Do you know what these are? Raise your hand.
If you said “Plantains”, you are right.
My oldest brother (aka brother from another mother), however, did not know this.
Phil told me he once bought plantains, thinking they were bananas, and tried to eat one raw. His reaction was not pleasant. I laughed.
Okay, I know plantains look like giant bananas with a tougher skin and a slightly different shape and slightly different coloring and they’re harder to peel… Okay, no, I’m sorry. The photo above may be deceiving but plantains look like ugly Hulk bananas, and if you buy plantains thinking you’re getting sweet, delicious fruit, you has a little bit of teh dumb. Sorry, Phil, I don’t care if they were mixed with the bananas. :p
(Well, I guess it’s not all his fault. He is from Jersey…)
He didn’t believe me when I said that if COOKED, plantains are yum-tastic. So I bought plantains out of spite because I’m evil.
Thing about plantains, is that even though they look similar to bananas, you have to deal with them more like potatoes or pumpkin, depending on how ripe they are. When they’re green, they act more like a root vegetable. You can fry them up like chips or boil and mash them. When they’re in their riper stage, you can bake, grill, saute, etc., and you’ll get a soft, sweet and savory treat.
And then you can eat as is. Or…
You can make plantain gnocchi.
Jesus, now I have to explain gnocchi. Lolz, just kidding. Gnocchi is an Italian dumpling. It’s traditionally based on potatoes, but common variations include sweet potato and pumpkin. The cooked potato mash (or whatever) is mixed with some egg, flour and/or cheese, and dropped into a pot of boiling water. When it floats to the top, you’re done. Serve with some kind of sauce, and you got a nice comfort food meal.
I don’t know why or how I decided to to make plantain gnocchi. It just felt right.
Plantain Gnocchi with Peas and Coconut-Lime-Mint sauce
For the gnocchi:
2 medium ripe plantains (yellow and black in color)
spices to flavor the gnocchi, if desired
1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting and shaping
Sauce– to be explained!
1) Preheat your oven to 450°F. Make a slit down the plantain skins, peel, and slice them about a centimeter thick. Arrange on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or greased aluminum foil. Brush the slices with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 15 minutes, or until golden brown and soft.
2) Once slightly cooled, transfer them to a food processor, and puree with a few tablespoons of olive oil until relatively smooth. It won’t be like mayo, but there should be no large chunks. Maybe a little mealy-looking. That’s okay. Transfer to a medium bowl.
3) Add to the processed plantain whatever floats your boat. I used a few dashings of turmeric, fenugreek, and dried garlic (salt and pepper, of course). Mix in the egg, then the flour. Add more flour if necessary. You want a Play-Doh-like consistency, and slightly sticky. Set a medium/large pot of water to boil.
4) Sprinkle some flour over the dough and whatever surface you’re using. You can shape the dumplings in various ways. Some peeps just like to roll the dough out into snakes and cut even portions, others like to make a fork-like indentation, or a thumbprint. No wrong or right if you ask me, (or as far as I know…). I made thumb prints. Then place them in gently boiling water until they float to the top, and drain. After that, you can save them in the fridge or freezer, or serve them up with an appropriate sauce.
For the sauce…
The sauce depends on whether or not you season the dough and with what. Since I went with a West Indian kind of spectrum, I made a creamy coconut-mint-lime sauce with sweet peas. Unfortunately, this takes a little planning ahead. You have to refrigerate a can of full-fat coconut milk overnight. Then take it out while avoiding the shakes, and remove the solidified fat from the top. Set aside. Over medium heat, start cooking a few spoonfuls of finely diced onion and half a cup of sweet peas in a schtickle of olive oil. When the onions are soft, add the coconut cream. Add the zest of a lime, half its juice, and several julienned mint leaves. Salt and pepper. Taste, and add more lime juice if necessary.
Since I had prepared the gnocchi one day, and the sauce the next day, I quickly pan fried the gnocchi before plating everything. Gives a nice little charred accent to the dumplings. So you can prepare everything ahead of time, then just heat and serve. This recipe will serve two to three people, so multiply as necessary. Also remember you can try different sauces and different spices in the gnocchi. Before going with the coconut, I had thought about goat cheese and guava. A cashew based sauce would also be great. Or just some sauteed veggies.
Tender, sweet, spicy, creamy. Yes, ma’am.
Hmm. What a shame my brother lives so far away…