As the weather cools I look forward to homemade soups and stews. Since leaving Miami, I’ve craved a soup that I used to get on my visits to Latin House Restaurant in Little Havana — plantain soup.
No. Not banana soup. That would be just plain gross! Plantains are a cultivar of bananas, but are only edible when cooked.
Plantains are typically a side dish staple at a Cuban dinner. More often they are served as tostones (fried like thick chips) or as maduros (when the plantain is allowed to get a bit over ripe and soft to the touch. They are cut at a diagonal and sautéed lightly in oil). Maduros are sweeter and tender.
Both are scrumptious, by the way.
I had never attempted making homemade plantain soup, thinking it would take hours of preparation and a thousand items for the recipe. But I looked up the recipe and found one that seemed simple on the Three Guys from Miami blog site.
Hey this looks simple!
Their original recipe called for a spice called bijol, which is primarily a coloring agent and mild spice blend. I didn’t have that on hand and in its place I used turmeric, which still provided the color. It’s also a natural anti-inflammatory and has many health benefits. The online recipe used chicken stock. Well, being the lazy person that I am, I used vegetable stock instead since it’s what I had in my pantry. It also made this a complete vegetarian recipe.
No. I’m not 100 percent vegetarian. But I am trying to cut out too much meat. And it is pretty rare to find a Latin dish that doesn’t have some small component of meat in it, at least in the kitchen I grew up in.
The first part of the recipe was easy. Just sauté celery, onions and carrots until they softened and the onions start becoming translucent. Then add in garlic for a few more minutes on the stove top. Turn the heat to high and add the veggie stock, two of the green plantains (peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks), cumin, turmeric, bay leaves and cayenne pepper and let it come to a boil.
After it comes to a rolling boil, let it sit for a few minutes, then bring it down to a low simmer, cover and let it simmer for about an hour.
It was the second part of the recipe that nearly killed me. All I had to do was take most of the plantains out of the soup, puree them in a food processor or blender and add them back into the soup and cook an additional 10 minutes.
Well poop, my blender is broken. But hey, no worries, I have my food processor. This baby is still in the box! How hard can it be to figure out?
Apparently very hard and I’m thankful I still have all my fingers. I got the processor out of the box, put the base on my counter and plugged it in. I washed the main container housing (you know the thing that holds the food stuff). Then I washed the rotating blade and top and started snapping them into the base. As I slid the lid in place and turned the unit to lock, the blade started whirring and spinning, scaring the poop out of me.
I wasn’t expecting it to be on. Note to self, plugging it in should be the last thing you do. It appears that the switch was in the on position so as soon as I locked the bowl in place it was GO-TIME.
Once I figured things out, I was so frazzled that I burned my hand when trying to scoop out some of the plantain chunks from the soup. Finally getting my act together, I managed to puree the plantains and finish the recipe.
With nerves still jumpy and one hand soaking in cold water, it was time to use up the last green plantain I bought for the soup topping and side.
I peeled the plantain and was going to use my fancy new mandolin slicer to make thinly sliced chips with half of the plantain and tostones with the remaining half.
Suddenly I got all these images I had seen online of the horrific cuts people received from their mandolin slicer. After my experience with the food processor, I decided it was safer to make the tostones. I looked into my pantry, found a bag of plantain chips to top the soup off and called it a success.
Safely seated away from the kitchen, I had my first taste. It was just as I remembered it tasting at the restaurant. I am pretty sure I was doing the Cuban salsa happy dance as I devoured my soup and tostones.
You can find my recipe for tostones and maduros here: coastalcourier.com/archives/79655/
Cuban veggie style plantain soup
1 cup celery
1 cup onion finely chopped
1 ½ cups of carrots, shredded
5 cloves garlic, minced
3 large green plantains (2 for the soup, 1 for tostones or chips)
6 cups vegetable stock
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 bay leaves
Dash cayenne pepper
Salt, pepper to taste
Olive oil for sautéing the veggies