Foreign Foods Win Favor
BY DANA JACOBI
FOR THE AMERICAN INSTITUTE FOR CANCER RESEARCH
Waves of immigrants
arriving in the U.S. during the late nineteenth and early twentieth
centuries generated more than political tensions. What they ate
was viewed with suspicion if not outright contempt. Italians,
for example, were despised for using garlic, drinking wine and
eating strange vegetables like gasp! broccoli and
was inevitable. Trying to alter prejudices and win customers,
Cantonese cooks in Chinese restaurants transformed dishes like
traditionally delicate fried rice by adding soy sauce. They offered
deep-fried fish smothered in heavy bean sauce and reserved the
subtle pleasures of fish steamed with ginger and scallions for
appreciative fellow countrymen.
culinary xenophobia has eased. Americans are now much more enthusiastic
and accepting of new foods and flavors. In the supermarket, this
translates into the availability of rice noodles, tomatillos
and Thai curry pastes.
one of my favorite ethnic ingredients. My love for them was fostered
when a Puerto Rican roommate introduced me to crisply fried tostones.
Carmen showed me how slices of green, unripe plantain fry up
crisper, while riper ones (which she called amarillos after their
yellow color) produce a more golden-brown chip. These
chips also have a tart-sweet flavor that I prefer to the bland
taste of tostones made from unripe plantains.
were an indulgence I rarely enjoyed, until a registered dietitian
with Cuban roots showed me this method for baking them. A bit
less crisp than fried varieties, they taste just as good. She
also suggested serving the baked tostones with mojo, a warm dip
pungent with garlic, cumin, oregano and sour orange juice or
a combination of orange and lime juices.
Tostones with Mojo Dipping Sauce - Makes 4 Servings.
- 4 tsp. canola
- 1 large garlic
clove, finely chopped
- 1/3 cup sour
orange juice (= 1/4 cup fresh orange juice and 1 Tbsp. lime juice)
- 1/2 tsp. ground
- 1/2 tsp. dried
oregano, preferably Mexican
- 1/8 tsp. ground
- 1/2 tsp. salt,
- 1 large yellow
In a small
saucepan, heat 2 teaspoons of the oil with garlic over medium-low
heat for 3 minutes to infuse it with flavor. Do not let the garlic
color. Add orange juice, cumin, oregano, pepper and 1/4 teaspoon
salt. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook until the Mojo
comes to a full boil. Pour it into a small bowl and set aside
to cool to room temperature. If not using immediately, cover
and refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
oven to 400 degrees. Lightly coat a non-stick baking sheet with
cooking spray. Place remaining 2 teaspoons of oil in a mixing
bowl. Peel plantain and cut it crosswise into slices slightly
thinner than 1/2-inch and add them to the bowl. Add 1/4 teaspoon
salt and toss until plantain is well coated with the oil. Arrange
plantain slices on the prepared baking sheet.
plantains are browned on the bottom, about 4 minutes. They do
not brown evenly. Remove them from the oven. A few slices at
a time, transfer the plantains to a cutting board and press firmly
with the flat bottom of a glass or measuring cup to 1/4-inch
thickness. Return them to the baking sheet, placing them browned
baking sheet to the oven and bake until the tostones are lightly
browned on the bottom, about 4 minutes. Transfer them to a serving
plate and let sit 5 minutes. Set the bowl of dipping sauce on
the plate and serve immediately.