It always starts with coffee, doesn't it? When you're introduced to a new food, a new way of eating, a new culture and its cuisine, there are so many gateways, but for me it always seems to be coffee. Sooty and astringent in Turkey, café bonbóns in Spain, and then giant saucers of café con leche in a now-closed Cuban restaurant — La Rosita — that used to sit on Broadway and 108th. That restaurant is where I was first introduced to Cuban food — by way of breakfast.
Un cafecito, por favor!
Breakfast was all I ever wanted from this restaurant, mainly because at first it was almost all I could afford — never more than 5 or 6 bucks, and that included the bowl-sized cup of café con leche I'd order no matter the time of day. At its most basic, breakfast was toastada — the crusty baguette-like loaf — drenched in butter and griddled until flattened and thoroughly permeated with fat. I never got around to dipping it into my coffee back then, but try me now and I wouldn't blink twice.
5 Cuban-Inspired Breakfast Recipes to Try
This package of recipes for breakfast — inspired by the flavors, ingredients, and dishes of Cuba and the Cuban diaspora — seeks to bring a little café con leche to your morning and, in this case, it's through Popsicles that will give you a morning buzz.
As for the maduros and the cumin-laced, soffritto-seasoned black beans, we're heaping them together in one breakfast bowl and putting an egg on it. It's a meal you can eat morning, noon, or night with equal satisfaction.
Similarly, there's also a recipe for medianoche, the popular late-night sandwich named for midnight (the time of day it was often eaten). It deserves a chance as breakfast — especially if the night before included one too many Cuba Libres. Like its more well-known sibling, the cubano, this pressed sandwich of pork, ham, Swiss cheese, pickles, and yellow mustard is served on buttered bread and griddled until everything is melty and crisp.
It's made on soft and squishy medianoche bread, which can be found at most Cuban or Latin American bakeries, although a hoagie or even challah bread, with its sweet, eggy texture, works in a pinch.
On the lighter side is a fruit salad of mango and papaya, two tropical fruits you can find with ease in Cuba and Miami when the season is right. Ripeness is the key to this fruit salad, so wait until you can get peak-season fruit before making it. The whole fruit salad is only made better by the honey-lime mixture it's tossed in.
And finally there's pastelitos de guyaba, the flaky pastry of guava paste and cream cheese found at many Cuban bakeries and, most notably, in Miami at the takeaway window at Versailles in Miami's Little Havana. Making them at home is as easy as scoring some puff pastry and tracking down the guava paste, which, once you start looking for it, isn't too hard to find.
So here's the final takeaway when it comes to breakfasting with the flavors of Cuba: Start with the coffee. It will never lead you astray. In fact, it might be the key that unlocks the door to a table filled with pan tostada, black beans, eggs, ripe plantains, and flaky parcels of guava and cream cheese.