If you’re wondering what on earth a plantain is, don’t worry, so was I when I read about it in Vegan Soul Kitchen. But then I saw them stocked at what is fast becoming my favourite store in the world, Redfern Fruit and Vegetable Market, and decided to branch out into the unknown. I’m so glad I did, it is absolutely delicious!
Other Aussies will relate to this: the feeling of disappointment when reading about some incredible or intriguing ingredient on a recipe blog, only to find that it’s not commonly available here. I find that most of the blogs I read are US-based, and it seems that there are a wider variety of vegetables and specialty ingredients commonly found there. Especially those in San Francisco! My god, it sounds as though there’s a farmer’s market on every corner!
So, it was much to my surprise when I discovered that Redfern Fruit and Vegetable Market stocks kale, in all colours and shapes, black carrots for a reasonable price, as well as white asparagus, three colours of sweet potato, yams, tamarillos, logans, fresh tamarind, these bizzare-looking lemons, sugar cane, hairy melons, bitter melons, durian, jackfruit, green papaya… um… the list goes on! It’s also cheaper than your average fruit’n’veg store. And, I can’t leave unmentioned the generously sized, freshly made “super veggie juice with kale” that, for $3, I can’t resist ordering at the checkout on my way out. Best of all, it’s an easy walk from my house. Can you tell I’m excited about it?
Anyway, after a few weeks of perving on this exotic produce, and wondering how on earth these things are cooked and what they taste like, I forehead-slapped myself and realised that hey, there’s this thing called Google. How on earth it took me so long I don’t know, let’s just blame it on uni work, because that deserves to be blamed for all things bad and sorrowful. Seriously, I had been looking at these plump purple artichokes, thinking about how much I love artichoke, but too scared to buy them because I’d only cooked them once, and failed miserably. Shocking, I know.
Since Google provided more than enough instruction, I bought artichokes to cook this week. I bought yams last week, green papaya the week before. And yesterday I bought plantains. Each week I plan to buy at least one fruit or vegetable that I’ve never cooked before, and take a little time to look up how to prepare it. It’s such an easy and fun way to expand my culinary repertoire, as well as getting the benefit from an ever more varied diet of fresh produce. I hope it inspires you to do the same – if there’s a vegetable that you shun because you’ve never tried it, look it up! There’s bound to be a plethora of information out there about it. And if you would rather someone else try it first, just let me know what scares you and I’ll give it a shot first and post the recipe.
So this salad features a number of interesting ingredients, but I’ll be providing more common substitutes to make it easy if you don’t have access to them. First, we have dark purple kale, famous for its outstanding nutritional profile. On Dr Fuhrman’s scale of nutrients-per-calorie, kale tops the list. [Note: I re-made the salad to get some better photos, and Redfern was out of purple kale. Oak-leaf lettuce is what you see there. Still good nutritionally, but kale is far superior] Then black carrot, the antioxidant-rich, more fibrous, less sweet relative of the common orange carrot. Plantain looks like a fat, green banana, but is less sweet; commonly fried in African cuisine. It’s fairly starchy and when very ripe, can be eaten raw. Strawberries are in season, and mushrooms are a staple in my diet. Roasted garlic, lime and hummus help tie in the flavours. Hummus and strawberries turns out to be a match made in heaven – who knew? All together, this salad is loaded with nutrients, low in fat, high in fibre, and very very delicious. Plus it looks cool
Strawberry and Plantain Salad (serves one very hungry person)
- 1/2-1 plantain (or a just-ripe-enough-to-eat banana)
- 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 2 cups purple kale, shredded (or just ordinary lettuce, as I used when I re-made the salad for photos)
- 1/2 a black carrot, sliced thinly (or ordinary carrot)
- 2-4 strawberries, depending on size, sliced
- 5 button mushrooms, quartered
- 2-3 tbps hummus (homemade or a good quality store bought one)
Roast Garlic Strawberry Dressing (makes over a cup)
- 1 head of roasted garlic
- 1/4 cup lime juice
- 1/2 cup water
- 3 medium strawberries
- 2 prunes or dates
- salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 180C.
- Slice plantain in half lengthways and in half again crossways, toss in vinegar and place on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Sprinkle with salt and roast for 30 minutes, turning halfway through.
- Blend dressing ingredients until smooth.
- Massage 1/4 cup of the dressing into the kale and let sit while you chop the rest of the salad ingredients.
- Slice the plantain pieces into smaller bits, add to the kale along with the rest of the salad ingredients, toss and serve topped with a few tablespoons of hummus and a good crack of pepper and salt.
On another topic, I was clearing out my pantry and decanting bags of legumes and other things into containers and jars, and came across a bag of breadcrumbs that I had bought some time ago. Before emptying it into a container, I glanced at the ingredient list. The first thing that struck me was that it was too long for something as simple as breadcrumbs – which always sets off warning bells. Reading through, I was appalled! Check it out, fish gelatine, cultured whey, milk solids, tuna oil, preservatives, emulsifiers, sugars and multiple things that have numbers instead of names. Yuck! Straight into the bin! Moral of the story – read labels. If it has an ingredient list, assume it’s guilty until proven innocent.