Something New, Weird, and Different
Today's posting really isn't weird--perhaps just a little different from most Wednesday night suppers. I'm offering you a recipe for a Plantain Casserole that is Dominican-style but contains quite a few modifications for our tastes. The dish uses fairly inexpensive ingredients and is easier than than making a pan of lasagna. I've relied on ground turkey in this version of the dish rather than ground beef, but, if you'd prefer the beef, go ahead and use 93 percent lean beef to minimize the fat. The plantains, which are cheap, loaded with potassium and other nutrients, and look like giant bananas, should be deep yellow with some black spot on them. You boil and mash the plantains, like potatoes, to form the base of the casserole and then saute some vegetables and ground turkey with warm spices and garlic for an incredibly tasty middle layer. Lime juice, olives, and a bit of tomato paste liven up the turkey mixture. I don't use spicy peppers, but, if you'd like more heat, feel free to add them to the turkey mixture to suit your taste. Finally, a layer of cheddar cheese crowns the top of the dish, which needs about 30 minutes in the oven. I think the casserole goes well with yellow squash and zucchini, which can cook in the oven alongside the casserole, and a fresh green salad.
Plantain Casserole -- Serves 6
For the Plantain Layer
4 large, ripe yellow plantains, peeled
2-4 tablespoons of milk
1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon of salt
2 tablespoons of minced dried onions
Cut the plantains in thirds (or to fit) and put them a medium saucepan. Cover them with water by about an inch. Bring the water and plantains to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook the plantains until they are soft--15-20 minutes. (While the plantains cook, you can start on the middle layer.) Drain the plantains well and mash them with a little milk, the garlic powder, salt, and the minced dried onions.
Coat a large dish or 3-quart casserole with nonstick cooking spray and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spread the mashed plantains in the bottom of the prepared dish.
Middle and Top Layers
1 tablespoon of canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 medium sweet bell peppers (preferably of different colors), chopped
1- 1 1/4 pounds of lean ground turkey (93 percent)
1/4 teaspoon of pepper
1/2 teaspoon of salt
1 1/2 teaspoons of dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon of ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon of ground cumin
2 teaspoons of minced garlic
1/4 cup of lime juice
1/4 cup of sliced Spanish olives
1-2 tablespoons of olive brine
2-3 tablespoons of tomato paste
1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese
1 egg, separated
1/4 cup of fresh cilantro, chopped
Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium high heat and add the oil. When the pan and oil are hot, add the onion and peppers and saute them for 5-10 minutes or until they've softened. Add the ground turkey, pepper, salt, oregano, coriander, and cumin and saute the mixture until the turkey is cooked through. Add the garlic and stir the mixture for a minute or so. Add the lime juice, olives, olive brine, and tomato paste and stir the mixture well to incorporate everything. If the mixture seems dry, add a little water, a tablespoon at a time until the mixture stirs easily. Pour the turkey mixture on top of the plantains in the casserole. Sprinkle the cheddar cheese evenly over top of the meat mixture. In a small bowl, whisk the egg white until frothy and white and then whisk in the egg yolk. Drizzle the whipped egg evenly over the cheese in the casserole. Bake the casserole for about 30 minutes or until the top is a little crusty. Let the casserole stand a few minutes (preferably at least 10, but it never makes it that long at my house) and sprinkle on the cilantro before serving it.