cilantro

Guatemalan Chicken and Vegetable Soup

As E., from a village near Uspantan, Guatemala, taught Lindsay Sterling in Freeport, Maine. Photo by Lindsay Sterling. 

Note: My Guatemalan friends ate this soup with thick, fresh homemade tortillas and a spicy tomato mash. 
Makes: 8-10
Cooking time: 1-2 hours

Ingredients

  • 1 large whole free range chicken, cut into 2-3inch, bone-in pieces
  • enough water to cover the chicken by 3-4 inches
  • 3 Tbsp salt
  • 6 medium potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 2 chayote squash, peeled and quartered
  • 2 tomatoes, quartered + 2 whole tomatoes
  • 1 lb. carrots, peeled, quartered lengthwise and cut into 3" segments
  • 4 culantro leaves (he called it samate) or small handful cilantro leaves, rough chopped
  • small bunch of fresh mint, leaves picked and roughly chopped
  • small bunch of fresh parsley, leaves picked and roughly chopped
  • 2 Tbsp chicken bouillon + 1 Tbsp as desired
  • 2 fresh hot chili peppers of your choice
  • 1 lime
  • 16-20 thick, handmade tortillas (substitute corn bread or bread)

Instructions

1. If you are handmaking the tortillas, start by making the dough first. Once it's resting, then get the soup started.

2. In a large pot cover the chicken pieces with water by 3-4 inches, add salt, 2 Tbsp chicken bouillon and boil until chicken is cooked (opaque throughout). While that's cooking, if you are making your tortillas from scratch, this would be a good time to make them.

3. Once the chicken is cooked, then add potatoes, squash, carrots, and the 2 quartered tomatoes to the soup pot.

4. While those are cooking, in a separate pot boil the two whole tomatoes and 2 whole fresh chili peppers until the chili peppers are soft. Peel skin off tomatoes and roughly chop chili peppers and then mash the tomatoes and peppers together in a mortal and pestle. 

5. When vegetables in the soup are tender, add all the chopped herbs (culantro/cilantro, mint, and parsley). Taste. If you think it needs it, add 1 Tbsp bouillon to enhance flavor. Serve bowls of soup with a basket of warm, thick tortillas, a bowl of lime wedges, and a bowl of the chili-tomato mash for guests to add to add spice their soup as desired.

Cape Verdean Cod Casserole

Bacalhau Com Natas

As Clarice Pinto and Lucy Pires from Santiago, Cape Verde, taught Lindsay Sterling in Brockton, Massachusetts.

Cooking Time: 1 hour + 24 hours soaking the salt cod
Servings: 10
Note: Recipe adapted slightly to avoid MSG, which was in a couple of pre-prepared spice mixtures they used.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 lb. salt cod
  • 2 1/2 lb potatoes
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 onion sliced into 1/4"-thick rounds
  • 1/4 tomato sliced into 1/4"-thick rounds
  • 1 small bunch cilantro, rough chopped including stems and leaves
  • 1/2 red pepper, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • dash chili powder
  • dash sweet paprika
  • dash annatto or achiote powder (optional)
  • 2 tsp white pepper
  • 1/2 cup pitted green olives
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1 Tbsp corn starch

Instructions

1. The night before cooking, soak the salt cod in water in the fridge over night.

2. At least an hour before you want to eat, peel the potatoes and cut into 1" chunks. Cover with water in a large pot. Put the eggs (shells on) in the water along with the potatoes. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 14 minutes or until the potatoes are soft. Take the eggs out and peel them. Strain the potatoes.

3. Preheat the oven to 350. Strain the salt cod.

4. In a large pot with 1/2 cup olive oil in it, saute the onions, tomato, cilantro, red pepper, yellow pepper, and garlic with all the spices (chili powder, paprika, annatto, and white pepper). When onions are soft, add the salt cod. Stir and cook until salt cod breaks down a little bit and turns kind of mushy. Then gently stir in the the potatoes.

5. In medium sauce pan, melt butter, whisk in corn starch, and then whisk in milk and cream. Heat on medium, stirring constantly, until the milk and cream thicken.

6. Spread the sauteed fish-potato mixture evenly in an oven-safe casserole dish. Slice the eggs into 1/4" rounds. Decorate the top of the cod and potato mixture with green olives and cross sections of egg.

7. Pour the thickened milk mixture over the whole thing. Bake for 40 minutes. Broil at the end so the top is slightly browned.

Cape Verdean Calamari

Guisado de Lula

(Stew of Squid)

As Clarice Pinto and Lucy Pires, from Santiago, Cape Verde, taught Lindsay Sterling in Brockton Massachusetts. Photos by Lindsay Sterling.

Cooking time: 45 minutes
Serves: 10
Notes: I adapted this recipe slightly to avoid MSG which was in many of the pre-prepared spice mixtures they used. You may use squid or calamari in this recipe; both taste great.

Ingredients

  • 3 lbs cleaned squid (a mixture of whole bodies about 4" long and legs is ideal; sliced bodies or rounds would also work)
  • 3-inch-piece of yuca root, also known as cassava (optional)
  • 6 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 cup red cooking wine
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup beer
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 small bunch fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2" chunks
  • 1/2 orange bell pepper, sliced
  • 1 tomato, sliced
  • 1 onion, sliced into triangular chunks
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp annatto or achiote powder (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder (adjust to your preferred spice level)
  • 1 tsp Old Bay (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp chicken bouillon

Instructions

1. Cook calamari covered with water in pressure cooker under pressure for 30 minutes. If you don't have a pressure cooker, don't worry about it. Just boil it for twenty minutes in a regular pot. Your calamari won't be super duper tender like hers was, but it'll still taste great.

2. Cut/pry the thick brown skin off the yuca. Slice lengthwise through the middle and carve out the fiber that runs through the middle. It's about the size of embroidery thread. If you can't find it, don't worry about it, it may become apparent as you cut the yuca into pieces. Cut the yuca into 1/2 inch thick triangles.

3. Strain calamari and add back to the pressure cooker pot or large pot with all other ingredients, including the yuca. Cook on medium high heat, boiling for about 20 minutes until the potatoes and yuca are soft and some of the liquid has evaporated.

Tanzanian Green Bananas and Beef

Ndizi Na Mkia Wa Ngombe

As cooked with Iman Lipumba from Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in Portland, Maine. Adapted from A Taste of Tanzania, by Miriam R. Kinunda.

Cooking Time: 2 1/2 hours

Serves: 6-8

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • 1 lb. oxtail or beef with bones
  • 1 lb. stew beef
  • 1 1/2 lb. green bananas
  • 1/2 yellow onion, medium dice
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 large tomato, chopped
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 cups beef broth (from oxtail)
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2 Tbsp cumin
  • 1/2 inch fresh ginger, peeled and minced or grated
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1 Tbsp chopped cilantro
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

Instructions

1. Simmer the the oxtail or bone-in beef in water, along with the stew beef. Once the broth gets cooking, with a large, flat spoon skim oil and foam off the top of the broth repeatedly. 

2. While the broth is cooking, peel the green bananas by slicing the skin length wise with a knife, prying your fingers between the peel and the flesh, and popping the peel off the round banana inside. Slice the banana flesh lengthwise in half, and then crosswise so you have segments. Cover the peeled banana pieces in water in a bowl until use so they don't turn brown.

3. When stew beef is tender (about an hour and a half, depending on the cut of beef you're using), remove the beef from the broth. Keep the oxtail cooking in the water longer if you would like for even more flavor in the broth. When the oxtail is tender (or you've run out of time!) remove it from the broth. 

4. In another large pot, add the oil and saute the stew beef pieces on high so they're nicely browned. Remove the meat from the pan. 

5. Turn the heat to medium, and add the onions to the pan and saute until soft. Add black pepper, cumin, fresh ginger, turmeric and chopped cilantro and garlic and stir for one minute. 

6. Mix in the tomato paste and let cook for three minutes, stirring. Then mix in tomatoes. Lower the heat to medium-low and cover the pot. Simmer until the tomatoes soften. Use a cooking spoon to press the tomatoes to help them disappear faster.

7. Once tomatoes have blended in, add coconut milk and about 2 cups of broth and stir. Once the liquid is boiling, strain the banana pieces and add them to the liquid along with the oxtail (if your diners don't mind gnawing beef right off the bone), and the cooked stew beef. The liquid should be level with the beef and bananas. Cook until bananas are soft like cooked potato. Garnish with cilantro if you like.

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Vietnamese Noodle Soup

Pho

As Hieu Nguyen from Dalat, Vietnam, taught Lindsay Sterling, in Falmouth, ME July 2013

Note: Hieu gets the fresh herbs, bean sprouts, fresh ginger, fish sauce, spices, chilis, limes, rice noodles, packets of pre-mixed pho seasonings, and even Pho serving dishes (super large bowls) at Veranda Asian Market in Portland, Maine, 695 Forest Avenue, Portland, ME, 207-874-8001, (open daily 9am-9pm). Look for an Asian market near you and go - it's a great experience. 

Makes: 8 servings
Cooking Time: 3-4 hours, with a lot of inactive time

Ingredients

 For the marinade:

  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2" ginger
  • 1/2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 Tbsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp fish sauce (he prefers Viet Huong brand)

For the broth:

  • 1 whole chicken
  • 2" ginger (okay to leave skin on)
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 Tbsp salt
  • 2-4 Tbsp fish sauce (he prefers Viet Huong brand)
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 3 cinnamon sticks (3" inches each)
  • 10 whole cardamon pods
  • 20 whole cloves
  • 6 whole star anise
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1/3rds
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled
  • 16 oz. chicken broth

For the soup:

  • 24 oz. rice noodles (1/4" wide)
  • 1 bag (about 4 cups) fresh mung bean sprouts*
  • 1 bunch Thai basil
  • 1 bunch culantro
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 6-12 red Thai chilis
  • 1 lime
  • 4 scallions
  • Hoisin sauce (if you are gluten free, please check the label or avoid)
  • Sriracha sauce

Equipment:

  • stainless steal spice ball (for infusing herbs in broth) or cheese cloth and string*
  • sharp boning knife
  • large cutting board
  • 2 medium bowls
  • 1 large soup pot or stock pot
  • small handheld mesh strainer and small bowl
  • large colander for noodles
  • 8 larger-than-normal, pho-style bowls with base plates*
  • 8 large, flat-bottomed spoons*
  • 8 pairs chopsticks*

Instructions

1. Marinate the meat.

Rough chop garlic and 2" of the ginger. Put in a medium bowl. Take skin off whole chicken using a boning knife. Carve meat off the bones (breasts, legs, thighs and back muscles), trimming all fat off as you see it, and place meat in the bowl with the ginger and garlic, and the bones in a stock pot. Mix 1/2 Tbsp sugar, 1/4 Tbsp salt, and 1 Tbsp fish sauce into chicken meat with hands. Wash hands. Discard all chicken fat and skin. Wash cutting board and anything that touched the raw chicken. Cover chicken and let marinate.

2. Make the stock.

Place bones in a large soup pot or stock pot.  Cover chicken bones with cold water by 2-3 inches and turn on medium. Add 16 oz. chicken stock, 2 Tbsp sugar, 1/2 Tbsp salt, and 4 Tbsp fish sauce. Enclose black pepper, cumin, clove, cardamom, star anise and cinnamon in a cheese cloth or a stainless steel spice ball. Roast whole onion and ginger over bare stove flame until ginger skin is black and onion is steaming and put both broth. Once broth begins to steam, turn heat to low. Don't let the broth boil or simmer at all. Once the broth has been steaming for about 20 minutes, swipe a handheld mesh strainer through the top three inches of broth, removing particulate matter and any oil. Discard the contents of the strainer and run it upside down under water as necessary to clean. The goal in the end is to have a clear broth, which is achieved by getting rid of floating particles and oil, and never boiling the broth. Repeat this process about every ten minutes over the course of an hour and a half to achieve clear broth. If you have oil on the top, skim off with large flat spoon.

3. Prep the fresh toppings.

Wash the bean sprouts, all the fresh herbs, lime and chilis. Dry with paper towels and place each on separate plates. Slice the lime into 8 wedges and then slice the wedges across into half wedges so you have 16 pieces.

4. Cook the chicken.

After the stock has been cooking for about an hour and a half, remove the ginger, onion, carrot, spices and bones. Slowly submerge the marinating chicken into the hot broth. Cook for 13 minutes, remove chicken and place in a clean bowl to drain and cool. Send the hand held strainer through the broth 4 or 5 times to get the ginger and garlic chunks out. Slice the chicken into 1/4 inch slices and put on serving plate(s).

5. Make the noodles. 

Bring a full large pot of water to a boil (for cooking rice noodles). Add rice noodles to boiling water and cook for 8 minutes. Strain and run cold water over them so they don't stick together as much when they're cool.

6. Assemble the bowls. First put rice noodles in the bowl, then 4-5 pieces of chicken, sprinkle on sliced scallions. Ladle on broth so the noodles and chicken are surrounded. Pick leaves off Thai basil and cilantro leaves from stems. Add about 4 of each to each bowl. Break culantro leaf into 1 inch long pieces, and add to soup. Add a mountain of bean sprouts on top. Squeeze lime over top. Serve with fresh whole Thai chili on the side.

7. Finish each bowl at the table. Diners squirt generous squiggles of Sriracha and Hoisin sauces on top of his or her bowl of pho. Before eating, toss the contents of the bowl with the chopsticks in one hand and flat-bottomed spoon in the other as you would a salad. Use chopsticks to help load up the flat-bottomed spoon, and go ahead and slurp the contents of the spoon and juice into your mouth. Take a nibble of the Thai chili (one of the hotter chilis in the world). When all you have is broth left, it's okay to lift your bowl to your mouth to sip the rest.

Dominican Rice and Beans

As Angel Ferreras from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, taught Lindsay Sterling in Freeport, Maine.

Note: Along with meat and fried green plantains, these rice and beans make up the classic Dominican lunch called La bandera (the flag). It's named after the flag, Angel explained, because the meal is as Dominican as the flag and it's served everywhere in the country. These rice and beans are so easy to make and delicious, my family has this dish probably every other week. 

Cooking Time: 25 minutes
Makes: 6 servings

Ingredients

For the beans:

  • 2 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 tsp Adobo seasoning (main ingredients: salt, turmeric, garlic powder)
  • 1/4 green pepper, cut into 1/2" chunks
  • 1/8 red onion, sliced into small segments
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 can Roman beans, drained and rinsed (pinto, kidney, red, or black would work as well) 
  • 4 oz. tomato sauce
  • 2 Tbsp fresh cilantro leaves

For the rice:

  • 2 cups white rice (Goya Canilla brand long grain enriched white rice recommended)
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil 
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 4 cups water

Instructions

1. Put all the ingredients for the beans in a medium sauce pot. Bring up to a boil, then simmer for 20-30 minutes. 

2. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil with 2 Tbsp vegetable oil and 2 tsp salt in a large, heavy-bottomed pot with lid.

3. Add rice to the boiling water, stirring with a wooden spoon. After five minutes or so, when spoon stays standing up in the cooking rice, or no water is standing above the rice, turn heat to low, and cover the pot with a lid.

4. After ten minutes, turn the rice so that the rice that was on top is on the bottom. Recover. Cook another ten minutes. When rice is cooked, increase the heat to medium-high for two minutes so that the rice on the bottom fries and gets crunchy/toasted but doesn't burn. 

5. Spoon the fluffy rice into one serving bowl and the concon - the crispy rice at the bottom of the pot - onto a separate serving plate. (If you run cold water on the bottom of the rice pot, it makes the rice release much more easily. Also, you can slice through the concon in the pot to make chunks that are easier to pry/lift out of the pan with a spatula. 

6. Serve beans, rice, and concon in separate bowls family style on the table. Serve with Dominican tostones and meat for the popular lunch: la bandera

 

Dominican Stewed Beef

Note: In the Dominican Republic, a lunch plate of meat, rice and beans, and fried green plantains, is a classic called La bandera. In Spanish, "la bandera" means "the flag," which is to say that the dish is as Dominican as the flag itself. The kind of meat served varies. This is one of my favorites.

Makes: 10 servings
Cooking time: 30 min in pressure cooker; 80 minutes in regular pot + 1-12 hours marinating

Ingredients

For the marinade (called sazon or sofrito):

  • 1/2 head garlic
  • 1 onions
  • 1 bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup rough chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 chicken bouillon cub
  • 1 Tbsp oregano
  • 1/8 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 Tbsp achiote powder
  • 1/2 Tbsp green olives
  • 1/2 Tbsp capers
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp vinegar
  • 1/4 cup water only if needed

For the beef:

  • 2 1/2 pounds stew beef
  • 2 Tbsp soy sauce (if you're gluten-free, please be sure to use gluten-free soy sauce)
  • 2 Tbsp sazon or sofrito marinade
  • 1 tsp pepper  
  • 4 cloves garlic, mashed into a paste
  • pinch cinnamon
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 3-4 cups hot water
  • ¼ cup chopped cilantro
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • salt to taste

Instructions

1. Make the marinade. Peel the garlic cloves, peel the onion, and cut the onion and green pepper into quarters. Place all of the marinade ingredients in the blender with just enough water to get the blender going. Blend until smooth.

2. Reserve 2 Tbsp of the marinade for making the beef, and freeze the rest in 2-Tbsp portions in an ice tray or in piles on a sheet pan/cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Once frozen, transfer the marinade nuggets into a sealed Ziplock. Use these later when making this beef dish again, rice, or soups. 

3. In a large bowl mix soy sauce, 2 Tbsp of the marinade, pepper, garlic, and cinnamon. Coat meat evenly with this mixture by massaging with hands. Cover and let marinate in fridge for 1-12 hours.

4. Heat oil in a heavy-bottomed large pot (with lid) or pressure cooker pot. Once oil is hot, add meat. Once the meat is brown on the surface, add cilantro and enough water to come up "shoulder high" on the meat. Cook the meat until tender. If you're using a pressure cooker, this will be about 15 minutes. If you're using a regular pot, this could be more like an hour - you'll need to add more water to keep it saucy. When the meat is tender, add tomato paste, and cook for five minutes more. Taste and add salt if necessary.

 

 

 

Bolivian Peanut Soup

Sopa de mani

As Rommy Holman, from Cochabamba, Bolivia, taught Lindsay Sterling in Cumberland, Maine.

Serves: 8
Cooking Time: 2-3 hours

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 4 beef ribs or bone-in cut of beef
  • 1 small red onion
  • 2 small carrots
  • 1/2 green pepper, medium dice
  • 1/4 red bell pepper, medium dice
  • 10 green beans, sliced diagonally across for long, thin ovals
  • 1/2 pound skinless raw peanuts (they're not tan or brown, they're cream-colored and may be called blanched)
  • 4 yukon potatoes
  • 1/2 cup white rice
  • 1 big clove garlic
  • 1/2 tsp powdered cumin
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • handful fresh cilantro
  • handful fresh parsley
  • small bunch fresh celery leaves
  • 1/4 cup peas

Accompaniments:

  • 1 tomato
  • 1 jalepeno
  • small handful cilantro
  • crusty bread (optional, omit if you eat gluten-free)

Instructions

1. Fill a soup pot 2/3 full of water, and add 1 Tbsp salt and the beef. Bring to boil and simmer for 1 hour or two until meat is tender. Keep a lid on while you simmer to keep broth from evaporating too much. As the soup simmers, skim any fat and foam that rise to the top of the soup with a big flat spoon and discard.

2. While the meat broth is brewing, cut your veggies. Cut carrots lengthwise into 1/4" thick planks and then crosswise into 1/4" strips. Dice the green and red pepper and onion. And cut the green beans on the diagonal to make thin long ovals. Put the veggies in the soup pot.

3. Make a raw peanut puree by blending the peanuts in a blender with about a cup of water until you have what looks like almost-melting vanilla ice cream. After the meat has cooked for at least an hour, add the peanut puree so the soup turns white with a creamy surface. Continue cooking for an hour. I wouldn't fudge that particular cooking time because Rommy said, "Raw peanuts need to be cooked an hour at least or it makes the tummy ache. That's what my mom says." An hour then! Stir occasionally so the peanut particles don't burn on the bottom.

4. While the peanut broth is cooking, mash the garlic, 1/4 tsp pepper, and 1/2 tsp cumin in a mortar and pestle, adding a little salt to aid in the grinding. Don't forget to smell this because it's very satisfying. Add the garlic-spice-mash to the soup.

5. Make a bowl of fresh feathery herbs by gathering a tight bouquet of parsley and cilantro (she'd also use quilquina if she were home) and cutting across them toward your thumb with a paring knife.

6. Peel the potatoes slice them into round slices, and then slicing across the the slices to make thin strips. Cover these with water (to keep from turning brown) until soup is almost done.

7. Make homemade hotsauce, called llajua, by pulsing in a blender: fresh jalapenoes, tomatoes, and fresh cilantro (at home she would use a native herb called quilquina). Her mother would make llajua on a traditional tool, a rectangular mortar and pestle called a batan. Avoid putting the blender on full blast - it makes the hotsauce foamy, which is not authentic. Serve llajua in dishes on the table for individuals to spoon into their soup as they like.

8. After the peanut-broth has simmered for an hour, add 1 cup of rice. After the rice has cooked for about ten minutes, use cooking twine to tie a bouquet of celery leaves and parsley leaves together, and then steep the bouquet in the soup. Sprinkle dried oregano over top.

9. Now taste the soup. Add salt so that it tastes the best it can be. I added about 1 teaspoon. Take the meat out of the pot. Pull the meat off the bones, discard the bones, and put the meat back in soup.

10. Strain the potatoes. Pat them dry with paper towels. Heat a half-inch of oil in a large frying pan on medium high. Line a plate with paper towel. Once oil is hot, fry the potatoes in batches until they're golden brown. Let them cool/dry on the paper towel. (If the oil is smoking, turn the heat down. If the potatoes aren't bubbling when you put them in, turn the heat up). Sprinkle salt on the fried potatoes. 

11. When the rice in the soup is cooked, add the peas. When the peas are cooked, serve the soup in shallow bowls. Garnish each bowl with a mound of fried potatoes in the center of each bowl and fresh herbs all over top. Serve with chunks of baguette and the llajua on the table.

Nicaraguan Beans and Rice

Gallo Pinto

As Jenny Sanchez, from Leon, Nicaragua, taught Lindsay Sterling in Freeport, Maine. Photo by Lindsay Sterling.

Note: "Gallo" means "rooster" in Spanish; "pinto" means "spotted." The rice and beans cooked this way look mottled like a rooster's feathers.
Cooking Time: 45 minutes
Makes: 4-6 servings

Ingredients 

  • 1 can pinto beans, strained and rinsed
  • 1 cup medium or long grain white rice (preferably not parboiled)
  • 1/4 green pepper, medium dice
  • 1/4 red pepper, medium dice
  • ½ small yellow onion, medium dice
  • 1/4 tsp + 1/8 tsp salt
  • about 16 cilantro leaves
  • 4 ripe bananas or plantains (yellow with black spots)
  • 8 oz. sour cream
  • 8 oz. salsa
  • 1/2 small cabbage
  • 2 tomatoes, large dice
  • 1 1/3 limes
  • 1/4 cup cheddar cheese, cut in ½ inch cubes (Jenny couldn’t find the Nicaraguan cheese in the States and found that cheddar tastes great here)

Instructions

1. In a small pot with a lid, bring 1 cup rice and 2 cups water to a boil. Turn heat to low, cover, and let cook for 20 minutes.

2. While the rice is cooking, in ¼ cup olive oil in large sauté pan, saute yellow onion, red and green peppers until soft. Mix in beans and let cook for 5 minutes on medium high so beans are sizzling in the oil and beginning to brown. Turn over sections of the beans gently with spatula to brown the other sides of the beans. Once beans are slightly browned, scoot the beans into a ring around the outer edge of the pan so the center of the pan is empty.

3. Pile the cooked rice into the center of the pan. Sprinkle 1/4 tsp salt onto the beans around the rice. Mix the beans and rice together so that the beans are evenly distributed in the rice. Add cilantro leaves, cover and turn off heat.

4. Peel bananas or plantains and slice each lengthwise, then across so that you have 2.5-inch long segments. In 1 Tbsp olive oil in a large sautee pan (preferably nonstick) on medium-low heat, saute bananas or plantains in a single layer until golden brown. (If not using non-stick pan you may use more oil). You may use two pans at once or fry the plantains batches. Because the fruit is so sweet, the natural sugars can burn easily, so keep an eye on your heat and if they’re getting too dark too fast, turn the heat down. Flip each piece so both sides become golden brown.

5. While the bananas are cooking, shave the cabbage on a large cutting board into lacy thin shavings with a paring knife. Cut limes in half and squeeze lime juice directly onto the cabbage. Sprinkle cabbage with ¼ tsp salt. Toss the cabbage so that the lime and salt are evenly distributed.  Sprinkle the diced tomato on top of the cabbage.

6. Get ready to assemble each person’s plate by putting all the components of the dish next to your stack of serving plates: the rice and beans, sour cream, salsa, fried plantains, and cabbage salad.

7. Now fill a cup-sized small bowl or measuring cup with rice and beans and press down as if packing sand into a mold for a sand castle. Flip over the cup of packed rice and beans onto the center of the first plate, releasing an unusually orderly mound of rice and beans. Now make an “X” out of two banana or plantain segments on one side of the beans and repeat with two more segments on the other side. Decorate the empty parts of the plate surrounding the beans and plantains with a generous dollop of sour cream, a couple spoonfuls of salsa, and the cabbage salad. Sprinkle cubes of cheese on top of the rice and beans. Continue assembling the rest of the plates. Enjoy this fine meal!

Fresh Spring Rolls

512px-Spring_rolls_with_peanut_sauce.jpg

As Panee Muncharoen and Rattana Sherman from Thailand, Quang Nguyen from Vietnam, and Makara Meng from Cambodia, taught Lindsay Sterling in Maine. Photo by T.Tseng through Wikimedia Commons.

Notes: For variety you can change the protein in these - my cooking teachers have used tiny shrimp, large shrimp (sliced across the middle in order to halve the thickness of the shrimp), slices of cooked pork chop, and wedges of hardboiled egg. Dipping sauces vary as well - two favorites are featured here. Thai basil is a different variety of basil than what's typically in supermarkets in the U.S. Thai basil has a purple stem, a distinct flavor (fabulous!), and heartier leaves. It is worth the trip to an Asian market to get this and other ingredients. 

Cooking time: 1-2 hours, depending on how good you get
Makes: 20 springrolls

Ingredients

For the Rolls:

  • 1/2 head lettuce: iceburg cut into 1/4 inch strips or another variety of your choice
  • small bunch fresh cilantro leaves
  • small bunch fresh mint, leaves picked from the stems 
  • small bunch Thai basil, leaves picked from the stems
  • 3 oz. thin rice noodles (Rattana likes Wai Wai brand)
  • package rice paper spring roll wrappers (Rattana likes Banh Trang 22cm)
  • optional protein: shrimp, hardboiled egg, slice of cooked pork

For the Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce (not pictured):

  • 1/4 cup sweet chili sauce (Rattana likes Mae Ploy brand “for chicken”)
  • 1/8 cup water
  • 1/8 cup distilled vinegar (Rattana likes Golden Mountain brand)
  • 2 tsp unsalted peanuts, ground in coffee grinder or chopped
  • 5 cilantro leaves

For the Chili-Garlic Dipping Sauce (not pictured):

  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 red Thai chilis 
  • juice of 4 limes
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 4 Tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 shallot, finely minced

Equipment

  • mortal and pestle (for the chili-lime sauce)
  • large saute pan
  • trivet (or work surface that can stand a hot pan)
  • clean counter for a work surface
  • serving platter
  • small bowls for dipping sauce for each person - people will want to double dip!

Instructions

1. Put rice noodles into boiling water for two minutes. Drain and let cool. Gather all your roll ingredients into separate dishes or piles at the counter where you will assemble the spring rolls. Also have the platter for serving the finished spring rolls nearby.

2. Heat 2 inches of water in a large saute pan until steaming; turn off heat. Put the pan on a trivet near where all the spring roll fixins' are.

3. Put one piece of rice paper in hot water until it softens like a jellyfish (5 seconds). Use a spatula to remove it, or your fingers if you’re tough. Spread rice paper out directly onto counter.

4. Place an oblong mound of iceberg lettuce just below the center of the wrapper. Put half as much rice noodles on top of lettuce, and 2-3 leaves of Thai basil and whole cilantro leaves. Break apart mint leaf into pieces and sprinkle on top. About half way up the wrapper, make a row out of your protein item (shrimp, chicken, egg, or pork) keeping the edges of the wrapper free of filling items by a couple inches on each side.

5. Pull the bottom of the rice paper tightly over the mound of fillings, and roll up. When you have rolled about two-thirds of the circle, fold the edges into the center like you would close the ends of a burrito, and complete rolling.

6. Put the finished roll on the serving platter, wipe your work surface dry (if it's wet, the wrapper tends to not stick as well to itself when rolling), and continue making more rolls. If the rice paper stops softening, you need to reheat the saute pan of water.

7. Make the dipping sauce of your choice. For the chili-lime sauce, start with the sugar in the mortal and pestle. Mash the garlic into the sugar into a paste. If your mortar and pestle is small, transfer its contents into a larger bowl and then mix in the liquids. Finely sliced rounds of the Thai chilis and add to the sauce. Wash your hands - the spicy oils are on them and will hurt if they get on or near your eyes. Add minced shallots. Ideally guests each have their own for sauce so they can double dip.