Plantains, the starchy relative of the banana that's eaten cooked rather than raw, can be used when they're green, partially ripe, or fully ripe. When they're fully ripe—with blackened skins and firm, pinkish-yellow flesh—"then you've hit the jackpot!" sunshine842 says.
The simplest way to enjoy a ripe plantain is to peel it, slice it into three-quarter-inch chunks, and sauté it in oil or butter until brown and caramelized, watching carefully to prevent burning. The result? "Heaven," sunshine842 says.
DiningDiva cooks ripe plantains a few easy ways, in dishes ranging from sides to dessert. For a side dish, halve them, cover with water, and simmer until soft, then mash with a potato masher and season with onion, garlic, and jalapeños. Or make a frittata by frying sliced plantains and onions in butter, then adding eggs. If the flesh is fairly firm, roast them whole in a hot oven, then slit in half and sprinkle with turbinado sugar and drizzle with Mexican crema or crème fraîche for a sweet treat.