We lived a hop, skip and a jump from the Texas-Mexico border on and off for several years, absorbing the super-heated sun's rays, the colorful surroundings and the local culture and cuisine — especially the extraordinary tortillas. Whether at a sit-down restaurant or a run-down truck in an old tire shop parking lot, the tortillas were as close to perfection as you'll find. Tender and pliable yet sturdy enough to withstand soupier fillings. Not too thick, not too thin. Always warm and fresher than fresh, pressed only minutes before landing in front of us.
As soon as possible, I learned the time-tested methods for both corn and flour, purchased the requisite ingredients and tools, and haven't looked back since. Nothing compares to handmade.
A recent addition to our routine line-up: plantain tortillas. Yes, they're unconventional, but they're also worthy of exploration. If you're new to plantains, this recipe is a good starter. Made from a handful of basic ingredients, these tortillas are surprisingly simple, with flavor and good looks that speak for themselves.
Plantain tortillas are thin and soft with a mild, very faint sweetness, providing a versatile canvas. Think fillings of grilled and roasted meats and seafood, smoky beans, lentils or tofu; mixed greens or dal; wrapped around soft-scrambled eggs or nestled under a sunny-side-up; rolled up as an accompaniment to soups, stews or chilies; or pressed with a layer of melted cheese and veg inside.
Beyond substitution for more "typical" tortilla applications, these make marvelous crepes for breakfast or dessert, and the subtle "banana-y" flavor pairs well with seeds or nut butters for a post-workout snack or lunchbox treat. And, because they keep well, plantain tortillas can be made in large quantities and refrigerated or frozen, then re-warmed for quick meals later.
Plus, plantain tortillas are a great replacement for anyone avoiding wheat, gluten or corn for any reason. They're packed with nutrients including heart-healthy potassium and antioxidant vitamins A and C from plantains, as well as monounsaturated fats from the olive oil that can help improve cholesterol levels, reduce risk of heart disease and stroke, and control blood sugars.
While they wouldn't be seen as traditional in the area where our love of homemade tortillas started — and I have no plans to give up on flour and corn varieties — we adore these unique alternatives and think you will, too!
- 1 pound green or yellow plantains, peeled and chunked
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- ⅓ cup water
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- Preheat oven to 400°F with a rack in the middle of the oven. Line two large baking trays with parchment paper or Silpat mats.
- Add all ingredients to a high-powered blender. Run on a low setting for 1 minute. Gradually increase speed, stopping to scrape down sides, until puree is thick and very smooth, similar to a super-smooth hummus. If yours is too stiff, add a bit more water, by the tablespoon, to move things along.
- With a spoon, smooth batter into 16 equal rounds onto the lined trays, about ⅛-inch-thick and 4 inches across. Bake for 10 minutes. Then, switch positions of the trays on the racks, and flip each tray front to back. Bake another 10 to 15 minutes, until just golden at the edges.
- Cool for 5 minutes on the tray before serving. If not using immediately, cool completely before storing in an airtight container or bag in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days or the freezer for several months. Reheat in the microwave, on the stovetop or in a warm oven before serving. Makes 16 small tortillas.
- Green plantains will yield the mildest flavor, and may require more water in prep due to increased starch content. Yellow plantains will have a slightly sweeter, more "banana-y" flavor. Feel free to experiment with black (or black-spotted yellow) plantains, but keep in mind that the final result will be much sweeter and strongly flavored.
- If you prefer, substitute grapeseed oil or avocado oil instead of olive oil.