Pastelón de Platano Maduro: Dominican Lasagna

Pastelón de Platano Maduro: Dominican Lasagna

Usually when I think of casseroles, I think of things like tuna, mayonnaise, cream of mushroom/chicken/celery/Satan soup… I can’t say I’ve ever heard the word “casserole” and thought “yum.”

(I probably just offended the entire Midwest and everyone who has ever been to a church picnic- my apologies.)

But every once in a while I’m reminded that there really are delicious dishes out there that are technically casseroles: Palestinian maqloubeh, Ashkenazi kugel, and this beauty known as pastelón. This is essentially Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic’s upgrade of lasagna; with alternating layers of ripe plantain, creamy cashew cheese and a lentil-walnut “ground beef” filling sautéed with onions, garlic and tomato sauce, it’s the ultimate combination of sweet and savory.

pastelon 1

Important note: there are two ways you can prepare the plantains: boiled and mashed or cut into thin strips and pan-fried. The mashed version gets spread into the pan in layers and the pan-fried version gets layered into the pan like lasagna noodles. It’s up to your preference.

Pastelon (Puerto Rican Lasagna)
photo from http://thenoshery.com/pastelon-sweet-plaintain-lasagna/
Masa-para-juju
photo from http://www.mycolombianrecipes.com/juju-green-plantain-and-cheese-balls

Yield: 7-9 servings

For the filling:

  • 1.5 cup raw walnuts, soaked for at least 2 hours or overnight, drained
  • 1.5 cup uncooked green or brown lentils
  • 3 cups water+ bouillon (I highly recommend this stuff and this stuff, both of which you can both find in many grocery stores) or 3 cups veggie broth
  • 2 yellow onions, diced
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 2 red bell peppers, diced
  • 3/4 cup raisins
  • 2.5 cups tomato sauce (from a jar is fine)
  • 1/3 cup sliced black olives (optional)

For the cashew cheese*:

  • 2 cups raw cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours or overnight, drained
  • juice of one large lemon
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt

For the plantains:

  • 6 ripe plantains
  • If pan-frying: Canola, soybean, vegetable or refined coconut oil
  • If mashing: 3 Tbsp vegan butter (Earth Balance, Miyoko’s, etc.) or olive oil
  • If mashing: 1 tsp salt for boiling
  • If mashing: Water for boiling

To garnish:

  • Chopped cilantro

 

  1. Cook your lentils. Throw the lentils into a covered pot on high heat with in 3 cups of broth or water with bouillon. Once the water is boiling, reduce the heat to medium and cook for about 20 minutes or until the lentils are tender but not mushy. Set aside to cool
  2. If mashing your plantains: peel them, chop them into large chunks and place them into a large pot of boiling water with 1tsp salt. Allow them to boil until they’re very soft and mash-able. Drain, mash in a large bowl with butter and 1tsp salt platano 2
  3. If pan-frying your plantains: Heat a large skillet or a griddle to medium-high. Peel your plantains, slice them in half and then into long, thin strips. Coat your skillet/griddle with a thin layer of oil and fry until they just begin to brown. Flip and repeat on the other side, adding a little more oil if necessary
  4. Make your cashew cheese: blend cashews, salt, water, lemon juice and olive oil in a blender or with an immersion blender. If you have a Vitamix, you may not need to add all that water, but if you have a mediocre blender you may need more water in order to get a smooth consistency
  5. In a food processor, pulse your walnuts until broken up into crumbles. Add your lentils and pulse until broken into crumbles as well
  6. Make your filling: Saute your onions like so until they’re golden-brown, then add your garlic. Once your garlic just begins to turn golden, add your bell peppers and saute until soft. Add the lentils, walnuts, tomato sauce, raisins, olives (optional) and mix thoroughly
  7. Grease a 9×13 casserole dish and preheat your oven to 375 (350 if your oven runs hot and/or you’re at lower altitude)
  8. Layer everything: Spread or layer a third of your plantains on the bottom of your pan. Cover with a third of the filling mixture. Spread or layer another third of your plantains on top of the filling, followed by half of your cashew cheese and another layer of filling. Add your final layer of plantains and top with the rest of your cashew cheese. Bake until golden-brown on top
  9. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve

*If you want a shortcut, you can use a storebought vegan cheese like Miyoko’s, Treeline, Kite Hill or Chao. Just don’t use Daiya because it will ruin your food.

pastelon 3

Misir Wat: Ethiopian Red Lentil Stew

Misir Wat: Ethiopian Red Lentil Stew

Some of the best and most historic vegan dishes in the world come from Ethiopian cuisine. Misir wat is a tale as old as time, and it’s one of my all-time favorite classics. It’s simple and inexpensive to make, yet so hearty and healthy and flavorful.

As you can see, the flatbread shown in the photo above is not the traditional injera that should be served with misir wat. Believe me, my stomach and I wish it were, but I would be lying to you if I said that I’ve ever made a good batch of injera in my life. Making decent injera in your standard American kitchen is extremely tricky business, so if you can’t get or make good injera yourself, I recommend that you substitute it with a flatbread of your choice. (For gluten-free folks looking to make some at home, this recipe is wonderful.) You could theoretically serve it over rice as well, but it really makes a big difference to have a good flatbread that you can use to both serve the stew on top of and scoop up bites with. If you want to be that guy trying to eat Ethiopian food with a fork or spoon, that’s on you. We all make our own life choices.

Yield: 8 Cups

  • 2.5 Cups red lentils, rinsed
  • 3 roma tomatoes, diced
  • 2 large yellow onions or roughly 2 cups of shallots, diced
  • 2.5 Tbsp Berbere spice (you can buy it online, at many Afro-centric international markets, at many Whole Foods stores for a trillion dollars, or you can make it yourself)
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced- not trash garlic
  • 4 cups water
  • 3 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  1. Heat a large pot on medium heat, adding no oil
  2. Add your onions and salt to the pan and saute them like so to get them golden-brown and caramelized. (Your olive oil gets added in once the excess water has been sweated out of the onions)
  3. Add your garlic and saute it until it’s also beginning to turn golden-brown
  4. Add your berbere spice and stir it in for about 15 seconds, allowing it to become fragrant
  5. Add your tomatoes, cover your pot and stir occasionally, allowing those tomatoes to really cook down and get saucy
  6. Add your lentils and water and cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are soft throughout. Add more water if needed. If you want to really be a pro, carefully allow the bottom layer of your lentils to start sticking to the pan and scalding, scraping them up and stirring just before they burn. Do this a few times- it will give the lentils a smooth texture and a rich, nutty flavor. Don’t worry about this if it sounds like too much.
  7. Taste and add more salt if desired. If would like to play around with adding more flavors at this point, you can squeeze in the juice of half a lemon, add a couple tablespoons of soy sauce/tamari/coconut aminos and/or worcestershire sauce, throw in a tablespoon of agave or other sweetener, and/or add in some bouillon. None of these additions are traditional or authentic at all, but they can give your stew a nice boost if you want.
  8. Serve with flatbread (ideally injera.) PSA: This dish keeps well and is great leftover.