February 15th, 2013
I have a thing for cooked bananas. I especailly have a thing for cooked bananas paired with savory foods. I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying the two together in Thailand (fried bananas with salted coconut sauce) and Portugal (grilled bananas with steak), but my first exposure was via Puerto Rico.
Maduros, friend sweet plantains, are a staple side dish in Puerto Rico, through the Caribbean, down Central America and throughout South America. Though most frequently served as a sweet counterpoint to rice and beans redolent of garlic and smoky pork, plantains are versatile enough to be eaten at breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert. The amazing truth is that they go with everything from eggs to ice cream. They also stand alone: I served steamed sweet plantains mashed with butter and salt as part of my Christmas dinner this year.
Given how easy going plantains are, I decided to stuff slices inside a quesadilla. I figured if they go with rice and beans, they’ll be great with cheese and beans. Lo and behold, I was right.
The one catch about plantains is that they are best fried. File that under “sorry, but true.” They are still pretty damn good if you use water to steam them after just a little bit of frying in just a little bit of oil, so there’s that. I’ve included directions for both techniques below. Choose what you wish. I’d go with the healthier steam method given that these will be squashed inside a quesadilla with melty cheese and beans anyway.
Quesadillas are a fun finger food—that, plus the sweet touch of plantains, makes this a great dinner for any family with a toddler. I also give notes on how to adapt the recipe for a baby eating textured purees. And, of course, you don’t need any kids at all to enjoy a good, quick quesadilla. So grab some ripe plantains—the blacker the skin, the better the taste—and get cooking!
Plantain and Black Bean Quesadillas
(Can be shared with eaters 8+ mos)*
Makes 4 small tortilla sized quesadillas
2 very ripe, black skinned sweet plantains
1/3 cup vegetable oil (to cook the skinny way, substitute 2 tablespoons of oil)
8 small corn tortillas
6-oz grated cheese, I use a combination of montery jack and queso blanco
1 15-oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
Butter, for cooking quesadillas
Sour cream or creme fraiche, for topping (optional)
Homemade salsa verde or high-quality store bought salsa verde, for topping (optional)
1. Cut both ends off of both plantains. Cut a slit into the skin and all the way down the length of each plantain; peel the fruit. Cut plantains into 1/4″ slices crosswise on a bias. Set slices aside.
2. Heat oil in a large pan over moderately high heat. If using the larger amount of oil, adjust the amount to ensure that the oil comes up about half way up each slice of plantain. Once hot (but not smoking), carefully add pieces of plantain in a single layer. You may need to cook them in batches. Fry for about 5 minutes, until golden brown, flipping half way through. If you fry the plantains the skinny way, flip them after 2 minutes and then, 4 minutes into your total cooking time, add about 1/4 cup of water to steam them until cooked through, another 2 minutes or so. Set cooked plantains aside.
3. Line up 4 tortillas in an assembly line. Add about 1/8 of the cheese to each of the 4 tortillas and top with beans and 2-3 slices of plantain. Cover the plantains with remaining cheese, dividing equally among the 4 quesadillas and top with remaining tortillas.
4. Heat butter in a pan set over medium-high heat. The amount will vary on the size of your pan; you shouldn’t need more than 1 tablespoon per quesadilla. Place a quesadilla in the pan, turning once, until tortilla browns slightly, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Repeat until all quesadillas are cooked. Once cooked quesadillas have cooled for 2 minutes or so, use a sharp knife to cut it into quarters for serving.
5. If you like, combine sour cream or creme fraiche and salsa verde to taste. Drizzle over the top or serve on the side for dipping. (Dipping is the way to go for the kids!)
*Note: While there is nothing in this that is unsafe for younger kids, I recommend serving the quesadilla to children 10+ mos who are already safely managing finger foods. While soft in the scheme of things, these have some chew so be sure to cut into age appropriate pieces. You can adapt this recipe for children 8+ mos who are eating textured purees by mashing the cooked plantains and beans with a fork and topping with grated cheese. Add some water to the mash if it’s too thick and pasty.