Fried Green Bananas

Trucks regularly rumble through town, laden with giant green bananas. Usually there are a couple of guys perched at the very top of the heap calling out, “Verde, Verde!

plantains are often sold from the back of trucks

Plantains are often sold from the back of trucks (photo credit)

 

For a dollar you get about 10 or more of these green plantains or plátanos verdes. While  I quickly got used to seeing plantains for sale everywhere,  it took me a while to appreciate the extent to which they are a part of the local diet and even longer to learn how to cook with them myself.

boys selling plantains

 

Plantains are eaten more like a potato than their sweet counterpart, the banana. They are hard, starchy and require cooking before being eaten. When ripe, they yellow, become slightly sweet and are called maduros (“matures”).

Typical coastal Ecuadorian foods using plantain include empanadas, corviche, bolones de verde, bolones de maduro con queso, patacones, chifles, maduros con queso, maduros asados con sal prieta, torta de plátano, gato encerrado, and the list goes on and on.

PATACONES: smashed and fried green plantains that are typically served in seafood dishes

PATACONES: smashed and fried green plantains that are typically served in seafood dishes (photo credit and recipe)

 

Today, I’ll showcase the simple process of making empanadas de verde using photos I snapped while learning how to make them from some friends the other day.

 

Step 1: Boil green plantains in salted water for 30 min until soft

boiling plantains to make empanadas

Each plantain yields roughly two empanadas

 

Step 2: Mash and roll out the plantain “dough”

mashing the cooked plantain to make dough

Once mashed,  the plantain dough was balled into a log from which they cut off pieces to roll out.

The 1/2 inch PVC pipe make a surprisingly effective rolling pin!

The 1/2 inch PVC pipe makes for a surprisingly effective rolling pin!

 

Step 3: Cut out a circle and add your filling 

Using a small bowl to cut the dough into a circle

Using a small bowl to cut the dough into a circle

(shredded cheese or make a mixture of shredded chicken with mashed plantain)

Two filling options: shredded cheese (right) or a delicious mixture of shredded chicken with mashed plantain (center)

 

Step 4: Fold your circle in half and crimp the edges with a fork

Using a fork to close up the empanada

Using a fork to close up the empanada

 

Step 5: Fry ’em up

Fry until golden brown

Fry on each side until golden brown

 

Step 6: Enjoy with some fresh a (pronounced “Ah-HEE”, a hot sauce usually made with pickled veggies) and a cup of coffee.

Many lovely cooks in the kitchen (plus a hungry Batman)

Many lovely cooks in the kitchen (plus a hungry Batman)

 

Papaya Musings

Ecuador is a fruit lover’s paradise! One fruit that is available here year-round is the papaya, which Christopher Columbus supposedly referred to as the “fruit of the angels.”

 

Not only are ripe papayas deliciously sweet, with a smooth, buttery consistency but are a powerhouse of cancer-preventing antioxidants such vitamin C, vitamin A and vitamin E. Other important nutrients found in papayas are folate, potassium and magnesium. Together, these nutrients are known to promote cardiovascular health and protect against certain types of cancer, especially colon cancer. Papayas are heralded as an anti-aging fruit that is an anti-inflammatory, helps beautify skin and, according to some studies, may even enhance male fertility. So eat on up!

…except if you have a latex allergy. In that case, you might be allergic to the latex-like substance found in the papaya skin, especially when unripe.

***Suggestion: If you’ve tried papayas in the past and didn’t like the taste, try squeezing a little lime over it first.***

Nutritional value of a papaya. Taken from the World's Healthiest Foods website.

 

In our household, we love papayas and have several female trees in our yard that produce big, delicious fruits (~16 inches or so). We also have some male papaya trees which although they don’t fruit nor are required for the female trees to fruit, nevertheless produce flowers that attract hummingbirds, which we happen to have a view of right outside our kitchen window.

Papaya trees in our yard

The way we most commonly eat papayas is to simply cut it lengthwise, remove the seeds and then eat it directly with a spoon. While most people throw out the seeds, they are actually edible, have a peppery taste and can be used as a substitute for black peppercorns, eaten whole or blended in creamy salad dressings.

Our two-year old son probably likes papayas more than we do and currently refers to them as, “papapapa.” He also looks forward to the exciting process of knocking down a big, ripe fruit which requires one of us to bump it with a long stick while the other catches it below.

 

And to finish off this post, here’s a delicious papaya-mango salsa to serve on top of fresh grilled fish or chicken (recipe taken from Allrecipes.com):

From Allrecipes.com

Ingredients

  • 1 mango – peeled, seeded and diced
  • 1 papaya – peeled, seeded and diced
  • 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 avocado – peeled, pitted and diced
  • 1/2 sweet onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

In a medium bowl, mix mango, papaya, red bell pepper, avocado, sweet onion, cilantro, and balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper. Cover, and chill in the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before serving. Enjoy!