Plantains. Wow. I use these suckers all the time. Plantains are one of the few items of produce that is available year-round, whether it is rainy or dry. There's only so many plantain chips that I can handle, so, time to get creative.
The recipe in this blog is a fusion of Nicaraguan and American comfort. The people I've cooked for are excited to try new things, but don't want to jump out of the plane without a parachute. Also, tourists to Nicaragua are increasingly more 'crunchy' and/or health conscious and/or simply vegetarian, so they appreciate the thought that goes into creative and local vegetarian plates. Down with the "grilled vegetable medley!"
The lasagna I make with the ripe, sweet plantains is simple and vegetarian. It's easy to adapt and modify, and always tasty! The key is cooking it covered long enough to make sure that the starchy plantains cook all the way through.
2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
1 cup grated Nicaraguan “queso seco”
1 recipe of Simple Tomato Sauce, below
3 ripe, yellow plantains, sliced 1/8” thin on a mandolin
2 cups arugula
- Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare a 9 inch loaf pan by lining it with foil overhanging the edges. This will create a sling to remove the finished lasagna. Next, lightly oil all 4 sides of the pan.
- In a medium bowl, mix together the mozzarella and queso seco.
- Using about 1/8th of each ingredient, begin to layer the food. Begin with a few spoonfuls of sauce along the bottom. Next, place a layer of plantain, followed by arugula and cheese. Repeat 7 more times, ending with the cheese.
- Cover pan with foil and place in center of oven. Bake for about 30 minutes, until a knife can be inserted into the lasagna without feeling any resistance. This means that the plantains are fully cooked. Remove foil and broil for about 5 minutes, until top layer of cheese is bubbling and golden brown.
- Let cool for about 20 minutes before removing lasagna from foil. Slice into 4 portions and serve with a fresh herb salad.
serves 3 as a second course.
Simple Tomato Sauce
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cups diced onion
2 Tbs. finely chopped garlic
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 cup red wine
1 Tbs. finely chopped basil
1 Tbs. finely chopped (Cuban) oregano
1 tsp. chile flake
4 cups canned, diced tomato with juice (about two 16-ounce cans, I like Muir Glen)
salt and pepper to taste
- In a large, heavy bottomed pot over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add onions and garlic and sweat for about 10 minutes, until tender and slightly browned.
- Add tomato paste and stir until incorporated. Next, add red wine and reduce until almost dry.
- Add the basil, oregano, chile flake and tomato. Reduce heat to low and cook for about 20 minutes more, until sauce is thick and tomato flavor is rich. Season with salt and pepper.