Although Ropa Vieja is considered to be the national dish of Cuba, it is also something that is popular in Panama and we saw it on several menus during our trip there. We are always on the lookout for meals that we can slow cook and this was a delicious weeknight dinner. The meat was very tender and the spices subtle, but still very flavorful. It is a simple recipe to make and works great for a large party, although we made it just for the two of us.
1 lb Chuck Roast
2 tsp Ground Cumin
2 tsp Ground Coriander
1/2 medium Red Onion – sliced
1 small Green Bell Pepper – sliced
1 Poblano Pepper – seeded and diced
3 cloves Garlic – finely chopped
4 cups Chicken Stock
1/3 cup Golden Raisins
2 tbsp Capers
1/4 cup Fresh Lime Juice
2 to 3 tbsp Vegetable Oil
Salt and Pepper to taste
Parsley or Cilantro for garnish
Combine the coriander, cumin, salt and pepper in a small bowl and then thoroughly rub the roast with the spice mixture. Heat the vegetable oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Simmer the roast on all sides until the meat is browned, about 8 minutes total. Move the meat to the slow cooker and then add the onion, bell pepper, and poblano pepper. Cook until the vegetables are soft, approximately 4 minutes, and add the garlic and cook for a minute or two more. Transfer the vegetables and any remaining oil to the slow cooker and cover with the chicken stock. Add the raisins, capers, lime juice, and cover. Cook for 6 hours on low heat. Cook the rice to the package directions. When the roast is done cooking, use a fork to shred the meat, and then use a slotted spoon to the finished Ropa Vieja over the rice and serve.
No matter where you travel, you will likely find a local variation on a hearty stew with a mix of meat and vegetables. Stews are basically the same as soups where the solid ingredients outweigh the broth. One of the nice things about stews is that they are very economical as stewing meats are inexpensive and the meat and vegetables can be substituted for whatever is in season at the time. This meal uses ground beef as its base, but it would be equally delicious with beef, pork, or lamb chunks or you can leave out the meat completely to make it vegetarian. This particular stew is meant to be a little bit lighter, but if you wanted to make it even heartier, you could use beef stock and a thickener to create an almost gravy-like consistency. It is one of our Autumn, “go-to”, meals and we always enjoy it.
1 lb Lean Ground Beef (or any other stew meat)
1 tbsp Vegetable Oil
2 cups of Baby Carrots – quartered
3 Medium Potatoes – cubed
2 cups Green Beans – cut into 1 inch pieces
1 cup Frozen Corn Kernels
1/2 Small Onion – diced
1 Stalk Celery – diced
3 Small Bay Leaves
1 tsp Garlic Powder
1/2 tsp Dried Rosemary
1/2 tsp Dried Thyme
1 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
5 cups Water (may need to be adjusted)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Heat a large pot over medium-high heat with vegetable oil. Add the ground beef and start to brown. Add the celery and onion when the beef is halfway browned. Add water and bring to a simmer. Add remaining vegetables and seasonings, simmer until the vegetables are fork tender (approximately 45 minutes). Serve with your favorite fresh bread and butter.
Pittsburgh is a melting pot of a city, which means that it has a variety of food styles that have been combined to create the cuisine that represents the city. The food in Pittsburgh is as relaxed and unpretentious as the city itself. That doesn’t mean that you can’t find upscale restaurants with fine food, there are definitely options for that, but the majority of restaurants offer downhome cooking. They are the types of places where you expect to find that the recipes have been passed down from generation to generation. We were able to try a variety of simple meals that had a lot of flavor and taste.
There are a couple of things that you have to eat when visiting Pittsburgh. First of all, you will find pierogis on the menus of many restaurants in the downtown area, so you have to try them at least once. We actually had a few varieties while we were there from the traditional potato and cheese filled pierogi to a Reuben pierogi that we found at a restaurant that specialized in pierogis called The Pierogi Bar. Of course, we had to try them with a local beer. Pierogis are served either boiled, pan fried, or deep fried. Another item that you will find at various burger and sandwich restaurants is the Pittsburgher, which is a burger topped with coleslaw and French fries. We heard that Primanti Bros, which is a diner style restaurant, was the best place to get a Pittsburgher. It is certainly an acquired taste and the burger tasted a little bit more like a meatloaf rather than a plain old hamburger.
Another must have item when in Pittsburgh would be fresh baked pretzels. They can be found all throughout Pennsylvania and the ones in Pittsburgh were as good as any that we have had. Whether you like your pretzels with a beer-cheese sauce or yellow mustard, you will find plenty of places that offer them as a snack or appetizer. One interesting place that we found was called The Yard, an American Gastropub, which specialized in a variety of toasted cheese sandwiches. The toasted buffalo mac and cheese sandwich was extremely decadent, but equally delicious.
For an upscale Italian meal, Lydia’s is ideal. We shared the lasagna, which was certainly large enough for two people. We also had an interesting Cajun shrimp pasta that was served with garlic cheese bread at the August Henry Burger Bar. It was also the place where we had the traditional pierogis that are served with sautéed onions and sour cream. We had our pierogis pan fried, which is our preferred way to enjoy these delicious potato cakes.
If you like good, simple, food that tastes good and fills your stomach, then Pittsburgh has plenty of options for you. You can also find a nice variety of local craft beer that goes great with the humble meals that are found throughout the city. As always, we asked the locals where to go and received a lot of recommendations that helped us find places to grab a bite to eat. One place that we visited several times, mostly because of the friendly owner and staff, was Crystal, which is more of a neighborhood bar that serves Mediterranean food.