Guatemalan Rellenitos de Plátano

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…aka mashed plantains stuffed with slightly sweetened black bean paste, deep fried until caramelized and satisfyingly crunchy. The jury is out on when you’re supposed to eat this delicacy–I was served it at dinner with scrambled eggs and black beans, but felt it may be more appropriate for dessert.

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For those of you who have, in a passing moment, considered the swanky sweet potato and contemplated the absence of recipes lately, I supposed it’s only polite to let you know — I’m in Guatemala! Two months sans kitchen, reliable internet, or good showers. (My apologies if the third part is of no importance to you.) I’ll have five weeks of intensive Spanish lessons and living in a home with an incredibly lovely family but where I’m not exactly welcomed in the kitchen. As decadent as it is to be given three meals a day without needing to wash a single dish, I miss autonomy. I love mornings experimenting with the perfect scrambled eggs, or daydreaming about what to make for dinner during the late afternoon stretch. I miss being inspired by whatever appears in my CSA, at the farmers’ market, or perusing my favorite blogs for ideas. It’s a funny feeling never knowing what to expect at a meal — when is the last time you had so little say in what you ate? For me, it was probably early high school at summer camp. Strange. (Don’t get me wrong, dear reader, I am Loving my time here! Every day presents a new aspect of the regional culture or the immense natural beauty or the fraught political atmosphere. My Spanish gets stronger daily, and I’m meeting curious new minds, both local and the traveler-variety.)

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However when the opportunity presented itself to take a cooking class last Friday, I jumped at the chance! Turns out “cooking class” was a subtle ploy to have students help make the traditional dinner we were to be served that night at the weekly graduation festivities, but I jumped on board just the same. The above-mentioned rellenitos were a great hands-on, tactile project. I definitely recommend making these with kids—you treat the plantains like play-do! All four of us attending the “class” certainly took some frustrations out on these fried pillows of plantain-goodness. There isn’t much of a recipe for these love bundles, so feel free to adapt as you see fit. Please forgive this bare bones recipes. It is not sophisticated (and in fact I use the word “mush”), but it combines two important Guatemalan staples and is worth the effort.

 

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The first batch of the little buggers… this is me patiently waiting the requisite minute so I don’t completely burn my face off.

Note: Guatemalans are super into pre-cooked refried black beans. You can get them at every grocery store and cornerside tienda in an astonishing variety of package shapes and cooking-methods (boil in a bag! microwave! grill!). The consistency is very paste-like — I believe the beans have already been cooked with spices and oil and then blended. I’d try this recipe with refried beans out of a can, or make your own bean mush with a some cooked black beans, savory spices, and a blender. You don’t need so much for the recipe though, so make sure you choose something where you can use the leftovers.

Additional Note: In the spirit of “seize the day” and trying to soak in my Guatemalan environment, these photos are unedited and straight from my phone. Apologies to anyone who may be offended by this.

Just a smattering of the pre-cooked bean options available at your local Guatemalan supermarket… Mmm mmm, look at those silky black beauties.

one year ago: honey and cinnamon apples, cheesy bulgur risotto with broccoli, and Indian-spiced cabbage and onions

Rellenitos de Plátano

as remembered from my PLQ cooking class

medium-ripe plantains (no black spots but not green)
black bean mush of choice (see note)
ground cinnamon
sugar
flour to coat
oil to fry
powdered sugar (optional)

Peel plantains and boil in a big vat of water. When they’re very soft, scoop out with a slotted spoon onto plates. Use forks to mash the plantains into a paste like consistency. Set aside.

Place bean mush in a bowl. Add cinnamon and sugar to taste. You want a slightly sweet final product, not an approximation of Asian-style red bean paste. For the giant vat of plantains we used, we probably added about 1 t cinnamon and a bit more sugar. Taste as you go.

Take a small handful of plantain “dough” and flatten it into a patty or pancake a bit bigger than the palm of your hand. The patty should be about a centimeter thick, maybe a bit less. Scoop 1/2 tablespoon or so of bean mixture into the center of plantain patty. Fold sides up and around bean paste and fold ends in, forming a cylinder-esque bundle about two inches long. Coat generously in flour by rolling on a plate with a shallow layer of flour and using your hands to pat it gently in. Wash your hands throughout the process as necessary.

In a deep frying pan, bring about a half-inch of oil to a simmer. Gently add rellenitos and fry until golden brown. Don’t overcrowd the pan. I would try about 10 minutes per side. Drain on paper towels. I ate these as part of a dinner, but if you want them for dessert, sprinkle with powdered sugar. Serve warm.

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From yesterday’s hike up Volcan Santa Maria. We started climbing in the dark at 1 am and made it to the top (above the clouds!) for a chilly and incredible sunrise.

 

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Grilled Pineapple and (Homemade) Baked Bean Tacos

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The best thing that came out of my seder a couple weeks ago was not, amazingly, the secret to make gefilte fish taste palatable or the revelation that my hyper-logical-atheist boyfriend would embrace old Jewish customs “just because that’s how they are,” but something much more seemingly mundane.

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I’m talking, of course, about grilled pineapples (a natural seder conversation topic). After our requisite glasses of wine and long-winded discussions about The Prince of Egypt vs. the Rugrats Passover episode, the conversation led to lunches, and specifically grilled pineapple lunches. The idea took hold and led to this magnificent taco-burrito-wrap-meatless-Hawaiian-pizza hybrid that would disappoint Mexicans and Texans and Hawaiians of all sorts but makes this Jew oh so happy.

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This was my first foray into homemade baked beans! Despite using the wrong kind of bean, the flavor in these [beanie] babies was out of control delicious. And mixed with the pineapple? ohmygod make it now!!~*!!!^!! Even if it’s sorta ugly.

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(And let it be known Daniel added grilled ham-steak (is that a thing?) to his and then ate three, so… if that’s your sorta thing, go [hog] wild.) 

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Grilled Pineapple and (Homemade) Baked Bean Tacos

a Swanky original

1 batch baked beans (recipe below) or cheat and use a can
smallish flour tortillas (or corn if GF)
cilantro, chopped
½ a pineapple
smoked sea salt, chili powder, olive oil
OR
brown sugar, cinnamon, salt, and butter
(depends on your mood) 

Cook/warm up baked beans according to how much time you’re willing to invest tonight. (MAKE the ones below. PEER PRESSURE! THEY’RE SO GOOD!)

Heat a grill pan so it’s nice and smoky (or, ya know, a grill, if you have that sorta thing). Cut top and bottom off pineapple, and then carefully slice off the skin. Cut into ½-inch slices, careful to avoid the core. Then, you have a choice! For smoky-spicy pineapple (which I thought went better with the beans), rub both sides with olive oil, smoked sea salt, and chili powder. Or, for brown sugar caramelized pineapple, mix together about ¼ c brown sugar with 1 t cinnamon and a sprinkle of salt, and rub it on both sides. For either version, grill about 2-4 minutes on each side, until you see nice grill marks and the pineapple has darkened on the outside and softened in the inside. (For sweet version, you can mix the leftover sugar/cinnamon mixture with a bit of melted butter and baste pineapple as it grills for some added zing.)

The make your tacos! Char your tortilla if desired, and fill with grilled pineapple slices, baked beans, and plenty of fresh cilantro. Repeat. Go into food coma.

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Quick Vegetarian Baked Beans

adapted from picklesnhoney 

1 medium onion, chopped small
½ green pepper, chopped small
1.5 T olive oil
2 cans of navy beans (I didn’t have those and instead used 1 can each pinto and pink beans; it was fine but not the completely right texture)
¼ c + 2 T BBQ sauce
2 T molasses (I used pomegranate molasses and it was great!)
¼ c apple cider vinegar
3 T maple syrup
2 T spicy brown mustard
2 T ketchup
2 t worcesteshire sauce
1 t smoked paprika

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

In an oven-safe Dutch oven, warm olive oil over medium heat. Add onion, sauté for about 4 minutes. Add bell pepper and continue sautéing until onion is translucent and peppers are soft, about 4 more minutes.

Add everything else! Bring pot to a simmer; then cover and stick in oven. Cook for as long as you feel like it (more time = more flavor), but I would go for at least 45 minutes (I think I did mine for an hour).

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BBQ Sweet Potato Nachos + Upscale Bar Food Dinner Party

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Imagine: You invite two friends over for dinner. You may have previously bragged a bit about how much you love cooking and recipe planning etc. You chat about blogs, Bon Appetite, restaurants, food trends. You promise to go all out.

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Flash forward to two weeks later, the morning of said pre-planned dinner. You have some frozen corn in the freezer from last week’s CSA. That’s it. You realize that you have roughly nine hours to create a beautiful and memorable meal. You have a minor freak out.

But then coffee was consumed and magazines and blogs were consulted. And so a theme was deliberated over: Bar food? No, Mediterranean. No, fancy bar food. Bourgeois bar food! The barista thinks its a good idea.

Commence brainstorming: some sort of soup, but on toast? something like dip, but in salad form? how much fried stuff is too much? do we need dessert?

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And so, four grocery stores, one bike ride, 4 bottles of vegetable oil, and many hours later, this is what we came up with.

“Spinach Artichoke Dip” Salad

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not pictured: a very healthy dose of parmesan and feta, and lots of lemony vinaigrette

Buffalo Cauliflower “Wings” 

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Daniel says, “yeah those tasted great but dang were they ugly. I’m not taking no pictures.” And I said “oh okay YOU=CAULIFLOWER.” And its my blog so here’s his picture.

Sesame-Soy (actual) wings

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“Stuffed jalapeno” individual polenta cakes (leftovers amazing with scrambled eggs!)

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a healthy dose of bacon to please the carnivores

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Homemade Sweet Potato Chip nachos, vegetarian and meaty versions

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With beer and whisky. No need for dessert.

We mostly just followed other recipes, tweaking as we went. But, in honor of the blog name, here’s the recipe for those awesome nachos.

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Vegetarian (or not) BBQ Sweet Potato Nachos

adapted from the Food Network

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into thin slices with a mandoline
vegetable oil for frying
¼ c salt
⅛ c ground pepper
⅛ c garlic powder
healthy dash cayenne
1 T olive oil
1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3 jalapenos, one diced and two cut into thin rounds
1 T tomato paste
1 cup BBQ sauce
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
½ lb ground beef, optional
2 cups shredded cheese; we did half smoked gouda and half monterey jack
½ bunch of cilantro, chopped, optional
sour cream to serve, optional

Make sweet potato chips:

First make seasoning mixture by combining salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cayenne. (Keep in mind this makes a ton! Keep leftovers for future chip batches.) Break out a large heavy pot (5 quart if you have it), fill it up to roughly ⅓ with vegetable oil (I’d say about 4 inches depth. You’re going to use a lot of oil here), and heat it until it reaches about 360º (use a candy or deep-fry thermometer). Place enough sliced sweet potatoes in to create a fairly dense surface layer and start actively patting them down under the oil with a slotted spatula. The temperature is going to drop pretty quickly, but if it stays above 180º you’ll be fine. Keep stirring and turning and drowning for 5 to 7 minutes, and just when you start seeing the hearts of your sweet potato chips going brown, start removing them and place them on a thick bed of paper towels. Sprinkle your seasoning mixture and coat to taste. As soon as the oil temperature reaches 360º, repeat. Once your crispy batch cools enough, toss them into a bowl, but keep the same paper towels on the plate for reuse with all cooked batches. As you repeat this process, more and more of the seasoning will rest on the paper towels, so keep that in mind as you’ll need to coat each new batch a little less. Also, feel free to eat as many of these chips as necessary to “test” that you’re doing it right, as well as to revel in how amazing it is that you’re making chips all by yourself.

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Make BBQ beans/meat:

Heat olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until onions are translucent and garlic smells wonderful, about 5-6 minutes. Add diced jalapeno and cook for another 5 minutes, or until the air smells spicy. Add tomato paste, black beans, and s&p. Mix so tomato paste coats everything. Add BBQ sauce and continue to cook for another 10 minutes or so, or until mixture thickens and smells amazing. Add extra BBQ sauce if mixture becomes too thick. If you want a non-vegetarian version as well, heat another medium skillet. Add a small splash of oil and add ground beef, stirring frequently, until evenly browned and cooked through. Add half of bean mixture to beef and simmer together for another five minutes or so.

To make nachos:

On a rimmed cookie sheet, or any other large platter, layer sweet potato chips, bean/beef mixture, jalapeno rounds, and cheese. Repeat. Place in a 400 degree oven until cheese gets melty, about 5-7 minutes. Top with chopped cilantro and sour cream and serve while hot!

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Roasted Sweet Potato, Peach, and Black Bean Tacos

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When one goes to Texas for the Fourth of July for one’s boyfriend’s family reunion and annual “rib-b-q,” one can expect to come back to NYC feeling about 15 pounds heavier (even as the sole vegetarian present, because OMG queso and beans and kolaches and cornbread salad and IHOP), many shades more sunburnt, and about fifteen times more likely to have developed mosquito-related diseases than previously.

One may also still be reeling, almost a week later, about how many meat cooking apparatuses (apparati?) can be in one backyard, including a couple smokers, a couple grills, and a giant cauldron fire pit thing.

One may, upon returning home, feel the need to return to vegetable-laden meals and (unfortunately) indoor cooking methods. One may also be exasperated by Texas’s apparent dislike towards “inauthentic” (ahem, vegetarian) tacos.

And, it almost goes without saying that it is only appropriate to roast things in a hot oven in a tiny apartment in July when you later consume those roasted things in your blissfully air-conditioned room, sitting on your bed, with the dog keeping the comforter clean, sharing with your roommate after an intensely sweaty cooking bout.

Texas, you were great and all, but this is how this Northerner does tacos.

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Roasted Sweet Potato, Peach, and Black Bean Tacos

(according to me)

Roast in a 350 degree oven:

2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into bite-sized pieces
half a red onion, thinly sliced
one ripe peach, cut into slices and then in half again
half a red chili pepper, diced into tiny pieces

with:
enough olive oil to cover it all
zest from one lime
1 T ish of ground cumin
1 t ground coriander
1/2 t or less ground cayenne
salt&pepper

…for about half an hour, stirring every 10 minutes or so, or until sweet potatoes are fork-tender and peaches are juicy, pulpy, sticky blobs of deliciousness.

Once out of the oven, mix in a can of drained&rinsed black beans, half a lime’s juice, and salt to taste.

When ready to serve, heat corn tortillas in a very hot, dry pan until slightly crispy. Top tortillas with veggie mixture, cheddar cheese, lime juice, sriracha, cilantro, ETC.