So, the garnish on the top probably gives it away, but guess what the mystery ingredient in this salad is?
That’s right, it’s bananas.
Because this is Mystery Salad!
- 1½ pounds green bananas
- 2 Tablespoons cider vinegar
- ½ cup chopped celery
- 2 Tablespoons sliced green onion
- 2 Tablespoons chopped pimiento
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- 1 teaspoon prepared mustard
- ½ teaspoon salt
- Cover unpeeled bananas with water, heat to boiling, and cook 10 to 12 minutes, just until tender when pierced with slender skewer. Drain, cool sufficiently to handle, peel and slice into bowl. Add vinegar, turning to coat on all sides. Combine all remaining ingredients and mix lightly. Add to bananas and vinegar, and mix well. Serve warm or at room temperature. Do not refrigerate.
This glorious recipe comes from The Dole Banana Bonanza, which was published in 1977.
It has lots of great, classic recipes for most of the book, and then a bunch of savory recipes pop up, jammed way in the back next to the diet recipes. Which is always a big red flag. It was honestly a toss up between this one and an avocado banana dip that had onions in it. *shiver*
But I’ve never been one to shy away from a recipe that has “mystery” in the title. In fact, they usually end up being my favorite. Though the red flags in this one may have been waving a bit harder than normal, since we have already experienced mixing mayo with bananas and what kind of scariness can happen from that. But since these bananas were going to be boiled first (what? what?) I thought we could take a chance on this one.
So, if you hadn’t figured it out by reading the recipe, the contents of this bowl should clue you in to what this recipe is trying to do. It’s trying to be potato salad. Which, when you think about it, isn’t exactly crazy, since green bananas are quite starchy. Though it is pretty darn close to crazy.
When I posted this picture on the Facebook page, I had some comments about how this is a common way to cook green bananas and plantains in Caribbean cooking. Which is good. I was relieved to hear there was a precedent for this instead of it just being something that the cookbook authors were trying to copy from foreign cuisine and gotten completely wrong.
Maybe. I guess we will have to see how this turns out. But I always secretly hope that someone posts in the comments, “My grandmother/mother/aunt used to make this and I love it! Thank you for sharing the recipe.” It’s always fun to stumble on a new (to me) regional classic that has been kicking around in vintage cookbooks for generations.
So if anyone has fond memories of Mystery Salad, don’t be shy! Let me know!
Anyway, the smell was kind of funky and the bananas turned from green to this sort of gray-greenie-purple. It was a little disconcerting, and it made me forget to take a picture of them peeled and cut. I just sort of threw them into the bowl so I didn’t have to touch them anymore. They were soft but still a little firm, and kind of on the slimy side. I don’t know if “al dente” can be used to refer to bananas, but they reminded me a bit of pasta.
Here’s the salad. Just in case you wanted an extreme close-up. You are lucky you can’t smell it, because it smelled awful.
“So what is this? Some sort of salad you feed to people on a dare?”
“Yeah…that sounds about right.”
“Are you smiling?!?”
“Yeah, this isn’t bad at all.”
“Nope, it kind of tastes like a cross between a regular potato salad and a German potato salad. The eggs in here make it a bit strange, though.”
“Ummm…there are no eggs in there.”
The Verdict: Strange
Let’s just start off by saying that this did not taste bad. It didn’t. It had this sweet-sour thing going on and ended up being okay. You couldn’t put your finger on what exactly the “potatoes” were when you tasted it, which I guess is the point of the mystery. The vinegar really cut down on the sweetness of the bananas, and masked their flavor a lot. It did taste like German potato salad with mayo in it. Or maybe like egg salad mixed with potato salad. The taste was…something beyond edible, but not quite to good. Palatable, maybe? It was okay, not great. It was very creamy with a hint of veggie crispness. Overall it was interesting, and not at all as bad as I thought it would be. It made me wish I would have tried the cooked bananas before I slathered them with mayo.
“Hey Alex, do you want to try some?”
I don’t blame her.