Sorry, I feel like I have been neglecting all of you… but I was away for the weekend celebrating my 20th high school reunion aboard the Empress of the Seas, a weekend cruise that took us to St. Kitts and St. Maarten. It was awesome to spend time with my school friends, some of whom I had not seen in over 10 years and have known for almost 32 years of my life. I practically grew up with these people!!!
We visited St. Kitts as one of the stops in our journey… and my good friend Marly told me about Tamarind Balls. This is a local sweet made with tamarind pulp, sugar, sometimes spices and even has the tamarind seed inside. They’re tart and sweet, all in the same bite. This is my kind of souvenir – not a t-shirt or a hat, a good sweet treat only made and found in this little Caribbean island. My friend Marly discovered them because a cousin for her husband went to school in St. Kitts and used to bring them to them as gifts from the Island. She tells me she has kept some for over a year in her fridge and they do not go bad.
I bought them in a pharmacy – they were sitting right there amongst the traditional commercially made candy. The lighter colored version is made with sugar and spices. The darker ones are made only with sugar. To my taste, they taste truer to a raw tamarind fruit. They’re both good in their won little way. They cost me about a $1 USD each. I brought in about 10 packages – some for me, some to give as gifts…
The beach was great – we went to Turtle Beach, with Nevis on the background. I will not go into the details on how we got to Turtle Beach, but to me, the best reason to visit St Kitts, is for their Tamarind Balls.
In Puerto Rico, when one does not feel well, we usually immediately crave or get prescribed “viandas” – viandas are mostly tubers – potatoes, yuca, yautia, malangas, sweet potatoes, yams, and for some reason plantains and green bananas are jammed up in there. They are easy on the digestive system and seem to help you “get on your feet” again.
For some weird reason, I was craving viandas yesterday. I went to the supermarket and spent 19 cents on 3 green bananas. there is still something cheap at the supermarket. Yes, bananas can be eaten ripe and green too… but you need to cook them. We usually boil them. But I need to show you a trick for it.
Green bananas, just like green plantains, have what we call “mancha” – they release a sap when you cut them open. To avoid this, you just wipe some cooking oil in your hands and on the knife you’ll use to prevent the sap to stick to any of them. When you go and boil them, add some cooking oil to the boiling water to prevent the sap to get on the saucepan.
Be careful – this mancha or sap STAINS A LOT. If you get it on your clothes, more than likely you will not be able to get it off. There’s a local saying when you can’t deny being a Puerto Rican, people say that you have “la mancha de plátano” or “plantain sap stain” resembling the fact that the sap from a green plantain or banana can’t never be cleaned or taken away.
Here’s what you do…
GREEN BANANA MASH
3 green bananas
Salt – for the boiling water
Cooking oil – for the boiling water, your hands and the knife
Extra-virgin olive oil
Garlic Salt to taste
In a large pot, fill with water. Add salt and a squirt of cooking oil.
Cut off the ends of each banana and cut a slit all the way down the banana. Do not take the skin off the banana. We’ll boil them with the skins on.
Boil in the pot for about 20 minutes, until the bananas are fork tender. the water will turn a weird color – don’t dispair. This is the sap in the banana skin.
Drain the bananas. Take the skin off. It should come off very easily.
Mash with a fork while still warm… they’ll be harder to mash when they’re cool. Drizzle with olive oil until you get a smooth consistency and season with garlic salt.
With a few more steps… we can convert this into mangu, a delicious Dominican dish. That in an upcoming installment – OK?
I had this with my Avocado and Tomato Salad.
I have a pet peeve – why do TV chefs teach people to cut avocados using a knife and a spoon?? Cutting the whole avocado in half, taking the pit out using a knife, spooning the flesh away from the skin… why so much hassle???
For the single person… you would never be able to eat a whole avocado in one sitting… at least not the ones usually found here in Puerto Rico. I believe these are called Fuerte Avocados. It’s difficult to eat one in one sitting, unless you were making guacamole or cooking for a crowd.
First – it’s easier to cut avocados in wedges. And if the avocado is ripe, the skin will come right off. If you cut them in wedges, you just use/eat what you want at that moment and wrap the remainder with tight plastic wrap for the next time. No need to eat a whole avocado in one sitting.
So… avocado season is starting again… apparently, because they’re all over the supermarkets and markets. So I bought one and made myself a quick easy salad to accompany my Green Banana Mash.
AVOCADO AND TOMATO SALAD
2-3 wedges of avocado, cut in pieces
1 medium sized tomato, cubed
Extra-virgin olive oil
Mix everything in a small bowl and enjoy
I had some leftover Sauteed Corn and Onions but not enough to eat by itself, so I created this quick salad.
I grew up eating canned corn… I will out my mom and confess that when we were growing up, salad was many times opening up a can of corn or a can of string green beans. I loved them, but now I know better. One of my former secret indulgences were white rice with tuna, ketchup and corn. Mmmm!!! My grandpa used to call this – Arroz Pio Pio.
No need to heat up the corn, just take the chill off from the fridge and it’s good to go.
QUICK LETTUCE, TOMATO and CORN SALAD
left over Sauteed Corn and Onions
Extra-virgin olive oil
the juice of 1/2 a lemon
Place the lettuce, tomatoes and corn in a salad bowl.
Drizzle olive oil, lemon juice and garlic salt.
Toss together and serve.
I am in a use-up mode. I told myself I was not returning to the supermarket until I have used up most of what I have on hand right now.
Has this happened to you? That you eat mostly the same – day-in day-out – and you keep leaving in the pantry or the fridge stuff you bought at some point but can’t seem to get to cook it now. That’s the worst kind of waste… when you need to throw stuff out because you didn’t get to prepare it. I need to change my ways and put a stop to that!!!!
So I looked in my freezer and I found a bag of frozen corn… what to do with it??? I started to improvise and this is what came about…
SAUTEED CORN with ONIONS
1 cup frozen corn – I am sure that this would work with fresh corn too
1 tbs olive oil
1/4 onion – sliced
2 tbs crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce – I used Tomates Fritos from Viter with a little crushed tomatoes I had leftover.
Garlic Salt to taste
Pour olive oil in a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Pour in the frozen corn and the onions and stir to coat with the olive oil. Cover so the steam generated cooks and soften the corn and onions.
About 5-10 minutes later, pour in the crushed tomatoes and season with garlic salt.
Sautee for a few minutes more until the corn is thoroughly cooked.
I was completely surprised on how good this tasted. It was a step up from boiled corn with a little butter. The gamble paid off. I hope you like it too. I served this originally with my Creamy Potatoes. And later on served it as part of this salad…