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Exploring the world, one bite at a time

Passport & Plate - Cartolas

Brazil | Saturday, 7 March 2015 | flickr photos

Four bananas, perfectly ripe
1/4 cup sugar
1 heaping tablespoon cinnamon
6 tablespoons salted butter
Mozzarella cheese, the freshest possible


How to prepare this recipe
1. Assemble your ingredients and pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. Slice your bananas in half lengthwise, and then again. You should have sixteen banana pieces.
3. Mix your cinnamon and sugar together and set aside.
4. Melt butter over medium-high heat until bubbly.
5. Dip bananas into butter, and fry 3 minutes or so on each side. Bananas should start to turn golden, and be gooey (think caramelized).
6. Drain butter off of bananas and then place bananas into a buttered casserole dish.
7. Place thin slices of mozzarella atop each banana slice until they are completely covered.
8. Liberally sprinkle with cinnamon sugar mix.
9. Place in oven and bake until cheese is completely melted.
10. Serve immediately.


The story behind this recipe
Most of us think of bananas as a breakfast food and of mozzarella as something we throw on pizza or put into an Italian dish. Never did the thought of combining the two simple ingredients ever enter my mind. Until one steamy night in Brazil, when I discovered the magic of Cartolas.
My last night in Brazil was in a little beach town north of Recife. White sand and deep azul waters as far as I could see, with hammocks strung up between every available tree, the hotel was a dream. Overflow from Recife hotels meant that every other patron was a futbol fan, and the entire place was a celebration of futbol wins. When I sat down to my last Brazilian dinner, I decided to make every bite count. First, an icy cold Caipirinha, which is more readily available in some Brazilian spots than water. Then, moqueca, a spicy fish and shrimp stew, teeming with peppers and spice. Finally, I decided I needed dessert, because that was the one thing I had not had much of in Brazil. I ordered Cartola, having no idea what it meant or was made of. As I sat on a steamy patio next to the crashing Brazilian surf, I experienced the magic of a traditional Brazilian dish.
Brazilian desserts tend to be quite simple, often just a handful of ingredients. Cartolas exemplifies this, and consists of banana or plantains, sugar, cinnamon, butter, and cheese. Sweet gooey bananas topped with melted stringy cheese, and sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar. An odd combination that turns absolutely amazing when melted together. Sweet and buttery bananas topped with a gooey and slightly salty cheese- I think I might have licked my dessert plate clean that last Brazilian night.
I often make this dessert when I am craving an escape. Even if I am sitting in sub-zero Colorado temperatures, Cartola transports me back to the salty air and crashing waves of Brazil. I always have these ingredients on hand, so I can taste Brazil anytime I need an escape.
Bom Dia!

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