A Tropical Cuban Feast

While at work on Monday, I decided that I wanted to make something a little different for dinner. A creation all my own, that didn’t require exact measurement or concise portions. Because really, a girl has gotta live every once in a while. I wanted something hearty but fresh and fairly healthy. I started thinking about the protein for my dish and decided that shrimp would be the perfect low fat meat for the meal. But how to flavor them?

Then it hit me. A garlic lime marinade for a savory tropical punch. But how to cook them?

On a skewer of course. Chop up and add some pineapple, red bell pepper and red onion and baby, you got one colorful stick of food.

Then I really hit my stride with the side dishes, after confirming with a chef friend of mine that the ingredients I wanted to incorporate would in fact be complimentary. Fried plantains, black beans, and coconut rice sounded extremely mouth watering.

But first, the appetizer.

Navel oranges, with the peel cut off sprinkled with salt, pepper, and crushed red chili flakes. The combination is undeniable.

Start by cutting your oranges in half. Then to make them sit flat on a plate, slice the peel off the other end. Next cut the rest of the peel off in 5 strips, to make the orange a pentagon.

Put a DASH of salt, a sprinkle of pepper, and a few good pinches of red chili flakes.

Voila!

I would say 2 pieces (1 orange) is good for one person. Since it was just Matt and I, 2 full oranges were sufficient. Had to save room for the main course, of course.

The type of shrimp you want to use is up to you. I used fresh, uncooked, unpeeled shrimp. They were however de-veined, because I’m not down to deal with shrimp poop. Because I was going to be staking them my first task was removing the hard shell and tail. (Actually that was Matt’s first task, what a gentleman).

He turned this…

Into this!

This is about 1/2 pound of shrimp so to get a good marinade I used 4 limes and 4 cloves of minced garlic. Put it in a small bowl with a lid, shake it for just a minute and then let it sit.

My limes were a little hard – meaning that my little hands couldn’t extract all the citrus goodness out of them. Matt taught me a trick. Firmly roll the lime between your hand and the counter to pre-squeeze the juice inside. Then turn your lime on one end and press down on it to soften the ends as well. I probably got 2 times as much juice this way.

Moving on to the fresh produce! Cut your pineapple into 1 inch thick slices and then cut the outer skin off. Pentagons were my favorite shape a few nights ago I guess.

After all the icky skin was off I cut the fruit into pieces roughly the same size as the shrimp. Continuity is key, don’t you know?

Do the same for the bell peppers and onions. I chose red bell pepper for their sweetness, but if you prefer green, yellow, or orange those would be quite tasty as well.

I let my shrimp sit for about 20 minutes in the marinade, certainly let it sit longer if you desire. The lime flavor was DEFINITELY present in the finished product for me, so don’t worry if you don’t have time to soak them for longer.

Now for the fun stuff! Take your skewers, simple bamboo ones will do, and start layering your diced produce and shrimp. Then place ’em on your grill, or grill pan in my case.

I didn’t want to waste the lime juice and garlic so I just poured it over the skewers. Because the shrimp were curved, little bits of garlic got stuck in the spaces. Don’t turn the heat on until I tell you to. These kabobs only take a few minutes to cook so I saved them for last.

If we could just back up a minute, while your shrimp is marinating here are a few things you can do to keep yourself busy.

1. Make your coconut rice.

Start with 1 cup of rice

Add about a can and a half of coconut milk – unsweetened. I added about 2 tablespoons of sugar myself to make it sweet, but sugar moderation is up to you. Hence the unsweetened variety.

Pour, baby, pour.

Turn the heat on high and wait for it to boil. In which case it will look like this, I would say give it about 4 minutes.

MIX MIX MIX

Turn the heat down to low, cover with a lid and let it do its thing.

2. Get yourself another pot. Put a can of black beans in said pot. Turn the heat on to medium and cover.

3. Get out your plantains.

Peel them. Slice them. Length wise. Like so.

Slap those slices in a skillet with a drizzle of canola oil to lube the pan. Turn the heat on medium-high and wait for the absolutely intoxicating smell. Oh lord.

You can smell them from over there can’t you?

So at this point, you can turn on your grill with the shrimp.

When they look like this, plate them!

Ready for the final product?

I know I’m ready for a second helping.

The garlic lime marinated shrimp are succulent and go hand in hand with the juicy pineapple, the bell pepper adding just the right amount of crunch and the onion giving it the bite needed.

The rice. Coconut milk soaked to perfection. It was sticky and sweet and like an early dessert. A dash of cinnamon for some spice. WOW.

The plantain and black beans became one under the swirls of sour cream. (Luckys market, by the way, now sells Sunnyside Farm brand sour cream in an easy squeezable tube perfect for cream decoration – I think they knew I needed it). This was probably my favorite component of the whole meal. Simple and bold flavors. I used the slices of plantain as a chip almost and spread a layer of black bean and sour cream on top before popping it in my mouth.

This meal is definitely one that will be stuck on repeat for me.

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3 thoughts on “A Tropical Cuban Feast

  1. Hi Sweetie, it’s Momma! The recipe for your tropical cuban feast sounds delicious. Think I’ll try it for dinner on Friday night. It will be a fresh spin for a fish dinner during lent. Good job and sounds like your side kick Matt is a true asset in the kitchen!

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