In honor of my lifelong food obsession and tendency to bring home a new and exciting ingredient from the grocery store every week, I have decided to create another series that I will [try to] feature weekly called “Ingredient of the Week.” With this series, I will post about any new food or favorite ingredient that I just can’t get enough of that week. I hope that these posts will not only get your stomach rumbling, but also expand your gastronome senses and give you some new chops to impress your family and friends with!
My first ingredient of the week for all of you is a commonly misidentified and overlooked food: the plantain!
My first REAL experience eating plantains was when I was on vacation in Barbados years ago. The house that my family and I stayed in came equipped with an amazing chef who was an adorably sweet and talented Bajan. Upon first meeting her, we had no idea that she would soon be making us some of the best food we’d ever eaten. It was absolutely ridiculous how much we looked forward to her meals on that trip. We would never know what kind of local ingredients would be served to us, just that every bite would be as delicious and fresh as the last. Even though all of our meals were perfect, my favorite dinner that we had there was served with fried plantains as a side. They looked and smelled mouthwatering when spooned onto our plates, but the taste of each mouthful was out of this world. Traditionally being a Latin American food, plantains were bound to make it on our menu once or twice that week, but after tasting these homemade ones, I wanted to have them for every meal. They were THAT good. Since we said our goodbyes to our fantastic staff and beautiful home in Barbados, I have become a die-hard fan of plantains. Unfortunately, my first experience with them made my taste for them very particular, and it is definitely difficult to find plantains in the U.S. that are even comparable in taste to the Bajan ones. The one place where I am almost always satisfied with the fried (or baked, as they say) plantains is the Whole Foods Market hot bar. Whenever they are available, I always load my plate with them to briefly bring me back to my days in paradise.
Now, if you haven’t had quite the introduction to plantains like I had, let me fill you in on this unique food. Predictably, I’ve discovered that many people who don’t identify as a “foodie” commonly think of the plantain as being another word to describe the banana. Sadly, the poor plantain is NOT the same as the common banana and often gets overlooked for being an “ugly banana” in the grocery store due to this food ignorance. While the banana is a sweet and creamy fruit that most of us love to eat with peanut butter, the plantain is a member of the banana family that is much starchier than the banana and more commonly used as a vegetable. Plantains look very similar to the regular banana, but are usually bigger and resemble the green bananas in the grocery stores. When plantains ripen, they darken to almost a black color, and while this may look off-putting, this is when they taste their very best.
One of my favorite things about plantains is that they taste different at every stage of development. For example, when the exterior is green to yellow in color, the flavor is very starchy and quite bland. However, when the peel turns dark brown or even black, the plantain will have a sweet flavor, similar to that of the regular banana. When most plantains are cooked at this stage, they may come out looking devilishly fattening and bad for you; however, without all of the butter and cooking oil, these little guys are actually chock full of healthy components! For a little rundown of what makes them nutritious, I have provided you with an informative chart below:
Caramelized Plantains via Whole Foods Market
Baked Plantains via Oprah.com
Turkey Picadillo Stuffed Sweet Plantains via Skinnytaste.com
Oven Baked “Fried” Plantains via Paleocurls.com
Hope everyone has a great Sunday! XOXO