Ok, so you messed up. You went into the grocery store looking for bananas, made a mistake, and picked up their cousins, plantains, as became obvious the second you tried to peel one. (It's not that hard to mix up! Plantains look like big, green, slightly flattened-out bananas and tend to confuse the cashiers who've "never, ever sold one of them." Admittedly, I got mine on purpose -- bad habit of picking up things I don't recognize in the grocery store...) So, now you're stuck with plantains. What in the world can you do with a plantain?

Let's assume you recognize it as food and therefore want to eat it. (I'm sure there are innumerable other uses for the things -- paper weight, anyone? -- but I don't think I want to know about all of them.) First things first - what color are your plantains? If they're green or slightly yellow, plantains taste and behave like somewhat exotic potatoes. (stretch your imagination... please?) Thus, you can do potato-ish sorts of things to them - boil and mash, bake, throw into stews, even deep fry and turn into plantain chips. They're easiest to cook before peeling -- if you leave a slit in the peel, it'll usually fall off easily enough post-cooking. Plus, your plantain doesn't explode that way. Probably the easiest - although not the best-tasting - way to cook a plantain is to cut off both ends, slit the peel, and stick it in the microwave for five minutes. It goes fairly well with common baked potato toppings that way. You might want to try a little of whatever you're mixing with the plantain on a plantain before serving them to a dozen people; yes, it tastes like a potato, but not exactly like one...

And if your plantains aren't green? If they're not yellow or black or some combination, it's probably best to throw them away. But if they are dark yellow or black, congratulations - you've got ripe plantains. These are sweeter and work well for desserts - sautée with butter and add sugar, for example.

There are recipes using plantains all over the internet... One decent site for further plantain advice and recipes is at http://caribbeanfood.about.com/food/caribbeanfood/library/weekly/aa070700a.htm. Have fun!