What if you could be gluten and corn free, and still enjoy a tasty snack that don’t taste like cardboard?
What if you could find one food that can be both sweet and savory and used in such dishes depending whether it was ripe or not?
Look no further than..the plantain! Savory when used unripened and green, and sweet when ripe and yellow.
I first found out about plantains back in 2015 when I was changing my diet, kicking out gluten and corn, and suffering without carbs or knowing what to use to eat salsa or guac. Yes yes, I know one can’t live on carbs of course, and I in no way promote such a lifestyle, but I DO just adore plantains and can’t help myself when I see a stack of perfectly green plantains (or plantanoes as I affectionately call them) at the grocery store. I have introduced them to all my friends, and have been overjoyed with the fact that they are common in both Caribbean and Puerto Rican food (both of which I have been introduced to and have come to love since moving to Virginia).
Now like I said, you can eat them when they are green or yellow. Because they are a cousin of the banana, a lot of folks who arent familiar with them mistakenly believe that you eat them when they are fully ripe, and thus let them go to ruin before enjoying them. The truth is that they are perhaps BETTER when bright green than when they are ripe.
When they are bright green, they are quite hard and you have to use a knife to slit down the side after you cut the ends off, and peel the skins back by hand. Make sure you finger nails are short for this…as I’ve almost ripped nails off before since the skin can be quite tough and thick. Once freed from their chains, they look identical (and even kind of smell) like a banana. They are not soft or squishy, but hard, and are not sweet. In this condition, they are best used for savory dishes, for slicing thinly and frying on the stove top in butter, olive oil, coconut oil, lard, etc., and spicing with salt at minimum. Recently I have found that chili powder and garlic, along with umami flavors of mushroom powders (Trader Joes sells a good one, although not organic) is an excellent way to spice them up, but just simply using salt will do.
Now as they start to ripen the fruit starch will turn to sugar, and they will become sweeter, softer, and squishier as they turn from green to yellow then to brown. When they are in this state, you can use them in sweeter dishes, and it gives a different flavor.
However you prefer them is up to you, they are magical both in sweet and savory dishes. The fun is experimenting and seeing what you can do with them. Of course stove top frying as chips is my FAVORITE way to go, its simple and straight forward and a party pleaser, but I also love them in the Puerto Rican dish Mofongos, which is a type of a meat and vegetable stew serve with (or inside, depending how they are cooked) green or yellow cooked plantains.
Click HERE for a recipe I found on the web that looks delicious. I’ve tried making my own rendition, and eventually I’ll get it good and post it for you guys! Until then, take a look at this recipe (I do not recommend using vegetable oil as they are in this )
Also check out Yummly HERE for a ton of great recipes for plantains!
The only downside in all of this is that they can be hard to find. I usually hit up my local smells-like-dead-crabs international market, which is usually guaranteed to have green plantains. Whole Foods sometimes carries them too, but Whole Foods is too ‘white’ and doesn’t understand the necessity of having them GREEN and thinks like most caucasians that you want them ripe (aka yellow and brown). Boo. Oh well. My hometown of Mount Vernon Washington also has a small Co-Op that sometimes carries them, which amazes me. If only I wasn’t 3,000 miles away…At least I’ve got dead crab central for my plantain needs.