Plantain Answer
Plantains are native to India.  Many people think they are bananas.  They are a close relative to a banana but taste very different.  They are starchy and not sweet and in the Caribbean and other  African and Latin countries, they are used as a vegetable.  

They are used like potatoes and pasta.  You almost always have to buy them green.  Which is a good thing.  You can cook them while they are green, almost ripe and ripe.  So don’t  be afraid to get them.  

When the peel is yellow, the flavor of the flesh is bland and its texture is starchy and the flavor of the flesh is bland and starchy.

As the peel changes to brown or black, it has a sweeter flavor and more of a banana aroma, but still keeps a firm shape when cooked.

Nutrition Info is as follows:
1 cup mashed is 232 calories, 0g fat, 0mg chol, 10mg sodium, 62g carbs, 5g fiber, 28g sugar, 2g protein, 465mg potassium, 26mcg folate,  36% dv of Vitamin A, 36% dv (dietary value)  of Vitamin C and, 6% dv iron.  Oh come on, don’t you want to try some new vegetable, fruit, recipe, at least once a week?  You will love them.  I’ll periodically send out some recipes on this great vegetable.  

Selection and Care:   What state of ripeness you choose, depends upon how you plan to cook them.  Kept at room temperature they will slowly ripen and store for a considerable time.  Fully ripe black plantains should be firm, like bananas but not hard.  Do not use if they are squishy, moldy, hard or cracked.  Do not refrigerate plantains unless they are at the stage you wish to use them, or they will stop ripening.  Even when ripe, they will hold for awhile at room temperature.
Use and preparation:  Green plantains, which are very hard and starchy, have little banana flavor and no sweetness.  They are generally cooked in the same ways as potatoes.  They may be boiled or fried or added to soups and stews. They can be tricky to peel.  When they are not ripe you have to run your knife lengthwise in several lone cuts then slip your knife underneath each cut to pull the skin off.  Once you do it it is easy.  Yellow-ripe plantains are more tender but can be used in these same ways, and will have a creamier texture.  They can also be mashed, grilled or baked.  Black-ripe plantains are also delicious prepared in any of these methods but have a sweeter flavor and a banana aroma.  If you wish to peel the plantain before cooking, the way you go about it depends on its stage of ripeness.  Black-ripe fruit can usually be peeled as you would a banana.  Other fruit is usually washed, the ends trimmed and the fruit cut across in 2 to 4 sections.  The very thick, stiff peel is then cut lengthwise along its four ridges.  Remove each strip of skin, starting at a corner and pulling slightly crosswise, rather than down.   Remove woody fibers, if necessary with a paring knife.

 Plantain Baked in its Skin
For the simplest, most basic dish, plantain needs nothing more than to be baked in its skin like a potato.  Choose brown to black-ripe plantain for full flavor and softness.(below is a recipe using green plantains)  Rinse and dry as many plantain as needed, usually figuring on one medium sized fruit per person.  Trim off tips.  Cut a lengthwise slit in each fruit.  Set slit-side up in a foil-lined pan and bake in 375 degree F. oven until tender, about 40 minutes.  When it is baked, serve whole or separate in lengthwise strips along the natural seed divisions or slice crosswise in rounds or diagonals.  Serve with your favorite topping; butter, spices, lime juice, pan drippings or gravy, pineapple and brown sugar or nuts.
Grilled Plantains for 4

2 ripe yellow plantains, unpeeled, about 8-9 inches long
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
¼ teaspoon chile powder

split plantains lengthwise and then again crosswise to form four quarters each.  Combine melted butter, sugar, juice and chile powder in a small bowl.

Prepare a grill to medium-hot.  Brush cut sides of plantains with half of the melted butter mixture.  Place plantains cut side down on the grill until grill marks form, about 4 minutes.  Brush the cut sides again with the remaining butter mixture.  Grill the plantains until soft, about 5 minutes more.  Remove the plantains to plates and serve.  I like to spread a small “whosh” of fat-fat free caramel sauce, this is usually just a scan teaspoon with a dollop of fat-free cool whip.  Yum yum.  4 Points


Green plantains

FOR BAKED:  wash plantains.  Leave in skins and place on baking sheet in a preheated 350 degree oven.  Bake 35 to 40 minutes or until easily pierced with a fork  Remove from oven, split the skins and season with salt and pepper or if preferred with butter and brown sugar.

SAUTEED:  melt enough butter to coat the bottom of a heavy skillet.  Peel and slice plantains and arrange in skillet.  Saute slowly until golden.  The flavor is delicious just like this even without salt.
Plantain Soup 
3 semi-ripe plantains(yellow with 	6 cups chicken broth 
      some spots) 	1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 large carrot 	
Black pepper
1 tablespoon oil 	Salt
1/4 cup chopped onion 	
Cut ends from plantains and peel fruit.  Cut fruit into 1/2 inch thick slices.  Grate carrot and saute in oil, with onion until tender.  In heavy saucepan bring broth to boil with plantains and cumin, add onions and carrot.  Simmer, covered until plantains are very tender, 20 to 25 minutes.  In blender, puree mixture in batches until smooth.  Season with salt and pepper.  Makes 4 to 6 servings.
I’m working on a casserole that will include ground turkey and it looks delicious.  I’ll post in a few days.  

Plantain Answer
Thursday, March 23, 2006