July 10, 2009

tostones or twice fried plantains

Early this month, we were looking forward to trying a Cuban restaurant on our out of town day trip. The night before, we checked out the reviews for a couple of Cuban restaurants in the town we were visiting and had a particular one we had in mind. I was even ready with my order, having checked out the menu as well. I was supposed to try the roast pork with some rice, black beans and some popular appetizers made with plantain bananas. Unfortunately, it was a major holiday and we should have known better than to expect small eating places to be open. I was still feeling disappointed about our failed lunch date, that I guess I never really stopped thinking about it. I turned to the internet for more Cuban cuisine information as well as recipes and I found these tostones. They're a very popular Cuban/Latin American appetizers using unripe green plantains. I've never cooked with green plantains before. I usually wait for them to ripen fully until the peel turns black, then use them for a popular Filipino snack called turon. It was good that I bought a couple of plantains from my previous grocery trip. It was the perfect appetizer to try for our Friday fish dinner.
I pan fried a few pieces of our favorite tilapia fillets (above) then kept them warm on a plate while making the creamy and colorful sauce (below).
In the same skillet used in frying the fish, sautee minced garlic and chopped onions for a few minutes. Add chopped tomatoes, red or orange bell pepper and bok choy then season with salt and pepper. Slowly pour in half cup or more of coconut milk and simmer. A little water may be added if the sauce is too thick. Lastly, I added a few red chili peppers to complete the sauce. I think I was able to come up with a fusion of Carribean and tropical flavors combined with the creamy coconut milk to somehow go with the tostones appetizer. It wasn't really a full Cuban meal but at least with the tostones, we had a little taste. It was good enough until we can finally try or cook the real deal.

unripe plantains, peeled and cut crosswise into 2" chunks
oil for frying
salt and pepper

Fry the plantain chunks in canola or vegetable oil until lightly toasted. Drain them on papertowels to get rid of excess oil. With a tostonera [a gadget that's tradtionally used for this task] or the bottom of a drinking glass or cup, flatten the fried plantains. Fry them again in the same oil until lightly toasted. Transfer to a papertowel lined platter and season with salt and pepper.

pan fried tilapia fillets topped with a coconut milk based sauce served over steamed rice

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