making food from anywhere, with anything

Posts tagged “plantains

record breaking heat

Hello everyone.

It’s hot here in New Jersey.  I mean, 100+ degrees (F) hot…plus humidity.  To some, this is every day weather and is, therefore, no big deal.  For us, however, this is record-breaking, danger zone, fry-an-egg-on-the-pavement hot.  On days like today, the last thing I want is a heavy meal.  So, what to have?

Ceviche.

Ceviche?  Yes.  You can make something as elegant as ceviche at home.  And with much ease, I might add.  In fact, it’s one of the easiest things I’ve made.  Ceviche, a dish with its relatively unknown roots attributed to South America and Spain, consists of citrus marinated seafood and a few other basic ingredients.  This dish relies on an important chemical reaction between citrus and seafood.  The seafood in ceviche is technically not cooked, as no heat is applied to it.  Instead, the citric acid in the marinade induces what is called denaturation.  De-what?  Well, the citric acid manipulates the proteins in the seafood, changing their physical and chemical properties.  After sitting in the marinade, the seafood turns firm and opaque, just like it had met heat.  So, do you take the same risks with eating seafood in ceviche as with eating sashimi?  Yes, actually.  While the citric acid does modify the seafood protein, it does not kill off any bacteria and such that could potentially be hanging around your fish.  However, if you buy fresh fish, then you really don’t have anything to worry about.  Really.

So, for my ceviche, I used tilapia.  I wanted a firm white fish, and it was either that or cod.  I think tilapia has a meatier texture to it, and cod seemed too flaky for this.  After consulting a variety of sources (like here and here), I began making my citrus marinade.  The following is for just under 1 1/2 lbs. of tilapia.

3 limes, squeezed of their juice

about 1/4-1/3 cup of orange juice (I only used this because I realized I definitely did not have enough lime juice……it worked out well)

about 3 pinches of freshly minced cilantro (fresh is a must. no exceptions.)

about 4 cloves of garlic, finely minced

1 tomato, seeded, diced

about 1/4 of a cup of red onion, diced

salt and freshly cracked black pepper

3 tilapia fillets cut into bite-sized pieces

tilapia ceviche

So, basically all you need to do is get a shallow dish.  Lay out all your fish pieces in the dish.  In a separate bowl, combine all of the above ingredients and then pour over the fish.  Cover with plastic wrap, and throw it in the fridge.  I would marinate this for 20-50 minutes.  If you take it out before 20 minutes, there’s a decent chance the inside of the pieces will be quite raw.  If you like that sort of thing (I certainly don’t mind), then go for it.  If you leave it in longer than 50 minutes, it will probably have the texture of overcooked fish.  Ew.  In any case, my ceviche tasted fresh, bright, and citrusy.  The fish got a huge kick from the cilantro and the onion, and the texture was very meaty.  The pieces of fish had some bite to them, which I really enjoyed.  The garlic undertones complimented the citrus so nicely.  It really hit the spot.

So, what goes along with this awesome ceviche?  How about tostones?  Ah, tostones are awesome. I’ve had good (crunchy on the outside, pillowy and soft on the inside) and bad (rubbery….tough….) ones.  If you like french fries, you’ll like tostones even more.

So, what the hell are tostones?

perfect tostones

Very simply, fried (green) plantains.   Get a cast iron skillet. Fill it about 1/4 inch of the way with vegetable oil. Heat the oil over medium heat.  You’ll know the oil is hot enough when you stick the end of a wooden spoon in and it bubbles.

Grab about 3 green plantains.  Slice the skin lengthwise, and peel off to reveal the plantain itself.  Slice into 1-inch thick pieces on an angle.

Now, you’re going to blanch the pieces in the oil.  Fry the pieces on each side for about 1-2 minutes (until lightly golden).  Do this in batches.  Lay the pieces out on a paper towel lined plate.  Once cooled, take a wooden spoon or the bottom of a small glass — whatever you have on hand — and smash lightly.  The pieces should still be in tact.  Once you’ve done this to all of the pieces, put them back into the oil and fry for another 2-3 minutes on each side, or until the pieces have reached a medium gold color.  It’s okay if some get a little dark (one of mine got kind of crispy….).  Immediately place them onto a paper towel lined plate.  This is so the oil gets wicked away from the pieces, resulting in a crispy crust with a delicate interior.  Sprinkle some salt over top of the tostones, squirt some lemon juice too if you’d like.  These tostones were perfect.  I can’t even be modest about it.  I have never made them before, but they came out so crisp on the outside, yet so tender on the inside.  And with just the right amount of salt and lemon juice, it was a PERFECT addition to the light and airy ceviche.

Usually, tostones are served with a mojo.  I chose to serve mine with some guacamole.  I love avocados.

ultra chunky guacamole

They seem like the perfect fruit (?) to have on a blazing hot day.  They’re creamy, light, decadent, and so damn good for you.  I like my guacamole chunky, so I didn’t mash this as much as I could have.  All I added to this was 1 avocado, juice from 1/2 a lemon, a few pinches of freshly minced cilantro, 1/2 a tomato, diced, 2 TBSP of diced red onion, and a pinch of salt.

I could’ve just spooned this out of the bowl and eaten it.

So, that was probably the perfect meal for a 100 degree day.  Light, citrusy, and satisfying.  Mmmm….

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beer and food

Good afternoon all, and happy spring!

Today, my friends and I took a trip to the Sam Adams Brewery in Jamaica Plain.  The tour itself is extremely interesting, and comes with the added bonus of being free.  It makes for a good day trip.

For those who are unfamiliar with the Boston area, Jamaica Plain is a really cool neighborhood.  It’s got a huge variety of neighborhoods dispersed among green spaces and landmarks.  Some neighborhoods are made up largely of Hispanic communities, while others are predominantly Jewish.  Although it’s going through a period of gentrification (lots of college students, activists, and other young professionals are moving in), I think it still maintains its culture.

Today we walked along Centre Street in search of some food after the brewery tour.  Initially we sought soul food, but ended up at Miami Restaurant in the Hyde Square area.  This neighborhood is mostly Hispanic, and I’ve never been disappointed by the food here (although, this is only the third restaurant I’ve been to in the area).

Everything in this place is reasonably priced, and the quality of food is beyond expectations.  I decided to get two appetizers, mofongo and a jamaican beef patty, with a side of tostones.

mofongo

What is mofongo?  Well, it’s mashed plaintains mixed with garlic and in this case, pork rinds.  The flavor is out of this world.  The mellow plaintains are spiked with just the right amount of garlic.  The crunchy pork rinds add a perfect textural contrast to the softness of the plaintains.  And it was sprinkled lightly with salt.  Although this is an appetizer, it’s fairly large so it makes a good entree for just $7.  If you want an actual entree, they do serve a seafood mofongo, which I bet is insanely good.

jamaican beef patty

Embarrassingly, I have never had a Jamaican beef patty.  I’ve heard so much about them, but for whatever reason we have never crossed paths.  Today, it finally happened.

Meat encased in dough is a huge cross-cultural staple.  Eastern Europeans have pierogies, Hispanics have empanadas, and Jamaicans have these delicious things.  The crunchy yet soft dough gave way to incredibly well-seasoned and spicy ground beef on the inside.  For $2, they are more than worth getting.

To go along with these items, I decided to get a side of tostones.  Tostones are just fried unripe plantains.  While comparable to french fries, I think they’re a way better alternative.  They are very starchy, but have a softer texture than potatoes or yucca (yucca also makes an awesome french fries substitute).  For $3, you get a lot of tostones, as you can see below.

tostones

To top it off, I decided to get a mango milkshake.  It was REALLY good. It wasn’t too thick so I could actually drink it along with my meal.  For this warm day, it was very refreshing.  All in all, my meal cost about $16, and I have a ton of leftovers for later (which I am very much looking forward to).  If you’re in the Boston area, check out this place in Jamaica Plain – I can’t wait to head back to check out some of the other very tempting menu items.

Tomorrow’s dinner?  I’m thinking filipino adobo with oxtails and chicken?  Mmm….oxtails……