Some will say plantains, bananas …what’s the difference? Well, both of them belong to the Banana family however there are some differences. Plantains are starchier, contain less sugar than bananas and are much more versatile as a cooking ingredient – you can make both savory and sweet dishes with them. Both Green plantains as well as ripe yellow plantains are used widely in south indian and south american cuisines . Unlike bananas, plantains are typically cooked before consumption.
In terms of nutritional value, both bananas and plantains are equally good with some differences. Both are high in potassium, magnesium and iron. Bananas however have higher antioxidants as compared to plantains. But plantains have less sugar and low on the glycemic index scale and hence good for diabetic patients. For some folks though, plantains can cause flatulence or gas.
Since starting my Paleo diet 3 months ago, I have been having mostly smoothies for breakfast. But once in a while if I am really hungry and if I was lucky to have found a ripe plantain at the grocers, then I make ‘fried plantains’. Plantains are allowed on the Paleo diet because of the benefits mentioned above.
Plantains, both green and the ripe yellow ones are very common in Kerala cuisine. Come to think of it, Kerala might be the only state in India where plantains are grown abundantly. Plantain chips , which are nothing but green plantains peeled and thinly sliced and deep fried in coconut oil, are one of the specialty food items of Kerala. Plantain fritters are also a very common keralan food! And steamed ripe plantains are always an accompaniment to breakfast in the Malayalee household.
I have posted recipe for Kerala plantain fritters before. Today I just wanted to post this simple dish of fried plantains made by cooking them and pan frying them. I first had these in a resort when we were vacationing in Cancun. So this is really the Mexican way of making ripe plantains I think (not sure). Only variation I have done here is that I have used coconut oil to fry them and added maple syrup instead of refined sugar. This dish is so easy to make but is so tasty and makes a delicious and nutritious paleo breakfast!
Ripe plantains cooked and then lightly fried in coconut oil and served warm topped with maple syrup
1 Ripe plantain ( should be really yellow or black)
1 tbsp Coconut oil for frying
1 tbsp maple syrup
Place a cooking pot half filed with water and heat till the water begins to boil. Cut the plantain into two halves and place in the boiling water. Cover and cook on low heat for about 10 minutes or until the plantains are fully cooked and soft to touch.
Alternatively, you can steam the plantains in a steamer until soft.
Once cooked, peel the plantains and slice them into ½ inch thick rounds.
Heat a non stick cooking pan adding the coconut oil. When hot, add the plantain pieces (you may need to do so in batches) and lightly fry them flipping them once until they turn crispy on both sides (About 1 minute on each side)
Transfer to a serving dish and drizzle maple syrup on top!
Make sure you use only ripe yellow skinned plantains. If they are still pale yellow and seem hard, place them in a brown paper bag for a couple days before using!
I love Mexican food and vegetable quesadillas is one of my favorites. But since the traditional quesadillas has cheese as the major component and I have been avoiding dairy now, I had been missing out on this food for the last few months. But as they say- necessity is the mother of invention and I kept wondering what could be a good substitute for the cheese. Then one day as I picked up almond butter from Whole Foods the idea dawned on me. I couldn’t wait to try it. !
I tried it and it came out absolutely delicious.! I make this regularly now for lunch for myself along with a green smoothie. Yum.
Vegetable Quesadillas (Vegan Quesadillas)
Servings: Makes 6 wedges (about 2 servings when served with soup or smoothie)
Heat a saute pan and add the oil. When hot add the onions and sauté for about a minute on high. Next add the veggies except the mushrooms and cover with a lid and cook on low/medium heat for about 3-4 minutes until the veggies are steamed but still crisp. Add the mushrooms and stir fry for another 2 minutes on medium. Add the salt, chili pow and oregano. Turn heat off.
Heat a frying pan and brush it lightly with oil. Place a tortilla on it. Apply almond butter on half the tortilla. Spread the cooked veggies on top of this half. Spread almond butter on the other half and fold this half over the veggies. Flip carefully to cook on other side too for about 1 minute. Transfer to a plate and cut into wedges and serve with hot sauce. Repeat same with the other tortilla.
To cook authentic Mexican, you need ingredients that are authentic Mexican. I am sure you will agree. Reading about traditional Mexican recipes, I was noting down names of a lot of exotic spices, herbs, chillies, cheeses and was wondering where I could find them! I went to our local Whole Foods Market and did find a couple of the ingredients that I was looking for – for instance, dried corn husks for making tamales and also the ancho chillies. But they were a bit expensive! Then last Friday I asked my co-worker and my good friend Monica if she knew of any local Mexican grocers and as it turned out, I had asked the right person! You see..Monica maybe just 24 years old but she has visited about 15 countries! I think that’s where her maturity comes from. Anyways I digress … more about Monica at a later time 🙂 So we ran out at lunch time and Monica took me to this place – a market which probably looked very much like any local market in Mexico.! And this was in the heart of the city in Hartford downtown situated in a nondescript plaza. El Mercado is located on 704, Park street, Hartford, CT.
Once we managed to find a place to park on the busy street, we entered this store (a.k.a market) that looked like it stocked about anything and everything Mexican and or South American! There were hundreds of spices and herbs, variety of chillies and cheeses,exotic fruits like guava, jicama etc. I started gathering things and soon needed a cart to hold all my stuff. I was so glad Monica was with me – to converse with the ‘Spanish only’ speaking staff! My cart got full with spices like Hoja Santos, Mexican Oregano, Epazote and with other things like tomatillo, corn husk, queso fresco.
And last but not least one of my favorite fruits -Guavas – Just $2.99 for a pound! Finally I was done and Monica then walked me around the food stalls within the market that offered typical Mexican and other South American street food – we walked around for a few minutes looking at all the food and unable to decide what to choose since everything looked so good! We finally settled on tostadas, empanadas and some Colombian rice. We also got a side order of sweet fried plantains! The food was really delicious – simple and comforting! The tostadas were a play in textures – crispy shell on the outside topped with mashed black beans and chicken, shredded lettuce and some Mexican crema. The empanadas too were unlike any I had tasted ever – crispy on the outside and filled with a perfectly seasoned meat filling on the inside. These were so good that we had trouble finishing the Colombian rice although that was pretty good too! The sweet fried plantains were a perfect dessert! Yum!
Now for some details on the things I got…
Chile Poblanos: It is also called as chill para rellenar or chillies for stuffing. When ripened and dried, this chili is called Chile Ancho.
Chile Serrano: This chile is small – an average of 2 inches long and 1/2 inch wide. they can vary between hot and very hot. These chilled can be used in sauces as either raw or ‘as ado’ which means they are slightly charred and then crushed
Chipotles en Adobo: Chipotle chile is the jalapeño chile ripened to a deep red on the plant and then smoke dried. The adobo sauce has a smoky flavor and is made from ancho chillies
Epazote: The name of thous herb means ‘skunk’ and ‘dirty’ and apparently is descriptive of its ‘wild’ taste! This herb has been traditionally used for its medicinal properties – to expel gastrointestinal worms and for flatulence. Available in fresh or dried form.
Hoja Santos: This herb is used mainly in southern Mexico and used to flavor tamales, meat, fish. They are usually used fresh however dried leaves can also be used.
Tomate Verde: A disitinctive and indigenous ingredient in Mexican cooking is the green tomato also called as tomatillo in the US. These are either cooked in water or cooked on a griddle and charred slightly and ground into a sauce or added into other sauces.
OK now that I got so many ingredients, I have some serious cooking to do! So do watch out for my next post! 🙂 Btw, happy Cinco de Mayo. You can learn more about this festival and how it is more popular in the United States than it is in Mexico by reading this article on CNN.!
Want a quick and easy dip that is sure to please everyone at your party? You cannot go wrong with this one! This is easy and yet ‘dynamite’! Hot halopeno balanced with the sweetness of the roasted red peppers and mixed with creamy smooth avocado! It tastes best as a chunky dip – so even better right? No need to blend! LOL! 15 minutes is what it takes to make this one and it has become a mandatory dip at all my parties due to popular demand! I always make it at the fag end of all my cooking (for the party) as it hardly takes time plus that way it will stay fresh as the crowd starts pouring in!
Only one word of caution – Make a really big batch as everyone will be on this one and before you know it you will have an empty bowl! 🙂
1 small halopeno pepper, chopped fine (remove seeds if you cannot handle the heat)
1/2 of a medium red onion, finely chopped
1/2 of a medium tomato(vine red preferred), chopped fine
2 tbsp tomato salsa ( any store bought good brand )
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp red vine vinegar
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
1 tsp chipotle chilli seasoning (optional)
1 tsp medium hot taco sauce (optional)
handful of fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped
salt to taste
Heat oven to Broil setting.
Take a tray and line with Al foil. Take the red pepper and cut into half length wise and brush with oilve oil on all sides and place on the tray. Place the tray on the upper rack and broil for about 7-8 minutes. (After about 5 minutes turn the pepper to roast all sides)
Remove from oven and cover the red pepper with foil and set aside for a couple minutes.
Meanwhile, take a medium size bowl (could be your serving bowl for the dip) and add all the other ingredients (other than the red pepper). Then open the foil and chop the red pepper into small pieces and add that to the bowl too and mix well using a spoon.
Actually I thought about the title for a full 10 minutes.! Since this soup also has greens – in fact three different kinds of greens – beet greens, kale and spinach, I wanted to put that in too but hey it was turning out ridiculously long! I didn’t want people to be deterred by the title itself! 🙂 Anyways, what you call it is not important – what is really important is that this turned out to be one incredible soup! Such deliciousness obtained by simply combining the right ingredients.And so many healthful ingredients too!
Most Sunday nights are soup and bread nights for us and just as in any restaurant, the soup of the day (in our case nights) is based on what is left over in the refrigerator. Now I had a lot of greens in the fridge which I definitely wanted to use since that was one way of getting my kids to eat it. And black eyed peas was something I had been meaning to cook for a few weeks now. So I thought why not do a soup with them? As for sweet potato …now that just came about in a funny way…my son loves sweet potatoes and because they are so healthy I always bake him one for a quick side. So I took the sweet potato out thinking of baking it for him and then I just spontaneously decided to throw that in the soup pot as well. Turned out to be a wise decision – the chunky sweet potato pieces with the beans in a spicy soup was supremely delicious and very very comforting.! I am also bringing this healthy and wholesome soup to Fiesta Friday where this ‘simple ,delicious and healthy’ meal will be appreciated by many (I hope!) 🙂
1. Take a large stock pot with a tight fitting lid and heat the olive oil in it. When hot add the cumin seeds. Then add the onions and saute for about 2 minutes on medium heat until translucent. then add the garlic and the spices. saute for about 30 seconds.
2. then add the tomato and saute for 2-3 minutes until soft.
3. Next add the beans,the chopped greens and the sweet potato. Cover and cook for about 10 mins on low heat until the sweet potato is cooked. Then add the tomato sauce, oregano. And freshly roasted cumin powder. Then add the water. Check for seasoning. Add cilantro and put the heat off.
For tortilla strips:
Cut tortilla into strips. Bake in a foil lined tray in a preheated oven at 400 F for about 4-5 minutes until golden brown and crisp.
Serve soup warm garnished with avocado slices , cheese, lime wedges and tortilla strips!