Plantains! As soon as I had this dish in my head, I couldn’t stop thinking about how fun it would be to make plantains. I don’t think we use them, or explore Cubanish cuisine, nearly enough. Plantains can be hard to deal with – I only know how to cook them when they are ripe (and with plenty of oil) but as you’ll see below, a reader has let me know more about cooking them in their unripened state. I don’t cook this particular type of dish with them often because I have to a) find them ripe in the store – nigh impossible if you ask me – or b) buy one green, wait for several days, and suddenly it becomes the day when you will eat plantains. It’s not the easiest thing to do, but it is certainly worth it.
This dish was exactly what I hoped for. Sweet, spicy, and brightened with lime. We made it a while ago, and I decided to post about it today since I’ve been posting about sweets and booze pretty much the entire last week. I promise we eat other things. It just was a long holiday weekend, and I simply had to bake a lot.
So how do you find a ripe plantain, or know that your plantain is ripe? Here’s my rule of thumb: If the plantain were a banana, and it looks too ripe of a banana for you to want to eat it anymore (but maybe you can bake with it), then it is actually the ripeness you WANT in a plantain. It should be yellow and black, and mostly black. Definitely not mostly yellow and absolutely no green should be present on the peel (my favorite way to enjoy bananas is the first day they are yellow instead of green).
UPDATE: Reader Lynsey has advised me that you can use unripe plantains - in a totally different way! She writes: “Just wanted to let you know that plantains are also served in Latin cuisine when they are unripe and they are delicious! When they’re unripe they’re not sweet, so you can use them in different ways for a totally different flavor. Tostones are a great example – fried unripe plantains. We also make a great chicken soup with unripe plantains. They’re sort of used as a potato in the soup.” Thanks for the information and for reading, Lynsey!
Plantains are much starchier than a banana, so they’ll never feel like a ripe banana, even when they are ripe. Don’t let this worry you. Heat a big ol’ pad of butter and get cooking, because these unusual fruits are definitely worth the extra effort.
Here’s what you need:
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 medium white onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. coriander
1/2 tsp. cumin
Scant 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
Dash smoked paprika
1 (15 oz.) can black beans, undrained*
1/2 to 1 cup water
Dab of butter
1 plantain, chopped
Juice of 1 lime
2 cups cooked brown rice
Start by heating the oil in a large skillet. Add the onion and garlic, cooking until the onion is translucent and starting to brown.
Stir in the chili powder, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, and paprika. Add the entire can of black beans.
Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low. You will probably want to add 1/2 to 1 cup of water to make sure they stay saucy.
Meanwhile, heat the butter in a smaller skillet. Add the plantains and saute until they have a golden brown finish.
Serve the black beans and onions over rice, topping with plantains. Finally, squeeze the lime over top. I added the lime zest as well.
You may wish to add hot sauce, but this dish has a nice, low heat of its own. This dish was extremely lightly adapted from one of my favorite blogs, Food Fitness Fresh Air. Definitely check it out if you are into healthy veggie meals – it’s one that has been in my RSS feed for a really long time.