July 25, 2010
My worldwide bento lunch theme continues with Mexico.
The crumbly meat mixture is in fact picadillo, a ground meat filling used to stuff into things - peppers, tortillas, empanadas, etc. I made this one using the recipe from Elizabeth Lambert Ortiz's slim volume The Mexican Kitchen. It consists of fried up ground beef, onions and garlic, finely chopped green apple, tomatoes, pickled serrano peppers, raisins, cinnamon, ground cumin and black pepper. You can pretty much add as much of each ingredient as you want - I used one apple per one pound of meat, and just a small handful of raisins. It's very customizable. There is often a garnish of sliced almonds fried in butter, but I didn't have any, so I left mine plain, and stirred in a little cilantro instead.
The vegetably dish is the unimaginatively titled Green Lima Beans in Sauce (from the same book). I'm thinking of calling it ¡Hola Frijoles! It is delicious, and this coming from someone who was none-too-certain about the whole Lima Bean thing until very recently. I used frozen baby limas, and chucked them into a shallow sauce pan with a little water, a chopped onion, some garlic, and some tinned diced tomatoes. I added some chopped fresh jalapeños and stirred in a whole lot of cilantro. I cooked them, stirring frequently, until the water had evaporated and the tomatoes smudged down into a chunky sauce, which took about twenty minutes.
I was expecting a dish that was palatable but unremarkable (I restrained myself from adding cumin), but I had woefully underestimated the recipe. The flavour of the finished dish was surprisingly complex, and very, very Mexican tasting. It was an outstanding vegetable dish that stood up well to the rest of the meal, was good hot and cold, and re-heated beautifully for my bento the next day. (FYI, I do not heat food directly in my bento container, I use proper dishes. It's not safe to microwave the brand of bento boxes that I use.) I would recommend it to anyone, and especially to vegetarians wanting an interesting taco or tostada filling.
Finally, up at the top, you can see the edges of some homemade corn tortillas (recipe nominally also from the same book, except that I added a little lard, and a pinch of salt). I don't have a tortilla press, so I use my heavy, cast-iron frying pan to flatten them out, and that seems to work pretty well. I keep a small rolling pin on had to give them a quick go-over if they seem to need it, but usually they're fine.
More bentos to come...French, North American, (of course) Japanese, and many more! I'm in a zone.