Thursday, June 4, 2009

Baked Plantains

Plantains are those monster bananas that you often see being sold next to the regular bananas. I love them because they are so versatile. When they are green they can be used like potatoes - boiled in stews or fried to chip form. When they are yellow, they have gained a little sweetness, but are still really firm and lend themselves well to recipes like this one. As they get blacker, they get softer and sweeter and are often used in dessert dishes.
For this recipe, you want to use plantains that are yellow with just a few spots. They are really hard to peel in the traditional way, so you want to score the peel down the length of the plantain with a knife and use the knife to pry it away from the fruit. Slice the plantain into 1/4 to 1/2 inch pieces and toss in a bag or bowl with olive oil and whatever spices you like. Some good ones to try are garlic powder, cumin, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper. I like a combination of the four spices - but go easy on the cayenne as it will give them quite a kick! Mix well and spread out on a baking pan lined with crumpled foil (the ridges help keep them from sticking) Bake for about 20 minutes in a 400 degree oven. Cool and enjoy! The result is a spicy-sweet, chewy banana that is great as a side dish with beans and rice or other Mexican and Caribbean dishes.
I actually let my plantains get too ripe this time, so I just tossed them with olive oil and cinnamon and used them as a topping for arroz con leche (rice pudding). You can make a simple version of this by reheating leftover rice with a little condensed milk or dulce de leche and dash of cinnamon or nutmeg - then top with the plantains and enjoy!

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