Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Recipe #19: Roasted ripe plantain snack

I've already enthused about ripe plantains.
If you're interested in a healthy snack that's naturally low in sodium, but high in potassium, vitamins B6 and C and fiber, and heartier than bananas, here's an easy recipe: roasted ripe plantain.

You'll need an oven to make this (or a toaster oven).

1. First, get a ripe plantain per person. This may take some
2. Preheat your oven to high (425 degrees F)
3. Wash the plantain, then make a horizontal slit along one side
4. Put the plantain on a cookie sheet and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes. The peeling will become very dark, but the plantain inside will not burn.
5. Remove the cookie sheet and set it on a heatproof surface. Remember the plantain will be very hot, so let it cool a little before carefully peeling it and serving it on a plate.

While I like my roasted plantains "naked" they can also be eaten with peanuts or a sauce (when my unconventional son DK was young, he used to dip ihem in ketchup). When accompanied with a stew, of course, it is no longer a snack.

There are many variations to this: you could also cut the unpeeled plantain into 4 or 6 pieces and bake the same way. If you grease the cookie sheet lightly first, you can place sliced peeled plantains on it. This makes for a different texture, since the plantains are browned on the outside. Finally, you can cook plantains in the microwave, but I greatly prefer them cooked in the oven.

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Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Recipe #15: Iced Kenkey

I remember that when I was a child growing up in California my Tennessee-born mother sometimes snacked on graham crackers she crumbled into a bowl and covered with milk.

Iced kenkey: Similarly, my late sister-in-law Afua used to enjoy a Ghanaian snack in the early 1970s when she attended the boarding school where I taught in Nungua, Ghana. It was called "iced kenkey." She simply crumbled part of a ball of Ga kenkey with her fingers into a cup and added cold water and "plenty" of evaporated milk and sugar (it was sugar cubes in those days), stirred it well, and drank/ate it from a large mug. We had no refrigerator, but if we had I'm sure she would have used ice water to prepare it.

I never developed a taste for iced kenkey, so I checked in with a couple of Ghanaians--my sister-in-law Theodora, and my friend Julia--to make sure I had the recipe right.

My friend Julia Yeboah said that "iced kenkey" made from Fante kenkey is superior in taste to that made from other kenkeys. Fante kenkey is the one steamed in plantain or banana leaves, rather than corn husks, and is generally unsalted.

"Iced kenkey" is quick and easy to make. It is a popular inexpensive snack/street food sold throughout much of Ghana. It can tide people over until they can have a more filling meal. Iced kenkey is also used as a weaning food for children. "Iced kenkey" is never served hot (duh, right?)

To make enough for one-two people, take about a cup of kenkey (I used some leftover from the balls I blogged about on Aug. 26, recipe #12), and crumble it into pieces in a bowl with your fingers. I cheated and used a fork to help smash it up. Then add about a half cup of ice cold water and mix well. I used a wire whisk, but think this would work well if blended in a blender like a smoothie, even though that's not traditional and it would change the texture. Add milk and sugar to taste. It took me about a tablespoon of sugar to smooth out the sourness of the kenkey, and about 1/3 cup of evaporated milk (you can use other milk, but I wanted to recreate the taste I remember from Ghana).

It is about the consistency of rice water, and can be drunk or eaten with a spoon, or a combination. It is frequently eaten with unsalted roasted peanuts (but not crushed) sprinkled over it.

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Recipe #13: Small chop: corn and coconut snack

We've been enjoying wonderful sweet corn lately from our local CSA (community supported agriculture) group, Plowshare Produce. Yesterday I prepared a quick and simple, but popular snack (in Ghana known as "small chop"). While North American sweet corn is much softer and sweeter than Ghana's corn, and thus cooks much more quickly, sweet corn can easily be substituted to make what proves to be a delicate and complementary combination of flavors and crunchy and chewy textures, and a hearty snack.

First, prepare a fresh coconut. Actually, the ones usually seen in supermarkets here are the hard, dried ones with a hairy brown covering. The really fresh ones (not the ones we want today) are green on the outside. When shopping for coconuts, I always shake them first to find one that seems full of liquid. If you haven't recently opened a coconut, I recommend some newspapers spread out on the floor under the coconut, a good-sized glass, cup, or bowl, a hammer and an ice pick or sharp object like a screw driver or clean nail, a knife and/or a vegetable peeler.

Hold the ice pick, or screwdriver over one of the 3 "eyes" in one end of the coconut, and use the hammer to make a hole there. Repeat for the other 2 eyes and then invert the coconut over the cup or bowl and drain out the liquid, shaking it if necessary to get all the coconut water out. If the coconut is fresh, this liquid will be very refreshing, and can be drunk by itself, poured into tropical fruit salads, etc.

Next, take the hammer and start whacking the coconut (make sure no one is standing nearby, and be careful of flying bits of coconut shells) until it breaks apart into pieces. Carefully use the knife to pry the coconut away from the hard brown shell. Then use the knife/vegetable peeler to peel off the thin brown coating on the back of the coconut, leaving only the white pieces. Once you can get past the idea that coconut has to be flaked and coated with sugar, this is a delightful combination. Rinse the coconut and cut it into slices or cubes.

To prepare the corn, boil the corn cobs in salted water, grill them over an open fire, or cook them in the microwave. Serve pieces of corn and coconut together. This is a great snack on a hot summer afternoon or evening, especially when accompanied by an ice-cold beverage of your choice, like ginger beer, bissap, puha, or beer.

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