Piñón for Dinner!

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Piñón for Dinner!

Abundant throughout the year, plantains are to Puerto Rico, like oranges to Florida. Piñón is but one of the dishes prepared with our banana-sque friend. Sweet, roasted and full of savory fillings. A meal on its own, but really good with contrasting textures, such as crisp romaine lettuce and plum tomatoes. I can sleep now =)

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Chocolate Pie

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“No Miss Walters. That’s Miss Hilly’s special pie.” – Minny, The Help

Remedy for a rainy day: Coconut Oatmeal Cookies

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Remedy for a rainy day: Coconut Oatmeal Cookies

While contemplating the shades of grey (not the book) in the sky, I suddenly urged for oatmeal cookies! Adding a bit of unsweetened shredded coconut did miracles Suddenly the day wasn’t so… dull. If you’d like the recipe, contact me via comment, Facebook, or whatever ;). It’s definitely a cure for the rainy-day blues.

Something is a’making, while the oven preps for baking!

Something is a'making, while the oven preps for baking!

¡Piñón! Perhaps the most common dish made from ripe plantains in the Caribbean, after amarillitos, fried cuts of mature plantains served as a sweet side dish. Piñón is like lasagna, but with layers of ripe plantains, and no tomato sauce. Usually the plantains are fried prior to layering, but I don’t want anything clogged-up, except my mouth with delicious food. =)

Chocolate chip banana bread

GUINEO! Shouted the lady from across the counter. Local fruits and vegetables were stacked by levels in front of her. The woman’s skin told stories of countless years picking crops in the field. Her forehead had lines of worry and a shine that could result from enduring more than five consecutive hours at an 86°F temperature. Her eyes were alert and cunning, glancing; searching. A moment of silence and the faintest hints of conversation traversed her venue. Below her, but just above the lines of avocados, her grandson spoke to her and she replied in kind. Suddenly, she looked at the costumers walking by and she returned to her former stance. Apologizing to her grandson, she wiped the sweat from her face and gave him a kiss just above his hairline. From a pile of boxes she procured small, clear-plastic bags that swayed in her hands as she shouted “GUINEO” again. She caught my attention.

I already had a bag of vegetables. Enough for three meals and a batch of sofrito, and to be honest, guineos (read: bananas, say: gui – neh – ohs) are my least favorite fruit. Before I could decide, she looked straight at me. “¡Pruébalos!” (Read: Try them!) She was already pealing a banana and before I could greet her, she handed me a neatly cleaned and pealed banana. Wait.

The banana peal was still green! In fact, the banana itself looked rather small, by comparison to a supermarket’s average offering. Sensing my reluctance, the woman, whose voice was now soft, perhaps maternally so, said: “I’ve had more than five costumers today saying they won’t buy these bananas, until they try them.” I followed orders, as I’m sure the others did before me. Soft, sweet, and delicately flavored. I was sold. As she bagged my purchase, we spoke about the history of her organically grown bananas and she gave me useful tips on how to store them. She charged me a dollar, nothing extra. I left booth #34 with deep respect for that woman, sixteen bananas, and something to remember. After all, that’s what food is all about: memories and the people you share them with.

Sixteen bananas is a lot to go on. Although banana is still my least favorite fruit, I really enjoy banana bread. I’ve given away a few of them and used the really ripe ones in this recipe. Hopefully, in the future, I will visit the woman and share a slice or two.

This recipe is diary and egg free, as I’ve been on a plant-based diet for some time now. I do not, however, limit all my recipes in this manner, because some of the recipes are made for my family and friends. Not for myself. Since I had so many bananas, I made both with diary and egg, as well as without diary and egg, so I included the alternatives in the Notes at the bottom of the post.

Yields: 8 – 10 thick slices.

Tools and Equipment

Mixing bowls

Whisk

Electric mixer (optional)

9 x 5 metal bread mold

Ingredients

1 1/2 C Unbleached flour

1/2 C Brown sugar*

1/4 C Granulated sugar

6 Small ripe bananas (or 3 regular ones)

1/3 C Chocolate Chips

1/2 C Toasted and chopped walnuts (optional)

1/4 C Toasted and chopped pecans (optional)

1/4 C Canola oil

1/2 C Soy milk, unsweetened *

1 Tsp Baking powder

1/2 Tsp Baking soda

2 Tsps Fresh lemon juice

1 Tsp Mild vinegar*

1 Tsp Vanilla extract

1/4 Tsp Cinnamon (optional)

1/2 Tsp Salt

Pinch Cloves

Pinch Nutmeg

  1. Set the oven to 320°F and line the mold with a piece of parchment or grease.
  2. Combine soy milk and lemon juice in a cup and let it until required.
  3. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, salt, cloves and nutmeg together into a small bowl.
  4. In a large bowl, combine bananas, sugars, oil, and margarine, as if creaming using and electric mixer. If doing by hand, start with a fork to work everything together and then switch to a whisk until the sugar crystals are barely visible.
  5. Add vanilla extract and the soy milk and lemon suspension prepared earlier.
  6. Combine the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients in the larger bowl, and quickly fold in the nuts and chocolate – without over mixing (Read: as soon as you feel resistance from the batter, stop). Gently mix in the vinegar.
  7. Transfer batter to mold and bake for 1 hour to 1 hour and 15 minutes. Let it cool in its mold for thirty minutes and then let it cool out of the mold for at least an hour before serving. Or just have a pice of it warm, like I did. =)

Notes:

* Brown sugar can be switched for regular granulated sugar, but the bread will be sweeter.

For dairy + eggs version:

Switch the margarine for unsalted butter, and the soy milk, vinegar, and baking soda for 2 eggs at room temperature. Whisk the eggs and incorporate them into the creamed ingredients along with the vanilla extract in step #5 above. This will result in a yellower bread.

On Roasting Garlic. An awesome fundamental.

“Garlic.” After hearing the word, I’m immediately transported to a time when Emeril Lagasse would “add just a little” of the good stuff to hot pan. You could hear the garlic sizzle, but nothing could compare to the smell that must have emanated from there. No wonder he often spoke about how we, the viewers, should demand for “smellavision.” Speaking of smells, roasting garlic is one of those things that will have you, and your neighbors, crazy with the amazing aroma of deliciousness. Really.

I had never tried roasting garlic until very recently. It was so simple and delicious, I ate six garlic heads with toasts and had a lovely-garlic(y) breath afterwards. It also proved to be a taste-changing element in most of the recipes I used to make with raw garlic. For the better, of course. Since this is the first recipe I post, and because I have some stuff from lab to get done, I will omit the measurements. It is so intuitive and versatile, you don’t really need anything other than the time, the temperature and a couple of tips here and there.

First off, set the oven to 300°F and make sure you have a pan where you can accommodate the garlic. I bought these rather small garlic heads at the supermarket today, so I placed them in the pan just to see how many would fit.

Cut the top off the heads and season with generous amounts of salt and pepper. Douse with some extra virgin olive oil.

Cover the pan with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour at 300 °F. Once the time is done, remove the top foil and place the pan on the topmost rack of the oven. Increase the temperature to 375°F and roast for 20 minutes. Let it cool off for 15 – 20 minutes. WARNING: The aroma of roasted garlic will take over your entire kitchen area, and if your apartment/living space is as small as mine, then get ready to have the smell of garlic in your clothes, computers, oh, and cake, if you happen to have any around, like I did. Alas, not to worry. Leave a window open and the smell dissipates very quickly.

Squeeze out the garlic cloves into a clean container. I don’t know if it’s the lab rat in me, but using nitrile gloves felt perfect for this job. No mess, no fuss, just clean squeezing.

All I can say, is that roasted garlic is amazing. It works for families and for far-from-family-students, as they can be stored in the refrigerator for quite a long time. The flavors of roasted garlic blend so well, that they make anything and everything taste delicious, without the overpowering-OUCH raw garlic gives food. That’s why I think it can serve as part of a base for other ingredients/flavors to build upon. Like avocados, lime, and jalapeños, for example. Now, if I just had cherry tomatoes.