Vegetable Salad (Serenata)

[Un]Happy Krampusnacht! Since it’s a holiday, I chose to post a salad with a festive name: serenata (serenade, as a the serenade of flavors). This dish is part of La Cocina de Leslie’s Food of the Month Club. Be sure to check out all the side dish submissions December 15.

Vegetable Salad (Serenata)

Choose two or more of these (1 lb. each, boiled and diced): green banana, plantain, yuca, yautía, malanga, potato, batata boniato, breadfruit, yam (ñame), common sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas), pumpkin, and/or squash (The most commonly used for serenata are potatoes and yuca, in which case you would use 1 lb. of red potatoes and 1 lb. or yuca. I used 1 lb. russet potato and 1 lb. common sweet potato.)

Basic vinaigrette

Spanish sweet onion 1 large: peeled

Red bell peppers 2, washed, stemmed, and seeded

Cherry or grape tomatoes, washed 26

Avocado 2, diced

1. In a blender, blend the vinaigrette with the onion and bell pepper. Use that as the salad dressing. If the taste if too strong for you (it is for me), mix it with 1 cup of mayonnaise or vegan mayonnaise.

2. Stir dressing immediately before serving.

Salad DressingRoot Vegetable Salad


Plantain Casserole (Pastelón de Plátano)

This dish is consumed on Thanksgiving in Puerto Rico. It’s a Creolized (Puerto Rican-ized) version of two of the dishes common at American Thanksgiving dinners: lasagna and green bean casserole. The lasagna ‘noodles’ are plantains. I made it for my Caribbean Society & Culture class, and it was very well received by my Caribbean and non-Caribbean peers.

To divide the different foods by a layer of plantains, you need 2 layers of plantain. You may also want an additional layer on the top and on the bottom. If you only want to use one layer, place it on the very top so you you tell when the plantains (which take the longest to cook) are done. The layer that I would most recommend omitting is the bottom one (only if you’re using meat), in case any grease comes out of the meat; though, there won’t be much grease, since the meat will be cooked before it’s placed in the casserole.

Plantain Casserole (Pastelón de Plátano)

Plantains, ripe and peeled (Determine the amount of plantains based on this: for a baking dish that is 9 inches high and 13 inches long, you need 5 plantains for each layer of plantains.)

Asiago, mozzarella, parmigiano (parmesan), pecorino, or provolone cheese (For a 9 by 13 inch baking dish, you want 1 1/2 cups or 12 oz. of cheese for each layer of plantains. Shredded cheese is easier to use than sliced. Traditionally mozzarella or parmigiano are used.)

Spanish sweet onion 1 large, peeled

Garlic 3 cloves, peeled

Green bell pepper 1, washed, stemmed, and seeded

Cilantro 1/2 cup, washed and coarsely chopped

Any vegetables that hold up well when baked 1 lb. OR ground meat 1 lb. (Ground beef is most common, but if you’re making this for Thanksgiving, you may want to use ground turkey.)

Green beans 1 cup or 8 oz., washed and tips cut

Corn 1 cup or 8 oz.

Butter or corn oil, for greasing

1. Slice the plantains lengthwise (in half, sideways).

2. Puree onion, garlic, bell pepper, and cilantro.

3. If using meat, set stove to medium and cook until browned. Season it, if desired. Drain the grease.

4. Grease baking dish and preheat oven to 350°F.

5. Layer the plantains, vegetables or meat, corn, and green beans. Pour vegetable puree on top of the green beans. Sprinkle cheese on top of each layer of plantains. If you don’t want to use a lot of cheese, just sprinkle it on the top of the casserole.

6. Bake until the cheese starts to brown and the plantains are soft enough inside to eat (the outside will be harder). In my oven, it took 30 minutes.