Even before slow cookers were invented, Jews all around the world were making their slow-cooked meals out of necessity and in observance of Shabbat. And as it turns out, slow-cooked meals over a low flame are also incredibly delicious.
Jewish law prohibits the use of cooking on a flame during the Sabbath; therefore cholent (and its Sephardic cousins hamin and dafina) was born. Essentially, it is a stew — usually containing beef or poultry — that is braised slowly for many hours and then enjoyed as a warm meal on Shabbat.
Jews from every country have their own way to make it, and the ingredients vary. Typically, an inexpensive cut of beef is used; and the long cooking process breaks down the muscle fibers and connective tissue allowing the the meat to fall apart and melt in your mouth. There are also potatoes, sometimes barley or other type of grains. Here, I decided to embrace my South American roots and make a Latin-inspired, vegetarian version of this traditional dish. Not only do these flavors come together beautifully, but you don’t have to worry about breaking down any tough meat!
I used ripe (yellow-brown) plantains, batatas (sweet potatoes) and yuca along with a variety of beans — which are all starches that come to mind with Latin American cooking. You can certainly use the green plantains; just keep in mind that they take longer to cook. Also, the ripe plantains add a hint of sweetness that works well with the other earthy flavors.
While portobello mushrooms may not be Latin American, I added them for nutrition and a meatier depth of flavor. The squeeze of fresh lime before serving really brightens this dish and brings it to the next level.
Note: The less you cook this dish, the more texture will remain. Cooking longer will decrease the texture but increase the depth of flavor. Substitute parsley for cilantro if you’re not a fan of cilantro, but definitely don’t leave out the fresh lime — it really ties this dish together and makes it taste authentic.
- 1 portobello mushroom, diced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 onion, sliced
- ½ green pepper, sliced
- ½ red pepper, sliced
- 10.5 oz can of black beans, rinsed
- 10.5 oz can of garbanzo beans (chickpeas) rinsed
- 10.5 oz can of red kidney beans, rinsed
- ½ yuca, cut in 2-inch pieces (make sure to remove the fibrous stem that runs inside the center. It looks like a vine.)
- ½ batata, cut into medium dice
- 1 ripe plantain (choose one that is yellowish and has only a few black specks, or choose a green plantain)
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- 1 tsp oregano
- ½ tsp cumin
- 1 tsp ground coriander
- ½ tsp granulated garlic
- ½ tsp onion powder
- ¼ tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1 tsp salt (adjust seasoning as needed)
- 3 cups of fresh, cold water (it should barely cover your ingredients)
- Fresh lime for serving
- Cilantro, chopped for garnish
- Saute the portobello mushroom in a small saute pan until caramelized well. Add to the bottom of your slow cooker.
- Layer all the ingredients on top of the mushrooms.
- Mix the tomato paste, olive oil, spices and water in a bowl and stir well.
- Pour water and spice mixture over everything inside the slow cooker and combine.
- Cook on low for 6-8 hours.