In case you have a touch and go relationship with the national news (or perhaps you are lucky enough to live in southern France) allow me to state the obvious: January in Chicago, or “Chiberia,” as Twitter calls it, has been frigid! CPS snow days, I have found, are a prime opportunity for taking stock — as in, looking back and reflecting — although making stock works too. If I remember correctly, I spent “Snowmaggedon” (the 2011 storm that amassed 20+ feet of snow in Chicago) standing over a pot of onions for an onion tart, stinking up my studio apartment with layers of pastry, mustard, onions, and baked eggs. Flash forward two years, minus about a month: early Jan 2013 involved its own version of hibernation — the kind that follows oral surgery — and many painstaking, unsightly bites of homemade bread pudding. (Not sure if the Vicodin played into this, but sadly, I have had no desire for bread pudding since. In downtown San Francisco, P and I discovered a trendy bread pudding shop where they scoop the pudding into paper cups like ice cream. A cute idea, a creamy confection, somehow it reminded me of the dentist. Oh well.) This year, after 24 hours of intermittent weather related e-mails and duplicate forwards — “Clarification,” “CPS Announces,” “Update,” “Urgent,” “FWD: Urgent” — I found myself hunkered down again, unequivocally off-duty, and after a day’s worth of querying and following up and related freelance rigamarole, turning on the stove.
Perhaps it was the cold, more likely it was the pile of increasingly brown bananas in my fruit bowl, but I decided that we needed a little tropical flavor in the house. So I decided to go a little bananas. I was trying to keep banana bread at bay, in favor of something more spontaneous, a little looser and less predictable, something that will inspire me next week when I’m having the same issue with these doggone, overripe bananas. Here are the results:
Vanilla Ice Cream with Caramelized Bananas and Almond Crumble
Adapted from Bon Appetit Desserts
The Bon Appetit version is a baked phyllo dough package (excuse me, the recipe reads “purses”) filled with caramelized bananas and hazelnut crumble and served with a white chocolate sauce. As much as I love the many layers of that idea, a deconstructed version sounded better, and slightly less crazy, on a random snow day. The caramelization action over high heat made me wistful for Bananas Foster, brunch and dinner joint that used to sit the corner of Granville and Broadway, with a friendly, lively, Southern vibe and an excellent rendition of its namesake.
- Brown sugar
- Unsalted butter
- Nuts (your choice)
- Granulated sugar
- Fresh lime juice
- Optional: hazelnut liqueur or amaretto
Crumble it Up
Preheat an oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with foil or a silicone mat and spray it with baking spray. In a saucepan, melt 1 cup of brown sugar with 1 stick of butter (1/2 cup) until the butter has melted. Take the saucepan off the heat and mix in 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour, 1 cup of almonds or whatever nuts you have on hand, and a pinch of salt. Spread the mixture on the greased baking sheet and bake until dry and golden, 20-30 minutes. Set the timer for 15 minutes and give it a little toss to make sure everything is browning evenly.
Slice 6 bananas and juice several limes until you have 1/4 cup lime juice — most likely, 2 large limes or 4 small limes. Microwave the limes for 10 seconds to get as much as juice as possible. Place 6 tablespoons of butter (3/4 stick) in a sauté pan, along with 3/4 cup sugar and 1/4 cup lime juice. Keep the heat on low until the butter melts. At this point, increase the heat to high and stir the mixture until it browns around the edges, about 5 minutes. Add the bananas (and if using, 2 tablespoons of the liqueur, I did not) and stir until the sauce thickly coats them. Transfer to a large bowl.
Add Some Dairy
As I write this, it’s Thursday — school is back in session, it’s warming up, and since we happen to be reading the scene in Guys and Dolls where Sky Masterson whisks Sarah Brown to Havana, Cuba, we’re doing our best to keep the tropics vibe alive, hey mambo… So how about an even lazier approach:
Banana & Chocolate Chip Panini
Adapted from Stonewall Kitchen Favorites
- Chocolate chips or nutella
- Spreadable butter
Thinly slice a banana. Microwave 1/4 to 1/2 cup chocolate chips until they are partly melted (even easier, spread on the nutella.) Butter one side of four slices of bread. Flip the bread to the unbuttered side. Place the banana slices on two slices of bread and spoon the semi-melted chocolate chips over the top. Top with the other two slices of bread, butter side up. Grill on a panini press or sauté pan until gooey.
[Photos: “Josephine Baker,” megpi’s photostream, under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0, “Chiberia 5,” Kathleen Virginia’s photostream, under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, “Bananas Wrapped in Phyllo with Chocolate Sauce,” Food Thinkers’ photostream, under CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0, “Crumble Closeup,” ☃’s photostream, CC BY-NC 2.0, “Bananas Foster,” ginnerobot’s photostream, CC BY-SA 2.0, “Vanilla ice cream,” Sofie Dittmann’s photostream, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0, “Nutella & Banana Panini,” Andurinha’s photostream, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0]