New year, new you? New year, new foods! For all of you go-getters clamoring to invest in a $1000 juice cleanse and “detox*” from the barrels of alcohol and bricks of sugar you consumed in the latter part of 2017: have I got the plan for you. It’ll regulate your digestion and get rid of that bloat; cut down on boredom hunger and those feverish dreams you’re having about christmas cookies; realign your chakras and nourish your spirit; protect you from the effects of mercury in retrograde (because it always seems to be in retrograde**). I can sense the Virgo in you smelling bullshit. Yeah guys, it’s called real food. Plants, plants, plants. Forget that fictitious cleanse (that probably tastes like lawn clippings) and make some colorful, well-seasoned plant dishes a few times a week—starting with this marvelous Latin-inspired dinner bowl.
I bet each of you has a basic beans and rice bowl you throw together every once in a while. I’m sure it’s decent. Filling, at the very least. You fry up some onion and garlic, add chili powder to your beans, throw the rice cooker on, top everything with a little hot sauce, maybe cheese if you eat dairy, some tomatoes or avocado, and call it a day. It’s a middle of the week meal—that lunch or dinner you eat out of necessity when you know your wallet and health are going to shit come Friday. This bowl contains rice and beans, but it’s no 20-minute mediocrity. You might let your wallet and health go to shit come Friday, but you can enjoy this arroz con frijoles on steroids any day of the week and still feel good AF about your life choices.
This delicious bowl is jumble of recipes I’ve been tampering with and adapting over the past couple of months: Cuban black beans, Colombian coconut rice, and twice-fried green plantains. The meal’s components have complimentary flavors, too. Complex and comforting black beans pair effortlessly with insanely decadent coconut rice, and exorbitantly crispy (and savory) fried plantains add a much-welcomed texture to the bowl. Bright garnishes like avocado, lime, green onion, and cilantro tie the ribbon on this figurative gift. I would take a page from bohemians and call it a harmony bowl, but this thang is a little more glamorous; loud; glittering, like a diamond in the rough [start to the year you know you’re having]. Make this bowl for your health-conscious weeknight dinners or your health-wrecked weekend dinner parties—your body will thank you either way, sans that new year cleanse. It’s a new year, and new you, so before you abandon the resolution wagon in favor of high-functioning alcoholism and shitty pizza, try new food.
*Your kidneys and liver are already great at this, and they’re free. It’s their job.
**Seriously, the fuck is retrograde?
The New Year, New Me Dinner Bowl
Makes four bowls (may have leftover rice)
Frijoles Cubano (Cuban Black Beans)
- 1.5 cups dried black beans
- 6 cups water
- One large white or yellow onion
- Six garlic cloves
- 1 tbs coconut oil
- 1 tbs concentrated vegetable broth base
- 1 tbs balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbs tamari
- 1 tbs coriander
- 2 tsp cumin
- 2 tsp miso
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp oregano
- 3 bay leaves
Soak the beans in cold water for 8-24 hours (I soak them for 24 to cut down on cooking time). Over medium-low heat, fry the onion in the coconut oil. You want to slowly brown the onions, so that they’re almost caramelized. Fry for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and cook for another five minutes. Now add the coriander, cumin, oregano, and paprika and sauté for another minute, to toast the spices. Drain the black beans and add them to the pot with the water and concentrated vegetable base. Bring to a rolling boil, then turn the heat down to medium. Add the tamari, balsamic vinegar, and bay leaves. Simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally. Add the miso and simmer for another 45 minutes, until the beans are tender. You may need to add more water and simmer for longer if the beans are still al dente; black beans can be finicky! These beans keep for up to a week in the fridge or freeze for up to three months.
Arroz de Coco (Coconut Rice)
- 2 cups white long-grain rice
- 1 can (13.5 oz) coconut milk
- 1/4 cup coconut sugar
- 2.5 cups water
- 1.5 tsp salt
Heat the can of coconut milk in a pot (2.5 quarts or bigger) over medium heat. Once it starts simmering, stir regularly and let the liquid boil down. After about 25 minutes, the mixture should begin to separate into coconut solids and coconut oil. Let the milk completely separate into solids and oil, still stirring regularly. Once the mixture has separated, start stirring constantly as the solids begin to brown in the oil—the coconut solids and oil should have a caramel brown color (like the color of your coconut sugar) before adding the rice, so let it brown for 3-4 minutes. Once the coconut milk is separated and browned, throw the rice in the pot with the salt and sugar and fry the mixture for five minutes. Now add the water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer once it starts boiling, put the lid on, and cook for 15 minutes. Take off the heat and let the rice cool for at least 10 minutes before fluffing and serving.
Patacones (Twice-Fried Green Plantains)
- 2 green plantains
- 1 tbs salt
- 3/4 cup water
- 3+ tbs coconut oil, divided
- Parchment paper and a heavy-bottomed object with a flat base (for smashing)
Cut the green plantains into uniform 1.5 inch chunks. Peel the skin off each piece—carefully and with the help of your knife, otherwise chunks of the actual plantain may come off with the skin. Because these are unripe plantains, they don’t peel like a yellow plantain or a banana. Heat two tbs of coconut oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Fry each side of the plantain chunks for about two minutes, until each side is slightly browned. Place the chunks on a plate and let cool for five minutes. While they cool, boil 3/4 cup of water and then place in a shallow bowl with 1 tbs of salt. Mix to dissolve. Now place each plantain chunk, one at a time, between two sheets of parchment paper and use your heavy object to (carefully and slowly!) smash each piece flat. After each piece is flattened, heat your frying pan over medium-high heat again and add another tbs of oil. Once the oil is heated, dip a patacone in the salt water bath and then place in your frying pan. Fry for about 5 minutes, then flip once browned on one side and repeat. Do this for each patacone. You can fry up to four at a time in your pan. Add another tbs of oil while frying if necessary. Serve immediately.
They should generally look like this. As you can see from my photos, however, I do not subscribe to making uniformly round patacones. The rustic edges add more crunch, and I can’t be bothered.
- 4 scallions
- 2 avocados
- 1 (small) bunch of cilantro
- 1 lime, for squeezing
To assemble your bowls: wash your toppings. Thinly slice the scallions. Slice the avocados and the lime into wedges. Scoop a generous helping of rice and beans into a bowl and add 3-4 patacones, half an avocado, a handful of scallions, a handful of cilantro (stems included), and a couple lime wedges. Squeeze the lime over your bowl, chow down, and pat yourself on the back, booboo. It’s a new year, a new you, and a new [real] food adventure.
- How can you make this in a timely fashion without compromising freshness? Make the beans ahead of time, or first (if you decide to make every component in one night). You can make the rice ahead too, but it just perfection when served fresh. Make the plantains right before assembling the bowls. So, in sum: 1) beans, 2) rice, 3) plantains.
- If making the entire dinner bowl is overwhelming, try making just one of the recipes! The black beans are versatile and are still absolutely delectable with plain rice or in a taco. The patacones are exquisite on their own or dipped in hot sauce / guacamole. I would eat the coconut rice by itself all day, erryday. You get the idea.
- Use dried beans. For the love of dog, take the time and use dried black beans. I tried to make this with canned beans, I really did. For all you folks googling 30-minute meals, for all you idealists trying to make an incredible feast in the span of an episode of The Office—for you, I tried. It doesn’t work. The texture is mushy, the flavor is out of whack. This dish with canned beans lacks a certain vibrance. Good food takes time, and while soaking dried beans and then cooking them for almost two hours sounds ridiculous, it’s truly worth it. If you have a pressure cooker, it will take less time (it will also change the amount of water you use)! I do not own one, so maybe it’s time to invest in this gadget…
- If you want to use regular vegetable broth in the black beans, substitute three of the six cups of water with vegetable broth.
- Coconut milk: canned coconut milk and its various stabilizers vary by brand. I used Thai Kitchen and Chaokoh brands successfully. If you use a brand with stabilizers, it may impede the milk’s ability to break down and separate. Add 2 extra tsp of oil to the mixture and that will help it break down.
- Smashing things (esp. in the kitchen) is a cathartic experience, so smashing these warm plantains really did the trick. I use my big, heavy mortar (from a mortar and pestle) to smash the plantains, but you can use an iron skillet, a heavy pot, a big book—get creative. Smashing techniques are a personal preference.
- If you only have access to ripe, yellow plantains, no fear! Whip up some simple plantains by slicing them and frying them up in 2 tbs of coconut oil. No smashing, refrying, or salt bath! These are a different beast all together (not ultra crispy or salty), but delicious nonetheless.