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Puerto Rican Green Plantain Soup

(Sopa de Platanos Verdes)

Simple but exotic--deceptively substantial as a first course. Many thanks to Mima Stickney, Puerto Rican by birth, who has contributed garlic and cilantro to the recipe--making the soup more authentic and also, in her words, "deliciosa and extremely nourishing! Great served with garlic bread dipped in olive oil." Serve hot to 6 people, follow with grilled meat and juicy tropical fruits.

Garnish: grated parmesan cheese

Peel the plantains and cut into 1/2-inch slices. Soak them in cold, salted water for 20 minutes. Drain and pat dry. In a heavy frying pan, saute the plantains and garlic in lard until they are tender, about 15 minutes. The pieces will be gold colored and will brown a little. Drain well on paper towels, then crush with a pestle or mallet until they break into bits.

Heat the beef stock in a large saucepan and add the plantain. Simmer for 15 minutes, adjust seasoning and stir in the cilantro, then ladle into bowls. Garnish with generous handfuls of grated parmesan.