Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Cuban Dinner, Part 1

Savory tostones covered with pineapple and yellow tomato salsa

I know that I've been neglecting my blog terribly. I always find that when I have time to blog, I don't have much inspiration, and when I have inspiration, I haven't any time. Lately I've had the extra obstacle of being broke much of the time, which sucks inspiration right outta me. Thankfully, I had was able to make it to the most recent Addie's Eat Up, which greatly helped me stir up some creativity.

There are a lot of dishes that I love but for some reason, rarely think of making--though once I take a bite, I wonder why the hell I don't make them all the time. This meal is one of my favorites, and most of the ingredients are staples, aside from the cilantro and plantains, so there's really no excuse to not have this once a month, at a minimum. I like to eat the salty tostones with a mango or peach and tomato salsa or pineapple tomatillo salsa. To complete the meal, add some leafy greens, like green cabbage water sauteed with cumin, a fresh green salad or some blanched kale.

My Cuban Menu:
Salty Tostones, with fresh fruit salsa (recipe below)
Black Beans with Roasted Peppers (recipe below
Cilantro and Lime Brown Rice (recipe in part 2)
Garlic Cilantro Sweet Potatoes (recipe in part 2)
Sweet Tostones (recipe below)

by Christina Terriquez

The tostones are pretty simple, as long as you're comfortable around hot oil. I like to use my wok with draining rack, cooking chopsticks, and spider strainer whenever I deep fry. I also typically use safflower or sunflower oil for deep frying, but rice bran oil and peanut oil are two other choices.

oil for deep frying
sea salt (optional)
powdered sugar (optional)

Peel plantains and cut them into 1-inch long segments.

Prepare your draining station. Place 3 to 4 layers of paper towel over one heat resistant plate or platter and place in reach of your stove, but far enough away that it will not catch fire. Repeat with a second plate. If you will be topping with sea salt, get that ready. If you will be using powdered sugar, place a small amount in a hand held strainer and place the strainer in a bowl. Place powdered sugar, bowl and strainer out of the way for now.

Heat at least 2 inches worth of oil over medium heat in a wok or deep cast iron pan. Oil is ready when small bubbles immediately form around wooden chopsticks when they are submerged in oil, or when a small piece of food floats to the top of the oil almost immediately when added to hot oil.

Fry plantains in batches or 4 or 5 pieces until golden brown. Drain and allow to cool.

Carefully smash each fried and cooled plantain piece and fry again until edges brown. Drain and sprinkle with salt or use hand held strainer to cover tostones with an even layer of powdered sugar. Serve immediately.

-If your plantains are less ripe, they will produce a crispier final product, but be harder to smash for the second fry. These are better for salty tostones served with salsa.

-If your plantains are extremely ripe--very yellow skin with dark brown or black spots--they will actually puff up during the second fry and produce fritter-like tostones, they're almost like banana donuts! For this reason I enjoy these most when topped with a little powered sugar, although they are interesting when sprinkled with sea salt as they have a great sweet/salty contrast.

Spiced Black Beans
by Christina Terriquez

1 large jalapeno
1/2 red bell pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 small white onion, diced
sea salt, to taste
3--4 cups cooked black beans (you can use 2 16 oz. cans)
2 cloves garlic, minced

Roast jalapeno and red pepper until skin is blackened. Place in a covered bowl or paper bag to cool for 10 minutes. Carefully peel the skin off the jalapeno, slice pepper in half, cut out seeds and white strings and mince. Peel skin off red pepper, cut in half, and reserve one half for another dish. Discard seeds and strings from remaining half and dice roasted red pepper.

Heat oil in 3 quart saucepan. Add onion, a pinch of salt and saute until onion is soft and translucent. Add red pepper and jalapeno and saute for 1 minute. Add beans, and garlic and simmer for 10 minutes. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Garnish with cilantro or avocado.

-I prefer soaking then pressure cooking pretty much all my beans in large batches with a digestive aid like bay leaf, epazote or kombu. This greatly improves their digestability and ensures they are tender and flavorful. Also, it enables me to use one small portion at a time as I need it.

-Try adding other spices like cumin.

-Use different peppers like poblano or serrano or increase or decrease amount to adjust heat.

-Use yellow or orange bell peppers or a combination for a more colorful dish.


RachelZ said...

Wow, Christina! How wonderful. I am so excited to try this meal sometime soon. Thanks for the inspiration!

RachelZ said...

I'll be trying out your cilantro lime brown rice recipe this Saturday at my Mexican cooking class. Thanks again for the suggestion!