Wordless Wednesday: Happy Meals

Honey Chicken Waffle Sandwich with Bacon and Smoked Gouda
Original Acai Bowl
Stack of Pancakes with Fresh Fruits and Vegan Honey

The Happy Vegan
293 Bayshore Blvd
San Francisco, CA 94124

Plantain A-Peel

Don’t Call It A Green Banana

The humble plantain is so much more than just another starchy fruit. This tropical staple has been gracing tables and nourishing generations for centuries, as early as 500 BCE. Despite that, they remain mysterious and unapproachable to many American cooks, at least in my experience. After fielding the same questions every time I share a plantain recipe, time has come to set the record straight. Rich with history, flavor, and nutrition alike, plantains are a culinary treasure that deserve a place in your kitchen, too.

A Very Brief History of Plantains

Plantains, often mistaken for their close relative, the banana, are actually a distinct and hearty fruit that originates from Southeast Asia. Over the centuries, they’ve become a staple in many tropical regions around the world, with particularly strong roots in African, Caribbean, and Latin American cuisines. The spread of plantains can be attributed to their affordability, durability, and adaptability, making them a reliable source of sustenance for many cultures across the continents.

Selecting the Perfect Plantain: Shopping Tips

When it comes to picking ideal plantains, a little patience and a keen eye are key. Unlike bananas, plantains are usually selected for their starchy nature. This means you’ll often find them in varying stages of ripeness, each lending itself to different culinary uses.

  • Green Plantains: Firm, green plantains are perfect for savory dishes. These are the ones most commonly called for in recipes, and the ones I’m referring to when I call for them unless otherwise specified. They’re not sweet, similar to potatoes in consistency and flavor. Look for ones with minimal black spots or blemishes for the best results.
  • Yellow Plantains: As plantains ripen, they turn yellow and develop a sweeter taste. These are excellent for both sweet and savory preparations, offering a balanced flavor profile.
  • Black Plantains: Fully ripe plantains with blackened skin may seem past their prime, but they’re actually at their sweetest, similar to their banana brethren. They’re perfect for making sweet dishes like desserts and snacks.

Common Cooking Methods

Plantains are incredibly versatile, embracing a wide range of cooking methods to suit your culinary desires. Here are a few popular techniques to explore:

  • Deep frying or air frying: Sliced plantains can be fried until golden brown to create the beloved dish known as tostones or patacones. These crispy delights are often served as a side or appetizer, accompanied by a variety of dips or salsas. Cut into paper-thin coins, you’ll create crunchy plantain chips, especially popular as a grab-and-go snack at convenience and grocery stores worldwide.
  • Boiling or steaming: Boiled plantains are a staple in many Caribbean dishes. They take on a softer, smoother texture that’s easily mashed or pureed, and can be enjoyed alongside meatless proteins, stews, or beans.
  • Baking or roasting: Baking plantains brings out their natural sweetness. Simply slice them, drizzle with a touch of oil, and bake until caramelized for a healthier take on this tropical treat.

Unlike bananas, they’re not as tasty eaten raw. While perfectly safe to consume, they can have a slightly bitter flavor that disappears with the application of heat, and an unpleasantly chalky texture.

Must-Try Plantain Dishes

Plantains play starring roles in a multitude of traditional dishes across different cultures. Here are a few iconic preparations that truly showcase the versatility and flavor of these remarkable fruits:

  • Mofongo (Puerto Rico): Mashed green plantains combined with garlic, pork cracklings, and seasonings, resulting in a savory dish that’s both hearty and comforting.
  • Fufu (West Africa): Plantains are boiled, mashed, and shaped into a dough-like consistency. They’re often paired with stews or sauces, serving as a delightful alternative to rice or bread.
  • Maduros (Latin America): Sweet plantains are fried until caramelized, resulting in a delightful side dish or dessert that perfectly balances sweet and savory flavors.

Less conventional but more creative takes abound for such an endlessly versatile ingredient. Just a few ideas to get you started include:

  • Baked in their skins and stuffed like a loaded potato
  • Steamed and mashed, with vegan butter or gravy
  • Sliced and grilled, on or off skewers
  • Thinly sliced lengthwise and used to make lasagna
  • Mashed and used to make quick bread, tortillas, pancakes, or burger buns
  • Diced or shredded and sauteed like hash browns

That’s only the start! Anything you’d make with potatoes or sweet potatoes, you can make with plantains, too.

Nutritional Bounty of Plantains

Beyond their delectable taste, plantains offer a range of nutritional benefits. Rich in vitamins A and C, potassium, and magnesium, they support immune health and heart health especially. They’re also a great source of dietary fiber and complex carbohydrates, making them a satiating source of energy, but bear in mind that they are very calorie dense for this same reason.

Platano, Good To Go

Plantains are more than just a tropical fruit; they’re a culinary adventure waiting to unfold. From their storied history to their myriad of cooking possibilities, these versatile gems have found a place in kitchens and hearts across the globe. Whether you’re savoring the crispy delight of tostones or relishing the sweetness of maduros, plantains are sure to make every meal a richly rewarding journey worth savoring.

Deadly Delicious

In the wrong hands, even the most mundane meal could become your last. It’s the dose that makes the poison, making everything from mochi to plain water a fatal affair. While some people might prefer horror movies and haunted houses to get their thrills, real life is often more terrifying than fiction.

Unmasking the Macabre Morsels

As the witching hour nears, our culinary curiosity takes a wicked turn. It doesn’t take long to unearth a treasure trove of unsuspecting foods that harbor a sinister secret. Hidden in plain sight, there are very real, hidden dangers lurking in some common ingredients, sitting right inside your kitchen at this very moment. Yes, the call is coming from inside your house… It’s too late to run, so you might as well arm yourself with knowledge to fight off a potentially perilous feast.

The Forbidden Fruits

Sweet and beguiling, the bewitching aroma of many common seeded fruits belies a chilling truth. Found in bitter almonds, apple seeds, cherry pits, and apricot kernels, amygdalin produces an alluring almond scent that many do in fact harness to make desserts. However, this deadly chemical compound can release cyanide when metabolized.

Tomato Terror

It’s a fiendish twist that the vibrant and beloved tomato, star of salads and sauces alike, could harbor a dark secret. The leaves and stems of the tomato plant contain a substance called tomatine. In large quantities, tomatine can be toxic, causing symptoms ranging from stomach distress to paralysis.

Spooky Spuds

At the base of the food pyramid and foundation of society, the humble staple that has comforted and sustained us for generations. However, in the blink of an eye, they would rip that all away. This unassuming tuber is a member of the nightshade family, infamous for harboring some of the deadliest botanicals. Potatoes, especially when they’ve turned green from exposure to light, can contain solanine, a toxin that causes nausea, vomiting, and even hallucinations.

Spices of Sorcery

As you stir your cauldron full of culinary concoctions, consider the mystical power of spices to transform ordinary dishes into enchanting delights. Yet, even these magical ingredients hold ghastly potential. Nutmeg, celebrated for its aromatic warmth, can induce hallucinations and even convulsions when consumed in excessive quantities. Cinnamon, essential for pumpkin spice, can become a poison in large doses, leading to digestive distress and even organ damage.

Savor the Flavors, Beware the Bites

As we revel in the eerie ambiance of Halloween and savor the delicious delights that tickle our taste buds, let us not forget the uncanny truths that lie beneath the surface. The foods we consider mundane can harbor a touch of the macabre, reminding us that even in our culinary escapades, a dash of caution is as vital as the pinch of salt in our cauldrons. Tread lightly as you embark on your Halloween feast, for you never know what black magic awaits in the shadows of the pantry.


If you haven’t yet gotten your fill of fresh summer corn, it’s time to start shucking and husking, pronto. While you could make the case that corn has become season-less, a perennial staple in both the freezer aisle and canned goods section, the most advanced preservation technology still can’t capture the full bouquet of flavors, nor the sheer sensory experience, of sinking your teeth into a fresh, crisp row of sunny yellow kernels.

How Long Does Fresh Corn Keep?

Don’t wait another minute. Aside from dwindling harvests, timing is critical once you bring your haul back home. Sugars begin converting to starch the moment each ear is picked, making it more bland with every passing day. That’s why “fresh” corn in December doesn’t have the same magic as August; it’s already been in transit for who knows how long, shipped in from warmer climates on a slow boat.

Need More Ideas For Fresh Corn?

Make the most of your haul with these fool-proof recipes. From appetizers to desserts, classic to unconventional, there’s nothing that quality corn can’t do.

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