Friday, May 7, 2010

Recipe Fridays: Pseudo-Latin vegetarian platter

When you think in terms of platters, it's easy to make a relatively impressive-looking and indulgent-feeling meal, even for one.  This idea is inspired by my travels to Puerto Rico, where fried plantains and flavorful black beans are standard order (especially for vegetarians!).  I recommend you purchase the ingredients for this recipe at your local Latin grocer.  Almost every neighborhood has one, and I bet you anything the ingredients will be cheaper and fresher than at the supermarket.

Black bean spread
In a hot skillet, saute 1-2 cloves chopped garlic.  Add cumin, chili powder, and ground coriander and stir fry until fragrant.  For 1 person, add 1/2 can black beans (a whole can for two) with a little bit of the liquid.  Stir together until heated through.  With a fork, semi-mash the beans, stirring as you do, so that some whole and half beans are mixed in with a smooth bean puree.   Taste the beans for salt and seasoning, and add more as needed.

Fried sweet plantains
Plantains come in 2 main varieties, and one in-between.  The "varieties" are actually different ripeness-es: green plantains are starchy and potato-like, meant to be fried golden, then smashed with a glass and fried again.  Yellow banana-looking plantains are the in-between ones, which will still be starchy, but have a hint of sweetness to them.  For sweet, banana-textured plantains that caramelize when they fry, you want the yellow ones that are deeply mottled with black spots.  The more black, the sweeter the plantain.  I chose sweet plantains for this recipe, because I planned to serve with tortillas, and green plantains are enough starch on their own.
For 1 person, use one ripe, blackened plantain.  Cut off both ends of the plantain, and make a long slit down the side.  Peel off the peel as you peel an orange (plantains are much more attached to their skins than bananas).  Slice on the diagonal.  Heat 1/4 inch vegetable oil in a skillet, until a piece of plantain dipped in sizzles fiercely.  Add the plantains in an even layer, cut sides down, and cook until browned and soft (be careful to stop short of black, but very brown is extra delicious).  Flip and cook again.  Remove and drain on paper towels.

Serve bean dip and plantains on a platter with warm corn tortillas, salsa or hot sauce, and green peppers sliced into long strips (you can briefly stir fry at high heat if you want, but for me, the crisp freshness of the raw peppers was perfect for summer weather).  I ate the peppers and beans wrapped in tortillas, and dipped my plantains into salsa and beans separately.  You can also try it with rice instead of tortillas, or with shredded lettuce and sour cream wrapped up burrito-style.

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