Apparently, lentils and bananas are combined more commonly than we think.
I came upon a Banana-Lentil Salad recipe while browsing Nuevo Latino: Recipes that Celebrate the New Latin-American Cuisine by Douglas Rodriguez, a James Beard award-winning chef. His salad trails back to the Spanish Canary Islands.
In Mexico, as well as in other Latin American and Caribbean countries, lentejas y platanos (lentils and plantains) are frequently eaten as a soup usually stewed with pork. And, in places like Puebla, Mexico, pineapple is also added to the mix, according to The Art of Mexican Cooking by renowned cookbook author Diana Kennedy, who links the savory/sweet combo to Moorish Spain. The combination can also be traced to some African recipes.
This salad recipe, however, is my version of lentejas and platanos. It’s loosely inspired by Rodriguez and traditional lentejas recipes.
If you’re leary about the lentil/plantain combo – have the salad without the plantains, it’s still plenty flavorful and healthy. However, you’re on notice that it’s those platanos fritos (fried plantains) that makes this salad special.
The caramelized plantains have sweet, tender insides that are also a tad bit tangy and a perfect contrast to the crunchiness of peppers, onion and celery, and the nuttiness of wild rice and lentils.
It’s an unusual twist that’s not so unusual.
Tidbits on Lentils:
- Before cooking lentils, be sure to sort the legumes to remove any debris such as dirt and stones. Then rinse well in a colander and drain. It is not necessary to pre-soak lentils before cooking.
- Store unused lentils in an airtight container in a cool, dry location for up to one year.
- Lentils are high in soluble fiber and recommended for people with diabetes and cholestoral problems.
Lentil & Plantain Salad – Ensalada de Lentejas Y Platanos
Plantains can be found at Hispanic/Latin American and Asian grocery stores in the U.S. Purchase plantains that have as much black skin as possible, an indication of its sweetness. Note: green plantains will take several days (up to a week) to ripen.
I prefer to eat the finished salad room temperature after the plantains have been freshly fried.
1/2 tablespoon butter or oil
1/2 cup onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup wild rice
1 1/3 – 1 1/2 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup green lentils, sorted and rinsed
1 1/2 cups water
1 small bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 – 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon, optional
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup red, yellow or green bell pepper, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 green onion, diced
1 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
Fresh serrano chile, deveined and finely chopped (optional)
2 ripe plantains*
2 tablespoons vegetable or canola oil
*Ripe plantains have a dark, almost black exterior. Fully ripe plantains are sweeter and make a nicer contrast in the salad.
- Wild Rice: In a small pot, over medium-high heat, melt butter; saute onion and garlic for 1 – 2 minutes. Add wild rice, 1 1/2 cups water and salt. Bring to boil, cover with tight-fitting lid, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 45 – 50 minutes. I prefer rice grains slightly split with a chewy texture. If you prefer yours fully split, cook a few minutes longer (you may need to add 1 – 2 tablespoons water).] When done, fluff with fork, drain off any excess water. Let cool.
- Lentils: Sort lentils to remove debris; rinse well. In small pot, bring all ingredients to boil; cover, reduce heat and simmer on low for 35 – 40 minutes or until lentils are tender but still in tact. Drain lentils, remove bay leaf. Let cool.
- Salad: In a small bowl, whisk olive oil, balsamic, garlic, cumin and cinnamon. In a medium-size bowl, add cooled and drained wild rice and lentils and the remaining salad ingredients – bell pepper, celery, onion, cilantro and chile. Add oil mixture; mix well.
- Plantains: With a knife, trim the ends off the plantains. Cut in half, leave skin on then slice each piece lengthwise; peel. Heat oil in skillet until hot, use tongs to place plantains flat side down. Fry in oil about 2 minutes on each side until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. When cooled a few minutes, cut lengthwise and cut into bite-size pieces (about 1”). Add to salad and lightly toss.
- Serve room temperature or chilled. Platanos taste best when freshly fried.
- Variation: add pineaple; grill fruit instead of frying.