Any of you who has ever travelled to Costa Rica can attest to how expensive it is. One of the things that drives costs up so high is the ridiculous near 40% import tax. Wouldn't it be great if eating locally caused this challenge to be moot? Sadly, the financial pressure this tax puts on everyone drives up the price of local goods as well, so that people can try and afford even the most basic of things: water, cooking gas, shoes, fuel, and the like.
But there are a few local foods that seem to be impervious to cost-hikes and today we'll focus on one of my favorites: the plantain. A big, starchy member of the banana family, plantain is loaded with natural sweetness that caramelizes delightfully when fried. At the breakfast table in Latin America, you'll feel like you're eating dessert with each bite of the ever-present fried plantain medallion. The more ripe the plantain the sweeter the taste and there's a culinary application for all stages of ripeness, from green to growing mold (the latter, by the way, is what you'll want if you're trying to replicate those candy-sweet breakfast bites).
Nutritionally speaking, plantains are largely a source of carbohydrates, though they do contain significant amounts of vitamins A, B6, and C. They contain a complex starch, so all that fiber helps balance things out a bit, but if you're challenged by diabetes or other sugar challenges you may want to stick to the less-sweet, unripe ones. (My dad once checked his blood-sugar before and after these very pancakes and found a significant spike, though he did enjoy his with my habanero-honey syrup on top). The combination of complex carbohydrate and potassium makes plantain a great option for athletes, so this recipe is a no-brainer for pre- or post-surf meals.
2 very ripe plantains (If you can't find plantains you can use bananas too, but you may want to add a little extra flour as bananas are much more liquid)
1 cup flour (wheat, oat, coconut — go crazy! You can even find plantain flour these days)
1/4 cup shredded coconut
1 cup coconut milk
4 eggs (or make a flax-water substitute if eggs ain't yo thang)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp Jamaica pepper aka allspice
Blend your liquid ingredients and mix in the dry ones — I do all this in a Vitamix because why not. Using medium heat, get a skillet hot and add in coconut oil (or butter or whatever your heart desires/cupboard contains) and spoon in two or three pancakes at a time. I use a 1/4 cup measure for this but a soup ladle also does wonders. It's well known that the first round of pancakes is always somehow wrong; if there's a science to this I would love to learn it, but I have just always accepted that I will eat the first ones and let my guests enjoy the sweet, crispy perfection of the pancakes to come.