Friday, February 25, 2011

Go-to Bananas!

Steamboat Springs, CO (February 2008)

Looking for something sweet to sate your palate? Don't want to use tons of butter/oil/sugar to do it? Got overripe bananas? If you answered yes to even one of those questions than this is the recipe for you. I guess I should cut to the chase...Banana Bread!
Now I know banana bread is probably not the most unique baked good you have ever heard of, but that's neither here nor there. This is not the dry, crumbling block of mess you might have baked (bought, or been 'gifted!') in the past. Instead, you will enjoy a golden brown, chewy crust enveloping moist, pillowy crumbs and a slight crunch. Intrigued? Well, I am excited to share my recipe for banana bread but first I feel inclined to mention a few facts about bananas and their impact on society and the environment.

  • Bananas are the fourth-largest food staple in the world, behind rice, wheat and potatoes
  • The banana plant is the world's largest herb
  • There are over 500 varieties of bananas; the Cavendish or dessert banana is the banana most popular in North America and Europe
  • Cultivated banana plants do not produce pollen or seeds with which they are able to reproduce; thus new plants are grown from the suckers (shoots growing out of the ground from the rhizomes below) of the parent plant
Due to the fact that banana plants only thrive in hot, tropical climates most are grown in Central and South America, India, China and southeast Asia. A vast majority of the people living in these regions not only depend on bananas for their livelihoods, but also as a major staple of their diets.

Unfortunately, the banana industry, particularly in Central America, has a large amount of blood on its hands. You may have heard of the term "banana republic," and I am not referring to the yuppie clothing store. Coined by the author O. Henry in the book Cabbages and Kings, this term refers to a country dependent on limited agriculture and made politically and economically unstable due to the interests of corrupt business.
I'm not making this up; in 1910 the Cuyamel Fruit Company hired mercenaries to orchestrate the coup d'etat that would overthrow the Honduran government in favor of a leader friendlier to the fruit company. More horrifically, in the 1950's United Fruit Company (now Chiquita Brands International) convinced both the Truman and Eisenhower administrations that Guatemala was pro-Communist, due to the fact that the government had expropriated unused land from the company to be distributed to landless peasants. So in 1954 President Eisenhower ordered a CIA-led coup d'etat, deposing a democratically-elected government.

My point is not to bore you about the politics of bananas, but simply to make you aware of the tenuous relationship this industry has had (and has) with the people it depends on to make a profit from us banana-hungry consumers: the workers. I won't even get into the pesticides and herbicides used to combat disease, since the endangered plants are unable to resist infection on their own.

So what can you do, you ask? The best thing you can do is buy organic. Even though you are probably still leaving quite a large carbon footprint, due to the fact that the bananas must travel such a long distance to reach your market, you are still assuring that the people who cultivated, picked and packed your bananas were paid a fair wage and not physically compromised by deadly chemicals- which you would have otherwise consumed!
And now for an end to my rambling: the recipe!
Best Banana Bread
*Note: This recipe was adapted from the Quick Breads recipe found in Joy of Cooking.*


  • 1 3/4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3-1/2 cup Greek Gods Honey-flavored Greek yogurt, or other Greek yogurt
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon lemon rind
  • 1 egg
  • 1 to 1 1/4 cups very ripe banana pulp (Usually 2 to 3 bananas)
  • 2-3 tablespoons whole golden flax seeds
Sift together dry ingredients. Set aside. Blend until creamy Greek yogurt, sugar and lemon rind. Next, beat in egg and banana pulp. In about 3 parts, add the sifted ingredients to the sugar mixture, beating well after each addition until smooth. Fold in flaxseed.
Place the batter in a greased loaf pan. Bake for about 1 hour or until golden brown. Cool 10-15 minutes before slicing.

See? Pretty easy, eh? And the flax seeds not only add a delightfully subtle crunch, but are packed with Omega-3 fatty acids, dietary fiber and other nutrients. While it is true that the nutrients are more easily absorbed when ground, I prefer the whole seeds for this recipe.

Bon appetit! In honor of bananas, I leave you with a piece written by one of my favorite poets, Pablo Neruda.

La United Fruit Co. (from Canto general)

When the trumpet sounded
everything was prepared on earth,
and Jehovah gave the world
to Coca-Cola Inc., Anaconda,
Ford Motors, and other corporations.
The United Fruit Company
reserved for itself the most juicy piece,
the central coast of my world,
the delicate waist of America.

It rebaptized these countries
Banana Republics,
and over the sleeping dead,
over the unquiet heroes
who won greatness,
liberty, and banners,
it established an opera buffa:
it abolished free will,
gave out imperial crowns,
encouraged envy, attracted
the dictatorship of flies:
Trujillo flies, Tachos flies,
Carias flies, Martinez flies,
Ubico flies, flies sticky with
submissive blood and marmalade,
drunken flies that buzz over
the tombs of the people,
circus flies, wise flies
expert at tyranny.

With the bloodthirsty flies
came the Fruit Company,
amassed coffee and fruit
in ships which put to sea like
overloaded trays with the treasures
from our sunken lands.

Meanwhile the Indians fall
into the sugared depths of the
harbors and are buried in the
morning mists;
a corpse rolls, a thing without
name, a discarded number,
a bunch of rotten fruit
thrown on the garbage heap.

Eagen, Rachel. The Biography of Bananas. New York, NY: Crabtree Pub., 2006. Print.
Farmer, Jacqueline. Bananas! Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge, 1999. Print.
Neruda, Pablo, and Jack Schmitt. Canto General. Berkeley: University of California, 1991. Print.
"Banana Republic." Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Web. 05 Mar. 2011.
Rombauer, Irma Von Starkloff, and Marion Rombauer Becker. Joy of Cooking. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill, 1975. Print.

Monday, February 21, 2011


Spiced Herbed Nuts

Ashamed. Yes, it's been far too long since I have given some attention to this blog. Unfortunately, when I changed my email account I lost most of my pictures in previous posts. Nevermind that. There is plenty more deliciousness in store.

I am fortunate enough to have the best parents in the world, and because of that they drove out to help me move over Christmas. I won't get into the moving part because we all know moving tops the list of boring things to do. The more interesting thing we did was eat a lot of incredible food- like the beautiful mixed nuts pictured above. They were roasted with a variety of herbs, butter, brown get the idea. You can find the recipe here.

Another amazingly decadent treat we had was fondue. Now, I've had fondue and I always come away feeling somehow completely annoyed by the experience. But not this fondue. No, this, well, you just have to make it for yourself. And don't skimp on the pickles.

And then for dinner... I have long dreamed of a recipe I once saw Giada De Laurentiis make on Food Network. All I could remember was that there was a rich, meaty sauce, pasta and at the end you sprinkle it with shredded bittersweet chocolate. Somehow we found it, Short Rib Tagliatelle, and my, my was it every bit as wonderful as I had imagined. It does require quite a bit of patience though, but it is entirely worth it. The short ribs melt in your mouth, and the brothy, tomato-spiked sauce is good enough to sop up with a nice piece of baguette. And I promise the chocolate on top is good.

Now this bad boy was a pure lesson in patience. Meet the Decadent Trifle. First, you make ginger cake, studded with fresh cranberries. It goes on the bottom, drizzled with sherry. Next, the cake is topped with raspberries tossed with kirsch. Then white chocolate blueberry custard is spooned over, which is then covered with raspberry sauce. And what would it be without chocolate? Why not add chocolate custard? And then cover it with a whipped concoction called syllabub? I think, yes.