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The Black River Stew

Posted Jul 10 2008 4:04pm
Ah, the tropics. What more can one desire as a vacation resort? The climate, humid but delightful. The natives, intriguing yet welcoming. The sights, breathtaking. The food - oh, the food. The food along the Caribbean coast and neighboring vicinities are mouthwatering in spite of their simplistic ingredients and cooking preparations. Usually fruit is combined with savory items, possibly spicy, to balance out and exchange a harmony of flavors. The sweet juices from the fruit tones down the spicy peppers - a method of cooking I’ve grown to adore.

I enjoy hot foods but sometimes even the pepper has an extra throat-kick. With the addition of mangoes and pineapples - typical fruits of the tropics - they dilute the potency of the chili ribs and seeds. Verdict: total complementation. This, however, isn’t for everyone. Some people have issues with overly sweet main courses and opt to consuming a mouthful of fire and brimstone. Hey, if that’s your thing, go ahead. Sometimes I even prefer eating that way. Regardless, I also enjoy foods that have that savory-sweet combination going, as in my stew.

This stew has several aspects, combining several flavors of the Caribbean while dipping into Brazilian tastes. In fact, I named this recipe after a famous attraction in Natal Brazil, Ponta Negra. It’s a stunning and beautiful beach, denying all translations of the name - Black River. On the other hand, my recipe lives up to the concept of Black River which is why I settled for such a title. As I stated, Brazilian cuisine shares characteristics with Jamaica and other tropical countries. They include fruit in their main courses and share similar spices. Black Bean stew is a national dish in Brazil, often including meat such as pork or beef. I chose fish because I - well - I wanted to. Feel free to adjust or modify the recipe according to your tastes. I’m most certain pork would compliment the flavors of the fruit; it generally does. The potato I used can be substituted with any you have on hand: all purpose, white, golden, red, and sweet. I thought the purple tubular would give more depth to the darkness of the liquid. You can use a different bean but the black beans are the color additive to the liquids. The entire point of the name and the stew is to have it black. Of course, you could add squid ink if you have access to it.

I chose swordfish since it’s a costal fish and it doesn’t have a profound-pungent flavor as some other fish can carry. Snapper, tuna, or other sturdy fish would suffice. I wouldn’t use delicate fish as mahi-mahi or tilapia unless that’s all you have. If you do, assure that it’s added at the very very end when you put in the mangoes to not have the flesh dissolve into the broth. Feel free to add more heat; I actually think it could have used another kick but that’s only because I’m immune to cayenne pepper. To me, cayenne tastes sweet. I would suggest jalapenos or habaneros for a real bite.

This stew gives the grill a break without having to suffer summer withdrawal with its warm chunks of succulent mango, the sweet nectar of coconut, tender fish flesh, and spicy aromatics.

A sincere capture of the Caribbean essence.

Ponta Negra Stew

4-6 oz swordfish fillet, cut into 1 inch chunks

½ cup black beans, cooked

1/3 cup onions, coarsely chopped

1 small potato, cut into 1 inch cubes

½ cup diced tomatoes, with juice

½ cup mixed green & red peppers (preferably), diced

¼ cup coconut milk

½ cup mango chunks

1 cup water

Garlic flakes, crushed

Ginger powder

Cayenne Pepper

Black Pepper

Coarse sea salt


All Spice

A splash of red wine vinegar

Fresh Cilantro leaves with extra for garnish

A splash of lime juice.

In a medium pan sprayed with nonstick cooking spray, sauté the onions and bell peppers until soft. Add the garlic flakes and tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes begin to break down and secret further juice. If the tomatoes don’t, add a little water. Add the potato chunks, coconut milk, and spices then simmer covered until the potato becomes fork tender. Judging by the size, it should take ten minutes to twelve minutes.

Next, add the beans, fish, and mango pieces and recover. Cook until the fish becomes tender and flaky, about ten minutes. After ten minutes, adjust the seasonings, stir in the fresh cilantro, vinegar, and lime juice.

Cover and let sit for five to ten minutes before serving - trust me. The flavors will then have more time to meld.

Serve upon a bed of hot rice or other grain of choice.

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