October 9, 2009

plantain desserts

I couldn't ignore the good-looking plantains the last time I was at the grocery. In the Philippines, there's a local variety of cooking bananas called saba. We even grow these banana plants on a vacant lot right beside our house. For many years, we've harvested from these banana plants and have used the banana leaves as well. They're handy for wrapping fish for grilling (aside from the additional flavor they impart, they also prevent the fish from sticking to the grill) and for wrapping rice for steamed rice cakes. We like to use them for picnics as well, lining picnic tables with them, eliminating the need for plates, a great environment-friendly idea. Going back to the plantains, I used them for desserts this time. Two of the most popular desserts we make with cooking bananas in the Philippines are bananas in brown sugar syrup and simple pan-fried bananas sprinkled with sugar. For both these desserts, it's best to use ripe plantains.

For the bananas in syrup, shown above, equal parts of brown sugar and water mixture is simmered until slightly thickened. Add the sliced bananas and simmer for a few minutes. The syrup may be flavored with pandan [or screwpine, a fragrant plant which grows almost everywhere in the Philippines and commonly used for rice cakes and other desserts]. The sliced bananas will become firmer and slightly chewy as they absorb some of the syrup. One of our favorite ways to serve it is with finely crushed ice drizzled with more syrup and topped with evaporated milk. They may also be served warm with ice cream much like bananas foster.

For the pan-fried plantains, shown above, the bananas were sliced lengthwise. Heat some oil in a skillet then pan-fry them until golden brown. Transfer to a platter lined with paper towels to drain. Serve warm sprinkled with sugar. Whether they're cooked in syrup or simply pan-fried, plantains make quick and easy tropical desserts.

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