Monday, March 29, 2010


It's easy to get off on the wrong foot with plantains, or platanos. They're often sold in grocery stores next to their cousins - bananas - as they bear the close resemblance you'd expect from relatives. But even though they look like bananas, they don't act like them, and they'll let you down if you fail to understand their unique character.

For starters, they must be eaten cooked. Never raw. They're prized in Latino cultures not as quick fruit snacks, but for their versatility, their starchy, potato-like qualities, and their longevity on the kitchen counter. As plantains slowly ripen, they go through major personality changes. When hard and green, they're traditionally sliced and fried for tostones, or chips. As plantains turn yellow-brown, they can be cut into strips or chunks and pan- fried, or added to soups and stews. And when black and smelling faintly like banana, they become semi-sweet (but never as sweet as bananas) and can be baked whole or in halves like potatoes, boiled and mashed with garlic or sauce, or grilled.

Once they turn black, cook plantains within a few days. When you're in a hurry, cut the ends from yellow-brown or black plantains, cut into 2-inch chunks, put in a microwaveable dish, and add water to a depth of about ½ inch. Cover and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, or until creamy and evenly softened. Then peel, mash, and season as you wish. Plantains are tricky to peel before they're dead ripe and black. When they're green or yellow, rinse and slice off the tips, cut into about four sections, slit the tough peel lengthwise, and remove the peel in strips, pulling up and across rather than straight along the length.

The skins can be amazingly stubborn, so attack with a knife and cut them away if need be. Or, add unpeeled chunks of yellow-brown or black plantains to water, soup, or stew, simmer for at least 20 minutes, lift out the chunks, peel, and return them to the pot. How do you prepare plantains?
Kale and Plantain Soup
Serves 4-6
This hearty soup comes together quickly, making it a good choice for a weeknight supper. Substitute spinach or Swiss chard if you wish, and add beans for an extra protein boost.

1 pound kale
2 large yellow-brown plantains
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 jalapeno chilies, seeded and diced
3 garlic cloves, diced
2 tablespoons peeled, diced ginger
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 quarts chicken stock
4 scallions, thinly sliced

Strip the kale stems from the leaves and cut the leaves into ¼-inch strips.
Remove the tips from the plantains, cut them into 2-inch chunks, slit the peel lengthwise and remove it in strips. Then cut the chunks in half lengthwise and cut into slices.
Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium heat.
Add the chilies, garlic, and ginger and cook, stirring frequently, for about 2 minutes, or until fragrant.
Add the kale and salt, cover, and cook, stirring several times, until the kale wilts, about 10 minutes.
Add the plantains and broth, bring just to a boil, reduce the heat to medium, and cook for about 20 minutes, or until the plantains are tender.
Serve hot, garnished with scallions.

Recipe courtesy of the Latino Nutrition Coalition

Grilled Plantains with Molasses-Citrus Glaze
Serves 4-6
Use plantains that are black, and almost rotten looking, to experience the peak of their sweetness. Serve with chicken, seafood, or pork, or as a dessert.

4 tablespoons molasses
Juice of 3 oranges
4 tablespoons lime juice (from about 2 limes)
2 tablespoons dark rum
6 very ripe plantains (about 2 pounds)

Make the glaze: Combine the molasses, orange and lime juice, and rum in a small bowl. Do not peel the plantains. Slice them in half lengthwise. (The skin will serve as protection and allow the interior to cook through before the exterior scorches.)
Over a medium fire, place the plantains face down on the grill and cook for 2 minutes, or until the surface is well browned. Turn and cook them face up for another minute. Remove the plantains from the grill and either paint or spoon the sauce over them. Serve immediately.

Recipe from The Thrill of the Grill by Chris Schlesinger and John Willoughby (William Morrow and Company).

Monday, February 22, 2010

Healthy Starfruit deviled eggs

It's time to get the deviled egg plate out of the back of the cabinet, eggs are off the 'bad' list* with a little help from starfruit which makes great deviled eggs without any additional fat.
Rather than making 24 deviled eggs (1 dozen cut in half) out of the same recipe, I had some fun and mixed it up. I used starfruit in each but changed the herbs featured in each. So the recipes are for one egg each and are approximate. As you can tell by the photo, dill, oregano and mint were used.

Ingredients per hard boiled egg
1/4 teaspoon greek yogurt (with a pinch of sugar to taste)
1/4 teaspoon starfruit, chopped finely (drain if you like deviled eggs chunky)

for Starfruit oregano deviled eggs
add a pinch of fresh oregano
1/4 teaspoon dijon mustard

for Starfruit mint deviled eggs
add a squirt of Worchester sauce
add a pinch of fresh chopped mint

for Starfruit dill deviled eggs
add a pinch of fresh dill
add a squirt of lime juice

For all the eggs you are 'deviling', add the yogurt and starfruit.
Mix other ingredients as you desire.

*unless you have heart disease or high LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, doctors say you can safely eat one whole egg per day. Check with your doctor to see if eggs are still on your 'bad' list

Starfruit Thai salad

Unique and tantalizing Thai salad is easy to make. The starfruit, cucumber, spring onions and sensuous dressing make it a luxurious treat for dinner or potluck. Adding chicken brings the salad into entrée status.

1 cup chopped chicken breasts
1 cucumber, peeled and sliced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, lightly chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil, lightly chopped
3 spring onions, chopped
1 starfruit, sliced into stars

2 tablespoons sesame oil
2 tablespoons fresh lime
1 teaspoon sugar
1 clove garlic, minced

Combine salad ingredients in a large bowl and dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Just before serving, toss dressing and salad together.
Serves 4 as a salad or 2 for dinner

Starfruit Apple Crisp

A lot of crisp recipes make the crunchy topping the star of the dish, in this recipe starfruit and apples deliciously demand top billing. Baked fruit as a frequent dessert is always a nutritional winner when sugary toppings play a supporting role.


1 starfruit
4 apples (your choice) cored and sliced into chunks
3 tablespoons lime juice
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon culinary lavender (optional)
1 cup graham cracker crust
3 tablespoons melted butter

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Spray an 8x8 baking dish with non-stick cooking spray
Slice the starfruit into thin stars
In a large bowl, combine starfruit slices, apple chunks, lime juice, brown sugar, cinnamon and lavender.
In a medium bowl, combine graham cracker crust and butter with a fork until crumbly.
Add graham cracker mixture to fruit mixture, tossing to coat fruit evenly.
Bake for 45 minutes
Serve warm
6 servings

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Papaya Salsa Oriental

East meets South of the Border with this salsa. Kumquats are considered good luck by the Chinese. So add a little luck to an appetizer.

1 cup Caribbean Red papaya diced into tiny cubes
2 tablespoons chopped ginger
1/4 cup shallots chopped fine
1/2 cup kumquats chopped into tiny cubes with skins on*
1/4 cup fresh mint chopped
2 tablespoons lime juice

Combine all ingredients. Cover and refrigerate until chilled about 30 minutes.
Makes 3 cups
*you can substitute mandarin oranges

Papaya broccoli slaw

Who says 'slaw' has to be bland. Ditch the regular coleslaw and potato salad and make a jazzy veggie side dish that's quicker to make than it takes to stand at the deli getting the coleslaw weighed.

2 cups
Caribbean Red papaya sliced in Julienne strips
1 package broccoli slaw (found next to the bagged salads)
1 teaspoon hot sauce (try the brand from New Orleans for some jazz)
2 tablespoons white vinegar

Combine all ingredients. Refrigerate. Just before serving, toss to evenly coat.

Serves six.

Nutritional tips on tropical fruits and vegetables

Papaya-walnut crisp

We don't think of baking with papaya, but why not. This recipe is adapted from a recipe using canned apricots, Just what you need in the dead of winter to brighten your day, fruit that's been sitting in its own juice and preservatives. Nothing but fresh, if you're going to take the time and loving effort to bake. Caribbean Red papayas' lucious reddish pink color and tropical taste will make your day.

Cooking spray
1/2 cup quick-cooking oatmeal
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup granola
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons fat-free milk
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 Caribbean Red papaya chopped into 1/2" chunks
1 teaspoon almond extract

Spray 9x11 baking dish with nonstick spray
Combine oats, brown sugar, flour, granola and walnuts in a medium bowl. With a fork, cut in butter and gradually add the milk. Continue cutting with fork until mixture looks line coarse crumbs.
Mix sugar and giner in a medium bow. Add Caribbean Red papaya chunks and almond extract. Toss to coat.
Transfer papaya mixture to baking dish. Sprinkle with oat topping. Lightly spray top with nonstick spray.
Cook at 275 degrees for 45 minutes or until topping is crisp and begins to brown.
Top with your favorite ice cream or whipped topping. Top that with some tiny slices of uncooked papaya and taste the difference. There's not much.

Serves 6
Can be cooked in a slow cooker for 4 hours on low.
Serve warm

Nutritional tips on tropical fruits and vegetables

Berry, Berry Papaya Salad

It's a stiking contrast, the deep blue of berries and the luring pinkish red of Caribbean Red papaya. Easy to make with a honey lime dressing that almost makes this a dessert.

3 tablespoons lime juice
2 teaspoons honey
2 tablespoons ginger finely chopped
1 Caribbean Red papaya diced into 1/2" cubes
1/2 cup blueberries
1/2 cup blackberries
1 tablespoon mint leaves chopped

Combine the lime juice, honey and ginger in a small bow. Just before serving, combine all ingredients by tossing lightly.
Serves six

Nutritional tips on tropical fruits and vegetables

Papaya Winter Relish

If it's hearty food needed for winter's icy storms, why not add a bit of the Caribbean with a little papaya to a relish. It's easy to make, great to top fish, chicken or a string bean side dish.

1/4 cup white onion minced
1 cup ripe Caribbean Red papaya diced into tiny cubes
1/4 cup red bell pepper diced into tiny cubes
1/4 cup yellow squash diced into tiny cubes
1/4 cup fresh cilantro chopped finely
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lime juice

Combine ingredients, cover and refrigerate 2 hours before serving.
Makes 3 cups

Nutritional tips on tropical fruits and vegetables