Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Second life: banana bread

When I don't finish a bunch of bananas before they turn mushy and limp I welcome the lucky opportunity to give the spoils a new life in banana bread. I have a tried an true recipe that I recently started dressing up with an idea from Donna Hay: placing sliced bananas on the top, brushing with melted butter and sprinkling with sanding sugar (my tweak). Because it's always hard to devour an entire loaf (well, at least without guilt), I like baking several in smaller paper loaf pans. That way, I can keep one for breakfast and gift the others. I've had this recipe for ages and have no idea where it came from!

No fail banana bread

1/2 cup butter (1 stick)
1 cup sugar or brown sugar
2 eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 mashed bananas
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Optional garnish (one large banana, melted butter to brush on top and sanding sugar to finish)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat butter and sugar until light and creamy. Add eggs, one at a time and blend thoroughly.

In a separate bowl combine dry ingredients (except nuts).

Gradually combine butter mixture and dry ingredients. Stir in bananas. Stir in vanilla extract. Add nuts, if using.

Pour into 2 large loaf pan or thee small loaf pans (greased or non-stick). If desired, arrange banana slices on top, brush with melted butter and sprinkle with sanding sugar (note that topping will only "keep" for a day or so).

Bake for 1 hour, ten minutes if using a large loaf pan and 50 minutes if using small pans (or until a cake tester comes out clean). Let cool before serving.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Sexy fruit: figs

Don't you think figs are the sexiest fruit out there? I love figs and it's a treat when they are finally in season. I recently bought a fig tree for my apartment. I might be over-confident in thinking I can grow a healthy fig tree in a Manhattan apartment, but it's worth a try, no?

Figs are here and will be gone soon. While they're around, I'm taking advantage. I recently made a batch of David Lebovitz's fig ice cream. David is the master of frozen desserts so I figured I couldn't go wrong with his fig ice cream recipe. The ice cream has a lovely fig flavor and a deep purple color. It such an unusual flavor for ice cream that it is worth the effort to make a fresh batch while figs are in season.

For other fig dessert ideas, see my friend Jennifer Davick's recipe for Fresh Fig Frozen Yogurt here on her blog, and her feature on Design*Sponge with a recipe for
Fresh Mini Fig Pies with Honey Mascarpone Cream, here.

Fig ice cream (from Perfect Scoop: Ice Creams, Sorbets, Granitas, and Sweet Accompaniments by David Lebovitz)

2 pounds fresh figs
1/2 cup water
1 lemon
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice or more to taste

Remove the hard stem ends from the figs, then cut each fig into 8 pieces. Place the figs and water in a medium saucepan. Zest the lemon directly into the pan. Cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the figs are tender (8 to 10 minutes).

Remove the lid, add the sugar, and continue to cook, stirring frequently, until the figs reach a jam-like consistency. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature. Once cool, puree figs in a blender with the cream and lemon juice (puree quickly so as not to whip the cream). Taste and add more lemon juice as desired.

Chill thoroughly, then freeze the mixture in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Hearty and healthy: farro salad

I have been loving whole grain salads lately. One new favorite is farro. It is nutty and has a wonderful, firm texture. Load it up with finely chopped vegetables, some cheese and a drizzle of olive oil and vinegar and it's a beautiful, perfect salad. The specific ingredients are up to you. Lately, I've added diced ricotta salata, some micro greens, scallions (thinly sliced diagonally). I've also been known to add fresh fava beans and / or avocado. I like to add olive oil, vinegar (red wine or balsamic), juice from 1/2 lemon, salt and pepper while the farro is still warm so that it is soaked up by the grains, and then the other ingredients when the farro is at room temperature so they retain their crunch). Serve for lunch or as a side for dinner.

On another note, I still have a few sets of folded greeting cards remaining from my print run earlier this summer. There are 5x5 egg and feather cards as well as 5x7 fruit cards. Both sets are blank on the inside and come in sets of 12 for $24. They are professionally printed on thick card stock. Please email me if interested!

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Tomatoes: summer salads

August is certainly a celebration of tomatoes. It is such a treat to have sweet, farm-fresh tomatoes to enjoy. All of the colors and varieties are eye candy as well as a feast for the taste buds!
Heirloom cherry tomato, feta and red onion salad with oregano

I have just finished shooting images for a cookbook of tomato-oriented recipes - due out this winter. One would think three weeks of shopping for, styling and shooting tomato recipes would turn me off of tomatoes for a while. On the contrary, it has inspired me to think about ways to incorporate fresh tomatoes in foods that allow them to shine.
Caprese with mozzarella balls, heirloom tomatoes and chives

Lately, I've been playing with small heirloom tomatoes - cherry tomatoes and other varieties and incorporating them in salads that play with their scale and color. No need for recipes - just fresh tomatoes, perhaps some cheese, a sprinkling of herbs or some onions, a splash of olive oil and vinegar and a sprinkling of pepper and sea salt.


"Miniature" Caprese with tiny mozzarella balls, currant-sized cherry tomatoes and a chiffonade of basil