Tostones with Avocado and Palm Ceviche

by Terry Hope Romero

Serves 4 as a side or appetizer
Time: About 30 minutes, not including marinating time
Gluten Free, Soy Free

This is not a true ceviche, in the sense that nothing gets “cooked” by the citrus juice. But this zippy salad of creamy hearts of palm and avocado is a vegan riff on the traditional seafood ceviche filling for tostones rellenos, the fun Cuban snack of fried tostones formed into a cup, which is convenient for holding tasty fillings. A special variation of a tostonera is needed to make the tostone cups, but this filling is just as delectable scooped up with traditional flat tostones.

Tip: Look for organic, sustainably grown hearts of palm in glass jars or cans. If you can score actual fresh hearts of palm marinate them in the lime juice dressing for 20 minutes first and then stir in the avocado before serving with the tostones.

1 (14-ounce) jar or can of hearts of palm, drained and rinsed
1 large ripe red tomato ( ½ pound), seeded and diced finely
1 small red onion, peeled and diced finely
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar or more lime juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon salt
1 large ripe avocado
4 green unripe large plantains prepared as tostones (page 118)

1. Slice each palm heart down the center vertically, then slice into ½ -inch pieces and place in a mixing bowl. Add the tomato and onion. Pour the lime juice, white wine vinegar, olive oil, chopped cilantro, oregano, and salt on top and mix well. Chill for 30 minutes to blend the flavor.

2. While the “ceviche” is chilling, prepare your tostones. Just before serving, peel and remove the seed from the avocado. Finely dice and thoroughly fold into the ceviche, making sure it’s covered with the dressing. Mound the ceviche into serving cups and serve immediately with the hot tostones, or fill the tostone cups if you happen to have a special tostonera for making the cups.

 

Crispy Fried Green Plantains (Tostones)

1 serving per fried plantain
Time: Less than 30 minutes, not including the optional soaking
Gluten Free, Soy Free

Crunchy slabs of fried green plantains pull together most any Latin meal. They also make addictive snacking or appetizers served lightly salted or with a garlicky mojo (page 128), Spicy Salsa Golf (page 53), veggie ceviche (pages 59–61), or even dipped in Chocolate-Chile Mole Sauce (page 51). Fried plantains have different names (tostones, patacones, tajadas, mariquitas) and shapes depending on the country—this version is for the wildly popular (in New York City at least) tostones style, a twice-fried green slice that’s smushed down just prior to a second frying to create a thinner and extra-crunchy treat. Tostones are a huge feature of Latin Caribbean cuisine and can even be found floating in soups or transformed further into Mofongo (page 120).

Tip: For best results, use very green and firm plantains. If they have softened, then leave them alone for a few more days and make Fried Sweet Plantains (page 115).

Vegetable oil, such as peanut or high-heat canola blend, for deep-frying
1 very green and firm plantain per serving
Salt

1. Pour at least 2 inches of oil into a large, heavy pot (a cast-iron Dutch oven is ideal) and preheat over medium-high heat. Cover a large plate with paper towels or crumpled brown paper, for draining the hot tostones. The oil is hot enough when a very small piece of raw plantain placed in the hot oil immediately starts to bubble and fry rapidly and quickly; the idea is to use very hot (but never smoking) oil so that the tostones cook evenly without soaking up too much grease.

2. Use plantains that are deep green, very firm, and with no yellow spots. On a cutting board, use a sharp paring knife to slice both ends off a plantain and slice a shallow cut—just through the skin only—from one end of the plantain to the other. If the skin seems particularly hard, run another cut opposite the first. Use your thumbs or the edge of a butter knife to pry off the skin, working your fingers or the dull blade under the peel. Green plantain skins can be a little stubborn at times; if any tiny bits of peel remain, remove them.

3. Diagonally slice the plantain into 1 ½-inch-thick pieces. The greater the angle you slice, the longer and the bigger your final tostones will be. Slide into the hot oil and fry for 4 to 5 minutes, flipping once. Remove from the oil and place on the paper-lined plate to drain for about 2 minutes. I usually fry one plantain at a time this way, putting in new slices while the formerly frying ones rest.

4. When the fried slices are just cool enough to handle (after 2 to 3 minutes), gently but firmly flatten them so that they are about ⅜ inch thick.  Use metal tongs to return the flattened plantains to the frying oil. Fry for another 3 to 4 minutes, turning once, until golden and crisp along the edges. Return to the paper to drain, sprinkle the hot tostones with salt, and serve immediately.

From Viva Vegan! by Terry Hope Romero published by Da Capo Lifelong