Nothing gives a sense of place so much as food. What food is naturally available in a region, and how do the people of use that food to nourish themselves? What’s a special treat versus everyday fare.?
Here in Granada, Tostones con Queso is ubiquitous. On my first visit here, I kept ordering this dish accidentally. In my mind, tostones was tasty toast, and queso referred to the cheese I know and love from the states, not the thick and salty squares of fried cheese that landed in front of me each time I ordered the dish. “Oh this again,” I would sigh to my friend, unenthusiastically picking up a tasteless round of fried plantain.
Fast forward to today, and I cannot get enough of this dish! I order it often, request it when eating in with friends, and have seriously begun to consider limiting my consumption. I even recently found myself disappointed while visiting a restuarant because the queso presented with the dish had been Americanized, and wasn’t nearly salty enough to stand up to the fried platanos.
Plaintains are widely available here in Granada, as are blocks of queso, sold in large squares at the market. I’ve found that most local fare seems to be frito, fried in oil. Strangely, the result doesn’t feel as heavy and oily as the fried food counterparts found in the US. A good dish of Tostones con Queso contains a healthy amount of ensalada — or a non-spicy salsa of tomates and onions. If you’re lucky, your dish will also come with refried black beans.
Entonces, use a drinking glass or other flat object to squish the platanos. Yes, “squish” is the offical culinary term. The tostones then go back into the fry pan for round 2 of frying. Now is a good time to prep your salsa.
Dice your onions and tomatoes and mix together in a small bowl. Don’t be shy — you can’t have too much ensalada!
When your tostones are ready, enter the cheese. While the queso is cooking, heat your beans and prepare your plates. Everything’s finally coming together!!!
Just like eating Oreos or Reese Peanut Butter Cups, I believe there is a system to eating Tostones con Queso. Each bite must have a plantain, a small amount of salsa, and a bite of queso. Frijoles, arroz, and avocado are all optional!