Thursday, February 19, 2009

banana bread

I bet you have bananas on your counter right now. When was the last time you really thought about them? They are so basic, so common that they are sometimes overlooked and under-appreciated for the delicious fruits they are. Though they rarely go on sale in our neck of the woods, their standard cost is low enough that acquiring an abundance of bananas for great recipes and snacking is not onerous. Here are a few delicious things you can do with the unassuming sweet fruit.

Bananas are a family-friendly fruit
My family typically goes through at least a dozen bananas a week. Between breakfast (in cereal), lunch (peanut butter, honey and banana sandwiches), dessert (banana splits, anyone?), and just plain snacking, they are a favorite fruit. I always make sure to eat one after exercising as they are an excellent source of potassium.

On the rare occasions we have extra bananas around it's time for one of a number of delicious banana-based creations. Simple creations include:

* Banana milk
Puree very ripe bananas and milk in a blender. Add some chocolate sauce, too!
* Broiled banana slices
Slice bananas in half lengthwise (leave the peel intact), sprinkle the cut surface with brown sugar, then place under a broiler for just a couple of minutes until the sugar caramelizes and bubbles. Allow the sugar to cool to form a hard crust, then eat out of the peel with a spoon.

Or we have one of the following more creative recipes for bananas

Banana pudding
Serves 6 to 8

This comfort food favorite is a Southern classic.

2 cups whipping cream
2 (3-ounce) packages of instant vanilla pudding mix.
2-1/2 cups milk
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
5 to 6 bananas, sliced
1 box vanilla wafers

1. Whip the cream and set aside. In a large bowl, combine the pudding mix and milk, mixing well. Mix in the sweetened condensed milk. Then gently fold in about two-thirds of the whipped cream.

2. In a fairly deep serving dish of your choice, spread out about one-third of the pudding mixture. Layer banana slices and vanilla wafers, then another third of the pudding, another layer each of banana slices and wafers, then the final third of the pudding. Gently spread the remaining whipped cream over the top.

3. Cover with plastic wrap and refreigerate for several hours to set. Serve with an extra vanilla wafer or two.

Note: Make sure you purchase instant pudding mix. I was once absent-minded and came home with the type of mix that needs cooking. I tried making the pudding anyway (without cooking). It was more like banana pudding soup (though still very tasty).

Banana Bread
Makes 1 loaf

3 very ripe bananas
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a loaf pan with cooking spray. In a small bowl, smash bananas until they are liquidy. Set aside. Cream together the butter and the sugar. Add in the eggs and beat well.

2. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. Mix the sifted dry ingredients into the butter mixture. Add the mashed bananas and vanilla and beat well. Pour into the prepared loaf pan. Bake about 1 hour. A toothpick inserted into the bread should come out clean.

Note: You can use a mixture of flours in this bread. I sometimes make it with half whole wheat flour and half all-purpose flour.

Bananas Foster
Serves 4

I used to love watching my father make this. It's so dramatic!

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
Ground allspice and nutmeg to taste
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 bananas, still slightly green, peeled and sliced lengthwise
1/3 cup dark rum
Vanilla ice cream

1. In a wide skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the sugar and spices and stir until the sugar dissolves. Carefully lay in the bananas. Cook about a minute on each side. Spoon the syrup over the bananas as they cook. Remove the bananas from the pan. (You can even place them on the ice cream right now).

2. Turn off the heat to the pan. Carefully add the rum. Restore the heat to medium low. Cook for just a moment, then ignite the rum in the pan (use a stick lighter). When the alcohol is cooked out after a minute or so, the flame will die on its own. Pour the sauce over the bananas and ice cream and serve.

Note: Though I have never had a problem, common sense should prevail here. It's a good idea to clear the area around the stove, have good ventilation and have a fire extinguisher handy. Kids should stay well away.

Recipes for an abundance of bananas
By : Jen Klein on Jan 8, 2009


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