Bunch of green bananas
For the longest time, I never knew there was a difference between green bananas and green plantains. I ALWAYS thought they were one and the same and that people used the two different names interchangeably to refer to the same food. I finally learned differently when I made a beef soup, Honduran style, where part of the ingredients called for green bananas. I went to the supermarket and bought what I thought was a green banana. My friend Helin was in the kitchen with me and when I pulled out what I thought was the green banana, she said to me very nicely, "We’ll only use a little of this because it’s a green plantain and not a green banana. The plantain will change the taste of the soup a little bit."
What? That’s not a green banana? It’s not the same as a plantain!? I was shocked. And confused. Seriously.
I suppose my face registered my shock and confusion because Helin couldn’t help but laugh. Later she told the story to my sister (who apparently knew there was a difference between green BANANAS and green PLANTAINS (big deal)), she had a good laugh again as she described the look of increduality on my face and my reaction. Well, I don’t blame her. I really DID think they were the SAME thing.
Green plantain vs green bananas
Left: Green plantain
Right: Green bananas (which come in a bunch)
Okay, so it turns out that there’s a big difference. The only similarity with the two is the green peel color. That’s about it. Green bananas come in a bunch and are much smaller than green bananas. Side by side, you can see the difference in their size. The two have a starchy taste but there’s still a difference in their taste. Laylita of Laylita’s Recipes accurately describes the difference as the banana having a "smooth delicate flavor" and the plantain having a "strong chippy flavor." Also, raw and cooked, the bananas are paler in color, while the plantains are darker.
The next time I went to the supermarket, I made sure to buy green BANANAS. Over the weekend, I decided to make chifles — fried green banana chips. Chifles (chips) in Latin cuisine are served as side dishes or appetizers. In some South American countries, they’re sold as street food.
Chifles are so simple to make. Basically you slice the green bananas in thin stripes, salt, fry, then enjoy them. Simple, right?
Green bananas are a little more difficult to peel and make your hands sticky when you peel them. One tip I learned from Helin in diminishing any of these problems is to first put the bananas under running hot water for a few minutes. It softens the skin and you can peel it with ease. Next, rub your palms with any type of cooking oil. These tips diminished the sticky hands when handling the green banana. No more problems.
It only takes a few minutes to fry the green bananas and they’re ready to be devoured.
So, if you happen to see green bananas in your food shopping area, have a try. Now you know that there a difference between the green plantain and the green banana. If you can’t find green bananas in your area, you can, however, use the green plantain. The plantain will taste different but will be still good. I’m glad I finally got to make some chifles with the green bananas. They tasted great!
Here’s a recipe from Laylita’s Recipes to make your own chifles. Thanks, Laylita!
Chifles (Fried Green Banana Chips)
Green bananas or green plantains
Canola oil for frying
Optional – hot pepper or garlic cloves for additional flavor variations
- Peel the green bananas or green plantains; be careful as both tend to stain clothes and cutting boards. The plantains will be easier to peel, but the flesh of the green banana is more likely to stick to its skin.
- Slice the bananas or plantains lengthwise, full length or half length, or slice them as thin rounds or thin diagonal ovals, use a mandolin to get that perfect thinness.
- Heat the oil, either in a deep sauté pan or fryer, ideal temperature for frying these is between 375 F -400 F, there should be enough oil to fully cover the bananas or plantains.
- Add the bananas or plantains to the hot oil; be careful not to overcrowd to keep them from sticking together.
- Fry until the chips get a golden color.
- Remove the chips from the oil and drain on paper towels.
- Sprinkle with salt and serve either warm or cold.
In the frying pan
Fried green banana chips ready to be eaten. Tasty!
Here are a few things you’ll find at the Farmer’s Market on the West side, when I took these photos in February. Since it’s now Spring, I’m sure there’ll be a larger choice of food products for sale.
A shopper decided to buy some bread. Next time, I’ll buy some, too.
There were lots of different types of apples from which to choose.
A shopper decided to buy some apples. On the table opposite the apples, shoppers had a chance to taste different preserve samples and buy a jar.
You could buy a bottle or two of apple cider to wash down the bread with preserves.
Or you could buy some jars of honey, onions, turnips and more.
Have a great week, everyone.
Who could resist delicious shortbread made with brown sugar and walnuts? I couldn’t. So, I made them. ;-) Oh, and even more exciting about this shortbread is the fact that I used my homemade vanilla extract in the recipe. Yipee!
According to the instructions, the recipe makes about 32 squares. However I only came up with less than 20 squares. Turns out that I put too much mixture in one pan. My shortbread turned out thick and chunky but they were scrumptious. A real treat. Everyone who tasted it approved.
Brown Sugar Walnut Shortbread
Lululu at Home
(makes round 32 squares)
Preheat oven to 325F. Grease and line two 8"x8" square cake pan with parchment paper.
Cream butter, brown sugar and white sugar in a stand mixer with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla until combined, then mix in dry ingredients. Combine completely.
Divide dough evenly into prepared pans, spreading smooth and level. Sprinkle with granulated sugar and bake until golden brown, about 35 to 45 minutes.
Let cool completely before using a sharp knife to cut into squares.
You can find a tour bus anywhere in the city. Here is one traveling across 125th Street in Harlem. It’s a familiar sight. Above the bus is the 125th Street subway station. Interestingly enough, even though it’s a subway station, it’s located above ground. I have no idea why.
Happy week to everyone!
Okay. So the rice is missing in the photo with the lentil stew, but we all know what rice looks like. Right?
I always enjoy reading and then trying to prepare the Ecuadorian recipes that I see on Laylita’s Recipes. This is another simple recipe — Lentil stew with rice. The lentils simmer with onions, peppers, tomatoes, garlic, cumin and cilantro. That’s about it. According to Laylita, this is a popular dish in Ecuador. It’s served with grilled meat (The full name of the dish is actually arroz con menestra de lentejas y carne asada — lentil stew with rice and grilled meat.). Like Laylita, I substituted the meat with a fried egg. Loved it!
Lentil Stew with Rice (Arroz con Menestra)
3 tbs canola oil
1 red onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
3 tomatoes, diced
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp cumin
3 tsp salt
1 tsp achiote
4 tbs chopped cilantro
7 cups of water
1 lb lentils
- Heat the canola oil on medium heat in a large sauce pan.
- Add the onion, bell pepper, tomato, garlic, cumin, salt, achiote and 2 tablespoons of the cilantro to make a refrito for the stew.
- Cook, stirring occasionally, until all the ingredients have softened, about 5 minutes.
- Add the water and increase heat to bring water to boil.
- Add the lentils and reduce the heat to medium low, cover partially and cook until the lentils are tender, stir in the remaining 2 tbs of cilantro and remove from the heat.
- Serve with Ecuadorian style cooked rice, carne asada o carne frita (fried thin beef steaks), fried ripe plantains or fried green plantains, and a small salad or avocado slices.