Comforting and Versatile

Beef Picadillo is a traditional dish in Spain and many Latin American countries that is similar to hash. A Latin American and Caribbean favorite with many variations, picadillo has a savory-sweet ground beef and tomato filling that’s delicious wrapped in lettuce leaves. It is often served with rice or used as a filling in dishes such as tacos, savory pastries or croquettes. The name comes from the Spanish word picar, which means “to mince” or “to chop.”

Raisins are added toward the end, and they plump up beautifully in the sauce. For the olives, you may experiment with fancy and plain, but most chefs agree that pimento-stuffed green olives are best. To compensate for the fact that we had pitted green olives without the pimento, we added a chopped piquillo pepper to add a similar taste and color component.

The result is crazily comforting: an island dish that is warm though hardly spicy, at once slightly sweet and savory. It will fill your home with a mouthwatering aroma. Once you have your ingredients chopped, the whole meal comes together pretty fast.

Picadillo is also very versatile—you can eat the savory meat and vegetable mixture in burritos, tacos, empanadas, over spaghetti noodles, or stuffed in a bell pepper, the possibilities are endless. We thought it went well with the Mexican Rice and Beans side dish that follows.

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Ingredients

  • 3 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1-1/2 lb. lean ground beef
  • 1/3 cup dry red wine
  • 1 small yellow onion, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large hard-cooked eggs, finely chopped
  • 6 Tbs. chopped pimiento-stuffed green olives
  • 1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
  • 1 small head Boston lettuce, cored and leaves separated

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Heat the oil in a large skillet and add the ground beef; then add the wine, onion, and garlic.

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Siphon off any extra fat then add the tomatoes and raisins and simmer until the liquid has almost evaporated.

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Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the chopped eggs, olives, and cilantro.

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Mix everything together until well blended.

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Serve hot with the lettuce leaves for wrapping.

Directions

  1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the ground beef and cook, stirring occasionally and breaking up the meat with the edge of a spoon, until done, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the wine, onion, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the wine is almost evaporated, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the tomatoes and raisins and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has almost evaporated, 2 to 3 minutes. Season with 1-1/2 tsp. salt and a few grinds of pepper.
  4. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the chopped eggs, olives, and cilantro. Serve hot with the lettuce leaves for wrapping.

By Mark Scarbrough, Bruce Weinstein from Fine Cooking

Mexican Rice and Beans

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When cooked using the absorption method, medium-grain rice yields a tender, starchy, slightly creamy kernel that’s ideal for saucy rice dishes like this one.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup uncooked medium-grain white rice
  • 1 14-1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes (preferably “petite-cut”)
  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 6 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 medium fresh jalapeño, cored and finely chopped (if you like spicy foods, leave in the ribs and seeds; if not, remove them)
  • 1 15-oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tsp. kosher or fine sea salt
  • 2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh oregano leaves and tender stems
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems

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I found it easiest to drain the tomatoes directly over a 2-cup measuring cup.

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Stir-fry the garlic and jalapeño until the garlic browns and the jalapeño smells pungent.

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Next add the black beans, salt, cumin, and chili powder.

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Stir in the tomato juice and water mixture, bring to a boil and adjust the heat to maintain a gentle boil and cook the beans until they absorb much of the liquid.

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Add the tomatoes, oregano, cilantro.

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The skillet was too small to effectively mix all of the ingredients so I tossed it all into a large bowl.

Directions

  1. In a 1-quart saucepan, combine the rice with 2 cups cold water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and let the pan stand, covered, for another 5 minutes.
  2. While the rice steams, set a fine sieve in a bowl and drain the can of tomatoes. Pour the tomato juices into a 1-cup liquid measure. Add enough water to the tomato juices to equal 1 cup.
  3. Heat a 10- to 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Pour in the oil and stir-fry the garlic and jalapeño until the garlic browns and the jalapeño smells pungent, about 1 minute.
  4. Add the black beans, salt, cumin, and chili powder; stir two to three times to incorporate the mixture and cook the spices, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomato juice and water mixture and bring to a boil.
  5. Adjust the heat to maintain a gentle boil and cook, stirring occasionally, until the beans absorb much of the liquid, 5 to 7 minutes.
  6. Add the tomatoes, oregano, cilantro, and cooked rice and cook, stirring occasionally, until the rice is warm, 1 to 2 minutes. Serve immediately.

By Raghavan Iyer from Fine Cooking

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