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Associated Press photo by Matthew Mead -- These Grilled Tropical Plantains get their richness from coconut oil, unsweetened coconut and macadamia nuts. Since this recipe takes just minutes to make, these are perfect for entertaining.

In the summer, we eat outside nearly every day. Which translates into three months of meals to cook on the grill; more if you live in San Diego, like we do.

Throw in Memorial Day, July Fourth and Labor Day, and even the heartiest of recipe repertoires can be stress-tested. We grill fish, meats, veggies, bread for crostini, lemons for garnish and even leafy greens for trendy salads. Desserts on the grill are part of the plan, too. We toss on slabs of sweet juicy pineapple, slender triangles of mango or papaya, and give char marks to thick slices of watermelon.

This year, though, we grilled something new for the first time — a plantain.

It all started at my daughters’ slumber party. A gaggle of girls decided they wanted to do an impromptu s’mores roast in the backyard. Since we didn’t have any gluten-free graham crackers on hand for my daughter Valentine, I had the idea to use a banana instead. It worked, but the smokiness overwhelmed the delicate banana a little more than we had hoped.

Enter the plantain! It’s a relative of the banana, but it’s a bit sturdier and starchier. Plantains can be used in both savory and sweet dishes, and can range from potatolike when unripe (green skin) to downright sugary if very ripe (black skin). For most sweet recipes, look for skin that is a mix of yellow and black.

Plantains are a good source of vitamins C and A, and like bananas they are an excellent source of potassium. While they are relatively high in calories (about 200 per plantain, with 28 grams of sugar), half a plantain makes for a very satisfying dessert. Feel free to top the plantain with chocolate chips and marshmallows for a slumber party.

Or make my (healthier) grilled tropical plantains, which get their richness from coconut oil, unsweetened coconut and macadamia nuts. Since this recipe takes just minutes to make, these are perfect for entertaining.

Food Network star Melissa d’Arabian is an expert on healthy eating on a budget. She is the author of the cookbook “Supermarket Healthy.” http://www.melissadarabian.net

Grilled Tropical Plantains

Serves 4. Recipe is by Melissa d’Arabian.

2 large, yellow-brown plantains

1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon coconut sugar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

2 tablespoons shredded unsweetened coconut

2 tablespoons chopped macadamia nuts

1 lime, quartered

1. Heat the grill to medium-high.

2. Slice the plantains in half lengthwise, keeping the peel intact.

3. In a small bowl, mix together the coconut oil and vanilla. Brush the cut side of each plantain half with the coconut oil-vanilla mixture, then sprinkle the halves evenly with coconut sugar and salt.

4. Use an oil-soaked paper towel held with tongs to oil the grill grates, then place the plantains, cut side down, on the grill. Grill for 6 minutes, then flip and sprinkle the shredded coconut and macadamia nuts over the top of the cut sides. Grill for an additional 3 minutes. Serve immediately with a wedge of lime for squeezing over the tops.

Nutrition information per serving: 200 calories (70 calories from fat = 35 percent of total calories); 8 g fat (5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 250 mg sodium; 34 g carbohydrate (3 g fiber; 17 g sugar); 2 g protein.