Plantains. A love affair.
Plantains are the kind of vegetable I daydream about cooking but always neglect at the market unless sold as a bag of chips. All at once they resonate ocean waves of the Caribbean (where I've never actually been), ice clinking in a nice cold mojito, and shoulder-shimmy cha cha drum beats at the local Salsa club. They are exotic and comforting, sweet and tangy, soft and delicious. So many lovely things wrapped up in one peel!
Finally, the humble plantain caught my eye this weekend at the grocery store in it's perfectly ripe state. As I prepared for a week of veggie delights, I had no plans or recipes for the impromptu purchase but instead waitied for the inspiration. And it came with no work at all. I have a weakness for the aforementioned plantain chips, which are delicious but terribly addicting and therefore not so waist-friendly. Plantains are typically fried and served plain, but I had better intentions. Lower fat and more flavor.
This sweet, succulent and spicy dish came from blending Caribbean and Indian flavors, two different cuisines that are closer in flavor than they appear. Mango is common in both which made me think of a very underused jar in the back of my fridge...pickled mango was an impulse buy from a local Indian grocer. I had no idea how spicy it was at the time (runny nose spicy), but it was perfect in the relish and complimented the sweet flavors of the dish. The crunchy relish went perfectly with the soft texture and the garlicky ginger greens served as a scrumptious undertone to the symphony in my mouth. Well maybe less like a symphony and more like the Mamba. Cue in that cha cha drum beat.
Curried Plantains with Ginger Chard
Makes 2 servings
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
For the Plantains
2 ripe plantains, peeled and diagonally sliced
2 tsp curry powder
For the Ginger Chard
1/2 T. fresh ginger root, minced
1/2 tsp. jalapeno, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2-3 cups Swiss chard, chopped
Salt to taste
For the Relish
1/4 c. red bell pepper, finely diced
1/4 c. grape tomatoes, quartered
2 medium radishes, finely diced
1 green onion, finely sliced
1 tsp. pickled mango or mango chutney
1 tsp. dijon mustard
1/2 tsp. agave nectar
Cayenne pepper (optional)
For the plantains: Preheat oven to 450F. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray. Place the plantain sliced in a medium bowl and also coat with cooking spray. Toss plantains with curry powder and another quick spritz of cooking spray (alternatively you could use a half tablespoon of canola oil, but I like the spray's coverage better). Sprinkle plantain slices with black pepper. Transfer slices to baking sheet, making sure the slices are evenly spaced and laying flat without overlapping. Roast for 20-25 minutes or until slices become dark golden brown and crispy around the edges.
While the plantains are roasting...make the chard!
For the chard: Heat a medium skillet over medium-high heat and generously coat with cooking spray. When pan is hot, add ginger, jalapeno and garlic. Lower heat to medium and cook until ginger becomes fragrant, 30-40 seconds. Add chard and a splash of water (2 tablespoons), stir to coat in ginger mix. Add a pinch of salt and stir frequently until chard is wilted and tender, about 5-7 minutes. Remove from pan and set aside.
When the chard and plantains are done...whip together the relish!
For the relish: Mix all relish ingredients together. If you do not have pickled mango, use mango chutney plus 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper or super spicy hot sauce. If using mango chutney, be careful with the agave, as you may not need it. If using pickled mango, beware! Taste before adding more.
To assemble: Divide the chard between two plates and top with plantains. Scoop a few tablespoons of relish or more over the plantains and serve with a side of Caribbean Cauliflower rice (below).
Caribbean Cauliflower Rice
Makes 2 servings
Prep time: 5-7 minutes
2 cups cauliflower flowerets
1 T. coconut, dried and unsweetened
1 T. dried currants
1/4 tsp. turmeric
1/4 tsp. thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
In a food processor fitted with an "S" blade, pulse the raw cauliflower until crumbled. Transfer to a medium mixing bowl and mix with currants and spices.
Heat a medium skillet (preferably the one you cooked the chard in and didn't clean yet) over medium high heat and toast the coconut until fragrant, about 30-45 seconds. Add cauliflower mixture and 1-2 tablespoons of water. Season generously with salt and pepper. Stir well to heat through and remove from heat. Serve alongside plantains and chard.