We bring you another recipe in honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month.
Chef Lizette Marx, Holistic Chef Instructor for Bauman College’s Holistic Chef Online Culinary Program shares a recipe celebrating her cultural and literal, Latin American roots, Plantain & Yuca Tostones!
Plantains & Yuca Root
Plantains and yuca root were a common staple when I was growing up. My Nicaraguan grandmother often made fried platanos (green, unripe plantains) and served them with fried cheese. They were so very tasty and I have fond memories of enjoying them with a simple plate of slow cooked red beans and rice.
My grandmother also allowed a couple green plantains to sit on the counter and ripen until they were soft and the peels were almost black. These overripe plantains were referred to as maduros and like the platanos they were also sliced and fried in butter and oil but the flavor was sweet like a cross between a banana and pineapple. Maduros were my all time favorite, especially when served with cream cheese.
The yuca root was probably my least favorite because the flavor to my six-year-old palate was too bland and the texture was a bit dense and fibery. But my grandmother insisted I eat it because she said it was healthy. She was right.
An Amazingly Nutrient Dense Vegetable
Yuca root is an amazingly nutrient-dense vegetable, so much so that indigenous people in Latin America were known to subsist on just yuca root when food was scarce. It is loaded with potassium, vitamin C, and iron and is quite filling.
Though yuca has an impressive nutritional profile it can be a bit intimidating when you first encounter it because it looks more like a tree branch than a vegetable. The peel has to be removed with a knife instead of a vegetable peeler. I remember watching my grandmother rip the peel off with a knife. It looked intense and not at all easy but she seemed perfectly at ease with this dangerous looking task.
Once she removed the peel she would cut the root into disks, parboil it in salty water and remove the twine like spine in the center of each round. Then she’d add the yuca to her chicken soup. She called this soup, “Big Soup” and it was indeed big. Big on flavor and chunks of veggies. I’ll save her soup for another story… Besides going into the soup, she also added chunks of yuca to a spicy cabbage slaw called curtido.
Yuca may not have been my favorite when I was a kid but it is a starch I love to cook now. One dish I love to make with plantain and yuca is a tostone. It isn’t exactly traditional but definitely borrows from many traditional street foods throughout Latin America. As for the maduro, I’ll continue to take mine just the way my abuelita made them, sautéed in butter or better yet, ghee and served with softened cream cheese.
Plantain & Yuca Tostones
Tostones are savory appetizers that are popular throughout the Caribbean and Latin America. They are primarily made from unripe (green) plantains that are boiled, mashed and then fried. When served, they are often topped with salsa, guacamole, and cotija cheese but they can also be used as a base like a tortilla and topped with carnitas, ceviche, or beef barbacoa. In this version, yuca (cassava root) is added into the mix making this tostone a little heartier and more savory.
- 2 green plantains, peeled and cut into chunks
- 1 medium yuca root, peeled and cut into chunks
- 5 cloves of garlic, peeled
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 2 limes, juiced
- 1/4 cup olive oil or more to taste
- sea salt to taste
- 2 tablespoons of medium-high heat fat (ghee, lard, or coconut oil)
- Add plantains, yuca, garlic, and sea salt in a pot and cover with filtered water and boil gently until very tender. Drain and transfer to a large bowl.
- Using a potato masher, smash yuca, plantains and garlic thoroughly. Add olive oil and continue mashing until well incorporated. Mixture can be slightly chunky but avoid large pieces of yuca or plantain, try to mash these down well.
- Add lime juice and sea salt to taste.
- Scoop out 1 1/2 tablespoon size dollops onto a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and mash down slightly with the back of a spoon.
- Heat a cast iron skillet or griddle with fat of choice and fry tostones until crispy on both sides. Transfer to a paper towel lined sheet tray to blot out excess oil. Serve with salsa and crumbled cotija cheese or enjoy as is.
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