PEPINOS Y TOMATES-Cucumbers & Tomatoes

My sisters and I owe our parents not only for our lives, but also for our freedom. It wasn’t until I reached the age my parents were when we left Cuba, (mid 40's) that I began to appreciate the magnitude of their sacrifice.  They left their home, possessions, friends, family, and the country of their birth, to start over as exiles in a place where they didn’t even speak the language. 
            For something much more valuable, FREEDOM…for their children…for me. 
Once in this great country my parents worked hard at factory jobs and prospered far beyond anything they could have accomplished in Castro’s communist Cuba.  They taught my sisters and me the value of hard work, education, family and most of all freedom. We, like countless others, have lived the American Dream.  

I guess that is why I cringe as I notice the erosion of liberty going on in our society. Many well meaning entities wanting to tell us even something so basic as what we should eat and drink. Let us learn, even educate one another and then make our own choices!

But getting the information we need is not always easy, for example some of us might not want to eat genetically modified food. Fifty other countries label it as such, but not yet the US. California is trying to remedy that with Proposition 37, the  California Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act 

which will require that genetically engineered food be labeled, so that we have the freedom to choose wether we want to buy it or not. I think the companies fighting this are afraid of what the consumers will choose. If it passes in California, it will benefit the rest of the country. You can learn more about it  HERE

This recipe will have you making some choices, since it is not very exact...but it is delicious! I will give you the recipe for a normal size cucumber (I used a giant one this last time), but it's all very much to taste. This is the way my mother always cooked, and I do take after her in that respect.

PEPINOS Y TOMATES-Cucumbers & Tomatoes

1 cucumber
3-4 tomatoes
3-4 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 to 1 teaspoon Salt 
Pepper to taste

Wash, peel and cube the cucumber, wash and cut up the tomatoes. Mix them together until it looks like you have about the same amount of each and it looks pretty. 

Pour the apple cider vinegar over the cucumbers and tomatoes, these measurements are estimates because and I never measure it,  I just pour some good quality vinegar over it till it looks like enough, and then I taste it.

Then I pour a little less olive oil  then the amount of vinegar over the vegetables. Again, the quality of oil will make a difference, use the best you can afford. 

Sprinkle with sea salt or Real Salt and grind some fresh pepper over it. Stir and taste. Add more of what ever as needed. You want it to be kind of vinegary and salty. 

Two types of tomatoes and a very large cucumber my niece Michelle gave me


I am loving this extended summer we are having in Utah! It's in the 70-80's and my garden is still producing wonderful tomatoes, zucchini, swiss chard, etc.

When my parents came to live with us in Utah, summer became my father's favorite time of the year and not just because he hated  cold weather. He loved to grow food and I loved gardening with him. Papillo did the hard work and I helped. It has not been the same gardening on my own, and I'm not as dedicated to daily watering, etc, so I don't get quite the same results, but I feel him close anytime I'm out in the garden.

There was sometimes a battle between my parents because Mamina wanted to grow roses and Papillo wanted to grow vegetables. When they came to live with us I gave Mamina an area of the yard for her roses, on the South side with plenty of sun. Papillo bought her a new rose bush each year for Mother's day, and they planted it together.

Mamina among her beloved roses

Her rose garden turned out to be the best spot in the yard, and after a while Papillo and I began to covet her prime garden spot, and  tried to convince her to let us have it for growing vegetables. She was immune to our persuasive efforts, so I made do in a shady spot and he planted other gardens in our neighbors' yards. One year  Papillo planted garlic among Mamina's roses. She was not happy but the roses loved it, and the garlic continued to come up for several years. 

I have now planted raspberries that I got from Nina right among the roses and installed a small grow box right in the middle of the roses. It's crowded, random and a bit crazy, but quite effective. 

My garden now

 Here is a recipe I still look forward to making and eating each year. The only thing Cuban about it is that my father made it often, with herbs from our garden. He learned to make it from a Chilean friend of Italian ancestry. He usually left out the nuts, since he “didn’t think they agreed with him” and it was still delicious.


1 lb fresh basil leaves
1 lb fresh parsley leaves (not stalks) 
5-6 cloves garlic
2 cups nuts (pine nuts, walnuts or almonds)-OPTIONAL
2-3 teaspoons sea salt (to taste)
3 Tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
1 cup olive oil

Wash and drain basil and parsley. Put in food processor; add pealed garlic cloves, nuts, salt, and parmesan cheese. Add oil a bit at a time as you process everything to a creamy consistency. 

This is great on pasta or even crackers. Pine nuts are traditionally used, but I actually like it better with walnuts or even almonds.

Store in a glass jar, and pour a thin layer of olive oil on the top, to keep from drying or oxidizing. It will keep in the refrigerator for several weeks or frozen for several months. 


My sister Isis and I attended Catholic school in Cuba for a short time, because Fidel expelled all the nuns and most of the priest early in his tyranny. Mamina then taught us at home, to avoid exposing us to the intense Communist indoctrination that was carried out  in the schools.  

Ready for School
 As the regime became more repressive, we were forced to  attend public school.  Isis was 7 and I was 8.  For the next five years we were taught well, especially about the evils of Capitalism and the advantages of Communism.

By the time our little sister Nina was old enough for school, we had been trying to leave Cuba for about 6 years, and there was no way of knowing when or if we would finally be allowed to leave. Somehow my mother arranged for her to begin with first grade rather than kindergarten, “this way she will learn to read before we leave Cuba”, she hopefully told my father.

It was early in the school year, the teachers had begun teaching the little children about the “fallacies of religion”, the “Opium of the masses”, and how ridiculous it was to believe in God.   The children were taught that the only thing that one could depend on to take care of us in life, was "el govierno", the State.  

            The little kids didn't understand a whole lot of what was being said to them.  But the teachers/government representatives had a very effective way to teach this lesson. First they asked the children, “Do you like ice cream?”  Of course they did.  They were told, “Why don't you bow your heads and pray to God to give you some ice cream”.  All the little children did as they were bidden.  They bowed their heads and prayed for ice cream.  When they raised their heads the teachers pointed out that there was no ice cream anywhere to be had.  

            Next they were told, “Why don't you try it again.  This time when you bow your heads, pray that Fidel will send you ice cream”. 

            The children obediently bowed their heads once again, and prayed to the "Maximum Leader of the Grand Communist State" for ice cream. When they raised their heads there was a small cardboard container of ice cream on each of their desks.

I still don’t like ice cream in small cardboard containers, and I am so grateful that we were able to escape Communism and that we get to live in a country where  freedom and religion are still valued. 

Here is a simple recipe that reminds me of the sweetness of life. 

HELADO DE CARAMELO- Caramel ice cream 
Makes about 1 ½ quarts

1 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon of water
5 cups warm milk, half and half, or cream. Depending on how
   creamy you want it.
Dash of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla

Put the sugar and water in a pan and melt it very slowly, (on low) so as not to burn it. 

As soon as the sugar is liquid and golden colored, add the milk and salt, mix well. Warm milk will mix better with the melted sugar caramel. If  you use cold milk, the caramel will harden, and you will have to heat the hardened sugar and milk on the stove on medium, and stir and stir until it dissolves. 

Once it is mixed well, add vanilla. Pour the mixture into a 2 quart ice cream maker and process according to your ice cream maker's directions. 

If you don't have an ice cream maker, you can do what Mamina did,  pour the mixture into ice cube trays . It made delicious, rectangular pieces of crunchy ice cream. Kind of hard, but so refreshing!