A trip to the grocery store is my own version of retail therapy. I can spend hours wandering the aisles, taking note as to what's new or what has changed. I'm like a kid, nosed pressed against the glass bakery case, leaning over the cooler of the meat case, or ogling at the fresh fish. I spend entirely too much time in produce. Suffice to say, at this time of year, there isn’t much to tempt or tantalize me in the produce section beyond all that citrus. That’s when bananas come back onto my radar screen. For sure they take up the largest amount of shelf space in the grocery store, and for good reason. They’re versatile and friendly in our kitchen, especially now when winter is a fading memory but spring still seems eons away.
Bananas, grown thousands of miles away from our beloved mid-state, are actually the one exotic tropical fruit that’s become an everyday, affordable food staple. Beyond that, this yellow darling is a nutrition bomb that gets little negative press. One of the world's largest, the banana tree is actually and herb plant that offers a number of other food products beyond its fruit. The banana flower, or the banana heart, is used as a vegetable in Southeast Asian cooking, and the tender core of the plant stem is used in Bengali and the Burmese dish, mohinga, which is a rice-and-fish soup eaten mostly at breakfast. The leaves are large, waterproof, and flexible enough to cook and store food in.
A staple in just about every household, the banana actually has quite a long, colorful history. Our grand-parents and great grand-parents ate a variety of banana called the "Gros Michel," which was blighted by a soil fungus called Panama disease. Today, we nosh most regularly on the “Cavendish,” another variety that soon may also loose itself to disease as a more perilous strain of this fungus is spreading throughout the world. Lacking the genetic engineering and diversity of most of our modern fruits and vegetables, our popular little Cavendish is vulnerable.
At this particular time of year comfort food is as much about economic sensibility as it is about returning to the simple pleasures in a home cooked meal. The banana’s versatility makes sense in just about every way imaginable. Affordable, it can make a delicious appearance at every meal without straining your budget or zapping time from our still too short evenings. Everything from being sliced onto a bowl of cereal or mashed into a delicious quick bread to being used as a base for a soufflé or as a tasty little condiment, there's plenty of ways to have some fun with these delicious, healthy fruits.
Makes 6 Servings
Soufflés are lovely. Unfortunately, so many soufflé recipes are tedious and difficult to execute. I stumbled upon a simple soufflé recipe a few years back that used bananas as a base and constantly go back to this recipe over and again. I simply change the seasonings and spices to match the dinner I serve it with. Here I've combine the sparkle of lime with the spice of ginger. Each pulls the banana's mellow flavor into the spotlight. Light, airy, easy.
2 tablespoons butter, melted
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
3 to 4 firm but ripe bananas, peeled and mashed, to yield about 1 1/3 cups
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
Zest of 1/2 of a lime
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 egg yolk
3 egg whites
Coarse salt, to season
Preheat the oven to 400° F. Using a pastry brush, lightly coat the inside of six 4- to 6-ounce ramekins with the melted butter. Place 2 tablespoons of the sugar (granulated, not brown) into one ramekin and turn the ramekin to coat the inside. Pour the excess sugar into the next ramekin, and repeat until each ramekin is coated with the sugar.
In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade add the brown sugar, the bananas, lime juice, zest, ginger, and egg yolk. Process until the mixture is smooth. Pour the banana puree mixture into a large bowl. Set aside.
Place the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk the eggs on medium-low speed until frothy. Add the remaining tablespoon of sugar and increase the speed to medium-high. Whisk until the whites are firm and glossy.
Using a large spatula (or spoon/spatula), add 1/4 of the egg whites to the banana mixture and stir to combine. This will lighten the batter. Gently fold the remaining egg whites into the banana mixture. Carefully ladle the mixture into the prepared ramekins. Smooth the top of each soufflé. Tap each ramekin lightly on a countertop, then using your thumb, carefully slide it along the inside edge of the ramekin, making a small indentation in the soufflé mixture. Transfer the ramekins to a rimmed baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes until the soufflés rise and are golden brown. Transfer the soufflés to warmed dessert plates using tongs. Serve immediately.
For a Latin-Caribbean twist on your presentation, serve the soufflé with caramelized mango, pineapple or banana slices. Simply melt 2 tablespoons of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. When the bubbling subsides, add the fruit to the skillet. Add 2 tablespoons of brown sugar to the pan sprinkling it over the fruit. Toss the coat the fruit with the butter and the melting brown sugar. Allow to cook, and caramelize, about 2 minutes. Do not let the sugar burn. Keep warm until the soufflés are being served. Using the back of a spoon, cut an opening in the top of a soufflé and spoon some of the caramelized fruit slices into the soufflé. Garnish with Toasted Coconut. Serve immediately.
Makes approximately 2 cups
This surprising salsa is an easy fix to use up those leftover bananas, and to brighten otherwise plain meals. Because the nut oils can vary in intensity, start with half the recommended amount and add additional oil to suit your individual taste. To prevent the salsa from browning, cover with plastic wrap pressing the wrap directly onto the surface of the salsa. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Toss before serving.
4 small to medium bananas; firm but ripe, peeled and diced (I particularly like the smaller red bananas for this salsa, but the yellow Cavendish work just fine) to yield about 1 1/2 cups
2 teaspoons jalapeno, seeded and finely minced
2 green onions, white and light green parts only, finely chopped
1/4 cup red or green bell peppers (or a combination of both), seeded and finely chopped
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon brown sugar (or to taste depending on the sweetness of your bananas)
2 teaspoons finely chopped crystallized ginger
2 teaspoons hazelnut, walnut, or sesame oil
Chopped hazelnuts or walnuts, for garnish
Combine the ingredients in a medium, non-reactive bowl. Gently mix to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve immediately or cover with cling film (plastic wrap) pressed directly onto the salsa and refrigerate for up to 2 days.
Recipes and Photo Copyright © 2012. Donna Marie Desfor and There’s a Chef in My Kitchen, LLC. All Rights Reserved
Copyright © 2012. WITF, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Published in In witfs Kitchen with Chef Donna Desforback to top