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Avocado Potato Salad

September 17th, 2011 § 1 comment § permalink

We were invited to a BBQ last weekend and I was asked to bring a potato salad.  Although I have an amazing “traditional” vegan potato salad recipe, I thought I’d stir the pot a little and try something with a twist – and what better time to make something up from my head than when it needs to be served to a group of near strangers!  Luckily (seriously, it could have gone either way), the results were really good and I had a few emails after the party asking for the recipe.

When something comes out of my head and onto my plate, I’m usually pretty critical about what I can do to improve it before it is blog-worthy.  Sometimes a little tweaking is required.  In the case of the potato salad recipe, the flavours were all there, it was the texture that I wanted to play with.

To me, flavour is # 1 of importance on the Good Recipe Scale (that’s a scale that I just made up in my head).  The flavour has to be there, or it’s not worth putting it in your mouth in my opinion.

Texture is a different story; somewhat.  I’m often willing to give a little in this area depending on what the recipe is.  Generally, when I think up a dish, I want my version to be as close to the “real” version as possible if it’s a simple “veganization”.  My vegan Caesar Salad is an excellent example of this.  It’s as close to the real thing in texture and flavour as possible – I dare you to tell the difference in a taste test!  On the other hand, there are also some things in vegan cooking that you just need to accept.  Meat substitutes are a great example of this (although it often baffles me if you choose to eat a vegan diet, why you would want something to taste and feel like meat in your mouth). If you’re not using soy products or wheat gluten as a meat substitute it’s not going to have the texture of meat.  That is just a fact of life. So, when it comes to that Mexican Bean Burger recipe we made up this summer (it’s one of my favourites), I’m ok if it feels more like beans in my mouth than beef!  It’s the flavours that won me over on that one.

Back to the potato salad!

I prefer the chunks of potato to be a bit larger in this salad than I would make them in a traditional potato salad.  The reason for this is the potatoes get lost with the other ingredients during the mixing and you could end up with something that looks more like guacamole, and is essentially mashed potatoes with guacamole flavours.  Tasty, but textually not optimal!

Serves:  8
Prep Time:  20 minutes
Cook Time:  10-15 minutes

12 small waxy style potatoes (about 2” in diameter)
2 ripe avocados
½ medium red onion, finely chopped
½ cup finely chopped cilantro
1 jalapeño pepper, finely diced and seeds removed
3 tbsp. olive oil
Juice of half a lime
1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Peel and half the potatoes.  Rinse and bring to a boil over high heat.   Boil until just tender (about 10-15 minutes).  Do not overcook.  Let the potatoes cool until they are comfortable to handle.  Cut the potato into bite sized chunks (about 2cm by 2cm).

Add the jalapeño, onion, and cilantro.  Salt the mixture (I used about 1 tsp).  You can adjust the salt at the end as well.

In another bowl, mash the avocados with the lime juice.  Add the olive oil and combine.
Gently combine the avocado mixture with the potato mixture  I like to do this with my hands.  Taste and adjust the salt and pepper.

Voila!  Avocado Potato Salad!  You might like to make a themed meal of it and try it with our Mexican Bean Burgers!

Frijoles Negros (Cuban Black Beans and Rice)

September 5th, 2011 § 5 comments § permalink

We were recently married in beautiful Cayo Santa Maria, Cuba at the Melia Las Dunas (which, by the way, we highly recommend – great resort with great food).  We had 17 guests and what we like to call a week long reception because there was nothing but fun to be had for the 7 days that our guests were with us.  It truly was one of the best experiences I have ever had in the Caribbean – and the ONLY way to get married in my opinion.

17 of our closest friends and family!

One of the other best experiences we had while at the resort was the Frijoles Negros, Cuban Black Beans and Rice.  Being vegan in Cuba was a bit of a challenge, and if I had been really smart (or had the time before we left) I probably should have prepared a little better and thought to bring more sources of vegan protein with me.  Alas, I didn’t (think or have the time before we left – although I’m pretty sure the thought crossed my mind and quickly passed) and therefore lived off this traditional Cuban dish for 14 days.

You would probably think I’d be sick of this dish by now (and maybe I am a little), but I will tell you this:  I love culinary challenges.  I thrive on them.  For me, rice has always been one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to cook (and I don’t get it because your average “non-cook” can do it with their eyes closed!).  I can saute, roast, flambe, broil, make a roux, thicken a sauce, julienne, dice, make my pasta the perfect al dente….but can I cook rice?  To save my life – NO!  It always turns out mushy or crunchy or just gross (in my opinion).  I follow the directions and measure the rice to water to salt ratio PERFECTLY and still I get yuck rice.

Ok, so not big deal because I don’t actually love rice.  I can live without it.  I love quinoa, barley, millet, the occasional cous cous, aborio rice (risotto) and many other great grains and starches.  There are lots of alternative grains that I can cook and love to eat that have kept me out of the rice cooking line of work!  But now that I’ve tasted another classic Caribbean rice and beans, it’s a challenge that I’m determined to overcome.

So what’s going to be different about this kitchen adventure that really should be one of the easiest things in the world to cook?  Our new rice cooker.  This may be my saving grace on the one thing that I have never been able to cook!  There was a recipe for Orleans Spicy Beans and Rice in the rice cooker cookbook, so I’ve just taken the rice to beans proportion of that recipe and added Cuban Frijoles Negros spices.  Here goes nothing!

Prep Time:  15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Serves:  4

1 15 oz can drained and rinsed black beans
1 cup long grain brown rice
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
2 tsp olive oil for sauteing
1 celery stalk, trimmed and diced
1/2 cup diced yellow onion
5-6 cloves fresh garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp oregano leaves
1/8 – 1/4 tsp dried chipotle pepper (optional)
1 bay leaf
6 Tbsp fresh minced cilantro for garnish
1 lime sliced in 6 wedges, to serve with the rice & bean

1.  Put Cuban guitar music in the CD player.  Very important.

So here’s what I did in the rice cooker.  If you are doing this stove-top, you would do exactly the same thing, but let the rice cook for about 30-40 minutes, until the stock has been absorbed) but really, lets be serious – what do I know about cooking rice!

Rice Cooker Method

2.  Place the olive oil in the rice cooker bowl, cover and turn on for 1 minute.  The covering part is quite important, because without the weight of the lid, the cooker will only turn to “warm mode”, at least on my rice cooker.  I’ve determined that the rice cooker works on a weight basis (that’s my theory anyway).

Add the onions and celery and stir to coat with the hot oil.  Cook for 3-4 minutes until the onions and celery are translucent.  Add the garlic and stir in the rice and spices.  Stir until the rice is opaque which will be about 3-4 minutes.  Throw in the bay leaf, the vegetable stock and the rinsed black beans.  Here my rice cooker turned to “warm mode” again, so I had to turn it back to cook (just be on the lookout for your cooker turning modes on you).  Cook until the rice cooker switches to warm.  It should be about 18 minutes all together from this point -but I don’t ask questions.  Rice cooker, you are the boss.

When the rice is done remove and discard the bay leaf.  Add the chopped cilantro and toss to combine.

Serve up hot with a Cuban beverage of your choice!  Now where did I put the rum…

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