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Monday, April 27, 2015

Ultimate Banana Bread

From Cooks Illustrated.  The extra steps of extracting banana juice and reducing it are definitely worth it.  This truly takes banana bread to a whole new level!  Be sure to use very ripe heavily speckled or even back bananas.  You can also use 5 thawed frozen bananas; since they release a lot of liquid naturally, they don't need the microwaving in step 2.  The bread is best when eaten fresh but it can be stored for up to 3 days--let cool completely and then cover tightly with plastic wrap.

1 3/4 cup flour
1 t baking soda
1/2 t salt
5 large very ripe bananas, peeled
8 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled slightly
2 large eggs
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1 t vanilla
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped (optional)
2 t granulated sugar

1.  Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray 8 1/2x 4 1/2-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray.    In a large bowl whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt.

2.  Place the 5 bananas in a large microwave-safe bowl.  Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and cut several steam vents in plastic with paring knife.  Microwave on high power until bananas are soft and have release liquid about 5 minutes.  Transfer bananas to a fine-mesh strainer placed over a medium bowl.  Allow liquid to drain, stirring occasionally about 15 minutes until you have 1/2-3/4 cup liquid.  Place mashed bananas that are left back in the bowl.

3.  Transfer liquid to medium saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until reduced to 1/4 cup, about 5 minutes.  Pour liquid from pan onto mashed bananas, and mash with potato masher until fairly smooth.  Whisk in melted butter, eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla.

4.  Pour banana mixture onto the flour in the large mixing bowl and stir until just combined, with some streaks of flour remaining.  Gently fold in nuts, if using.  Then pour batter into prepared pan, scraping sides of bowl with spatula.  Sprinkle granulated or coarse sugar evenly over the top of the loaf.

5.  Bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 55-75 minutes.  Cool bread in pan on wire rack for 15 minutes.   Then remove loaf from pan and continue to cool on wire rack.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Ice Cream Crunch Cake

1 1/2 quart container of vanilla ice-cream
1 9-ounce package of chocolate wafers (like Nabisco Famous) or chocolate sandwich cookies (like oreos)
1 7-8 ounce bottle of chocolate magic shell ice-cream topping or hot fudge
1 1/2 quart container of chocolate or other ice-cream flavor topping
3-4 cups whipped cream
sprinkles for decorating (optional)
1-2 cups of more whipped cream or buttercream frosting for decorating (optional)

Put a 9-inch spingform pan in the freezer for 15 minutes.  Meanwhile let the vanilla ice-cream soften at room temperature.

Remove pan from freezer, spread ice-cream in an even layer on the bottom of the pan.  Freeze until firm about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, pulse the cookies in a food processor to break into large crumbs.  Add the chocolate shell or fudge topping and pulse until all the crumbs are moist about 5 pulses; set aside.

Remove pan from freezer after 45 minutes.  Spread chocolate crumb mixture over ice-cream and return to freezer for 45-60 minutes.

Let second ice-cream flavor soften at room temperature for 15 minutes.  Remove pan from freezer and spread final layer of ice-cream over crumb layer, packing tightly.  Smoothing the top.  Freeze until firm about 2 hours.

To unfold the cake, wipe the outside of the springform pan with a hot cloth.  Also you can run a hot knife around the inside ring, then unlatch and remove the side.  If the cake is too soft, return to freezer for 20-30 more minutes.

Spread 3 cups of whipped cream over the top and the sides of the cake working quickly.  Smooth with offset spatula.  Return to freezer until set about 20 minutes.  Put the remaining whipped cream or buttercream frosting in a pastry bag to decorate.  The star tip makes a nice border on the edges of the cake, decorate with sprinkles.  Return to the freezer.

Before serving let the cake sit at room temperature 15-25 minutes, slice with a hot knife.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Amazing Burgers

Adapted from this burger recipe and Chef Gunyan's cooking class.  Chef insists that to make a good burger/sandwich you have to think about each of the components.


Pickle slices
Lettuce slices
Tomatoes--slice thin and season with salt, pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil.  Set aside while making burgers
Pickled red onions
Ketchup or fry sauce

Quick pickled red onions
  • 1/2 cup vinegar
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 t sugar
  • 1 clove of garlic (slice or diced)

In a small saucepan mix all the ingredients, stir and bring to a boil.  Remove from heat, add thinly sliced red onions.  Stir.  Cover with pot lid.  And let sit for 20+ minutes while making and grilling burgers.


  • 2 pounds ground beef (we like 90/10 the recipe recommends 80/20)
  • 2 t seasoned salt
  • 2 T A-1 sauce or BBQ sauce
  • 1 t freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup room temperature water
In a small bowl mix all the ingredients together until well combined (I usually use my hands).  Form the beef into patties about 1/2-inch thick and slightly larger then the buns.  Refrigerate covered loosely with saran wrap until ready to grill.

Preheat grill over high to medium-high heat for 15+ minutes.  Turn heat down to medium high and grill about 6 minutes on each side (this is for just the slightest bit of pink).  If you want to toast the buns, during the last 2 minutes of grilling butter the inside of the buns and place on the grill to toast while the burgers finish cooking.  

Serve on a toasted whole wheat bun and top with lettuce, amazing tomatoes and pickled red onions (see above).

Oven Fries

  • 2 to 4 potatoes, about 1 1/2 pounds total
  • 2-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • nice sea salt or table salt for seasoning at the end
  1. Adjust an oven rack to the lowest position and preheat the oven to 475ºF.  Wash (and peel if you want) the potatoes.  Cut them into equal wedges (about 16 per potato using a medium size russet).  Note: really small pieces will over crisp during the baking.
  2. Place the sliced potatoes into a large bowl and cover them with hot tap water. Let them soak for 10 minutes.
  3. Spread 2-3 tablespoons of the olive oil over a rimmed baking sheet. Drain the potatoes and dry them thoroughly with a tea towel. Dry out the bowl they were just soaking in. Put the potatoes back in and toss with the remaining tablespoon of oil and the teaspoon of kosher salt. If you want pepper, season the potatoes with pepper here, too. 
  4. Arrange the fries in a single layer on the baking sheet and cover the sheet tightly with foil. Bake for 5 minutes, then remove the foil and continue to bake for 15 to 20 minutes, rotating the pan after 10 minutes to ensure even browning.
  5. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and, using a firm spatula, loosen the fries from the bottom of the pan and flip.  Continue to bake until the fries are golden and crisp, about 5 to 10 minutes longer.  Rotate the pan as necessary to help them brown evenly. 
  6. Remove from the oven, and season with more sea salt and/or any other seasonings you wish. Serve immediately or as soon as they are cool enough to eat.