Dense Chocolate-Banana Bread :: Using Up Over Ripe Bananas

nutsWe’ve all been there. Bananas turn too brown to actually enjoy, so we hang on to them thinking ‘I’ll make banana bread.’ But that day doesn’t come, so maybe you toss the bananas in the compost or maybe, if you’re not repulsed by the glossy black sheen they have now, you’ll freeze them for smoothies.

About 3 weeks ago, I moved BLACK bananas to the fridge. I knew the cool temp would slow down the decay and I figured I’d make banana bread in the next day or so. But I didn’t. I don’t really eat wheat in my day to day life (and steer clear of sugar for the most part), so making banana bread was low on my list. (HIGH on my list, however, is not wasting food! Conundrum!)

Days went by, and the bananas started fermenting. You know bananas are fermenting when they start smelling boozy. Then I was leaving on a trip and thought – I have GOT to use these damn things. So I made a quick bread (the lazy bakers ultimate go-to recipe) and wrapped it up for my man to take to work. Of course, I did take 2 slices for the plane ride. Best. Idea. Ever.

A few notes about this recipe.

  • I did not precisely measure. I just scooped flour out of the bag without first aerating, tossed in a handful of this or that, didn’t measure with tablespoons, just used kitchen spoons etc which is all to say you need not be absolutely precise.
  • If you don’t have vanilla sugar, a) you should make some and b) just use plain sugar
  • you can use any streusel topping you like – I never measure and simply through equal parts of flour:sugar:brownsugar:butter into a bowl and start mashing. I added a bit of cinnamon, but you can add nutmeg, cloves, cayenne, cardamom, crushed chamomile – whatever you like.

 

Chocolate Banana Bread with Streusel Top

113 grams (1 stick) room temperature butter
½ cup vanilla sugar
1 egg
2 large very ripe bananas, mashed
½ cup plain yogurt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 handful chocolate chips

Topping
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup pecans, chopped fine
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Pinch salt

Preheat over to 350 F/180 C.

Lightly grease a 9×5 loaf pan. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar together until well combined and light. The sugar—butter combo should be light, white, and fluffy. Add the egg and until well incorporated, making sure to scrape the sides of the bowl.Add bananas, yogurt and vanilla and mix until well combined.

In bowl, stir together baking soda, cocoa powder and flour, then add to the mixing bowl and beat until just combined. Do not over-process. Add a handful of chocolate chips and fold in with a spoon. Pour batter into loaf pan.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the flour, sugars, pecans, cinnamon, salt and butter. Using your fingertips, massage the mixture together until it forms a coarse crumb and larger clumps. Sprinkle over top of batter and lightly press into batter.

Bake until an inserted toothpick comes out clean, about 50 minutes to an hour. (Check after 30 minutes to be sure streusel topping is not burning – cover lightly with a piece of aluminum foil if need be.)

Photo from Urban Pantry, by the fabulous Della Chen

HOW TO :: Homemade Nut Milks

With health consciousness on the rise, more people are turning to dietary alternatives with the aim of avoiding allergens in their food. Why? Because many of these foods create internal inflammation of our tissues and joints and chronic inflammation can lead to disease and illness.

homemade almond milkCommon food triggers are wheat, dairy, peanuts, soy, refined sugar. If you’re following a paleo diet these and many more are on the no-no list. If you’re doing a detox cleanse, you need not be as strict. Many things have easy, healthy substitutes – instead of white sugar, opt for raw local honey. Instead of peanut butter, try sunflower seed butter.

Dairy gets a little tricky because many of the substitutes have OTHER allergens and ingredients to steer clear from. Most shelf-stable nut milks contain carrageenan, “a gum extracted from certain species of red algae (also known as Irish moss) has thickening, gelling, and binding properties. It is used to stabilize emulsions in dairy products; to improve the quality of foods such as soups, salad dressings, sauces, and fruit drinks; and to give a creamy thick texture to milk products,” states Prescription for Dietary Wellness: Using Foods to Heal by Phyllis Balch. Continue reading

Key Ingredient: SEAWEED

Sushi Kappo Tamura’s owner and chef dishes about the edible sea plant that packs healthy nutrients……………….

Seaweed, long revered in Japanese culture, is available as close as Puget Sound. But can we simply stroll down to Golden Gardens and harvest some fresh kelp for eating? “Yes,” says Taichi Kitamura, owner and chef at Sushi Kappo Tamura in Eastlake. “All seaweed is edible; it is just a matter of tasting good or bad.”

1215eatanddrinkseaweedSeaweed comes in various shapes and forms—pressed and dried into sheets for sushi rolls, salted in jars, dried whole and other preparations. “I like them all, but my choice is wakame,” says Kitamura. Dark green wakame is sold in both dried and jarred forms. Sometimes labeled as sea vegetables, it has an almost indistinguishable, subtle taste. The texture is satisfying. “It’s something in between melt in your mouth and chewy,” he says.

Continue reading

Homemade Aged Eggnog

More nuanced then just-made ‘nog, aging mellows the boozy nose of this super spiked beverage and makes for a harmonious, blended flavor.

aged eggnog recieHow & Why to Make Aged Eggnog

Eggnog is made with eggs, sugar, a blend of spirits and milk or cream (or both). In a typical iteration, eggs are blended with sugar and booze creating a thick and sweet beverage, not unlike Baileys. From there, portions of milk and cream are added before serving. Some recipes call for whipped cream, while others fold in whipped egg whites. I took another route entirely and went for an aged eggnog recipe.

Alcohol is a natural preservative, killing off bacteria. I had heard of aged eggnog before—the process seemed so much easier than the last minute preparation required with other recipes. With aged eggnog, eggs and spirits (like rum, brandy, cognac, whisky, or bourbon) are blended and mixed with sugar, the alcohol killing any potential of bacteria from the raw eggs over the course of time. (In fact, some think aged eggnog is safer to drink.)

The real benefit to aging the eggnog, however, can be tasted with each sip. More nuanced then just-made ‘nog, aging mellows the boozy nose of this super spiked beverage and makes for a harmonious, blended flavor. Smoother-tasting than fresh eggnog, aging the drink also turns the consistency thin, a nice break from the thick and cloying versions we’ve all come to expect from the store.

To serve, you can of course fold in whipped cream, if you’re a frothy eggnog lover; just as you can use reduced fat milk if you prefer a lighter version. I add toasted star anise to the jar a few days before I plan to serve it—the warming spices embody all that is symbolic of the holidays in one.

Aged Vanilla Eggnog
Makes 8 lowball glasses | start to finish: 20 to 30 minutes

1 1/2 cups bourbon or whiskey
1/2 cup dark rum
1/2cup brandy
12 eggs
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean pod
2 star anise, dry roasted (optional)

To serve:
1 1/4 cup whole milk
1/4 cup heavy cream
Ice
Whole nutmeg, for grating

Combine all of the spirits and set aside. In a large bowl or standing mixer, add the eggs and sugar. Beat on low speed until all of the sugar has dissolved, about 3 to 5 minutes. Turn the mixer to the lowest setting and slowly add the spirits, drop by drop at first to temper the eggs. When all of the liquid has been added, strain into a clean glass jar (using a strainer will catch any solid bits of egg), cover and store in a cool dark place. Invert the jar occasionally, or at least every three days, for at minimum of nine days and up to three weeks total. Five days before serving, add the vanilla bean pod and star anise, if using.

aged eggnog recipe

To serve: strain out the spices and place the eggnog mixture into a large bowl or container. Add the milk and heavy cream and stir to combine. To serve, shake a ladle-full (about ½ cup) of eggnog with ice until frothy. Serve immediately, over a lowball filled with ice and top with some freshly grated nutmeg.

Rosehip Recipes :: Homemade Rosehip Granola Recipe

baking granolaRosehips are bright red ‘berries’ that form on the stems of rose bushes and trees after the blooms die back. These fleshy globes encase seeds for the roses and can be eaten raw or dried. Rosehips form in mid-autumn and are best harvested after the first frost. This homemade rosehip granola is best served over yogurt with a spoonful of honey.

To learn how to harvest rosehips (November is a perfect month for it!), check out this post. For more rose hip recipes and inspiration, check out this post for Rosehip Sherry.

Rose Hip Granola

makes about 3 pints | start to finish: about 30 minutes active time

2 cups rolled oats
2 cups sliced almonds
2 cups raw, unsweetened coconut flakes
2 tablespoon untoasted sesame seeds
1⁄4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup dried rosehips
1/3 cup crystallized ginger, chopped

rose hips for harvestingPreheat the oven to 350°F. Place the oats and almonds on a sheet pan and stir to combine. Put the pan in the oven and toast for 5 minutes. Add the coconut flakes and sesame seeds. Toss to redistribute, and spread out into a single layer.
Toast until the coconut flakes are golden brown and sesame seeds are fragrant, another 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle on the salt. Add the rosehips and ginger and stir well to combine. Let cool completely before filling pint jars.
washed jars • pantry storage

PHOTO FROM DELLA CHEN PHOTOGRAPHY

HOW TO :: Preserving & Canning Pears

Seckel pears are diminutive, with muddy, olive green skin and a firm texture. Their tiny proportions make them impossible to resist, and the perfect size for a light dessert after a rich meal. They ripen toward the end of September, so be on the lookout as the season is short. Pears are poached in a light caramel syrup – you can determine how dark you’d like to burn the sugar. I prefer mine deeply amber, imparting an almost burnt quality to the fruit. Of course, you can also infuse the syrup with any number of aromatics. Here, we use vanilla, but lavender buds, fresh thyme or even a bag of your favorite tea. When you crack open the jars, the pears’ exterior will have a gorgeous caramel hue, whereas the centers stay creamy. I like to serve the pears whole, with a dollop of cream and a drizzle of the syrup. Make sure to use wide-mouth pint jars here, so the pears fit without bruising.

Caramel Vanilla Seckel Pears
makes 6-8 pints | start to finish: about 1 hour active time

2 1/4 cups sugar
5 1/2 cups warm water
1 vanilla bean, cut in half, beans scraped and reserved
5 pounds Seckel pears

In a large, completely dry, saucepan, add the sugar and shake the pan gently to level it out. Place the saucepan over medium heat. Without touching it, leave the sugar to melt and brown; do not stir it. The sugar will begin to brown at the edges. Once starting to brown, gently swirl the pan slightly, making sure to keep the sugar level, so it does not coat the sides of the pan. The sugar will caramelize, becoming dark brown at edges. Stir the melted sugar slowly, incorporating the dry sugar, until all of the sugar is melted and amber colored. Wearing an oven mitt and long sleeves (molten sugar will spit and pop) carefully pour in the warm water while simultaneously stirring. Any sugar crystals that form will melt in the water. Add the vanilla bean pods and the reserved seeds, and set the pot aside. (This is also when you when add other aromatics, as pictured below.**)

caramel infusions

Peel the pears, leaving a small piece of the stem intact. Immediately drop them into the syrup. When all of the pears have been added, return the pot to medium-high heat. Bring the syrup to a low boil and then reduce the heat to medium. Cook the pears for 10 to 15 minutes, until they are just beginning to soften, but are not cooked through all the way. The exterior flesh will be easily pierced, but the core of the pear will be firm.

Remove the pears from the heat and, using a soup spoon, immediately add them to the clean jars, lowering each pear in gently to prevent bruising. Pack the jars as densely as you’re able, leaving 1” of space. Once the jars are packed, pour the caramel-vanilla syrup over the pears so they are submerged, leaving 1/2” of headspace in the jars. Cut the vanilla pod into even pieces and add a small piece of it to each jar. Gently tap the jars on the counter to release any air bubbles. Wipe the jar rims and seal the jars. Place the jarred pears in a prepared water bath and process for 20 minutes. Remove the jars with tongs and let them cool on the counter overnight. Store in a cool, dark cupboard for up to 1 year.

washed jars • water bath

**You can infuse the caramel water with many an array of aromatics. Try fresh thyme, lavender, ginger, cardamom, cloves, etc. I always recommend doing a small batch on the side first, so you can judge the potency and see if you like the flavor. From there, add aromatics to the pot and steep as you like. As I tell all of my students, the potency of the flavor will grow in strength over time, so keep it a little softer then you’d ideally like. A little clove goes a long way – trust me.

HOW TO :: Apple Pie Filling Canning Recipe

This simple recipe guarantees you’ll always have the best apples on hand for pie baking.

bowl of applesApples are available all year long, but they are certainly not in season all year long. New crop apples, those that are harvested and sold in the same season, are the best tasting—their juice just contained under firm, naturally shiny skins. Ditto for pears, which are best eaten soon after harvesting. To preserve the natural, raw integrity of fresh fruit, buy both in bulk when they come into the markets. Boxes of apples are infinitely less expensive than buying a pound at a time, so choose a favorite variety (most farmers offer samples) and load up. As for the little pears, keep your eyes open and buy the lot when you have a chance.

Apple Pie Filling
makes about 4 pints | start to finish: about 1 hour active time

This simple recipe guarantees you’ll always have the best apples on hand for pie baking. Blanching the fruit before canning them will preserve their crispness, ensuring that they won’t break down to mush when they’re baked. Choose a firm, crisp apple, and mix something tart (Bramley) with a sweeter bite (Spitzenberg). When it comes to baking time, simply pour the apples into a prepared shell and bake, or slice them thin for layering in a tart. Either way, expect to use two pints of filling per 9” pie.

6 pounds apples, cored and sliced
1 cup water
1 cup apple cider
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup apple pectin (available online or in health food stores)
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Fill a large stockpot half full with water and bring to a boil. Drop in half of the sliced apples and cover, returning to a boil. Once the water returns to a boil (about 8 to 10 minutes), use a slotted spoon to strain out the apples. Add the slices directly to clean pint jars, leaving a small amount of room at the top. Repeat the process with the remaining apple slices. On a folded-over dish towel (for padding), strongly tap the bottom of each jar on the counter, to help pack down the apples. If necessary, redistribute apples so each jar is full, with 1” of headspace.

In a medium saucepan, add the water, apple cider, sugar, apple pectin, lemon juice, and spices; bring to a boil. Simmer the liquid for 15 minutes, reducing it slightly. Using a ladle or a liquid measuring cup for ease, pour hot juice over the jarred apples, leaving 1/2” of headspace. Gently tap the jars on the counter to release any air bubbles. Wipe the jar rims and seal the jars. Place them in a prepared water bath and process for 20 minutes. Remove the jars with tongs and let them cool on the counter overnight. Store in a cool, dark cupboard for up to 1 year.

washed jars • water bath

HOW TO :: Grow Your Own Fig Tree | Propagating Figs

This is a great fall project as we move into winter. Be sure to position the cutting in a sunny spot so it can put on growth before winter really sets in. It will go dormant over winter (keep the soil moisture consistently JUST damp) and pick up growth as we turn into the new year.figs_food52 copy

I think you’ll be surprised at how simple this is, but for anyone interested, here are the instructions if you want to DIY it:

  1. Find a fig tree! Maybe your neighbor has one or maybe you’re in a local park.
  2. Using pruning shears, cut a 4- to 10-inch long piece of soft wood new growth, just above a plant node.
  3. Fill a large pot with potting soil (a simple plastic pot that shrubs come in is perfect) and stick the fig cutting in, cut side down. Don’t worry about stripping the bark, spacing or anything. You just need to place the cutting in a well-drained medium with space to grow.
  4. Water, water, water! Moisture is key. Eventually, your cutting will grow smaller little leaves and develop a root system. You know it is ready for replanting or repotting when you give the plant a slight tug and it resists.

Five Container Plants For Fall

It’s hard to believe, but fall is on its way. Here, a quick guide on what to plant now for the perfect patio harvest come cold weather.

plantingIt doesn’t necessarily feel like it, but sadly summer is waning. Our days are shorter and while temperatures may remain hot (you lucky ducks!), shorter days means less light for growing plants. In many states across the country this means it’s time to get the winter garden going, if you haven’t already. Late summer begs for cool loving crops that are quick to grow. For anyone starting now, smaller leafy greens are your friend.

By nature, leafy greens require less direct sunlight, prefer it when it’s a bit cooler, and can be grown in both a proper garden bed and a smaller container. Most greens germinate quickly and many can be found as starts. Following is a list of five plants to grow right now – some can be harvested before winter sets in, and others can be left to overwinter in regions with mild temperatures. Be sure to get planting straight away though. Mother Nature is moving fast and I can tell you from experience…she usually wins the race.

Getting Started
You’ll need a pot filled to the brim with potting soil. Feel free to use an old pot; just refresh the soil and make sure you remove all old root hairs. If you’re using seed, you can direct sow, which is a method in which you sow a seed directly into the soil.

You can also broadcast sow seeds for loose leaves: you do this by taking a handful of seeds and scattering them evenly over a designated area, sort of like salting meat. These seeds fall on the soil haphazardly and lack any spacing. (I’m showing the technique in a garden bed here, but it also works for containers!)

Of course, you can also use a start when planting this fall. Plant starts are a bit easier as they give you a jump on the season and don’t require you to nurture seeds through germination. When transplanting a plant start into a pot, you need only provide enough space for the plant to grow. Loosen up the transplants root system and be sure to separate out individual plants so you allow them room to come to full maturity.

raddichio copy

1. Lettuce
Many lettuces will grow and mature in less than two months. These are wonderful immediate gratification kind of plants, as they germinate and grow quickly and are easily harvested. Lettuces come in assorted sizes and colors, allowing for a nice salad bowl mix, but be sure to choose varieties that will do well late in the season – I really love Green Deer Tongue lettuce for winter and have heard great things about Arctic King, a butterhead for anyone wanting a traditional green lettuce leaf.

Where and When to Plant
• Sow lettuce seed or plant starts through the month of September.

Pot Size
• Sow seeds in a long, shallow, pale-colored plastic container — lettuces are shallow-rooted, and plastic containers hold water a bit longer than clay ones.
• If using seeds, be sure to keep the seedbed moist until seeds germinate, which typically happens in five to seven days.

How to Harvest
• To harvest lettuce, try to remove the larger outer leaves first. Using a small pair of scissors, cut the individual leaf stems as close to the base of the main stem as possible, leaving some interior leaves behind.

planting2. Chervil
Chervil has tender fernlike leaves, it is extremely dainty and delicate. The flavor is not unlike dill, but it is sharper and more crisp. It doesn’t linger on your palate as dill can, and it won’t overpower a dish. Chervil is a great match for eggs, light broths, and with white fish of any kind. (Editor’s Note: The chervil hasn’t popped up in Amy’s garden yet, so you get a photo of sowing in action! Chervil looks like this.)

Where and When to Plant
• Sow in late summer.

Pot Size
• Chervil can be grown in a medium-depth pot, about eight to twelve inches deep. The wider the pot, the more thickly the plant will fill in, so keep that in mind when choosing.

How to Harvest
• Cut the entire stem of chervil and use both leaves and stem.
• The plant will quickly fill back in, so harvest often!

greenonion copy3. Green Onions
Scallions, chives, green onions – they are all in the same family of allium and are quick producing. You can grow for greens or the whole plant.

Where and When to Plant
• Green onions can be sown in late summer for a fall harvest.

Pot Size
• A shallow container works well. Try these in a gutter garden!

How to Harvest
• Pull the entire scallion from the soil, if you’d like to use the white.
• For greens only, trim the stems leaving a few inches of the green onion behind so it can re-grow.

arugula_sprouts copy4. Arugula
Arugula is a leafy green that produces long flat leaves with a distinct peppery flavor. Each seed produces one thin stem, which leaves grow out from. You can further your harvest by cutting them back often.

Where and When to Plant
• Sow arugula seeds in the top layer of potting soil from late August through October.

Pot Size
• If given the room, arugula plants may grow to well over two feet! In a small to medium container, however, leaves grow the perfect size for salad.

How to Harvest
• Cut arugula at the base of each leaf off the main stem.
• You can decide for yourself when the leaf is big enough, but larger leaves are much more peppery.

escaroleinbed copy5. Chicories
Chicories are essentially bitter salad greens that can be eaten raw or take well to grilling. Chicories such as escaroles and endives are good choices for fall.

Where and When to Plant
• Sow seed or plant starts now through the first week of September.

Pot Size
• Sow seeds in a long, shallow, pale-colored plastic container, as chicories are also shallow rooted plants.

How to Harvest
• To harvest, remove the larger outer leaves first. Like for lettuce, using a small pair of scissors, cut the individual leaf stems as close to the base of the main stem as possible, leaving some interior leaves behind.

Cooking with Fish Sauce

 Ma‘ono’s Mark Fuller dishes on his go-to ingredient

To the uninitiated, the mention of fish sauce might well result in wrinkled noses. However, the oft-misunderstood ingredient brings a welcome punch to a variety of dishes. Because fish sauce falls outside the flavor categories typically recognized by the American palate, the savory-salty taste is hard to define. The Japanese describe it as “umami”—roughly translated as “deliciousness.” At Ma‘ono, the mystery works.

0815_keyingredient

“People won’t know why the food tastes great, but it does and that’s what matters,” says Mark Fuller, chef and owner of Ma‘ono Fried Chicken & Whisky (West Seattle, 4437 California Ave. SW; 206.935.1075; maono.springhillnorthwest.com), a Hawaiian-influenced restaurant that also serves now-famous fried chicken dinners. “I’m looking for flavor in all of my dishes and fish sauce is a fermented product that’s a bit funky and offers subliminal and compelling flavor.”

Fuller relies on fish sauce for his kimchi, adding it during the beginning stages of a three-day maceration, along with raw oysters, to give the cabbage a kick-start. This fiery relish is served with the fried chicken as an aromatic, fresh-tasting side. Fuller also opts for fish sauce—instead of the more traditional anchovies—in a version of Caesar salad. “I use it as a flavor like I would use salt,” he says.

Why you should try it: A versatile pantry staple, fish sauce imparts a noticeable difference in recipes—and not just in the usual Asian fare. Use it in place of soy sauce or other pungent foods, like cheese. A splash can be added to sauces and broths for body.

Where to find it: Fuller uses Three Crabs fish sauce at Ma‘ono. “It’s the best fish sauce we can get here. It’s high quality and it’s readily available,” he says. At home, he opts for Red Boat artisanal fish sauce, which is more of a splurge. Both are available at Uwajimaya stores (Bellevue, Chinatown–International District, Renton; uwajimaya.com). Three Crabs and other brands can be found at H Mart locations (Bellevue, 100 108th Ave. NE; 425.990.8000; hmartus.com).

How to use it: A little goes a long way. “In moderation, it can elevate just about anything,” Fuller says. Try adding a spoonful to marinades and vinaigrettes. Combine lemon juice, olive oil and fish sauce and brush it over your veggie kebabs right as they come off the grill. Try a splash in your mac and cheese or risotto, in place of Parmesan. But, Fuller says, “Start with a few drops and taste as you go.