Caramelized Onions & Platanos, oh, and some lentils too...

I know it's winter when all I can think to cook is more beans, lentils, bread or anything that involves steaming up my cold, drafty- a##, New England house.  I love winter, for real, but It's about this point in March that I get real sick of winter food, and want greens from the garden, peaches and fresh mint....well, we have a little while to wait before picking those treats in this climate zone, so in the mean time, I'll share one of my favorite meal inspirations from this winter, while it's still cold enough to cook up a storm on the stove.   

This winter has been heavy with plantain.  I love ripe almost all black maduro platanos, fried boiled, mashed...just about any way you make them.  Traditionally plantain are most often sliced and fried as a side dish, the sweet "maduros", yellow plantain caramelize all over, while the green plantain "tostones" are often fried once, smashed flat and fried again.  I wanted to move beyond the side dish, and I love sweet nuggets of deliciousness in my food. I mean seriously wouldn't some caramelized plantain and onions make every bite of almost any dish soooo much better? So I swapped out the sliced platanos for diced pieces, pan fried and tossed in with the lentil dish at the last minute, together with lots of caramelized onions and tons of sautéed kale, this is a golden bowl of goodness, that will hold us over until spring comes. 

Golden Plantain & Caramelized Onion Lentils

2 Cups Lentils
6 Cups Water
1 Teaspoon salt

2 Medium Onions, thinly sliced in 1/4 moon julienne
2 Ripe Yellow Plantain
1 Bunch Kale (I used lacinata kale), stems removed and chopped into small bite sized pieces
6 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
Honey (a drizzle) or 1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt & pepper to taste

  1. Place lentils in a pot with 6 cups of water and 1 teaspoon of salt, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook stirring occasionally until lentils are tender, but not mushy, about 20-25 minutes. Drain off any remaining water, set aside. 
  2. While lentils are cooking, remove the peel from both plantain and slice them length-wise and then into 1/2inch strips. Cut across strips to make 1/2inch diced pieces.  Place 4 Tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy bottomed frying pan over medium high heat and cook the plantain cubes in a single layer, stirring occasionally until they are dark golden brown.  Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a paper towel on a plate and sprinkle with salt.  Repeat until all the plantain are fried. 
  3.  Add 2 more tablespoons of olive oil to the pan, add thinly sliced onion pieces, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, black pepper to taste, and a drizzle of honey or (1/2 teaspoon sugar) to get the caramelization process going. Cook on medium-high heat, stirring occasionally so onions do not burn. Cook until onions are dark amber brown. Remove from the pan.
  4. Add cumin and coriander to the hot oil, stir for a few seconds. Add chopped kale and a pinch of salt to taste and sauté for a few minutes until it is tender.  Toss together lentils, onions, plantain and kale. Adjust seasoning as desired. If you'd like a little acid, you can add a squeeze of lemon or a drizzle of vinegar. Enjoy, warm, at room temperature or cold. your way to the end of winter.
What are your favorite end of winter/start of spring foods?