We’re just about hitting my favorite food time of year. Yes, I have a favorite food time of the year. On the one hand, September is when there’s lots of delicious summer produce available. We haven’t really hit fall temperatures yet, so I’m still all about summery flavors too. On the other hand, summer is winding down. Daylight is waning, things have cooled off just a tad, and I’m starting to get really excited about cooking. So I’ve pretty much got a best of both worlds kind of thing going on, food-wise.
This is a perfect example of an ideal September dish in my kitchen. It’s cozy, comforting, but still features summery ingredients and flavors.
In case you aren’t familiar, moqueca is a Brazilian stew, normally featuring fish in a coconut-lime base. The thing that’s nice about a coconut-lime base is that all kinds of stuff tastes good in it, so creating a meatless version didn’t seem like it would be all that difficult. With summer veggies still being abundant, I opted to go with zucchini and bell peppers, and that’s what I did for my initial take on the dish. There was still something missing though. I needed some bulk and a predominant flavor. That’s where plantains came in.
You’ll actually find plantains in some authentic versions of moqueca, so it’s nice to know that my vegan version isn’t too much of a stretch. The plantains added just the right amount of sweetness to counterbalance the zip from the lime juice. Look for plantains that are yellow with some brown spots – this means they’re ripe. If you’ve never cooked with plantains before, this is a great dish to try out, because all you have to do is peel, chop and throw them in.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion diced
- 1 medium red bell pepper diced
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 1 hot chili pepper such as a fresno or jalapeño (optional)
- 1 14-ounce can coconut milk
- 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
- 2 ripe plantains cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1 medium zucchini chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro plus extra for serving
- ¼ cup chopped scallions about 1 medium or 2 small scallions
- Cooked rice for serving
- Coat the bottom of a medium pot with olive oil and place it over medium heat. Add the onion and bell pepper. Sauté until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.
- While the onions and bell peppers cook, carefully seed and mince half of your chili pepper, if using. Slice the other half into rounds and save for serving. Add the minced chili pepper and garlic to the pot. Sauté about 1 minute more, until fragrant.
- Add the coconut milk, tomatoes, lime juice and paprika to the pot. Raise the heat and bring to a simmer. Lower the heat and allow to simmer, uncovered, for about 5 minutes. Add the plantains and continue simmering for 5 minutes more, stirring occasionally. Add zucchini to the pot and continue simmering until zucchini and plantains are fork tender, but not yet mushy, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then stir in the cilantro and scallions.
- Divide the rice into bowls and top with the stew. Sprinkle with additional cilantro and garnish with hot pepper slices, if desired. Serve.