#GoodFoodSeries

“Good Food,” 17′ x 12′ watercolor and acrylic.

The #GoodFoodSeries finished last month in conjunction with National Culinary Arts Month! Here’s the finalized painting. 🙂 All write-ups on the majority of the food items can be read here. Life happened and the bottom row of food items didn’t get individual blog posts sharing their health benefits along with a recipe from a Black chef, but I encourage you to take the initiative and find out more about these (along with other foods) for yourself!

Hoping you learned some things along the way. I know I did in the process of working on this.

With love,
Keanna

 

#GoodFoodSeries – Plantain

“Plantain,” watercolor.

The banana plant has many varieties. Its origins have been traced to Southeast Asia (~500 B.C.) and was introduced to African countries via traders. From there its reach spread to Europe and then to the Caribbean via Portuguese Franciscan monk, Friar Tomàs de Berlanga [1].

Ripe Plantain Nutrition Label. Created by Keanna.

One variety of the banana is the plantain. Not to be confused with its “cousin,” the plantain is in a league of its own in terms of versatility. Plantains are usually larger than bananas with thicker skin, containing more starch and less sugar and water. And because they are edible (when cooked) during all stages of its maturation, they are enjoyed like vegetables and fruit. Here’s a breakdown of the stages:

PLATANO VERDE (Green Plantain)
When green, plantain is firm, very starchy, and has a texture and aroma that resembles the potato.

PLATANO PINTÓN (Half-Ripe Plantain)
At this point, the plantain is reaching ripeness, although not quite there yet and therefore still starchy. Its mostly yellow, may have brown spots, and its flesh remains firm.

PLATANO MADURO (Ripe Plantain)
When the plantain’s skin is dark yellow-brown, the ends are black and it feels soft to the touch when you squeeze it, it has ripened. This is when it will taste sweet and gives off a banana-like aroma.

PLATANO NEGRO (Blackened Plantain)
Here, the plantain’s skin is black, soft and tacky. Although it may look bad on the outside it’s still edible on the inside and has just reached the perfect stage for desserts.

Caribbean Stuffed Plantain Boat. Caribjournal / Caribbean Journal Staff.

Let’s presume you’ve experienced the plantain in many forms, but have you ever had it like this? A fancy way to enjoy plantain: as a Caribbean Stuffed Plantain Boat. The recipe (here) is provided by Chef Nigel Spence, owner and Executive Chef of Ripe Kitchen and Bar in Mt. Vernon, New York.

Unfortunately, the restaurant underwent safety measures to reopen during the pandemic, did so, and then was destroyed by a major fire. Chef Nigel is asking for community support by way of gift cards that can be redeemed when the restaurant reopens. They can be purchased here.

[1] “Banana (Musa sp.),” School of Integrative Biology. University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

#GoodFoodSeries – Potato

“Potato,” watercolor.

The potato: a global kitchen staple; an ancient, reliable food source. It is documented as being cultivated first by the Incas back in 8,000-5,000 B.C., in the region currently known as Peru/Bolivia.

Indigenous people went through a lot cultivating the potato during its formative years. Here’s what Smithsonian Magazine had to say:

Wild potatoes are laced with solanine and tomatine, toxic compounds believed to defend the plants against attacks from dangerous organisms like fungi, bacteria and human beings. Cooking often breaks down such chemical defenses, but solanine and tomatine are unaffected by heat. In the mountains, guanaco and vicuña (wild relatives of the llama) lick clay before eating poisonous plants. The toxins stick—more technically, “adsorb”—to the fine clay particles in the animals’ stomachs, passing through the digestive system without affecting it. Mimicking this process, mountain peoples apparently learned to dunk wild potatoes in a “gravy” made of clay and water. Eventually they bred less-toxic potatoes, though some of the old, poisonous varieties remain, favored for their resistance to frost. Clay dust is still sold in Peruvian and Bolivian markets to accompany them [1].

By the 1500s, like other foods, Spanish conquistadors took the potato back over to Europe where it took around 40 years for it to spread across the continent.

And then in much later years, the Colorado Potato Beetle began ravaging potato plants and affecting production. Their presence led to the creation of the first pesticide used by farmers: arsenic. Over time, alternative pesticides were used to ward off hungry critters that rendered the crops useless in markets and grocery stores.

Now, the potato is one of the top 5 most important crops in the world. There are more than 4,000 native varieties of it–most of which come out of Peru–and 180 wild varieties too. Among those varieties are different types that are commonly used in different ways for cooking and baking. From russet, to white, to red, to yellow, to purple, and fingerling, you’ll notice a difference in texture of flesh amongst the types.

Potato Nutrition Label. Created by Keanna.

The potato is loaded with potassium (more than a banana even) and vitamin C. Cooking the vegetable lowers the amount you’d take in, however cooking them with the skin on decreases the amount of nutrition lost in the process.

Duck Fat Grilled Sweet Potatoes. Tanorria’s Table.

If you’re like me, love potatoes and want a new way to enjoy them, I think you’ll like trying this recipe from award-winning personal Chef Tanorria AskewDuck Fat Grilled Sweet Potatoes. Get the recipe here.

 

[1] “How the Potato Changed the World,” Mann, Charles C. Smithsonian Magazine.

#GoodFoodSeries – Onion

“Onion,” watercolor.

“Banish (the onion) from the kitchen and the pleasure flies with it. Its presence lends color and enchantment to the most modest dish; its absence reduces the rarest delicacy to hopeless insipidity, and the dinner to despair.” – Elizabeth Robbins Pennell, columnist

The onion is a staple in many dishes of many cultures and offers tremendous flavor to whatever it comes into contact with. From sweet onions to white, red, yellow, green, leek and shallot ones, the flavor possibilities are virtually endless.

Onion Nutrition Label. Created by Keanna.

There is conflicting research regarding where this tear-inducing vegetable originated. Some say central Asia, others say the Middle East (Iran/western Pakistan). Regardless, onions have been used medicinally and even for mummification practices over 5000 years ago. Onions were found in the body cavities of mummies and seen as a representation of eternal life due to the seemingly infinite nesting of circles in its anatomy [1].

Onions, also referred to as “Nature’s Ninja,” contains many nutrients essential to building immunity, warding off diseases and cancers. It is also a source of prebiotics–essential for a healthy gut.

Today’s meal is courtesy of award-winning Chef Jernard Wells, also known as the The Chef of Love,  who will show you how to prepare Shallow Fried Catfish with Vidalia Onions and Hot Water Cornbread. He hosts New Soul Kitchen on CleoTV. Check out a clip from the show on how to prepare the meal below:

 

[1] “Onion History,” National Onion Association.