Sunday, March 18, 2007

Beyond Cuban Rabbit Food

So, you're a Cuban-American and for some strange reason you've decided to either become a vegetarian, or as in my case, to cook Cuban dishes for you're vegetarian girlfriend. Now, aside from making Tostones, Yuca and Ensalada de Aguacate every time you cook/eat something Cuban, there has to be more to eat than just Cuban rabbit food. Bueno, I've been experimenting with tofu and seitan, and have come up with several workable dishes that I'll post weekly.

Here's the first basic and easiet one to do:

Vegetarian Congri:

Rice cooker

1 can of plain black or red beans (or one cup of dry beans soaked overnight in three cups of water and half a green pepper, which is then boiled and simmered the next day for 30 minutes.)

1 cup of rice

Vegetable broth

Bay Leaf

Goya Adobo (or Badia) season salt*

Olive oil

In the rice cooker add the rice and a tsp of olive oil. Mix until rice is completely coated. Add beans and use the empty can to measure one can of vegetable broth and add to mix with a bay leaf. Season to taste with Goya Adobo (or Badia) season salt. Turn on rice cooker and in about 45 minutes you'll have an amazing vegetarian congri.

*If you're don't have season salt available, or if you're eating low to no sodium you can season to taste with one part onion powder, 1/2 part garlic powder, 1/4 part oregano powder, 1/8 part cumin powder. Since I usually season without measuring, I can't really say how many teaspoons is each one. I just know the proportions from greatest to least.


machete said...

Nice suggestion.
My quasi-vegetarian fiancee (she eats seafood, bacon and sausage - and she's Jewish!!!) makes a fairly decent tofu chorizo. She's a nutritionist and personal trainer so everything she makes has a healthy slant.
Looking forward to this weekly feature.

Songuacassal said...

I Love it! A vegetarian Jew who eats bacon. Though I can completely understand, when my girlfriend asked me about my thoughts on vegetarianism I simply stated: "I eat pig."

Charlie Bravo said...

This is my recipe:

To make black beans soup use either canned black beans (believe me, you don’t want to eat them right out the can) or get about a pound of black beans and let them rest overnight in a pot, covered by water and then boil them for a good two hours until soft. Keep on coking them while you prepare the sofrito. Add about a tablespoon of salt to them, not more than that, because more salt is going to be needed during the process.
While you’re cooking the beans, you have to add water as needed, but at the same time excess s not a good thing, since you don’t want them to become watery.

First step is to make a sofrito:
Put some olive oil in a frying pan, cook some onions in it till they are transparent and soft, add some mashed garlic and stir until the garlic is golden. Add some chili flakes if you like it spicy, add some tomato paste or crushed tomatoes if desired.
There are as many recipes of sofrito as there are cooks, and you can add all you want to your sofrito according to taste.
In another pan (because they have different cooking temperatures, and therefore, different cooking speeds) put very little oil, and cook some stripes of red sweet pepper, until soft. Combine with the contents of the first pan and stir, put salt and pepper to taste.
Get about two ladlefuls of the beans and put them into the sofrito, stir well.
After having done that, pour the sofrito inside the pan where you’re cooking the beans, stir for a few minutes and taste. Add salt if needed.
Then pour a shot or dark rum, or more if you like it.
Add a spoonful of honey, or more, depending on the salt you have already added and depending on the taste. Stir to flavor the beans.
Turn off the heat, let them rest for about 10 minutes, and put some olive oil on the surface to finish them.
Serve with white rice and tostones, maduros or yucca.
This usually goes well with meats, pork and chicken. But we are talking vegetarian here.... Never serve black beans with seafood.

Black beans aren’t cooked with potatoes or meat, unless you’re Brazilian and you’re cooking feijoada, which is very similar to black beans soup.

Charlie Bravo said...

what I sent in is not congri, but black beans.
There's a good thing about it, use leftover blackbeans to transform a humble white rice dish into a freaking powerful congri, never forget or overlook the laurel or bay leaves!
Congri, do you know the story of the word?
The black American soldiers in the Spanish (Cuban) American war of 1898 (the one that ended the carnage which had become the second independence war) called "concrete" the concoction of black or red beans and white rice (or more or less white) that was served to them by the Cuban cooks in the mess tent; concrete sounded a lot like congri to the ears of the war heros (guajiros) who were in charge of the chow, and it really stuck in the psiquis of the Cuan people.

Songuacassal said...

Charlie! Thanks for the recipe! As always I bow to you Cuban epicurian prowlness. Hmmm, I always use laurel, so perhaps I have to recheck and update my post.

A crazy story is that I gave my girlfriend mi Abuela's traditional Congri recipe (that I could never do well -beans came out too hard.) And she made it right on the money minus the Bacon!

As for the origin of the word congri. Thanks for that story! It actually makes more sense and it fit's well with the story of Warhero. Another story I heard on the origin of Congri comes from the Hatian imigrants in Cuba who made "congo riz" (black beans and rice). I never accepted that story since traditionally Congri is with red beans.

Thanks, now I have a better story to tell the "latino's" here when they try to correct me by calling the dish: "Con gris."