Monday, January 26, 2015

Pl(ant)ain and Simple

Plantains are plentiful at Farmers Markets in Costa Rica!
Plantains have not always been at the top of my list of preferred foods, but I have recently discovered that I have acquired the taste—yes, even a craving—for those big green (or yellow or even black) ugly banana-like fruits. They are one of the staple foods of Costa Ricans—and they are delicious!

While I’ve been in Tamarindo this month, I’ve eaten plantain chips, fried plantain patties, grilled plantains glazed with brown sugar, and even plantain pancakes. My friend Mary Plunkett sent me the recipe for plantain pancakes (which she found on The Paleo Mom website), and they’re so good that I wanted to share the recipe here. The recipe requires no flour of any kind, making it especially favorable (and inexpensive) for gluten-free cooks!

Perfect Paleo Pancakes are similar to IHOP's Harvest
Grain N' Nut Pancakes--but gluten-free!
Perfect Paleo Pancakes (


2 large green plantains (about 2 cups pureed)
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
3 Tbsp extra virgin coconut oil
1/8 tsp salt (a generous pinch)
½ tsp baking soda
Extra coconut oil for frying

1.     Peel plantains (I find it easier to quarter them before I peel them) and place pieces in your blender (preferred) or food processor (okay) with the eggs. Blend to form a smooth batter (if your blender has a smoothie function, that works well here).
2.     Add the rest of the ingredients to the blender or food processor and process on high for an additional minute (or 2-3 with a food processor to get a really good smooth batter).
3.     Heat 1 Tbsp of coconut oil in a frying pan or on a griddle over medium-high heat. Pour batter into the frying pan until your pancake is the desired size.
4.     Let cook 4-5 minutes on the first side until the top looks fairly dry with little bubbles in it (just like regular pancakes!)
5.     Flip! And cook on the second side for 1 ½ minutes.
6.     Repeat with remaining batter, adding a little more coconut oil to your pan as needed.         

I’ve made this recipe twice since I’ve been in Costa Rica, and the second time I added chopped pecans directly to the batter. My husband thinks they are “just as good as the Harvest Grain N' Nut Pancakes” that we used to eat at IHOP (in the years before my diagnosis of celiac disease).
Another easy way to cook plantains, which I learned by watching our Costa Rican housekeeper Ileana, is to slice a ripe plantain (just as you would slice a banana). Then mash each slice on a paper towel to remove moisture and fry them lightly in a small amount of oil, turning to make them crispy on each side. We ate them with refried beans. Oh, so good!

Taste-wise and nutritionally, plantains are quite different from bananas. Bananas are much sweeter than plantains, even at their ripest. For the same amount of each, the banana has 89 calories, while the plantain has 122. The banana is also lower in fat, sodium, and carbohydrates, and sugar, which for most of us tips the scale in their favor.  Plantains, on the other hand, are much higher in vitamin A, vitamin C, magnesium, and potassium.

No matter! I will never make pancakes again without my new friend, the plantain!