Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Tasty Tuesday - Plantain Moqueca

I am so happy to be back to a relatively normal routine and being able to cook again.  I'm taking full advantage of it since I don't know how long I'll have a kitchen since we'll be in renovation mode soon. So here's a recipe I made this week for the Tasty Tuesday link up with Lean Lena.

I enjoyed my trip to Brazil but I was a little worried about the food since I know it tends to be a meat heavy cuisine.  I wasn't sure what I would be able to eat as a vegetarian.  Thankfully I never went even close to being hungry but there was one dish that really stood out and I knew I wanted to try to recreate it.

Moqueca is a traditional Brazilian fish stew.  One of the restaurants I had dinner at served a vegetarian version that used plantains instead of fish. Here is the description of moqueca from Wikipedia:  "Moqueca is a Brazilian recipe based on salt water fish stew in coconut milk, tomatoesonionsgarlic, coriander and some palm oil (dendê)." 
There are two versions, one from the state of Bahia and one from the state of Espírito Santo.  My understanding is the Bahia version has coconut milk and the other one doesn't. I looked at several recipes for vegetarian moqueca online but none really spoke to me or seemed similar to what I had in the restaurant. So I decided to experiment and make my own version.  It's not authentic but it is delicious! 
Makes 6 servings
4 ripe plantains
2 tbsp vegetable oil (it's traditionally palm oil but I didn't have any)
Crushed red pepper (The seasonings are all to taste since I was playing it by ear)
Smoked paprika
1 onion
1 bell pepper
3 cloves garlic (I used garlic powder but fresh garlic would definitely be better)
Chopped broccoli (I just threw this in because I had broccoli that needed to be used and the recipe is versatile enough to just add in veggies that you have on hand)
1 15 oz can of diced tomatoes
1 15 oz can of cannelini beans
1 15 oz can of light coconut milk
Juice of one lime
Chopped parsley (supposed to be cilantro but Mike hates it with a passion so I use parsley instead)
Salt and pepper to taste
I started out by chopping the plantains into approximately 1 inch thick slices and searing them on both sides for about 3 minutes on each side. You want them to be nice and carmelized. I actually did this the day before putting the rest of the stew together.

I heated up the vegetable oil in a large pot with crushed red pepper flakes and smoked paprika over a low heat to make kind of a flavored oil.  Next, I chopped the onions, peppers, and broccoli. The vegetables in the stew I had at the restaurant were fairly substantial sized pieces so I did the same. It was a rustic style dish. I sautéed the veggies in the flavored oil (the garlic would go in here too if you use fresh garlic) for about 5 minutes over medium heat. I then added the can of tomatoes and the beans. It looked like it needed more liquid so I filled the empty can of tomatoes with water and added that in as well.  I added in salt, pepper and garlic powder.  I brought it to a boil and let all of that stew together until the brocolli was tender, about 10-15 minutes. 
I turned the heat to low and added in the coconut milk and the plantains back in.  I cooked it on low heat and stirred until the plantains were heated through again.  I finished the dish with squeezing lime juice on it and throwing in chopped parsley. I served it with rice.

The dish was a hit with Mike and while it wasn't a perfect recreation of the restaurant dish, I definitely enjoyed it. Have you ever tried to recreate something you ate at a restaurant without a recipe?