Plantains look like big bananas, but they have a firmer texture and are starchier than bananas. Plantains are ripe and firm when the amount of yellow skin is about equal to the amount of black skin. The plantains begin to soften and some of the starch is converted to sugar when the skin of the plantains is almost completely black.
Plantains are very popular in Caribbean cooking, and they are used almost in the same way as potatoes because they are starchy. One popular Cuban recipe for "tostones" involves cutting round slices of the plantains and frying them in hot oil. After the plantains turn lightly brown in color, they are removed from the frying pan and flattened into thin disks which are fried again until crispy golden brown. The word "toston" was given to the 50 cent coins that circulated in Mexico and other Spanish colonies in the Americas. Creative cooks applied the name to the round plantain slices that looked like those coins.
Fried plantains are delicious, but contain a lot of fat. Baked plantains provide the tasty experience of the natural fruit without the extra fat. Wrap the unpeeled ripe plantains in foil and bake at 350°F for one hour. That is all!
Baked plantains can be served as the side dish of a main meal, or they can be sliced in rounds to top ice cream.