The first time I ate a plantain was 30 years ago in the Dominican Republic, when I was in the Peace Corps. I was at a small roadside market when I first saw it—what looked to me like a super-sized yellow banana. It was difficult to peel, and when I finally bit into it, I didn’t like it at all. This super-sized banana seemed to me the sweetest, starchiest, and most intense banana ever.
Thirty years later, I can now say that I love plantains! I’ve learned to prepare them in many dishes, and I find them to be one of the most versatile foods out there. Definitely more so than a regular banana. They can be consumed green, yellow, brown or black; ripe or unripe; cooked or uncooked (but not very often); baked, fried, steamed, boiled or grilled. In fact, I eat them at least three times a week. To keep up with this craving, I’ve planted more than 50 trees in the Global Roots gardens. But don’t worry, you can also find them in many grocery stores in the U.S. Don’t let the brown or black ones intimidate you. They aren’t rotten, just very ripe and sweet. This is the best way to buy them if you want to bake them into “tortas.” But I’ll get to that soon enough!
As well as being a delicious and multi-talented fruit, plantains are also surprisingly nutritious. One cup of cooked plantains provides 36% of the recommended daily value for vitamins A and C, 27% for potassium (plantains are one of the most potassium-rich foods on the planet!), 24% for vitamin B6 and 16% for magnesium.
Don’t let the brown ones intimidate you. They aren’t rotten, just very ripe and sweet.
But how do you prepare them? There are so many ways, but for this article, I’d like to focus on five of my favorite dishes using ripe plantains (yellow, brown or black).
This is one of the easiest ways to prepare ripe plantains. I often have them this way for breakfast, topped with sliced avocado. All you need is a large pot filled with 6-8 cups of water and 2 teaspoons of salt. Bring the water to a boil. Meanwhile, wash the plantain and cut off its ends. Keep the rest of the peel on, for now. Once the water is boiling, slice the plantain in half and toss it in. Boil until you notice the plantain expanding from each side that you sliced off, as if it’s pushing out of its skin. Remove the plantain from the water and let sit for 10-15 minutes. Once it’s cooled, remove the skin and enjoy!
This is another very simple dish that’s easy to prepare. I love serving my plantains this way with Dominican Rice and Beans. I’d also encourage you to use at least 5 plantains when cooking them this way because they tend to go quickly.
First, preheat your oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Then, cut off the ends of your plantains. Once you’ve done that, slice through the skin from one end to the other. Make sure you’re only cutting through the skin! Make three cuts like this, along the length of the plantain on each side, and pull off the skin. Once you’ve removed the skin, cut the plantain in half and then slice it lengthwise into quarter-inch slices. Place these slices flat on a parchment-lined, non-stick baking sheet. Sprinkle with powdered cinnamon. Bake for 10 minutes. Flip and continue baking for another 10 minutes or until browned. Serve with your favorite dish.
I love the combination of the sweet flavor from the plantains mixed with the peanutty greens. First, prepare the plátanos maduros as described above. While the plátanos maduros are baking, prepare the Peanut Collard Greens. Serve the greens on top of the plátanos maduros and enjoy!
This loaf is moist, fluffy, and easy to make. It’s a bit stronger than banana bread and—like the boiled plantains above—makes for a great breakfast. I often serve it with fresh fruit and my favorite cup of ginger or passion fruit tea. Remember, the darker the plantains, the sweeter they are. If you use your ripest plantains for this recipe, you won’t need any sugar at all!
Baked sweet plantains sprinkled with cinnamon are a wonderful addition to green salads, especially when prepared with tomatoes, onions, black beans and guacamole. I generally like this salad without dressing, but I do squeeze a bit of lemon juice on top and add a bit of salt. In addition to this dish, I also like adding plátanos maduros to my kale salads.
Don’t be afraid to experiment with your plantains. Explore other ways to prepare and combine sweet plantains and comment below on what works best for you!
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