dinner on the anniversary of shelter-in-place day one
to purchase unripe plantains is to make an investment in my future. wrap them up in a paper bag, squirrel them away in a kitchen corner, and wait... a few days? a week? two? who knows! but the anticipation of their black-speckled ripeness foretells a favorable meal.
today, one of my plantains reached (what i consider to be) its zenith of flavor. i spent idle moments throughout the day planning a plantain-centered dinner with only ingredients that i had at home.
one of my favorite recipes that i tried in february was hawa hassan and julia turshen’s take on kenyan kunde — “stewed [black-eyed] peas, fragrant with tomatoes and peanuts” — from their 2020 hit cookbook in bibi’s kitchen: the recipes and stories of grandmothers from the eight african countries that touch the indian ocean (my review). a weekend taste of the peanutty sauce that accompanies vietnamese spring rolls reinvigorated my craving for a hearty nut butter and bean dish like kunde.
i roughly followed the routine suggested by hassan and turshen in their recipe: cook the aromatics for a few minutes; sprinkle in ground spices, mixing attentively for a hot second; fold in beans, peanut butter, and tomato; add water; season with salt; and simmer for a while. however, i significantly deviated from their recipe with substitutions and additions:
- i chose diced onions, diced serrano pepper, and grated fresh ginger as my mirepoix;
- i opted for ground garam masala instead of ground coriander, but stuck with the ground turmeric used by the authors;
- i emptied in a half-finished can of chickpeas instead of opening a new can of black-eyed peas and slid in a few stray canned whole peeled tomatoes instead of one fresh one;
- i threw in a spoonful of harissa for a smol smoky note;
- and i guesstimated all quantities, ignoring recipe guidance in favor of what i thought might turn out well. 😅
i left the flavors of my kunde-ish chickpea stew to meld and moved on to tossing shredded red cabbage and roughly chopped leftover kale stems in olive oil and lemon pepper seasoning. i spread these underloved vegetable scraps on a sheet pan and roasted them until crispy.
i then turned to the star of the evening, my ripened plantain. i sliced it on an aggressive bias and fried the slices in hot grapeseed oil, salting them as. i plated them on a bed of leftover microwave-reheated white rice. i spooned the kunde-ish chickpea stew and shimmied the roasted cabbage and kale stems onto the empty half of my plate and garnished my meal with minced cilantro leaves and stems. i really tried to plate this like instagram/youtube chef david olu does his dinners starring plantains, but the absence of photos in this entry should be enough to express how well that went.
as i mentioned in my inaugural entry, prepping compelling components and assembling them into a meal is something i learned to do as an employee lucky enough to work from home during the pandemic. today marks one year since the city in which i reside shut down in response to covid-19. i can think of no more appropriate meal for the occasion than the scrappy, meditative one that i threw together tonight. i hope the good fortune the plantain has come to represent for me follows through with herd immunity and, more broadly speaking, well-being in the wake of collective and individual traumas.