Wednesday, April 15, 2009

3-Saucepan Southern Smorgasbord!


This pantry-friendly and super-inexpensive dinner is totally yummy and also really good for you. And while we're at it, let’s hear it for the humble and oft-neglected vegetable okra. High in Vitamin C and fiber, a wonderful thickening agent (it’s the secret vegetable for gumbo), it has a great texture: the crunch and pop of the seeds, and the soft, chewiness of the flesh and juices. Mmmm…

NOTE:I didn’t include it in the picture, but I think a fab sidedish would be a Cuban avocado salad. It's easy: Just lay some avocado and sweet vidalia onion slices over a bed of crisp, chopped lettuce (romaine or iceberg). Drizzle with olive oil, white vinegar, and some lime juice. The crisp lettuce, crunchy onions, and cool, creamy avocado will complement the other dishes beautifully, which are hot, spicy and chewy.

Black bean go power. And wash it all down with a cold lager. Yeah.

3-SAUCEPAN SOUTHERN SMORGASBOARD
Steamed Brown Rice
Cuban Black Beans
Tomato-Stewed Okra
Sweet Plantains
Cuban Avocado Salad

Serves 4
Cook time: 30-40 minutes

Steamed Brown Rice
1. Put the rice on first, on a back burner on the stove. Cook 1 cup of rice in 2 cups of water, according to the instructions on the bag. I like short-grain brown rice that isn’t instant. Takes about 30-40 minutes but it basically cooks itself while you prepare the rest of the dinner.

2. Prep/Chop the rest of the ingredients below so everything is ready at the side of the stove to cook with.

Cuban-Style Black Beans


INGREDIENTS:
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tbs. Goya sofrito
1 (16 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
½ cup chicken stock or water
1 small hot chili pepper (such as jalapeno, Anaheim), seeds removed & chopped finely
1 bay leaf
1 Tbs. white vinegar
salt to taste

Garnish:
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
1 or 2 scallions
Lime wedges
Guacamole or avocado slices
Sour Cream

INSTRUCTIONS:
Note: Use rubber gloves to chop the hot peppers and avoid touching your eyes or mouth until you wash your hands. If you don’t want to use hot peppers, you can substitute with a few dashes of dried, ground cayenne pepper or hot sauce.

1. Sauté onion and garlic in olive oil (1 swirl around the pan) over low heat until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir often so they don’t burn. Add sofrito and cook for a minute or two, stirring.

2. Add black beans, hot pepper, bay leaf, vinegar and stock or water. Bring to a boil, then cover pan, lower heat and simmer very gently on low for 20 minutes or so. Remove bay leaf and add salt & pepper. Serve with the steamed rice, and garnish with any or all of the garnishes listed above.

Tomato-Stewed Okra

INGREDIENTS:
1 pound fresh okra, washed, trimmed, sliced
1 can (14.5 ounces) stewed tomatoes or tomato puree
1 green bell pepper, chopped (optional)
½ half medium onion, chopped
Salt & fresh cracked pepper

INSTRUCTIONS:
1. In a medium saucepan, sauté onion and optional bell pepper in olive oil (1 swirl around the pan) over medium heat until translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir often so they don’t burn.

2. Add okra and tomatoes, and bring to a boil. Cover pot and simmer very gently on low until tender. Stir occasionally.

3. Add salt and pepper to taste.

4. Serve alongside beans and steamed brown rice.

Sweet Plantains


1 large plantain, sliced on the diagonal
olive oil

1. Heat olive oil in frying pan and saute the plantain slices until crisp and brown.

(If you include plantains on the menu, it's really a 4-pan smorgasbord, but they're small pans, and who's counting if it tastes good?) ;)

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