We had every intention on camping this weekend…
…but the weather had different plans.
We booked a site at Turtle Beach campground, near Sarasota, a few weeks ago and while we were hoping for a sunny and bright weekend on the beach, the rain would not let up. We were able to get in some swimming, a few rays of sunshine, some quality time with my main man, and some camping bacon. I’d say that’s enough of a “win”. 😉
We had invited some friends to come spend the day at the beach while we were there, and unfortunately, since the weekend was a wash, we were left with some extra food to bring home. Most of the food we won’t have a problem eating, but we had planned on making some Cuban sandwiches on Saturday, so we found ourselves with a stale loaf on Sunday morning.
If you know anything about Cuban bread, you know you’ve GOT to eat it on the day you purchase it. If you don’t know what Cuban bread is, let me fill you in! The earliest known US bakery to make Cuban bread was thought to be La Joven Francesca bakery in Ybor City (a small community in Tampa, FL), established in 1896 by a Cuban-Italian immigrant named Francisco Ferlita. Bread used to be delivered every morning like milk in Ybor City. Houses had a long nail driven into the door frame on the front door. The bread deliveryman would attach the fresh loaf of bread on the nail early every morning. La Segunda Central Bakery in Ybor City is now the largest Cuban bread bakers in Tampa. This bakery was founded in 1915 by a man named Juan Morè, who migrated to Tampa from Cuba after fighting in the Spanish-American war. He discovered the recipe for traditional Cuban bread during the war and brought it to Ybor city. That original recipe is the recipe that is still used today at La Segunda.
Original Cuban bread was round in shape, but a loaf of Tampa Cuban bread is about three feet long and somewhat rectangular in shape as a result of bakers creating something that would be able to be easily rationed. It’s made with lard, which gives it a hard, thin, almost papery golden outer crust and a soft flaky interior. Bakers place a soaked palm frond in the center of each pre-baked loaf which creates the iconic split in the center (it’s not edible and is removed before eating!). Miami Cuban bread is a similar recipe, but is baked a bit differently, producing a rounder, softer loaf. Cuban bread should be eaten soon after baking, as it will go stale rather quickly. Within 24 hours of purchase is best!
When it’s fresh, it’s best served as a Cuban sandwich, or toasted with lots of butter then dipped in fresh and sweet cafe con leche. When it becomes state, it’s mostly turned into bread crumbs used to coat thin steaks or to bread devil crabs!
Another use for that stale loaf of Cuban bread? Cuban panzanella salad, of course!
A traditional panzanella salad is a Tuscan salad made of soaked stale Italian crusty bread, fresh garden vegetables, olive oil and vinegar. My version is made with a Cuban citrus and garlic mojo-inspired vinaigrette, garden fresh tomatoes, seedless cucumbers, crumbled Spanish white cheese and two day old Tampa Cuban bread.
It is good. Oh-so-good.
- 1 loaf of stale Cuban bread
- 3 medium sized salad tomatoes
- 1 English (seedless) cucumber
- 1/4 cup crumbled queso fresco
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil (and a bit extra for drizzling over the bread)
- the juice of 2 limes
- the juice of 1 orange
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 tbsp. dried oregano
- 1 bunch fresh parsley
- 1 tsp. sea salt
- 1 tsp. crack black pepper
- 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
- Pre-heat oven to 350.
- Cut Cuban bread into cubes. Spread evenly onto a baking sheet, drizzle with a tbsp. of olive oil, and bake for 4-6 minutes until toasty.
- While the bread is baking, combine olive oil, citrus juices, oregano, garlic, parsley, salt and peppers into a food processor and pulse until well-combined. Pour into a bowl.
- Remove bread from the oven and pour toasted bread cubes into the vinaigrette. Toss to coat and set aside.
- Dice tomatoes and cucumbers and then fold into the soaking bread.
- Let the salad sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.Gently stir, then top with queso fresco crumbles and fresh chopped parsley before serving. Enjoy!