Thursday, March 3, 2016

Costa Rican Dinner

Out of the blue this morning, my son requested that we make today another “country-themed” day, and since I had been talking about Costa Rica as our next featured country, I decided to go with it. I didn’t have time to contact my Costa Rican friends (I have several) and ask for their recipes, so I did a quick Google search and came up with several similar recipes. Most websites included some variation of a delicious-looking breakfast dish called “gallo pinto,” or “spotted rooster.” This black beans and rice dish usually included onions and red bell peppers. I also found a wonderful recipe for “Costa Rican Tilapia” that was cooked over a similar beans and rice base, but which used tomatoes instead of bell peppers. Since my kids love bell peppers and are not fans of tomatoes, I decided to combine the recipes and came up with this dish, which I have dubbed “pescado pinto” (“spotted fish”). The full recipe is at the bottom of this entry.

The ingredients needed are relatively common: a red bell pepper, a couple of limes, some fresh parsley (or cilantro), an onion, long grain rice, canned black beans, minced garlic, olive oil, dried oregano, cayenne pepper, black pepper, salt, sugar, and some kind of white fish. 

The original recipe called for tilapia, but my grocery store didn’t have any, so I used haddock (it was on sale, plus I really like haddock). I’m sure cod or even bluefish would also work, just keep an eye on the cooking time for thicker fillets.

First, bring 1-1/2 cups of water to a boil with a pinch of salt and a little butter. Add ¾ cup rice and simmer (covered tightly) for 20 minutes. When cooked, leave covered to keep warm.

The fish needs to marinate for 15-30 minutes, so make the marinade while the rice is cooking. Make the marinade in a Tupperware or baking dish large enough to lay out your fish fillets in with not much overlap. Begin by juicing two limes: first, roll each lime on the counter, pressing hard with the heel of your hand. This softens the pulp and makes the juice easier to extract. Cut each lime in half and squeeze between your fingers. Get the last of the juice out by pressing each half hard against the bottom of the container. Remove any pits from the juice. (A little pulp is okay.)

Finely chop a few tablespoons of fresh parsley (or cilantro) and add to the marinade along with a tablespoon of olive oil, a teaspoon of minced garlic, ½ teaspoon salt, and a pinch of sugar. Mix well. 

Lay the fish in the marinade and spoon marinade over the top. Marinade in refrigerator or at room temperature for 15-30 minutes, turning fillets over halfway through. 

While fish is marinading and rice is cooking, prepare the bean mixture. Chop up a medium-sized onion to whatever fineness you prefer. Chop a red bell pepper into small pieces. Have you ever learned this trick to chopping bell peppers? It’s great! (It’s really handy when cutting up peppers for dip.)

Start by cutting off both ends of the pepper, so you have a kind of cylinder. 


Stand the cylinder on its end and cut around the core, separating it from the red part of the pepper. Then lay it on its side and slice from end to end so you can unroll it and pop out the core.


Next, slice the pepper into narrow strips and remove any remaining white pith. 

For this recipe, we want small pieces, so turn the strips sideways and chop. Remove the stem and chop the top and bottom that you removed, as well. 

Set the onion and pepper aside along with three teaspoons of minced garlic.

Open a can of black beans into a colander or sieve and rinse well. Allow to drain. 

In a large skillet, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, pepper, and garlic and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. 

Add the beans, along with two more tablespoons of chopped parsley (or cilantro), a teaspoon of dried oregano, ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper (scant or even omit this if you dislike spice – it’s not strong, but it is noticeable in the finished dish), a teaspoon of salt, and black pepper to taste. Cook for another 5 minutes or so, until heated through, stirring occasionally. 


When the rice is ready, spread it in a 8” or 9” square baking dish (if making more than two fillets, use a 9"x13" pan). Add the bean mixture and mix gently. Lay the fillets on top and pour excess marinade over all. 


Bake (uncovered) at 400 degrees for 16-20 minutes (thicker fillets may take a few extra minutes). Garnish with fresh parsley, if desired. 

Buen apetito!

1-1/2 cups water
1 Tblsp butter or margarine
¾ cup long grain rice (uncooked)
Juice of 2 fresh limes (~3 Tblsp)
3 Tblsp olive oil, divided
4 Tblsp chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
4 tsp minced garlic, divided
kosher salt
¼ tsp sugar
2 to 6 haddock (or cod or tilapia) fillets
1 medium onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 (15 oz.) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1 tsp dried oregano
½ tsp fresh ground black pepper
¼ tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
Add ½ tsp salt and the butter to the water and bring to a boil. Add rice; reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes, until water is fully absorbed. Keep warm until ready to use.
In a shallow dish large enough for all the fillets, combine lime juice, 1 Tblsp olive oil, 2 Tblsp parsely or cilantro, and 1 tsp minced garlic. Marinade fillets for 15-30 minutes, flipping over halfway through.
Heat the remaining olive oil in a large skillet. Saute onion, pepper, and remaining garlic for 5 minutes, until tender. Add black beans, oregano, cayenne, and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for an additional 5 minutes until heated through, stirring occasionally.
Place rice in baking dish large enough for fillets. Add bean mixture and blend together. Lay fillets on top and pour over excess marinade. Bake uncovered at 400 degrees for 16-20 minutes, until fish is fully cooked (thicker fillets may take a few extra minutes). 

Note: I used two half-pound fillets, which made two adult servings and two small children's servings, and there was enough rice left over for two additional servings. 

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