Temas Especiales

25 de Jan de 2021

Nacional

A sweet and exotic temptation for cents

Tropical cuisine is said to have magical powers and while it seems exotic it is very easy to prepare. Ripe plantains are this week’s cho...

Tropical cuisine is said to have magical powers and while it seems exotic it is very easy to prepare. Ripe plantains are this week’s choice of food from the tropics.

“It not a meal if it doesn't have ripe plantains in it” say many Panamanians Plantains are a popular staple in local diets but “temptation plantains” is the recipe I like the most.

Pieces of ripe plantain cooked in sugar cane honey can tempt me into eating every day in the most authentic Panamanian tradition. Not all temptations are evil, ripe plantains are a great addition to a healthy diet because they contain high levels of potassium, magnesium and vitamin B.

The Musa Paradisiaca fruits are native to South Asia and were brought to America by Portuguese friars. Long forgotten oriental legends called the plantain the “tree of good and evil.”

Plantains are cousins to bananas, but with a firmer flesh and a lower sugar content. They are generally cooked , while bananas can be eaten raw. Once ripe, the plantains can be fried (tajadas) or turned in to the delicious “temptation.”

Every Panamanian has a different way to prepare this dish but creative ways include adding garlic, ginger and /or spices. It is generally served with rice and beans.

Trouble in the Puerto Armuelles area (Chiriqui), a region where most of the crop is produced, has caused a jump in the price of plantains but two of the fruits (around 40 cents each) will provide enough to prepare two portions.

In less than 20 minutes you could have a hot aphrodisiac on the table.

CAROLINE'S TEMPTING TRICK

Peel the plantains and cut them into one inch wheels.

Lightly salt them and place into a shallow pan with chunks of butter. Let them cook on medium fire until browned and then add half a cup of water, half a cup of sugar cane honey and a stick on cinnamon. My personal touch is to add chopped ginger and garlic to taste while the plantains simmer. As the water evaporates the plantains will cook and a nice thick syrup will appear. The caramelized sugar cane will brown the plantains when ready.

To complement this seductive offering I like to serve basmati rice and a fresh tomato salad. To complete the ambiance I select Motown legend “The Temptations” as background music and a couple bottles of the right wine.

WINE CHOICE

My friends at the Felipe Motta wine store recommend red wine for this rich concoction like this. The 2007 Marques de Casa Concha Cabernet Sauvignon, $13, will do the honors tonight.

MORE TEMPTATIONS

At El Trapiche restaurant (Via Argentina) ripe plantains are on the menu all the time as a side dish. They are popular spot for Panamanian cuisine but ripe plantains are ubiquitous in all restaurants that carry local cuisine.

BLACK SPOTS

If you purchase the green plantains you can accelerate the ripening by placing them in a paper bag for a couple of days until the peel yellows and black spots appear.

GARDENING TIP

The plantain tree makes a lovely addition to a garden and will produce fruit in about six months. It grows in most terrains and just requires water and occasional pruning of the leaves.