We were introduced to Cuban cuisine years ago when my husband did a two-year tour in Key West, FL. Wow! Talk about love at first bite. Although there were many delicious dishes to choose from (and I think I tried them all), my favorite meal was a simple plate of yellow rice with black beans and fried plantains. It was cheap, filling and most of all, delicious. A couple of years ago, I discovered a Cuban-styled vegetarian bowl on the menu at a neighborhood restaurant that serves healthy “fast” food (they also serve an awesome Cuban-influenced burrito called the “Che Guevara”). Not entirely the same thing as the rice, beans and plantains I got in Key West, but very delicious and healthy, and something I felt I could recreate at home
I used to make the bowls with chicken, back when Trader Joe’s sold a mojito simmer sauce, but when that disappeared I skipped the chicken and discovered the family enjoyed the bowls more without any meat. That’s not to say you couldn’t add meat or tofu if you wanted, but they’re a filling and healthy meal without it. If you want this recipe to be more “traditional,” use plantains instead of bananas. I suppose too that if I wanted to save even more I would prepare my own beans, but we love the taste and I like the convenience of Trader Joe’s Cuban-style black beans in a can for now, and they’re not a drain on the budget. Oh yes: this recipe totally fits in with my eating plan without any adjustments!
Ingredients: 3 cups uncooked brown rice; ground turmeric; 4-5 sweet potatoes; 2 15.5 oz cans Cuban-style black beans; pico de gallo salsa; bananas (optional); vegetable oil
Preheat oven to 400 degreees. Peel and cut sweet potatoes into 1.5″ cubes. Cook rice according to directions, adding a pinch of turmeric to make the rice yellow. While rice is cooking, place sweet potato cubes into a 9×13 pan, toss with 1-2 TBSP of vegetable oil, and roast in oven for about 30 minutes, or until tender. Heat beans. Cut bananas in half vertically, and then in half horizontally. In a non-stick skillet, heat 1-2 TBSP vegetable oil and fry banana slices until they are browned and tender.
To assemble bowls, place about 1.5 to 2 cups of cooked rice on the bottom of each bowl, then top with beans, sweet potatoes, and finally pico de gallo salsa. Add banana slices around the side of each bowl.
(I obviously didn’t use bananas when I took the above photo! We had some avocados that needed to get used and I thought they would taste good with everything else in the Cuban bowl–and they did!)