True Confessions of a Mid-Life Cook

There's a definite correlation between my profound love of music and how and what I've taught myself to cook. My favorite music to listen to and to perform is soulful, sensual, sometimes funky and always bluesy in nature . . . and that's exactly how I cook. I like to get my hands in the food. I chop, I knead, I stir with my hands. Sometimes I wear my big rimmed cowboy hat, nightie and Old Gringo boots in kitchen, sometimes a coonskin cap when the mood strikes and sometimes just an apron and a smile. Using the freshest of ingredients, I love to bringing a new spirit to old favorites. I am so to drawn dishes seeping in both Texas and Southern tradition,with a special affinity for those authentic old jewels found in South Louisiana.
Because they, too, are so powerfully soulful?

I've discovered being a good cook is a journey and not a destination. (Yes, I stole an over-used corporate slogan and made it my own--but it's still the truth) Every time we screw up, we learn. And in part, that's what this blog is about. Cooking fearlessly. With heart, with soul -- and with some damn good music to inspire. (If your three layer chocolate cake ends up looking like a Jerry Springer rerun or you cut the tip of your thumb off while making New Year's Day gumbo, WHO CARES?Proclaim Francine Reed's "I'm a Handful" your theme song. She would like that.)
We cook because we find ourselves kinda empty if we don't.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

My Banana Nut Bread is All Sauced Up

This morning I noticed I had three bananas that were quickly reaching their ripening peak and I knew I would either have to make banana bread or throw them out. Well, I opted to make banana bread because I hate  throwing out black bananas. (They're PERFECT for baking.) And it's quick. And it's easy. And I had walnuts on hand (although I prefer pecans) which is most unusual. I won't make banana bread if I don't have pecans or walnuts so I decided that this was a sign from God to move forward.

Today, I'm also using Frangelico. I always use some type of liquor or liquer with this quickbread -- whether it be Frangelico, Amaretto, brandy, coconut rum or bourbon (I've even used Southern Comfort) -- because it adds depth to the flavor and ensures that it's ultra-moist without anyone knowing it's in there.

And when I have it, I'll throw in some coconut.  But today I don't so I won't.

I read somewhere that banana bread originated in the depression era at the time baking soda became a staple in America's kitchens.  It was economical, required little skill and was insanely good.  Some 80 years later, it's just as popular for the same reasons. 

10 tablespoons butter, softened
1 cup or a little more of mashed ripe banana (about 3 med) with 2 tablespoons of Frangelico liqueur (or most any hard spirit you have on hand -- see above for ideas) stirred in
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla
2 large eggs (room temp) whisked
2 cups cake flour
3/4 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
A little cinnamon, nutmeg and/or cloves (optional)
1 cup TOASTED pecans or walnuts (yes, toast them, it makes the world of difference - 400 degree oven on greased cookie sheet - 5 to 7 minutes, stirring once. Watch carefully - don't burn. I've burned them sooo many times!)

Preheat oven to 350
Lightly grease 9 1/4 by 5 1/4 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan with a little butter, set aside

Combine whisked eggs, mashed banana, sour cream and vanilla in a med bowl and mix well. (Some recipes suggest putting these ingredients into a food processor and process until smooth, and you certainly can do just that.  But I don't.   I like the occasional small chunk of banana in the bread.)

Sift dry ingredients into large bowl, stirring to mix.  Add butter and mix with electric mixer (med speed) until well blended, about 30 seconds.  Add banana mixture in three batches, scraping the sides of the bowl and mixing thoroughly each time.  Fold in pecans, or in my case today, walnuts.

Pour into loaf pan and bake until lightly browned, about an hour and 10 minutes.

Let cool 10 minutes before turning onto wire rack to cool completely.

Today's suggested listening is inspired by flies being in my kitchen (can't you hear 'em they're buzzin') this morning (it's SPRING!!) - and the fact that banana bread reminds me of both my mom and my Nana -- both being 'another child that's grown old.'  And I'm well on my way. :)

Bonnie Raitt's take on the John Prine classic, 'Angel from Montgomery'


Pam said...

I like your style! I won't make banana bread if I'm out of nuts, either! You have definitely sauced it up and I love it! I've never toasted the nuts for it and I know that would make a difference. Thanks for this recipe! I will try it!

Tavern on the Concho said...

You know, Pam, until the past year or so I didn't toast nuts at all. Once I discovered how it transforms the taste, I do it all the time. Thanks for taking the time to post a comment. And let me know how your 'sauced up' banana bread works for you!

Sage said...

You just brought banana bread up a few notches to a Gourmet Banana bread. Love the idea of adding coconut;and toasted nut; wow; it makes everything a bit better; thank you for that recipe!