Editor's note: Each Saturday afternoon we bring you a Sunday Supper recipe. Why on Saturday? So you have time to shop and prepare for tomorrow.
In 2012, I was fortunate enough to travel to Cuba. The experience challenged—and inspired—me in many ways. I think about it often, and some things still confound me.
One of them was the food, because, to be frank, a lot of what I ate was a letdown. Aside from paladars (private restaurants), the meals I ate were more often than not dull and institutional; functional, but certainly not fantastic. Even at the private enterprises, which I experienced regularly during my nine-day journey, dishes didn't deliver the richness and wealth of flavor I craved.
This is not meant to be a put-down on Cuban food. I know, from plenty of eating experience, that the Cuban kitchen produces some crazy delicious food. I'm sure, had I dined in someone's home in Cuba, that I'd be telling an entirely different tale about the food on my trip.
Whatever the reasons for my less-than-exemplary meals in Cuba, I'm still a big fan of the cuisine. Take, for instance, this shrimp soup. I first tried a version of it back in college, when a Cuban friend prepared it for me, and the memory has stuck with me. So much so, that I've gone on to tinker with it, inventing my own version all these years later.
The soup starts with a base of sautéed onion, bell pepper, jalapeño, and ample garlic. That gives way to an oregano- and cumin-spiked broth that's bolstered with dry white wine, and tomato paste. Then, thin angel-hair noodles cook right in the broth, as do shell-on shrimp, which are peeled after they're poached, allowing the shells to add extra flavor in the process. Of course, you certainly could use fish or shrimp stock in place of the chicken stock if you're feeling ambitious.
My contribution to the dish: I decided to add a citrusy element with mojo-inspired flavors.
In the end, this simple, sustaining bowl is made without a great deal of fuss. And it takes me back to a time and a place I will never forget, for reasons well beyond what's on the plate.