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Article updated: 9/11/2012 12:46 PM

Just because it looks like a banana, doesn't mean it is

By Deborah Pankey

Don't be fooled by plantains.

These green to yellow, thick-skinned, peelable fruits sure look like bananas, but I'd think twice before slicing one onto your morning cereal or topping it with vanilla ice cream and hot fudge.

Some folks call plantains baking or cooking bananas. The fruit is native to the tropics and appears often in African and Latin American cuisine. The fruit's shape is similar to a dessert banana, but plantains are generally larger and have lower sugar content.

Both of today's contestants in the Cook of the Week Challenge opted to use very ripe, almost black, plantains because the more ripe the fruit, the sweeter it tastes (though I still don't recommend eating one raw).

But don't pass up green plantains as they have culinary uses as well. These starchy fruits are what you'd use to make tostones, or plantain chips, (you can bake them or fry them just like potato chips). They can also be boiled and mashed a la potatoes. They're also good grilled or sauteed.

Ranch dinner: One of the other ingredients paired with plantains was Q7 Ranch's sirloin tip roast. If you want to taste some of Q7 Ranch's grass-fed beef before you commit to an order, make a trip to the ranch for dinner with Standard Market restaurant as your host.

Diners will meet at Standard Market, 333 E. Ogden Ave., Westmont, at 2:30 p.m. Sept. 22 and ride a chartered motor coach to Q7 Ranch's pasture in Belvidere where the steers roam. Guests will meet the farmers, take a brief tour of the ranch and sit down to dinner presented by Standard Market chef Brian Wright.

His menu will feature herb-roasted marrow and Q7 Ranch's 21-day aged bone-in rib-eye served with foie gras butter. Wine and other beverages will be served throughout the evening. The bus will return to Standard Market by 9 p.m.

Tickets for this experience cost $150. For more information and to purchase tickets, check out standardmarket.com.

Cooking for a cause: Chef Michael Kornick has invited a number of the area's top chefs to join him Sept. 21 for a fundraiser for Children's Oncology Services.

This is the seventh year Kornick, the man behind MK Restaurant and DMK Burger Bar (among others), is the chef host of Toque: An Evening with Chicago's Culinary Masters. Some of the chefs cooking with him are Graham Elliot, Randy Zweiban, Heather Terhune, Cleetus Friedman and Elissa Narrow.

The evening includes a cocktail reception and seated, multicourse menu featuring signature dishes prepared by each chef and wine pairings. Live orchestra music and live and silent auctions are on tap.

Cocktails start at 7 p.m. at the Hilton Towers, 720 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago. Tickets cost $250. For details and tickets, head to charitytoque.org or call (312) 924-4220.

Ÿ Contact Food Editor Deborah Pankey at dpankey@dailyherald.com or (847) 427-4524. Be her friend at Facebook.com/debpankey.dailyherald or follow her on Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram @PankeysPlate.

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