Hola, Chiquita

Saturday, May 16, 2009

I think it's fair to say that my boys would take extreme, possibly violent exception to Chiquita Banana's claim that bananas taste their best when "they are flecked with brown and have a golden hue."  In our house, any flecking is on par with lepresey and, accordingly, any banana that isn't Crayola yellow and pristinely unblemished is shunned.  

Consequently, the window of opportunity for any banana hoping to fulfill its destiny as "fresh fruit" is very, very narrow, and I frequently wind up with several rejected specimens languishing at the bottom of the fruit bowl, growing more unacceptable with each passing day.  

In moments of late night lunch-box packing, when both pantry and emotional reserves are low and I find myself digging deeper and deeper into the cupboards in search of passable snacks, I sometimes resort to those rejected, speckled specimens.  In desperation, I rationalize that if the boys are hungry enough, they will eat them, and I cross my fingers that the squishy skins don't split before recess.  

It's all in vain.  Inevitably, they come back to me like so many blackening boomerangs.  (And yet, I keep doing it, like trying to pull my pants off over my shoes.  When will I learn?)

So, what to do?  Repackage.  

The potassium is still there and goodness knows you've paid for them, so by all means, get your milage.  Overly ripe bananas are ideally suited to baking; their sugar content is through the roof (always a key selling feature) and the mush factor, in one context so repellent, makes them perfect for incorporating into batters and mixtures of all description.  

Here are three solutions I used for a bunch of browning bananas over the past 24 hours.  

1. Banana Pancakes With Honeycomb Butter

Prepare pancake batter as usual (I use Nigella Lawson's recipe). Take one neglected banana and mash thoroughly with a fork.  Incorporate into batter.  Pan fry as usual.  For the Honeycomb Butter, chop the honeycomb with a knife and combine with an equal measure of softened butter, using a food processor or hand-held blender.  If you don't have honeycomb in the recesses of your pantry (I bought some months ago as part of a grand plan that was never acted on and since forgotten), just use regular honey, but up the butter content so that it's not too runny.  

Top pancakes with lavish gobs of Honeycomb Butter.  Serve with strong coffee.  Open newspapers.  Linger.  Nap.  Good.

2.  Banana Porridge With Brown Sugar & Maple Syrup

Mix two cups of rolled-oats (NOT instant) with three cups boiling water in pot and let sit for ten minutes.  Add two cups milk and two tablespoon brown sugar.  Mix and bring to boil, simmer for a couple of minutes stirring frequently, and remove from heat.  Allow to stand three minutes.  Meanwhile, mash one overly ripe banana per person in individual bowls and microwave each for 30 seconds.  Stir porridge and dish over warm banana mash.  Top with sprinkling of brown sugar and drizzle of maple syrup.  Serves four generously.

Everyone will leave for school and work with warm, full bellies.  If they can leave the table at all.

An Important Note: do not leave the porridge unattended while it is cooking to find the missing shoe, negotiate peace or help your partner with their choice of tie/necklace/shoes.  It will burn and stick to the bottom of the pan, and the smell will be awful.  I say this from personal experience.   

3.  Stephanie Alexander's Simple Banana Cake

For copyright reasons, I cannot reprint the recipe but, as I can count on one hand the number of Australian kitchen's I've entered where this book was not present, I suspect that I do not need to.  If you are unacquainted with Stephanie Alexander, she is to Australia what Alice Waters is to America, and I implore you to get her book immediately - it is a tome and weighs more than a small child, but it is indispensable.  And I am not on commission.  

My copy is dog-eared and when I set it down on the table, it naturally falls open to this page.  The cake is beautifully high and moist.  The topping is a rich, crunchy mixture of chopped walnuts, sugar, cinnamon, all spice and butter.  There can never be enough butter.  It is heavenly.  


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