice as in my photo, along with black beans. I have since served my Picadillo with plantain chips for a casual, fun dish. In fact, as soon as we got back from Key West, Ayesha and I recreated that Cuban Nacho dish! The long plantain chips work the best in serving ‘nacho’ style as they hold and scoop up the Picadillo nicely. I have used either ground beef or ground turkey in my Picadillo and sometimes spice it up a bit as Cuban cuisine is seasoned well but never spicy hot!
Plantain chips (optional, but necessary for preparing “nacho” style)
In a large skillet, heat 1 teaspoon of the olive oil. Add the ground beef or turkey and brown the meat, stirring occasional. Remove the browned meat and drain any excess fat from the skillet. Add the remaining olive oil and allow to heat to medium heat. Add the pepper, onion and garlic, sauté until onions are soft. Return the browned meat to the skillet, add the remaining ingredients. Bring to boil, reduce heat to simmer. Cover and simmer the Picadillo for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove the bay leaves and serve over white rice or layer on Plantain chips for serving as nachos.
I love being in the kitchen. Early mornings, soft music, a hot espresso. Easing into the preparation of delicious meals. Glancing through cookbooks, gathering inspiration and planning my day. I look forward to the cycles of the seasons, the pleasures of tasting and savoring and sharing this with those dear to me. Weekends are special to me as my week days are often rushed, but still I create the ambiance, light the candles, set the table and uncork the wine.