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Babaluu’s: a taste of Cuba in Santa Fe

The Santa Fe dining scene has a few holes, especially when it comes to international options. One of them was filled earlier this year when Chef Amaury Torres and his dynamic wife, Mary opened Babaluu’s Cocina Cubana. Located on an area of NM 14 south of town, known as “Lone Butte.” The talented duo took over a spot that has seen at least a half-dozen restaurants try and fail. Lucky seven must be the charm or Santa Fe was starved for Cuban cuisine. It took off almost from the day the doors opened.

Santa Fe dining Chef Torres at Babaluu's Cocina Cuba, photo courtesy Babalu's

Chef Amaury Torres at Babalu’s, photo/courtesy Babaluu’s Cocina Cubana

If you’re a fan of plantains, Cuban pork or ropa vieja, you’ll find them here. Some are on the regular menu and some as specials. They even hosted a pig roast this summer. Amaury has cooked in the US since arriving here almost twenty years ago. As a result, his food is a fusion of Caribbean and American tastes with other influences added into the mix.

Santa Fe dining Amaury Torres photo courtesy Babaluu's Cocina Cubana

Amaury Torres, Fileting salmon, photo/courtesy Babaluu’s Cocina Cubana

Amaury Torres arrived in Florida via raft in 1994. He spent some time in camps on US Naval bases before being “allowed” into the country. He headed west and ended up in Portland Oregon. This young man, who learned how to cook, “under my grandmother’s apron strings,” says he found his way into kitchens in “many fine-dining restaurants on the Oregon coast.”

He’s calls his food “passionate, defined, healthy, fresh and beautiful,” and is inspired by the local, seasonal bounty. His favorite foods to cook include wild mushrooms, garlic, cocoa, herbs of all kinds, cumin, mango, passion fruit and cherries.

It’s easy to see by Babaluu’s constantly changing menu that Amaury is a vital, engaged, energetic chef. What keeps him excited about what he does? “Food, smiles from my customers and friends, compliments, the farmers plus nature and its bounty.” Here’s how Amaury Torres describes himself and his cooking: “I am a Cuban Chef in the kitchen however my love and passion is cooking world cuisine with a Caribbean flair. I love and miss my beautiful country of Cuba. I hope that someday my family will be able to visit Babaluu’s and share in my success.” That, my friends, says it all.

Santa Fe dining photo courtesy Babaluu's Cocina Cubana

Chef Torres with abundant table, photo courtesy Babaluu’s Cocina Cubana

Chef Amaury Torres has shared his recipe for black beans with Santa Fe Travelers.

Babaluu’s Black Beans

2 cups dried black beans
½ yellow onion diced
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/2 green bell pepper, diced
1/2 yellow bell pepper, diced
1/4 c. chopped fresh garlic
1 T. cumin
1/2 T. salt
1/2 t. black pepper
1 small pack of Sazon Goya con cilantro y achiote (coriander and annatto)
2 bay leaves

Serves 2-4

Let the black beans soak overnight in the refrigerator or in a cool place. When ready to cook, drain the beans, place them in a Dutch oven, cover them with water, toss in the bay leaves and cook on stove over and medium heat. Cook until tender (about 1 hour).* Sauté onions, peppers, garlic, cumin and Sazon let until the vegetables sweat. Add vegetables to the beans cook an extra hour until the liquid thickens and the beans are soft.

Place jasmine rice on plate spoon beans over top; add Cuban cilantro.

*Chef’s note: The secret to softening beans according to my grandmother and many Cubans is to throw a stainless steel spoon in the pot while cooking the beans. The reason is while the beans are cooking and moving around the spoons moves too and gently pounds the beans. It’s like an underwater hammer.

Editor’s note: Cuban cilantro and Sazon Goya are available at Mexican and world food markets.



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One Response to “Babaluu’s: a taste of Cuba in Santa Fe”

  1. Mary Kline
    October 10, 2019 at 7:21 am #

    Thank you Billie for the wonderful article on my darling Chef husband we so appreciate it! Cooking is his passion in life!

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