You know you've eyeballed them at the grocery store. They hang out in the produce section right next to the bananas. From time to time, might even be mistaken for bananas, but overly sized and sometimes rotten looking (black.) The plantain is a surprisingly versatile fruit that is as much a staple in tropical cultures as potatoes are to us Americans. Starring in roles from appetizers to desserts, this close call to a banana is much more starchy, less sweet, and is cooked before consuming.
A medium raw plantain provides 218 calories with no fat, and is a good source of fiber, potassium and Vitamins A, C and B6. The more ripe these fruits are the sweeter they tend to taste. Green/yellow color is the sign of an under ripeness and carry a bland flavor. Yellow and black appearances will yield a sweeter flesh more optimal for desserts. Latin, Caribbean, African, Asian and Indian are all cuisine styles that utilize plantains frequently. Dishes such as mangu (pureed plantains topped with sautéed onions,) pastelon (lasagna like dish made with plantains,) and Dodo (fried plantains paired with rice, beans or eggs) illustrate the versatility of this tropical fare.
If you want to introduce some culture into your home, try using plantains in lieu of potatoes, specifically in the form of chips! Plantain chips are becoming more popular in mainstream grocery stores, but currently are a common product in "health food markets." However, these crunchy little buggers (like most things) can be made in the comfort of your own kitchen!
- 1 large ripe plantain
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- Flavoring of choice: cumin, garlic, paprika, cayenne pepper
- Preheat oven to 300 degree F.
- Thinly slice plantain.
- Place slices in a bowl, combine with 1 T olive oil, and spices.
- Spray baking sheet with non stick spray or cover with parchment paper.
- Separate plantain slices on baking sheet and place in oven.
- Bake 30-45 minutes, until browned and crunchy.
Plantain chips can be enjoyed in place of potato chips, tortilla chips, or pretzels as vehicle for delicious dips and spreads!