Plantain Spiders

    As soon as you get anywhere south of the US border, it seems that plantains become a dietary staple.  They look like big bananas, and cook like starchy potatoes.  They don't need to be refrigerated and last for weeks--almost as long as onions and potatoes.  As they slowly ripen from green to yellowish green to black, they gradually become sweeter and develop a subtle banana like flavor.  They are often smashed into little quarter inch thick patties and fried to make "tostones".  They can also be baked or fried--like potatoes are.

   The best way by far, however , that I've found to eat plantains is by making plantain spiders.  This was one of my special secret recipies up in Wisconsin and I always felt quite smug to trot these out to people who had never tried a plantain before.  Balls of shredded plantain--deep fried with garlic and ginger makes this addictive little sweet/salty/spicy snack unlike the more bland tostones.

   Apparently I wasn't the only one hoarding this little gem of a recipie.  We met Jennifer and Otis onboard their boat "Independence" in Georgetown and were soon talking about getting together for drinks and appetizers sometime.  "I'll make you guys my plantain spiders!", she offered eagerly. 

  "Oh no", I thought, "someone knows my secret recipie."  Jennifer had, as it turned out, also read and enjoyed the book An Embarassment of Mangoes where the recipe came from.  The book tells how the author sailed through the Caribbean, chatting up the local ladies along the way and learning their best recipes for local dishes.  It turned out that our tastes in literature and plantains are not all we have in common.  In fact, the folks from Independence have become some of the best friends we've met along the way so far.  Anyway, here's the recipe.  Unless your guests have read the book, it can now be your little secret too.

2 large plantains, one green, one semi ripe (yellow, not flecked with black)

2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger

2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh garlic

sea salt

fresh ground black pepper

2 C. vegetable oil for frying

           Peel plantains and shred coarsely using a cheese grater.  Combine shredded plantains with ginger, garlic, and 1/2 tsp salt in a mixing bowl.  Heat oil to 350 degrees.  Using two forks or spoons, drop tablespoon-size balls of the plantain mixture into the hot oil.  Don't compress the balls, you want them to look "spidery" when the emerge.  Fry until golden on all sides, turning once if necessary.  Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon when golden brown and drain on paper towels.  Sprinkle with coarse sea salt and pepper and serve immediately.  Serves 4 as an appetizer or happy hour snack.