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Tuesday, January 13, 2004

Florida Caucus... Early 1st Returns of the "Secret Recipe Contest" 

With lots of good Vegetarian/Vegan Versions of Secret Restaurant Recipes coming in from our readers we had to call on the expertise of a true gastronomic professional to sort through the flood. Many of you may recognize Fernando Ficus from his by line on our side bar, "The Culinary Adventures of a Tree in the Big City." Fernando is a traveler and correspondent of international reputation and impeccable taste. From his poor beginnings at a tree farm outside of Oaxaca Mexico Fernando has risen to the international stage as a renowned food critic and pundit. Mr Ficus will present this first entry in our Secret Recipe Contest. Try the recipe at home and rate it from 1 to 5 leaves for taste and as to how well it emulates the "Famous Restaurant Version." Let us hear what you think and our F.F. will pass the recipe and comments along to the restaurant that made the dish famous. Who knows, one day you may be eating a vegetarian version of your favorite dish in a nationally known eatery!
This weeks entry:

Hooters Cuban Sandwich Vegetarian Version
Created by Maria S., Tampa, FL

Hooters first opened its doors in Clearwater FL, Tampa Bay Area, in 1983 and because Tampa Bay is generally conceded to be home to the Cuban Sandwich as well, we thought it would be a great kick off to our Secret Recipes Contest. Hooters Restaurants has popularized this sandwich well outside Tampa Bay and while they call the roll a "stogie" in their restaurants it still has the heart and soul of a true Sandwich Cubano.

A Cuban Sandwich is a blend of Spanish pork loin, hot capicola ham, cheese and pickle smothered in a sauce made of mayonnaise 2/3 mayonnaise and 1/3 spiced mustard with a good portion of hot sauce for good measure. This Cuban classic is usually cooked in a press which seals the goodness inside and flattens the sandwich while toasting the bread to a crisp browned exterior.

*Note: Cuban bread is traditionally made with lard because it was a readily available resource on the Island. The genuine article is almost impossible to find outside Miami and Tampa in the US and, in Florida, supermarkets carry it in that area but lard is not included in their formulation. To make Cuban bread yourself just follow a standard French bread recipe and cut in about 4 TBLS of softened vegetable shortening while adding the flour to the initial mix. Finally, before placing the formed rolls onto a greased baking pan sprinkle it with a ¼ cup of corn meal. Remember, what you're trying to achieve is a denser, slightly chewy bread loaf with a crisp brown crust.


1 Loaf of Cuban bread*, about 20" long and a smaller diameter than a French loaf
6 Slices Yves veggie ham
6 Slices Yves veggie turkey
4 Slices Swiss cheese
4 Slices Monterey jack cheese
2 Firm dill pickles sliced lengthwise
3 1/2 Tablespoons soy Nayonaise
1 1/2 Tablespoons spicy mustard
1/4 Teaspoon hot sauce
1/4 Teaspoon vegetable oil


Mix the Nayonaise. Mustard and hot sauce together to make the sauce. Slice the Cuban loaf in half lengthwise and spread each half with the sauce equally. Starting with the veggie ham and turkey slices fold in half and cover the bottom half of the loaf end to end. Cut the cheese slices in half and cover the ham and turkey. Crisscross the entire length with the pickle slices and top with the other half of the loaf. Cut the sandwich in half diagonally.


Heat a large black skillet to medium without oil and set the prepared sandwich halves side by side in the pan. Place another heavy black pan on top of the sandwich and press down firmly for several seconds to flatten the bread loaf to about 1 inch or about one third its original thickness. Cook for about 3-4 minutes being careful to check that it does not burn. When the bottom is crisp, brown and hard remove the weight and turn over, repeat for the top side.


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