You Wanna Be Americano Cuban 'Sup

Context: In the midst of baking a sweet potato for another trial version of potential wedding cake, the earthy-caramelized smell made me realize I wanted a sweet potato for dinner! So.... I rinsed off a couple more and threw them into the oven (baking at 350F) and an hour or so later began putting a Cuban-esque supper together.

Whilst cooking, I listened to every version of Tu Vuo Fa L'americano youtube has to offer, which is *entirely* the fault of the rendition I saw on Made in Chelsea (my one oh-so-sheepish reality TV pleasure, which I'm convinced I'd care not a smite about were I still *in* London, but as it is.... now it's my sugary escape).

The Stats:

Started heating up oil for plantains: 7:30pm 

Finished cooking/sat down to eat: 8:10pm

Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5 stars (on the would-I-make-for-company? scale)

Improvements: Red onion for the mango salsa. Perhaps something more interesting added to the black beans -- cumin? More salt. A bit of cilantro?

Americano Cuban Supper (Vegan)

consisting of:

Plantains

Black Beans

Mango Salsa

Sweet Potato

Tofu

Rice

Green Salad

Plantains:

Heated a drizzle (1 tsp?) of olive oil in a nonstick pan on med-high heat.

Sliced one very ripe ('twas black) plantain into 1/4 inch slices.

By the time I was done cutting the plantain, the oil was swishing around the pan nicely, so I arranged the slices atop the oil and gave them all a dusting of salt.

Basically, just waited and checked till they were nicely brown on one side and then flipped... adding another dusting of salt, then the tiniest sprinkling of cayenne pepper to the already-crispy face-up side.

Meanwhile... as that was cooking... 

Mango Salsa:

1 very ripe mango -- diced it into quarter inch cubes and put into a small glass bowl

then added:

juice of 3/4 of a lime (what I had in the fridge after using a slice to spike some Perrier!)

3 dashes fiery hot sauce (I use Marie Sharpe's from Belize)

1 T very finely sliced white onion

1 T chopped cilantro

1-2 dashes cumin

1/4 tsp sea salt

Voila! Then sat it aside to marinate (people will declare this the best part of your meal)

At this point, the plantains were done. I turned the stove down to low-med heat, just to keep them warm.

Now onto...

Black Beans:

Uber simple. This is hardly a recipe. I sliced up an 1/4 cup white onion (this onion was getting some multi-purpose use!) and threw the slices into a small saute pan with a little bit of oil.

Opened and rinsed a can of organic black beans.

When I smelled the onion cooking, I added a dash of salt, then emptied the can of beans into the pan for them to warm through. (You may want to add some more salt.)

Tofu:

Okay... Getting tofu right *takes time* -- and there are loads of variations, which produce different results. In this case, I wanted soft-ish textured tofu with a nice golden crispy salty crust on the outside. 

First, I warmed a drizzle of oil in a pan on medium-high heat.

As that warmed, I opened a block of very firm tofu and sliced about a quarter of it out of the container. Then sliced that creamy slab that was probably 4in x 2in x 2in into approximately 1/2 inch cubes. 

At the point when the oil was quite hot and sliding about, I gently placed the cubes into the pan. Now this is the important part that takes patience -- once the tofu is sitting in the pan, in the oil, I DON'T move them! They will be sitting there and I always wonder what is going on with them underneath, but I know I must just trust that something good is happening and wait. This waiting can seriously, can take, oh, I don't know, at least 7 minutes before that lovely little centimeter of golden crust is formed. So I started cleaning up and doing dishes while waiting (having moments during the cooking process for clean up is the bonus of things doing their own thing in their own time without your assistance!).

In my mind, overcooked, slightly burnt tofu is preferable to the squidgy undercooked tofu that seems to be, oh, I don't know, ubiquitously and slightly befuddlingly EVERYWHERE. (Why? Especially at good restaurants? Why?) So I probably waited 7 minutes, and if, when I turned it over to look, that crust hadn't formed, I let them be and waited another couple minutes. I sprinkled salt on top of the still-jiggling whiteness, as well as any that I'd turned since they were golden-y, and waited. When the crust had thoroughly formed and I flipped the tofu, I again, WAITED (though the other side never seems to take as long) for the crust to form on the other side... sprinkling some salt into the pan along the way.

Once the two sides of the tofu were crispy, I consider that the bare minimum -- and sometimes I will serve that way, but today I turned the tofu so that *each side* spent a bit of time in contact with the hot pan. You can do the two-sided golden sandwich-board tofu, but I prefer nice all-around crispy cubes... But that's me...

Anyway! At this point... dinner was basically done. I served the baked sweet potato with the plantains, tofu, black beans, as well as with some rice (I almost always have cooked rice on-hand thanks to an Ayurveda mung bean & rice balancing/grounding cleanse I did that made me *addicted* to the stuff... ) and green salad... oh, and of course the mango salsa as well as the embarrassingly-large jar of Pace picante sauce from Costco I have on hand. 

When I present people with a load of different dishes like this, they invariably ask me "So.... how are we supposed to eat this?" And I always say, "However you want!"

Mix, match... have fun.....! Or if you wanna be more Americano... tell them..... Whiskey! Soda! Rock & roll!

Dobrou chut! x