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A Taste Of Havana

Guillermo Veloso, executive chef at Philadelphia's hot new restaurant, Cuba Libre, cooked up a Cuban meal with our $30.

Chef Veloso originally pursued a career in archaeology. However, he decided to follow his love of food and attended Johnson and Wales Culinary School. His career has taken him to many restaurants and hotels.

It was being in Miami's South Beach area that sealed the kind of food he wanted to serve. In Miami, he met Chef Douglas Rodriguez. He joined Chef Rodriguez at his restaurant, Yuca, which is considered the birthplace of nuevo Latino cuisine. According to Veloso, "Douglas was doing things with food that aligned with my ideas at the time." He loved the way working with nuevo Latino cuisine reconnected him with his roots.

Nine years later, he has brought his own style and skills to Philadelphia.

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Cuba Libre is located in Philadelphia's Old City. The restaurant's atmosphere is designed to conjure the mood of Havana, Cuba, in the 1940s.

The restaurant features art from Cuban artists or art depicting images of Cuba. The exhibit is a partnership with the Cuban cultural minister to help develop a cultural exchange program. The goal of the program is to bring artists from Cuba to showcase their work in the United States, while offering non-Cuban artists an opportunity to exhibit in Cuba.

Here is Chef Veloso's menu for The Saturday Early Show:

Menu:
Chickpea Fritters
Seared Salmon On Black Bean Puree With Asparagus Tomato Salad
Flan Tradicional

Chickpea Fritters

Ingredients:

1 can (12 oz.) chickpeas, well drained
1/4 pound of smoked whitefish
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. curry
1 tsp. chopped garlic
2 whole eggs
2 cups of all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. baking powder
1/2 cup Crispy Caper Dressing (see recipe)

Method:

  1. In a food processor or blender, carefully puree the chickpeas. Do not over-puree. A slightly rough texture is preferred. Season puree with nutmeg, curry, garlic, salt and pepper. Pulse the mixture once.
  2. Add eggs and pulse further. Place mixture in a large bowl. Fold in smoked fish.
  3. Mix baking powder and flour well. Sift slowly into wet mixture until a stiff batter results.
  4. Heat about 5 cups of vegetable oil in large pot until temperature on fry thermometer reads 350 degrees. In the absence of a thermometer, place the handle of a wooden spoon in the oil until it bubbles. That is approximately the right temperature. Spoon fritters into frying oil carefully. Adjust the heat if too high.
  5. Fry until golden in color. Drain on wire rack over paper towels. Season with salt and pepper and toss with Crispy Caper Dressing.
Crispy Caper Dressing

Ingredients:
1 small jar (2 oz.) nonpareil capers (2oz)
1/4 cup olive oil
Splash of red wine vinegar
salt and pepper

Method:

  1. In the same fryer you will use for the fritters, fry capers in a strainer until crisp.
  2. Drain fried capers well.
  3. Toss in a bowl with salt pepper, oil and vinegar.
Seared Salmon on Black Bean Puree With Asparagus Tomato Salsa

Ingredients:
4 to 7 half-ounce portions of salmon fillet
salt and pepper
1 recipe Black Bean Muneta
1 recipe asparagus tomato salsa
1 recipe mango mojo
3 tbsp. blended olive oil or vegetable oil

Method:

  1. Heat a saute pan with blended olive oil or vegetable oil. Pour off about 1 1/2 tbsp.
  2. When very hot, sear salmon with round part down (the face you will serve).
  3. Reduce heat to medium and allow to brown thoroughly. Salmon will appear cooked on the side halfway up.
  4. At this point, flip salmon to finish cooking. This should take about 5 minutes.
  5. On your favorite plate, spoon out the black bean puree.
  6. Drizzle some of the mango mojo on and around fish.
  7. Top with asparagus-tomato salsa and garnish with some sprigs of herb.
Black Bean Muneta

Ingredients:
1 can (12 oz.) of black beans, drained well. (Reserve the liquid.)
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup chopped garlic
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tbsp. oregano leaves
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup chopped scallions

Method:

  1. Puree all ingredients except garlic, oil and scallions.
  2. In a saute pan, toast garlic over medium heat. Pour over black bean mixture and puree some more.
  3. Fold in chopped scallions.
  4. Keep hot until needed for service. If mixture becomes dry or hard, add some of the reserved liquid to loosen.
OPTIONAL: Mango Mojo

Ingredients:
2 cups of Mango Puree (either from fresh in season or frozen pulp available at most supermarkets)
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1/2 cup orange juice
1 red onion diced
1/4 cup chopped garlic
1/4 cup chopped ginger
1 tbsp. sugar
1 bunch minced cilantro
2 cup light olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Place mango puree in stainless steel bowl. Add red onions.
  2. Mix in lime juice, ginger and sugar.
  3. Lightly simmer garlic in olive oil for 5 to 6 minutes.
  4. Add to mango mixture and blend well.
  5. Add minced cilantro.
  6. Season to taste.
Asparagus Tomato Salsa

Ingredients:
2 large ripe tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 red onion, fine dice
1 jalapeno, seeded and diced
1 bunch asparagus, diced
2 limes, squeezed
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. oregano
Salt and pepper to taste

Method:
Mix all ingredients together and adjust seasoning. Allow to sit for half an hour

Flan Tradicional

Ingredients:
1 can evaporated milk
1 can sweetened condensed milk
6 egg yolks
2 whole eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar

Method:

  1. Melt sugar until caramelized. Pour into four 4-ounce ramekins and allow to cool.
  2. Mix milks with eggs. Strain into ramekins.
  3. Place ramekins in a bain-marie and place in a preheated 350-degree oven for 20 minutes or until set.
  4. Allow to cool thoroughly.
  5. To serve, dip the ramekin in hot water and run a paring knife around the edge. Invert onto plate.
Notes: As a variation, you can flavor the flan with rum, anisette, Gran Marnier etc.

A bain-marie ("Mary's bath" or "water bath") is a double boiler designed to evenly disperse gentle heat to food.

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