One of the biggest challenges of being a private chef and food blogger is creating new exciting dishes. Normally, I get inspiration from browsing the farmer's market, eating at restaurants, and traveling. But alas, because of covid I haven't been able to do any of them. So I've been hitting cookbooks and magazines for ideas. The other day I saw a recipe for Cuban picadillo that caught my eye. I actually tried making picadillo many, many years ago and absolutely loved it. And then I forgot about it. So today I'm bringing it back but making it vegetarian. Here's my version of vegetarian Cuban picadillo bowls served with turmeric rice, and braised black beans. This may not be the most authentic recipe but boy is it damn good.
Vegetarian Cuban Picadillo Bowls
- 2 tbsp butter
- ¼ tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp cumin ground
- 1 cup rice
- 2 cups vegetable stock
Braised black beans
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 shallots minced
- 4 garlic cloves crushed
- 1 chile de arbol
- zest of 1 lime
- 28 ounces canned black beans drained and rinsed
- 2 cups vegetable stock
- 1 tsp coriander
- salt and pepper
- ¾ cup walnuts chopped
- 1 lb button mushrooms
- 3 tbsp oil divided
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 1 green bell pepper chopped
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tbsp cumin
- 2 tsp oregano dried
- ½ cup Spanish olives sliced
- ½ cup raisins
- 2 tbsp capers
- ½ cup vegetable stock
- salt and pepper
- ¼ cup cilantro chopped
- 2 tomatoes chopped
- lime wedges for serving
- Make the turmeric rice. Melt 2 tbsp butter in a medium pot over medium heat. Add the turmeric and cumin and saute for 30 seconds. Add the rice and toast for one minute, tossing to coat in the spices. Add the vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and continue to simmer for 15 minutes or until the liquid has evaporated and the rice is cooked.
- Meanwhile, braise the black beans. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a medium pot over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and garlic and saute for 1 minute or until the shallots are translucent. Add the chili de arbol, zest of 1 lime, black beans, vegetable stock, and coriander. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and continue to simmer for 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
- Prepare the vegetarian picadillo. Use a food processor to pulse the walnuts and mushrooms until coarsely chopped. You can also chop the ingredients by hand. Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large saute pan over high heat. Add the mushrooms and walnuts and cook until the mushrooms are browned, about 8 minutes. Transfer the mushroom mixture to a plate.
- In the same pan, heat another tablespoon of oil over medium heat. Add the onion and green bell pepper and saute until the vegetables have softened, about 4-5 minutes. Add back the mushrooms along with garlic, tomato paste, cumin, and oregano, stirring to coat.
- Add the olives, raisins, capers, and vegetable stock, stirring to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 10 minutes or until the liquid has evaporated. Season the picadillo with salt and pepper.
- Assemble the Cuban picadillo bowls. Portion the rice into 4 bowls and top with the beans and picadillo. Top with fresh chopped tomatoes and chopped cilantro. Serve with lime wedges if desired.
**Helpful tips and common mistakes
If you're unfamiliar with picadillo, it's a Latin American dish usually made from ground beef with a tomato-based sauce. There are many different variations, some spicy some not, some with potatoes or olives, and so on. Each region has its own twist. Today I'm going to go the Cuban route, adding raisins, olives, and capers to the mix. And, of course, we're making it vegetarian.
What can we use to replace the heartiness of beef? Mushrooms and walnuts! I actually used the combination for vegetarian carne asada tacos and absolutely loved it, so why not use it for vegetarian picadillo? The trick to getting the right texture is to finely chop the mushrooms and walnuts either through a food processor or by hand. Saute the mixture until it's nice and browned and then set it aside.
Now we have to build on the flavor for the picadillo. Saute the onion and pepper until softened, then add back the mushrooms and walnuts along with the garlic, cumin, tomato paste, and oregano.
Finish the vegetarian Cuban picadillo with the olives, raisins, capers, and vegetable stock, and let everything simmer. The flavors will meld and the sweet with savory will produce one lovely picadillo.
Picadillo is normally served with rice so I decided to prepare turmeric rice for the bowls. If you want to go an extra step, prepare the braised black beans as well. I used canned black beans to go the quicker route but you can substitute them with dried beans. Simmer the beans with vegetable stock seasoned with coriander, lime zest, garlic, shallots, and dried chili.
Assemble the vegetarian Cuban picadillo bowls with the turmeric rice, picadillo, and braised beans. Top them off with fresh cilantro and chopped tomatoes and you're ready to dig in!
I gotta say, I fell in love with this vegetarian picadillo. With ingredients like raisins, capers, olives, and walnuts, what's not to love? Full of flavor and healthy!
For more rice bowl inspiration check out these harissa chicken meatballs!