Yield
Serves 10-12 as part of a big holiday dinner; 6-8 as a usual main dish. The recipe doubles easily, and it can be assembled a day before baking

Talk about a centerpiece dish, with the first slice this dome of dark glossy greens turns into pure Technicolor. You've got yellow and red peppers with tomatoes, corn in the form of hominy and black beans. In the taste department you've got shots of fresh lime and a new spice blend straight from the Caribbean.

Think of the timbale as an emblem of pure Americana — these foods are all about us. When this collection along with the Americas' potatoes, chocolate and vanilla landed in Europe, the earth moved. Never would Europe eat the same way again.

And know the timbale is vegan not by contrivance, but by the fact that so much of what was eaten in the Americas before 1492, contained little or no animal foods.

Cook to Cook: Don't be put off by all the steps. This is a dish you can build around your life rather than the other way around — at least up to a point.

The pepper tomato sauté needs to be done at least 1 and up to 2 days ahead so you can cash in on all its potential. It really opens up and mellows with the wait. Cook the collards early in the day, and assemble the timbale a couple of hours before baking. Just be sure the pepper-tomato sauté is warm when it goes into the casserole.

For the peppers, if possible do a mix of the usual bell peppers and the thinner fleshed, milder tasting peppers mentioned below.

Hominy looks like puffed corn kernels minus their skins. Find it in supermarkets and Latin American groceries.

Part of Lynne's Americana Thanksgiving

Ingredients

  • Good tasting extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, cut into ¼-inch dice
  • 2 large sweet bell peppers, 1 red, 1 yellow, cut into ½ inch dice
  • 4 long, thin-skinned sweet red or pale green peppers, such as Italian frying or sweet peppers, Marconi, banana, sweet Hungarian, or cubanelle, seeded and cut into ½-inch dice, (If not available, use 3 more large red bells, seeded and cut into ½-inch dice)
  • 1 to 3 fresh, moderately hot or hot chilies, seeded and fine chopped (optional)
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • juice of 2 large limes, divided
  • 3 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1-½ inch piece fresh ginger, minced
  • 1-½ tablespoons West Indies Spice Blend (see below)
  • 1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes and their liquid, crushed with your hands as they go into the pot, or pureed in a blender (do not use canned pureed tomatoes)
  • 1-½ cups cooked rice (½ cup raw)
  • 29-ounce can whole hominy/posole (a.k.a. maize blanco), rinsed and well drained

West Indies Spice Blend:

  • 1-½generous teaspoons whole allspice, or 2 teaspoons ground allspice
  • 1-½ teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon whole coriander seed, ground, or 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1-inch of cinnamon stick, broken, or 1 generous teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika
  • 1 generous tablespoon dry basil
  • ½ teaspoon dry thyme

Collard Greens:

  • 5 quarts boiling salted water in an 8-quart pot
  • 2 bunches (1-½ pounds) collard greens, center rib removed and leaves halved

The Greens:

  • 6 big handfuls your choice of salad greens (16 to 20 ounces)
  • Light dustings of coarse salt and fresh-ground black pepper
  • 4 to 6 tablespoons good tasting oil (extra-virgin olive oil, or walnut, almond or hazelnut oil)
  • 3 to 5 tablespoons vinegar (red wine, white wine, cognac, sherry or cider vinegar)
  • 1 cup craisins (dried, sweetened cranberries)

Assembling the Timbale:

  • 2 14-ounce cans black beans, rinsed and well drained

Instructions

Pepper-Tomato Sauté (Do this 1 to 2 days ahead for flavors to mellow):
  • 1. One to two days ahead make the pepper tomato sauté by filming the bottom of a 12-inch straight-sided sauté pan with olive oil and set it over medium-high heat. Once hot, use a wood spatula to stir in the onions, peppers, (chilies if using) and generous sprinklings of salt and pepper. Stir the mixture as you sautÈ it until the onions are starting to brown, 8 to 10 minutes.
  • 2. Blend in the juice of 1 lime, stirring up any glaze from the bottom of the pan and cook off the liquid over medium high heat. Then stir in the garlic, ginger, and spice blend. Cook a few seconds until fragrant and add the tomatoes. Simmer over medium-high, stirring often until the sauté is very thick and rich tasting (3 to 5 minutes). Blend in the rice and the hominy. Taste the mixture for seasoning, cool and refrigerate overnight, or up to 2 days.
  • 3. Up to 6 hours before baking, prepare the collards. Drop in the collard leaves and boil 8 to 10 minutes, uncovered, or until tender. With a long handled strainer carefully scoop up the leaves so they don't tear. Immediately put them under cold running water to stop their cooking and set their color. Gently spread them out on towels to absorb their excess moisture. With olive oil, generously oil the inside of 4-quart enameled-cast iron casserole, or of a 3-1/2 to 4-quart ovenproof bowl.
  • 4. Line the casserole or bowl with the cooked collard leaves, completely covering the bottom with overlapping pieces, and draping the rest of the leaves over the sides so they overlap and overhang it by 5 or 6 inches (you want enough overhang to completely cover the filled dish).
  • 5. About 90 minutes before serving preheat the oven to 400°F. Heat up the pepper-tomato mixture so it is hot, but not overcooking.
  • 6. Assemble the timbale by spreading half the pepper sauté over the bottom of the casserole or bowl. Spread the black beans over that, sprinkling them with the juice of the second lime and a little salt. Top with the rest of the pepper mixture and fold the collard greens over the casserole to cover it.
  • 7. With your fingers spread about 2 tablespoons olive oil to thoroughly moisten the greens. Sprinkle them with salt and bake 30 to 45 minutes, or until the casserole is bubbling around the edges, is hot at the center (test with an instant reading thermometer — it should be at about 150°F.).
  • 8. Remove the timbale from the oven and let rest 10 to 15 minutes (use this time to heat up other things in the oven). Run a knife around the edge of the casserole to loosen it, taking care not to tear the greens.
  • 9. To serve you have to unmold the timbale onto a serving plate. So place an oven proof serving plate atop the casserole. Using both hands and good heatproof pot holders, carefully upend the casserole onto the plate. Gently lift it off, making sure not to tear the greens. At this point I like to lightly salt the top of the timbale and run it under the broiler for a few minutes. The goal is glossy, crisp, nearly browned greens. Present the timbale at the table, then slice it into wedges.

West Indies Spice Blend

  • Makes about ⅓ and keeps in a cool, dark place 3 to 4 months
  • Spice blends are up there on my list of "must haves." They save time and they're inspiration for days when you're running on empty.
  • This blend has Caribbean written all over it and it practically radiates warmth with the allspice, ginger and cinnamon. If you want true heat, add chilies to taste.

     

    In this mix you've got the meeting of Africa's Berber spice and the Jerk seasonings of Jamaica. When you look at recipes for the two spice blends and consider how Africans were brought to the Caribbean, you have to wonder if the Berber may have been the long distance parent of the Jerk flavorings.

  • Cook to Cook:Flavors are best if whole spices are fresh ground (use a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle), but using pre-ground will not be a tragedy - the mix will still be fine.
  • 1. Combine all the seasonings in a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle and grind to a powder. If working with pre ground spices, merely blend together.
  • 2. Put in an airtight jar, label with the date and name of the blend and store away from light and heat.

The Greens

  • 1. Wash and thoroughly spin-dry the greens. Tear them into bite-size pieces, and pile into a big salad bowl.
  • 2. Just before serving, sprinkle the greens with salt and pepper. Drizzle with 3 tablespoons of oil and toss to barely coat the leaves. Then toss with 2 tablespoons of vinegar.
  • 3. Taste for balance. Add more oil, vinegar, salt, or pepper as needed, but use a light hand; you should still be able to taste the greens.
  • 4. Tossed salad waits for no man. Serve it while it's still standing up and saluting.