Fun fact: the bananas we Americans normally eat are in some places called “dessert bananas.” So when we pick up a banana to eat, feeling self-righteous because we chose a fruit rather than a bag of potato chips, the choice is really (1) continue to feel self-righteous or (2) feel guilty because it’s dessert after all.
Solution: choose a plantain instead.
In completing my bucket list item “prepare and eat plantains” yesterday, I learned a lot about the genus Musa. Since plantains look like overgrown bananas, it is not surprising that plantains and bananas are closely related different species of the same genus.
Plantains grow in the tropical regions worldwide on trees that, like banana trees, are technically big herbs. They fruit all year long, which contributes to their being a major food staple in various parts of Africa, South and Central America, and the Caribbean islands. They are more starchy than dessert bananas and their nutritional value and preparation flexibility can be compared to that of potatoes (also like potatoes, plantains are not eaten raw).
The recipes I found for plantains quickly made it clear that not all plantains can be used in any dish—the fruit is used in different ways according to how ripe it is. The greenest plantains make the best chips, while the ripest, with completely black peels, are the sweetest and are often used in dessert dishes.
Uh oh, looks like we can’t eat plantains guilt-free after all. You have no doubt noticed that the word chips slipped in above in my first mention of a prepared plantain. The majority of plantain recipes seem to involve frying, and there are many, many ways to prepare fried plantain chips.
The recipe I chose to try involved frying the plantain not once, but twice–a common method that can result in thin chips or thicker patties called in some places tostones (because plantains are so widely used around the world, the same dish can have many names). Tostones can be eaten plain, with salt, or with an accompanying fried fish, or topped with something.
Here’s how they are made: cut a green plantain in chunks, peel the chunks and deep-fry them for a minute. Smash the partially cooked chucks into patties, then re-fry them for three minutes. That’s all there is to it!
I embellished my patties with a dollop of lobster salad and my test eaters and I finished every bit of the dish. The tostones were crunchy yet tender and had a mild, pleasant taste. Yummy, in fact, and I call completion of my list item “prepare and eat plantains” a success and even inspiring, since my recipe search turned up several plantain recipes that I’d like to try. The challenge might be to be patient enough to wait for a green plantain to turn black so that I can try one of those dessert plantain recipes!
See my Facebook page OutofWorkEditor for a photo documentary of making my tostones.