Have you ever seen those large bright green banana-looking things in the produce section of your supermarket and wondered what they are or what you’re supposed to do with them? For years, I passed by the piles of lovely plantains without a clue as to what I was missing.
I was introduced to Puerto Rican cooking a couple of years ago when a friend invited me over for stewed chicken, black beans, rice, and something she called tostones. When I asked about the tostones, she explained that they were fried plátanos. This explanation did not help me at all because it’s been a long time since my two years of Spanish classes in high school and I’m pretty sure I never knew the Spanish word for plantain in the first place. But even though I had never cooked with them, or even seen one peeled, I recognized the large green bananas on the counter and I realized that plátanos are what I had always known as plantains. I couldn’t wait to taste them because I was really clueless when it came to these things.
Plantains are a staple throughout the tropical regions of the world. Despite their similarities on the outside, plantains are a little different than their cousin, the banana. When green, the plantain is starchy and very firm without any sweetness. At this stage they have a neutral flavor and are commonly used much like a potato. But as they ripen, plantains turn from green to yellow then black and sweeten much like a banana. As you might have guessed, plantains are eaten like a vegetable when green and when ripe, they turn into dessert. Read the rest of this entry »