Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Going Bananas

Sometimes you walk into the kitchen and you're just bored. Staring at the open refrigerator door or peering into the cupboard hoping something will pop out and say, play with me! These are the days when my slightly more outrageous ideas are born.

It was during that culinary ebb, that is late winter and early spring, when desparation grabbed hold of me. This time of year is a culinary wasteland when nothing is peaking and I tend to succumb to a meal of rice and beans and perhaps frozen spinach. I guess I was particularly ornery on that day, and just was not feeling my typical stand-bys. What I had on my counter were some plantains just starting to ripen. So, I was off. I started manipulating plantains and its close relative bananas.

Green and yellow plantains should be used in a savory application as the sugars in them have not yet developed. Though if you wish to ripen them place them in a bowl with an apple. The apple gives off a gas called, ethelyne, that facilitates the ripening process. Conversely, take your regular bananas and don't let them sit amongst your fruits to prevent them from browning too quickly.

Sautéed and Stewed Plantains - yields 6 to 8 servings

5 green plantains - under-ripe bananas can be substituted
1/2 cup canola Oil
2 tablespoon Sesame Oil
1 habenero chili - seeds removed and diced
4 cans diced tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
Salt and black pepper to taste

Cut a slit down two side of the plantains, and place the plantains in a bowl of cold water to soak for a half hour. This helps to remove the skin of the green plantains. Peel the plantains, and slice on the angle into 1/4" pieces. In a large sauté pan heat the oil, and fry the plantains in a single layer until golden or both sides. Remove from the pan and drain on paper towels. Smash the fried plantain with the bottom of a small sauté pan or mallet to flatten.

In a 2 quart sauce pan add the sesame oil, chilies, cinnamon, nutmeg and black pepper and cook for a minute. Be very careful not to let the spices burn. Immediately, pour the in the tomatoes, a 1 cup of water and plantains, and cook over a medium low heat covered for about 30 minutes. Watch the plantain as they may need some additional water depending on how dry they were. Correct seasoning and serve immediately.

Grilled Green Bananas - serves 6

3 under ripe bananas
3 teaspoons white vinegar
3 tablespoons curry powder
3 tablespoons sesame oil

Mix the vinegar, curry powder and oil together. Carefully peel the bananas down leaving the skin still attached at the base. Rub each banana with the curry paste, then carefully fold up the banana peel. Heat a grill pan to very hot, and cook the bananas about 10 minutes turning to blacken all sides. Serve hot.

Banana Pudding - yields approx 8 servings

1 can coconut
3 very ripe bananas - peeled and diced
1 pound firm tofu
1/4 cup honey
1 teaspoon orange zest
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

In a 2 cup sauce pan boil the coconut milk to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Let the coconut cook down by half. Then add the the bananas, and cook for five minutes.

Drain the tofu and place a food processor or blender along with the reduced coconut/bananas, honey, orange zest, cinnamon and vanilla. Process the mixture until very smooth. Pour the pudding into 10 cups (approx. 1/2 cup per serving). Refrigerate the pudding for 4 plus hours.

Serve with fresh berries.

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