(This post is sponsored by Rumba Meats and in conjunction with #WeAllGrow Latina Network. Recipes, opinions, and thoughts are my own.)
I grew up eating just about every cut of meat in our very Cuban home. Since we didn’t eat pork or shellfish, everything else was pretty much fair game. That meant anything from la vaca made it to our dinner table. I was introduced to offal at a very early age… things I absolutely thought were abominable but later developed a palate for. Things like tripe, tongue, gizzards and liver eventually were appealing. Of those four, tripe and tongue are my favorite. Gizzards come in third and liver… well, let’s just say that unless it’s in the pâté form, I’m not digging it. It’s a texture thing. But it’s also not a good-looking piece of “meat”. My mother, on the other hand, loves her some liver. She tells me stories-on-end of staple dishes my Grandmother would make them in Havana. Higado a la italiana was one of them.
Basically, it’s sliced liver seasoned with dried herbs and sautéd with the holy trinity of Cuban cuisine. When I told her I was working with Rumba Meats, she immediately asked me to snatch up some liver for her to make. She thought she’d be able to relive some of her childhood memories but also create and enjoy a dish no one at home will nosh on. Sans my father, my siblings and I pass. I have that one caveat, which is enticing enough to give her homage dish a try.
When I invited my mother over to make this dish with me, we laughed at its simplicity. We pondered it roots and both came up short. She chuckled at my automatic reaction to elevate everything Cuban by adding some kind of fusion flare to it. I remind her that my international travels allow me to see beyond our traditions, many of which are born out of sheer necessity.
When ingredients are limited and the foodways are largely dictated by the government, you eat what you can and make the best of it. Since our researched left us begging for more information, we concluded that this simple liver stew came out of an organic experience with an Italian women who was visiting the island during the casino days of Old Havana. She ate this very rustic plate at a local’s spot, loved it, and a formal name was assigned.
That’s our story. I’ll be sure to update this post if and when I find more information on its origin. In the meantime, from our kitchen to yours, a very classic and ubiquitous dish we were able to enjoy together courtesy of Rumba Meats. My mother and I added our respective touch to it: She and her classic ingredients; I with a hint of heat and a colorful mix of charred red bell peppers and micro greens I just happened to have… in the name of pretty garnish.
My friends at Rumba understand the sentimental value in celebrating our culture through the very foods our respective countries hold close to our hearts. From these offal parts to the more premium cuts like oxtail…which you can make and dance to while my Mom and I make my favorite rabo encendido, they support our robust foods and celebrate our culinary exploits!
Eat well, love unapologetically, pray with true intention, and take care of yourself.
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Higado a la Italiana, or Liver a la Italian
- 1 bag of Rumba Meats liver
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp. cumin
- 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/2 green bell pepper, julienne
1/2 Spanish onion, julienne
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 cup sweet red bell pepper, diced
Rinse and pat dry the liver using paper towels. Transfer to a mixing bowl. Season the liver with oregano, cumin, red pepper, salt, garlic, and vinegar. Stir well and cover. Chill for 20-30 minutes (optional).
Heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the liver with all of the seasonings. Add the green bell pepper and onions. Stir well and cover. Let cook for 15 minutes over medium heat. While liver is cooking, you can char the red bell pepper. Heat a smaller skillet. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Sauté the red bell pepper until you achieve some charring and blistering.
Serve liver over fluffy white rice. Garnish with the charred red bell pepper.