Plantains, like their close relative the banana, are a high yielding crop that makes them easy to find in grocery stores any time of year. Because plantains are filling and nutritious, Latin American countries produce this resilient crop consistently. However, what is not so easy is figuring out what to do with this exotic fruit. Here are a few simple recipes to get you started in your introduction to plantains.

PLANTAIN BASICS

Plantains are available in 3 stages of ripeness, and each accommodates a separate cooking use. The first is green, unripe plantains. These are perfect for peeling and creating deep fried snack.

The second stage is when the plantains is just beginning to ripen. It is often used in a main course dish because of their firm and starchy texture. Also, the subtle flavors of the plantain can be fully enjoyed at this stage of development.

The final stage of development for plantains is at the peak of ripening. At this point, the peel looks almost entirely black. The starch has turned to sugar which makes them ideal for desserts or other sweet recipes.

FRIED PLANTAINS

Fried plantains are an ideal appetizer for any occasion. This recipe provides the simple base, but once you feel comfortable, experiment with your own variation. Add breading or seasonings to suit any taste.

Ingredients

• 2 large unripe plantains
• 2 eggs
• 1 ½ cups flour
• ½ cup milk
• 1 tablespoon butter
• Salt and pepper for seasoning.

Directions

1. Thoroughly whisk the eggs.
2. In a separate bowl, prepare the flour mixture by combining the flour, milk, and butter. Add the desired amount of salt and pepper depending on personal preference.
3. Mix the eggs into the flour mixture until it is smooth.
4. Cut the plantains into strips and dip into the mixture to coat them.
5. Using either a deep fryer preheated to 375 degrees Fahrenheit or a pot of boiling oil, cook the plantains until they are golden-brown. Keep a close on them because this process is extremely quick.
6. Serve the fried plantains immediately.

Other seasonings can be added to enhance the flavor of the plantains or to give them a more exotic appeal. Many people used crushed red pepper to jazz them up. Others use nutmeg and cinnamon to create a moderately healthy comfort food.

SEA BASS WITH PLANTAIN CRUST

Because the partially ripe plantain contains starch, it can replace bread crumbs in a traditional recipe. This creates an entirely new flavor without destroying the essence of a crusted dish.

Ingredients

• 2 sea bass fillets
• ¼ cup flour
• 1 egg
• 2 partially ripe plantains
• Salt and pepper for seasoning

Directions

1. Preheat the oven at 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Peel the plantains and chop them as finely as possible.
3. Cook them in a pan that is lightly greased until they are golden brown.
4. Blend the plantains with a little salt until a thick consistency is achieved. It should be the consistency of a batter.
5. Sprinkle the sea bass with flour. Dip the bass into the egg. Finally, coat it in the plantain mixture.
6. If a heavier breading is preferred, simply repeat step 4.
7. Place the sea bass into the pan, and sauté it until the crust starts to brown.
8. Transfer the fish to the oven until it is fully cooked inside.

DESERTS

Plantains are extremely versatile when it comes to deserts. They can be cooked into sweet crisps. They can be mashed and spread on deserts as if it were frosting. They can be simply chopped up and sprinkled over ice cream. No matter what the purpose or occasion, plantains can be incorporated into a meal from beginning to end.

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