CUBAN QUOKKA MOJO
Cuban mojo pork with rice and beans, sauteed peppers and onions, sweet baked plantains, mojo puree
Substitutions available: chicken
Cuban mojo tempeh with rice and beans, sauteed peppers and onions, sweet baked plantains, mojo puree
Growing up in a Cuban household, my family would eat the classic Cuban combination of rice, black beans, plantains, and slow roasted pork doused in mojo (an all-purpose lime-garlic-olive oil dressing) at least a couple times per month. Some of my best eating memories are centered around this simple meal.
While abundant in deliciousness, this meal is somewhat lacking in nutrition, especially vegetables. Cuba is, after all, a communist country. So fresh vegetables have historically been hard to come by. Most often, rations of rice, beans, meats, white sugar, brown sugar, milk, eggs, potatoes, and bananas/plantains are distributed at local bodegas. Those foods serve as the basis of the diet, providing the vast majority of calories. One doesn’t need to have a PhD in clinical nutrition to know that these rations leave major holes in the diet from a micronutrient perspective.
With our Cuban dinner, we’ve taken the flavors of the traditional Cuban meal that I grew up on, but have applied more of a Mediterranean spin to it. Instead of fatty pork shoulder, we use the lean tenderloin. Our congri (rice and bean mixture) is made with whole grain brown rice and without the typical pork products (salt pork, lard) added. Our plantains are oven-roasted, not deep fried in weeks-old oil. Our mojo contains a smaller proportion of olive oil than is typical and is packed with fresh citrus and herbs. And we add sautéed peppers and onions on top for a refreshing bite that is typically not present in the homestyle Cuban dish. All these little things add up to create a lighter version of this age old dish, with all the delicious flavor of the original.