This is the month when seniors say goodbye to high school and start to dream of life in college. Some of my favorite memories of college are impromptu dinner parties, sharing good, simple, inexpensive food. This week’s dish of Caribbean-inspired, coconut milk-scented rice, black beans, plantains, avocado, mango, and a mango salsa would be perfect. It is easy to prepare and much more healthy and tasty than what you’ll probably find in the college cafeteria.
The mango salsa is moderately spicy, and you can use it for a wide variety of other meals, ranging from Mexican to Southeast Asian. The coconut rice reheats really well in the microwave, so you can make it a day in advance, or easily enjoy leftovers.
Plantains, of course, are in the banana family but are less sweet and more starchy. They are popular in much of the Caribbean and West Africa, as well as Guatemala. In this recipe I simply pan fry them to produce a delicious, slightly caramelized surface and a tender, creamy interior.
Coconut Rice with Black Beans, Plantains, and Mango Salsa
Vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free
For the rice:
2-1/4 cups basmati rice (3 standard rice-cooker cups)
1 13-oz. can coconut milk
For the sauce:
1 ripe mango, cubed
1 to 2 jalapeño or serrano pepper (or, if you are insane, some part of a habañero), seeded and roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
1/3 cup finely diced red onion
1 handful cilantro
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
For the dish:
2 Tbs. coconut oil or vegetable oil
2 ripe plantains, peeled and sliced into generous 1/4″-thick coins
2 cups cooked black beans, heated, seasoned with salt (or if you like, with garlic, onions, epazote, etc. as you please)
1 ripe avocado, sliced
1 mango, cubed
1 handful cilantro
Flaky sea salt
1 lime, cut into quarters
For the rice: Cook the rice in your usual way, on the stovetop or in a rice cooker, but replace one can’s worth of water with the coconut milk, then add in an extra 1/4 cup of water.
For the sauce: Roughly purée all ingredients in a mini food processor. Just 10 seconds or so should be sufficient, as you want to retain some texture. Taste and adjust seasoning.
To complete the dish: Warm your serving bowls or plates. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When it is shimmering, add the plantains in a single layer. Fry, until brown on one side, about 3 minutes. Flip and cook on the other side until browned and tender, about 2 more minutes. Sprinkle with kosher salt.
To serve, you may either divide the rice among four bowls and top with the plantains, beans, avocado, mango, cilantro and sauce, or serve all of the ingredients separately and let diners make their own. Pass the lime quarters to squeeze over the finished plate as desired.