The first time I tasted plantains, those longer, bigger bananas you sometimes see in your grocery store among other exotic fruits and vegetables, I did not like them. They were fried yet sort of mushy, and tasted very sweet although they were served as a savory side dish. So, for the next fifteen years I stayed away from them.
Few months ago I was watching a cooking show, and they talked about Puerto Rican lasagna – Pastelón – that looked delicious, with layers made of plantains rather than noodles. So I decided to give this lasagna a try. Please note that if you expect to see a traditional Pastelón recipe here, stop reading now and go elsewhere. I took a great deal of liberty here, so you will not find any meat or cheese here. What you will find is lots of beans and salsa. And lots, and lots of plantains.
The plantains you want to use here are very ripe. Some stores sell them ripe, but some carry only green looking plantains. You could get those and keep them in a paper bag until they get ripe – I tried this but it did not work really well. So now I go for off the shelf half-ripe plantains that, by the way, are very yellow with a bit of black. This article will help you navigate the plantains and different stages of their ripeness. For me the green plantains were too tough and the very ripe ones were too sweet so I settled on 75%-ripe.
Instead of frying the plantains, which is the most common way people make them edible, I roasted them. You will need to cut through the skin lengthwise and roast them for about half an hour. Their skin should turn totally black and once cooled they should be easy to peel and slice lengthwise into thin slices.
While your plantains are roasting, prepare your lasagna filling, which in this case is a batch of pinto beans, simmered with onions, roasted green chili peppers and spices.
The base for your lasagna will be salsa, and I just use store bought kind, and what will give this lasagna a slightly meaty feel is a layer of TVP – textured vegetable protein. Although the bag TVP comes in may recommend soaking, please don’t do it. This lasagna is juicy enough and the TVP will soften and cook as the lasagna is baking. After the TVP layer, come the plantain slices, and then the beans. Cover everything with foil, but it in the oven for forty five minutes or so, and that will be that. You will have an out of the ordinary lasagna on your hands to enjoy.
Plantains Lasagna with Pinto Beans
What you’ll need:
4 plantains, almost ripe
2 cups salsa, homemade or store bought
2 cups TVP (textured vegetable protein)
1 onion, diced
2 15.5 oz (440 g) cans pinto beans
1 4 oz (113 g) can fire roasted green chili peppers
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
What you’ll do:
- Preheat the oven to 425 F (220 C).
- Wash the plantains, cut their end off and cut a slit in their skin lengthways. Arrange on the foil or parchment paper lined baking sheet and put in the oven for 35-45 minutes.
- While plantains are roasting, prepare the beans. Spray the bottom of a large pan, I used my cast iron pan but you can use any pan you like, and place over medium heat.
- Add the onions and cook until golden, which will take about 5 minutes.
- Add the spices, and let the spices toast for a minute or so.
- Add the can of fire roasted green chili peppers and stir again.
- Finally add the beans and using a potato masher mash the beans while they cook. Don’t mash them all the way through – leave some of the beans whole. Let the beans simmer for 15 minutes or so.
- By the time the beans are done, plantains will be too. The roasted plantains should be soft but not mushy. Let the plantains cool before handling.
- Decrease the oven temperature to 350 F (175 C).
- Once cool enough to handle, peel the plantains and cut lengthwise into sheets. Adjust the thickness to your preference.
- Spray the bottom and the sides of a deep 9 x 13 in (23 x 33 cm) baking dish with cooking spray. Pour the salsa in and spread to cover the bottom. Distribute the TVP over the salsa to make one even layer. Place the roasted plantain slices over the TVP. Pour the beans over the plantains, cover the dish with some foil and put it in the oven for 30 minutes covered, then uncover and let the top brown for another 10 minutes.
- Take the lasagna out of the oven and let it rest for 10 minutes before serving. Serve with plain rice or enjoy as is, perhaps with a sprinkle of cheese alternative or a spoonful of macadamia nut queso fresco. Yum!!!
Copyright © Eat the Vegan Rainbow, 2019