Banana Bread - AntiChef

If you have followed me on this blog thing, you may remember that once in a while I have an excess amount of very ripe bananas on hand. My two year old loves them, or at least the first couple of bites, so there are always opportunities for me to come up with creative ways to NOT lose the bananas. I don't do a lot of baking really. I guess I am just lazy...or, maybe it's a confidence thing. Whatever the case, I have recently overcome fear and laziness to turn what would otherwise be compost or smoothie prep into warm, wonderful and fragrant treats. I have a recipe for banana (nut) bread from an old family recipe box. This one in particular is credited to the firecracker wife of a "G-Man", Mrs. Jo King. I hope you enjoy this easy to make, and delicious recipe.


1/2 c. butter (softened)
1 c. sugar
2 eggs
(1/3 c. nuts, chopped)
3 bananas, mashed (about a cup =/-)
2 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder


-cream butter and sugar-
-add unbeaten eggs, nuts and bananas-
-add flour, soda, and baking powder
-cook in well greased pans @ 350 for 45 minutes plus
makes two medium or six miniatures

and that is it. As written. I have found that on baking time, I need about 55 minutes. You will notice the bread split on top as it nears readiness. Check the progress using a bamboo skewer or one of those actual cake testing metal rods like you may have seen in the movies, or in YOUR grandma's kitchen. Once this has been removed from the oven, cool the bread in pans on cooling racks for 15 minutes, then remove from the pans and cool completely on the racks.
I made this recently and sent some to my mom. She was very motherly in her critique. I made a loaf the morning my dad came down to inspect the newborn here. Dad is the official photographer/scout/infant inspector of my side of the family, as mom can't travel so well anymore...arthritis, evil stuff. Anyway, I cut the loaf in half to send some up to mother. She remarked that it was "delicious........but", and I knew. I had not let it "cure" or as she calls it "ripen". She explained to me that once the bread is cooled properly, you must wrap it in either wax paper, or plastic wrap, and then aluminum foil, and leave it alone at room temperature for about 24 hours. I knew this. It's just like with a fruit cake, she went on....and I just listened. See, I get it ...and I also often have quite a bit of sport made of me and of the fact that no matter what I am cooking, pot of chili, chowder, stew, banana bread, Christmas Liquor Tea...I always insist that it be not disturbed until tomorrow. Nobody wants to wait until tomorrow, once you have gone to the trouble and few hours time to make the house smell all nice and loved. Everybody wants it NOW these days. But please....do yourselves and my exceedingly loving and detail oriented mother a favor, wrap it and let it rest before you enjoy it.
Once you have gotten down the road a day, and you get into the goodness, try a few favorite tweaks of mine. I like to use it in place of French Toast...no need to really soak it in eggs, just throw slices of it into a hot frying pan with some butter, and dress with a little drizzle of honey, or not...for a nice brunch accompaniment. Or, go with my favorite, a nice one-upper for the peanut butter and banana sandwich....slice thinly and stuff with bacon and cheese and then hook it up like a grilled cheese....do it! My sister in law has made cakes from the recipe and covered them in cream cheese icing...and that sounds good too, or what about peanut butter butter cream frosting on there??? Just make some banana bread. Think about it anyway, the next time you see three over-ripened bananas laying there in the bowl...looking at you, ...- all sad.

Funny note about mom, who is one of the most humble and compassionate people I know. We were discussing recipes once. Some people are very guarded with them, won't share...or they will give you a recipe and leave an ingredient out somewhere. Not my mom. And she said to me once, regarding this fact: " If you ask me for my lemon pound cake recipe, I'll give it to you...there's nothing in there that's hard or mysterious...but you still won't be able to make it like mine". And she is right. She means to say that people don't spend the time nowadays to make something as good as it can be, or as good as it SHOULD be. Maybe that's why so many grown children still love to run home to their mothers, and to that comfort of home for any shred of calm or relaxation...and maybe why they plow gluttonously through every other facet of their chaotic lives in this modern fast lane. But I don't really know, so I say maybe a lot.


Crowd-Pleasing Baked Pasta -killertomato

The killertomato household was taken hostage by SNOWMG 2011, and we did a lot of cookin'. Making its appearance for the second time this winter was the type of dish I usually scrunch my face up at, and I've now coined The American Dream, involves your chili and your macaroni and cheese getting all mixed up in the same bowl. It does provide a certain comfort, particularly on the night it was 13 degrees outside and our heat was broken.

So, there was that, a vegetable pie with Greek pita dough which I had saved in the freezer, gnocchi drizzled with pesto, biscuits, country ham with red eye gravy, and poached eggs, buttermilk pecan waffles and hot chocolate, quite a few tacos, and some other cold day scratch-togethers that made it a deliciously cozy week.
This post concerns a very simple pasta dish since it seemed to go over the best, hitting the spot so well it was half eaten before it was done baking!

It was getting to the point where the roads were still icy as hell and I'd heard the grocery stores were depleted anyhow. Our house sits in sort of a valley between two hills, I kept having these horrific waking dream sequences where my car slid into a neighbor's and a hit and run wouldn't even be possible...anyway...we do have a store to walk to but that's not in the manifesto. The manifesto states: "Use what you have!"

We had:
leftover Bechamel
Parmigiano Reggiano, yeah the good stuff!
canned tomatoes
frozen breadcrumbs

See where I am going? If we think alike, you are thinking of that baked pasta thing you can get in the food court at the mall. Oh, yeah!

Here's my version:
Cook the macaroni. (I used about 3/4 o a 1 lb box)
Heat the Bechamel on low and stir it back to a smooth consistency, or make some. Look for Mario Batali's simple recipe at the bottom of this entry.*
Make your sauce tomato sauce:
Saute 2 garlic cloves and a small onion in a generous amount of olive oil. Add 1 lb canned tomatoes. Season with lots of salt and pepper, some dried oregano and dried basil.
(I have some nice, fragrant basil we dried at home last fall. Store bought dried basil is shit. If you can use fresh, put it in after you take the sauce from the heat.)
Bring to a gentle boil and let simmer for about an hour, stirring occasionally.
Blend your sauce, and combine with the Bechamel.
Now, layer your pasta, lots of cheese if you can, sauce, and breadcrumbs and bake on 350 or 45 minutes to an hour. Where are my bread sticks at? I ordered bread sticks, dammit.

*Mario Batali's Bechamel Sauce:
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 cups milk
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg


In a medium saucepan, heat the butter over medium-low heat until melted. Add the flour and stir until smooth. Over medium heat, cook until the mixture turns a light, golden sandy color, about 6 to 7 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the milk in a separate pan until just about to boil. Add the hot milk to the butter mixture 1 cup at a time, whisking continuously until very smooth. Bring to a boil. Cook 10 minutes, stirring constantly, then remove from heat. Season with salt and nutmeg, and set aside until ready to use.


Giving The Turnip Its Due, Quickly -killertomato

I love the bitterness of turnips, so instead of trying to mask it, here's a quick and simple recipe that punctuates it. B brought home some lovely, tender brisket from work and so the addition of red wine to the turnips really worked with it. I also prepared some kale like collard greens, with onion, garlic, the ever-present chicken stock and seasoning.

You'll need:
olive oil
red wine

Heat the olive oil over medium and when it is hot, add the turnips, cover with paprika and a bit of salt and toss around until the paprika is evenly distributed and the turnips are browned on the edges. Turn the heat to medium high and add enough red wine until it comes about halfway up the turnips. Not covering them, but a generous amount. When the oil and wine start boiling, stir frequently until the liquid is reduced. The turnips should soften but still have a bite. This is really doing justice to the turnip!


Italian Quesadilla -Anti Chef

-sounds pretty wrong huh?, -Italian quesadilla. Well it is not. I made this the other night after years of slow build up. It seems that many different facets of alrightitude needed to align themselves in my thick head before I finally just went for this one. I used a regular old 10" flour tortilla, some leftover meat sauce, ricotta cheese and a little sprinkle of shredded cheddar. Simple.

I mention the build up, so I will give you a little background on that statement. I have worked in both Mexican and Italian establishments. I would never make the mistake of generalizing, as there are many different avenues of culinary wonder to explore in either cultures gastronomy, but I can't help but point out a couple of similarities I have found hard to not notice (and obsess over like a mad person). Both cultures use a lot of tomatoes, and tomato based sauces/condiments. Both cuisines feature a fairly constant grain based staple.(albeit one comprised mainly of corn and the other wheat) And both will often garnish their respectively wonderful offerings with some type of cheese. So I guess it's not that hard at all to figure out why I have always been at the ready when considering a little fantastical gastro-clash. I have even brainstormed the opening of an Italian/Mexican Eatery to feature the mixing and matching of the two countries' best, presented in a whimsical yet tasty way that only my mind could conceive. If not an Italian Quesadilla, then how about a Mexican Calzone? Why not combine the chile relleno with the body of a squid, and do a some "turducken" magic on a tiny little scale. Calamari Rellano? Shrimp, stuffed inside a roasted pepper, stuffed inside of a squid and roasted tender? You have all eaten worse. Look, I make a meat sauce from an old family recipe that is so good that I used to sneak it by the coffee cup full as a kid. Seriously, after dinner, I would ladle it in, top it with grated parma and go eat it with a spoon like chili. I have even dipped tortilla chips into it cold, I know, sounds scary...but it's gooooood. So to heat it up, and dollop it all over a nice buttery-crispy, ricotta-smeared melty and chewy-gooey tortilla...?...well, for me it was far too logical a leap to take. My kid loved it too, what she could get of it, that is. SO--->

easy peasy instructions :

-heat up some leftover meat sauce for adding to the mix when it is ready, about 1/2 cup

-get a non-stick saute pan, or counter top griddle, or something else you like to cook with nice and hot.

-throw in a big splat of butter, serious...you want extra rolling around there, getting brown, call it a tablespoon

-smear some ricotta cheese on the tortilla and place it in the buttery pan, swirl it around to coat with hot butter

-drop the hot meat sauce around on the warming, crisping, bubbling cheesy thing

-sprinkle a little cheddar, or parmesan if you like...and a pinch of salt and pepper

-fold it over carefully when the cheeses are melty and the tortilla is golden brown

- carefully remove from the pan, and if you want to, set it on a paper towel for a second to absorb any excess butter

And that's it. Cut it up, and make sure it's not blazing hot inside if you feed it to your kids. They don't like that so much, the unexpected molten hot cheese-meets-mouth thing.
You can mix and match this up however you would like. I had meat sauce, and I eat it in my sleep. But try this the traditional way if you want. Use leftover chicken breast, arugula, and brie for a nice change. Somebody's growing rocket, right? Use some fried flounder, minus the cheese and dip it in a nice chipotle and pickle remoulade. Put some old pad thai in there, and dip in a sauce made of pan roasted shiitake's, soy sauce and sour cream....believe it or not, even that tastes really, really, good. I worked at a place here on the beach for a good few years. I would mention the name, but the owner is a cheap skate. I do feel that I at least owe it to him to throw him a bone here with a little shout out, but I choose no...for now. Sorry Jim. But if any of you have ever eaten at a "Gour-Mex" restaurant, around milepost 5.5 here in the Kill Devil Hills area that used to win national awards for hot sauces and so forth, you got it. We used to feature a "quesadilla of the day" on the specials menu. And although he wouldn't admit it, Uncle Jojo did the pad thai quesadilla, or maybe it was laab. Either way the mushroom-soy-sour cream thing was involved, and was delicious. He wouldn't admit it because now he hates hyphens. So there you are Jojo. So there ya go, Mr. OBX. And there YOU go, hungry mom's and dad's.  Now get going ! ! !

*kid approved.

Curried Rice and Lentils With Pickled Mango Garnish -killertomato

Sometimes I notice that one cabinet, the pantry, is nearly empty while the one next to it can't be opened without a bottle of some exotic spice falling out. Almost nothing to eat, yet plenty of saffron! Incidentally, saffron rice with the stewed hen I wrote about in an earlier post did make a decent dish one night. We were peering into the pantry this morning deliberating how best to make use of its contents and B pulled down the container of lentils that's been there forever and instructed me to do something with them. "I hate lentils!" was my parting declaration as he went out the door. It's true, I've never gotten excited about lentils. Not even when they were served with Cotechino sausage at La Pietra Cucina on New Year's, not when Julia Child raves about them on TV. But a while back, I pickled some green mangos and though piquant and juicy, haven't really made it past the odd tasting here and there. This is a recipe for curried rice which can be served with many things-I've still got my eye on you, green tomatoes out in the yard- and certainly with lentils and pickled mangos.

For the rice:
2 c. basmati rice
3 c. water
1/3 c. olive oil
1 heaping Tbsp. curry powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
1/2 tsp. ground red pepper
2 tsp. Tamari
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Warm the oil and mix in spices. After a minute, add Tamari and lemon juice. Mix into cooked rice.
Lentils are simple to cook. It is best not to add salt. You will cover them with water or broth, boil for a couple of minutes, then reduce heat to low and cover until liquid is absorbed. It can take a longer or shorter amount of time depending on the variety- like rice.
I didn't have Tamari today, only the oyster mushroom soy sauce that's been doing a swell job of standing in many places these days.
I got the curry powder at an Indian grocery. I like this brand. I also picked up a box of achar pickling spice that day because I was curious and followed the recipe on the back for pickling green mangos. It involved salting and spicing them and leaving out in the sun for a few days, then jarring and leaving in the pickle cabinet for another few days (yes, I have a pickle cabinet!) which softens and ripens them to their yellow color and juicy texture. I think the mix had fenugreek, chili pepper, turmeric, mustard and aniseed, as far as I could tell, and probably some other stuff too. I might find a good recipe and mix my own next time. This one is toooo salty. Love salt but hate it when it overpowers. However, these so-salty mangos were perfect for dressing up an otherwise unsalted dish.

The holidays are almost over, so I'm saving all citrus rinds to sugar down and candy. Another post on that soon, so stay tuned!

Lentil recipe to try next: pappadums! Indian snack made with lentil flour.