Bananas have kind of a bad reputation, but I think they are great snacks! I only eat them when they are still a bit greenish, except when I can get my hands on small bananas, which are soft and sweet. My mom is from South America, so I grew up on a lot of naturally gluten-free foods, among them cooking plantains. Usually, the plantains would be ripe and we could cut them into slices prior to frying them in a bit of oil. Due to the sugar in the plaintains, the slices would kind of caramelize. Delicious!
I only discovered my favourite way of eating plantains when I moved to Nicaragua in 1996: Tostones! It’s twice-fried crushed plantain chunks served with a piece of cheese, one square piece of cheese stuck to an individual toston with a toothpick, usually served as an appetizer. They are as guilty as you can get as far as eating goes, but once a year I will cave, buy some still green plantains and start frying them up. I just eat them with my hands, no toothpick required.
One piece of advice: It’s really important that you make these using plantains that are not yet ripe. The greener, the better! Well, that’s kind of a lie. They should be green, but not too hard – otherwise you will fight the peel more than necessary. Here in Germany, you can’t buy plantains at every supermarket, but all the African and Asian food stores carry them. So they are a rare treat. I also can’t buy authentic Nicaraguan cheese, but I find this recipe works really well with feta cheese. Given this dish is already quite calorie-ridden, I use the low-fat version which also tastes a bit more neutral.
vegetable oil for frying
salt to taste
light feta cheese, cut into small squares (for a vegan option, ommit)
Peel the plantains by cutting off both ends, then cutting lengthwise into the thick peel. Using a finger begin peeling by lifting one edge where you made the cut and lifting the entire peel off the plantain in one chunk. Repeat with second plantain. Cut plantains into pieces of about four to five centimeters.
Heat a generous amount of oil in a small pot. Place part of the plantain chunks into the hot oil and fry until golden brown on both sides. Remove the plantain chunks from the oil and place onto a kitchen towel, allowing oil to drain from plantain chunks. Repeat with the remaining plantain chunks until they have all been fried.
While the remaining plantain chunks are frying, crush the already fried plantain pieces using your hands (I usually cover them with a paper towel, as to avoid both heat and oily fingers) or a muddler (you know, the thing you use to crush limes into your caipirinha).
Now, fry the crushed plantain chunks, until they turn golden brown and kind of crunchy. Remove from oil, let drain on a paper towel. Drizzle with salt and serve while still hot, each toston topped with a feta square.