Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Fun with Fusion

So I figured out exactly what kind of restaurant I would have, if I ever were to have such a thing. It'd be a fusion restaurant. I've been noticing a theme in my cooking that tends to center around spices and herbs. And lately I've been having a lot of fun combining spices & herbs in different styles and although sometimes it flops, when it works, it works really beautifully.

Last night I was thrilled with the results from combining the influences of Carribean, Thai and Mexican into the following dish which, I might add, made my pal Judith squeal with delight when she ate it for lunch today. Please don't be put off by making homemade salsa - not only will it make you a hit at parties, but it really adds something both subtle and delightful to this meal, and it's worth the energy spent.

This meal has two parts - a black bean and sweet potato stew and a coconut basmati rice pilaf - and features three recipes, because an essential ingredient in the stew is the homemade salsa. If you're feeling lazy or uninspired, you can use a jar of tomatillo salsa in a pinch, but it will be much, much better when you make it with your own two hands!

1. The Rice

2 cups basmati rice
4 cups water
Approximately 2/3 of a can of coconut milk
1 white onion, diced
2 - 3 cloves garlic
Approximately 1 tablespoon of finely minced ginger
1 finely minced jalapeno
a pinch or 3 of turmeric

I learned this technique of finishing rice pilaf in the oven from both Molly Katzen and Rick Bayless (and adapted these recipes as such).

Preheat your oven to 350 and bring a medium sized pot with the 4 cups water to a boil.

While that is happening, rince the rice until the water runs clear. When the water is boiling, add the rice and keep it at a nice rolling boil for about ten minutes or until the rice is partially soft but not completely done.

While this is happening, lightly sautee your onions in olive oil for a few minutes, and then add the garlic and peppers, and a light sprinkling of turmeric. Now take a moment to pause and just enjoy how good your kitchen smells!

Next, drain the rice and combine it with the sauteed onion mixture, salt to taste, and 2/3 can of coconut milk. Bake it in the oven, covered, for about 15 - 20 minutes, just until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is nice & tender. Now season to taste with salt.

2. The Salsa

You can make this in advance if you'd like. You'll need the following:

Approximately 3/4 lb. tomatillos
3 - 4 chipotle peppers in adobo
5 - 6 cloves garlic

Remove the outer papery skin on the tomatillos. Rinse them and roast them under a 400 degree flame until they are blackened - this will take about 10 - 15 minutes. Flip them and blacken the other side. Don't discard the juices - you'll want to add them to the salsa as well.

While the tomatillos are roasting, you can roast the garlic in a dry cast iron skillet on the stove. This takes about 10 - 15 minutes on each side with your flame on medium-high.

Cool the peppers and garlic completely and after peeling the garlic, put it and the tomatillos and juice in your food processor or mortar & pestle, along w/ your chipotle peppers and crush or pulse just till it's nice & chunky. You'll have much more than the half cup or so which this recipe requires, so be sure to have chips on hand cause you won't want to waste one drop!

3. The Stew

1 med. sized shallot, finely chopped
2 cans black beans (of course, it's better when you make them from scratch)
1 sweet potato
1 red bell pepper, finely diced
Zest of 1 lime
Couple squeezes of lime juice
Approximately 1/2 cup of the tomatillo salsa
Approximately 1/3 of a can of coconut milk

Optional garnishes:

Finely chopped cilantro
Thinly sliced scallions
A handful of perfectly ripe avocado chunks

Dice the sweet potato and lightly steam it for about 7 - 10 minutes or until nicely cooked but not too soft. Remove from heat and set aside.

Sautee the shallot over medium heat in a little bit of olive oil till it's lightly golden brown. Add the blackbeans and lime zest & juice and the remaining 1/3 can of coconut milk from the rice pilaf recipe. Now add the cooked sweet potatoes, the 1/2 cup salsa, and about 1/2 teaspoon salt. Heat it up but don't overcook it.

Serve a scoop of the stew over a bed of the coconut rice pilaf, and garnish with the avocado, green onions and cilantro, and a little extra tomatillo salsa, if you desire.

Recommended listening:

Los Lobos - Kiko
Lhasa - The Living Road


MissNoNo said...

stop counting how many times I look at your page.. whatever.

KnittyOtter said...

That looks really yummy. :D