Whole Wheat Banana Bread

banana-bread-1

I have made this recipe many, many times. Not so much lately because we don’t often have bananas in the house. I don’t like bananas. I don’t like the smell of them sitting on the counter. I don’t like the texture. My husband loves bananas but he hides them at work. Oddly enough, I love banana bread! Banana cake too. (I need to post my mom’s recipe for that. It’s a classic. But I digress.) I guess I need to buy a bunch of bananas and set some aside for this.

Whole Wheat Banana Bread
(makes 1 8″x 4″ loaf, serves 12)

1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3-4 mashed ripe bananas (2 cups)
1 large egg
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder (1 1/2 teaspoons at Boulder altitude, 5400 ft.)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots or dried pineapple
1/2 cup chopped pecans (or whatever nuts you prefer)

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 8″ x  4″ loaf pan.

In a large bowl, beat together the sugar, vanilla, bananas, egg, and lemon juice.

In a medium bowl stir together the whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mixing to just combine. Stir in the dried fruit and nuts. Pour into the prepared pan. Gently thump the pan on the counter to settle any bubbles. Bake for about 1 hour, until a toothpick stuck into the center comes out clean.

Let cool on a rack for 10 minutes, remove from the pan, and finish cooling on a rack. Don’t try to slice it while warm; it will fall apart.

Store at room temperature for 2 days. After that, refrigerate or freeze. Because of the high moisture in quick breads, they grow mold within a few days.

Eggplant with Mushroom-Yogurt Stuffing

This is a delicious meatless entreé for 4 or a side dish for 8. The mushrooms give it a meaty texture and flavor. It’s very hearty for a vegetarian dish, especially one that doesn’t include any cheese.

I like to spray the bread crumb topping with non-stick cooking spray. It helps the crumbs brown up nicely while adding very little fat. If you want a richer, crispier topping, you can combine the crumbs with 2 Tablespoons melted butter before spreading them onto the eggplant.

You can stuff the eggplants ahead of time and bake them later. You’ll need to bake them a bit longer to make sure the center is piping hot, however.

Eggplant with Mushroom-Yogurt Stuffing
(serves 4 as an entreé or 8 as a side dish)

2 large eggplants, 1 to 1¼ pound each, cut in half lengthwise
4 scallions, white and green tops, chopped
½ pound coarsely chopped mushrooms
1 medium carrot, grated
½ teaspoon dried thyme
4 Tablespoons butter
3 Tablespoons flour
¾ to 1 cup Greek low-fat or full-fat unflavored yogurt
1½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
½ cup panko bread crumbs
non-stick cooking spray

Spray a 9″x5″ baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.

Bring a couple of inches of water to a boil in a large pot with a steamer basket. Place the eggplant halves in the steamer and cook until tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from the steamer and allow to cool until you can handle them. Remove the pulp, being careful not to tear the skin. Chop the pulp coarsely, season with ¼ teaspoon salt and set aside. Place the eggplant shells in the baking dish and season them with ¼ teaspoon salt.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the scallions, mushrooms, and carrots. Sauté for 5 minutes until carrots are limp and the mushrooms have started to lose their liquid. Lower heat to low. Sprinkle with the flour and cook for another minute. Stir in the yogurt and chopped eggplant. Season with the rest of the salt and pepper. Taste for seasonings and add more salt if needed.

Fill each eggplant half with ¼ of the filling. Sprinkle 2 Tablespoons panko crumbs on each eggplant half. Moisten with a generous dose of non-stick cooking spray. Bake for 25-30 minutes until crumbs are browned and filling is very hot.

Adapted from The Good Cook: Vegetables, Time-Life Books, 1979.

Broccoli Crumble

I love broccoli, so I am always hunting for another interesting way to prepare it. Broccoli in cheese sauce is a classic. I wanted to lighten it up a bit but not in those kludgey 1980’s ways, by using things like evaporated skim milk and low-fat cheese (really, low fat cheese?). I removed nearly all of the fat in the topping. Usually, there’s a lot of butter, which coats the crumbs so they crisp as this bakes. You can crisp up the crumbs by spraying them with non-stick cooking spray. It’s made of oil but the spray allows for even distribution and you end up using much less.

Here’s a baked dish for your broccoli. Or your cauliflower. It would be wonderful with cauliflower.

Broccoli Crumble
(serves 6)

non-stick cooking spray

2 Tablespoons butter or vegetable oil
2 medium shallots, minced
2 Tablespoons all purpose flour
⅔ cup 2% or whole milk
½ cup water
1 pound broccoli florets
¾ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
½ cup grated cheddar cheese

Topping:
½ teaspoon dried basil
2 slices fresh white or whole wheat bread, torn into pieces
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper

Preheat oven to 375°F. Spray a medium baking dish (such as 8″ x 8″ x 3″) with non-stick cooking spray.

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add shallots and sauté for 3 minutes. Add flour and stir to coat shallots. Whisk in the milk and water. Bring to a boil, then add broccoli, salt, and pepper. Stir, reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook for 5 minutes. Add cheese and stir. Pour into the prepared baking dish.

To prepare the topping, add the basil, bread pieces, salt, and pepper to the bowl of a food processor until bread is reduced to crumbs. Spread the topping over the broccoli. Spray the top generously with non-stick cooking spray. Bake for 20 minutes until topping is browned. Serve hot.

Baked Fish with Coconut Lime Sauce

I have a lot of low fat cookbooks. There, I admitted it. I am a product of the 80’s. 🙂 Fact is, I haven’t paid much attention to the low fat part of them for quite some time. I use the amount of fat that makes sense, not unduly constraining the fat to meet some magic number. Still, they are full of wonderful recipe ideas. Here’s one of them, a recipe for fish baked in a Caribbean-inspired coconut lime sauce. And it’s super easy!

I used reconstituted dried coconut milk which I purchased from Savory Spice Shop. I have seen similar products in Asian grocery stores. It’s a great solution when a recipe calls for only a ¼ cup of coconut milk. Who wants to open a whole can of coconut milk for that little? You can freeze the remainder for long term storage, should you only have canned coconut milk available.

Baked Fish with Coconut Lime Sauce
(serves 4)

1 ¼ lbs white fish filets (bass, snapper, tilapia, catfish, halibut)
2 Tablespoons flour
¼ cup unsweetened coconut milk
juice of 1 lime (about 3 Tablespoons)
¼ teaspoon granulated or powdered garlic
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
⅛ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¾-1 teaspoon kosher salt (see Note)
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ cup minced cilantro
1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil

Preheat oven to 425°F. Pat fish dry. Spray a baking dish with non-stick cooking spray or rub with a little vegetable oil to grease. Place flour on a plate and dredge the fish in the flour. Place the fish in the baking dish. Combine the coconut milk, lime juice, garlic powder, coriander, nutmeg, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Pour over the fish and turn fish over to coat both sides. Cover dish with foil and bake for 10-15 minutes (how long will depend on the thickness of the fish). When the sauce is all bubbly, the fish should be done.

Garnish with minced cilantro and drizzle with sesame oil. Serve over rice.

Note: I don’t cook with a lot of salt. I’m used to less salt now. But, my salt tolerance isn’t your salt tolerance and you’ll need to calibrate. I give a range here because ¾ teaspoon is right for me but it may be bland to you. You’ll only know that after you cook with my recipe. You can always add more salt. You can’t take it away, however. Salt is a flavor enhancer so if the fish is bland to you in the end, add more salt
at the table. And, you’ll know for next time. 🙂

Adapted from The Best 125 Lowfat Fish & Seafood Dishes by Susann Geiskopf-Hadler and Mindy Toomay, Prima Publishing, 1993.

Leek Cobbler

Most folks associate cobblers with fruit and dessert. Here, a cobbler is something baked with a biscuit topping, in this case leeks. I love leeks. I grow them in my garden because they are expensive in the market, so more worthy of space in my little garden than plain yellow onions. You do have to wait a while. It takes nearly until fall for the leeks to get up to picking size, but I think it’s worth the wait. They have a mild sweet onion flavor and when cooked a long time, they become meltingly tender. If you don’t have a garden, leeks are available year-round in your local supermarket, though they will be two to three times more expensive than yellow onions.

Leek Cobbler
(serves 6)

Filling:
butter or non-stick cooking spray for greasing the baking dish
3 pounds leeks, white and light green parts only
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
3 Tablespoons melted butter or olive oil
1 ½ Tablespoons fresh dill
2 cloves garlic, minced

Topping:
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup flour
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder (1 teaspoon at Boulder elevation, 5400 ft.)
¼ teaspoon baking soda
large pinch of salt
4 Tablespoons butter, cold and cut into chunks
1 egg, beaten
¾ cup buttermilk

Grease a 8″x11″x2″ baking dish (a 9″x9″ square pan will work as well) and set aside. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Cut the root end off the leeks and cut in half lengthwise. Rinse really well, making sure you get all the grit out from between the layers. Leeks are notorious for holding dirt. Drain well then slice into 1″ pieces. Put the leeks in a bowl. Add salt, pepper, butter or oil, fresh dill, and minced garlic. Mix to combine and spread evenly into prepared baking dish.

In a medium bowl, mix together the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Cut in butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add in the egg and buttermilk. Mix until the dough just comes together. If it seems dry, add just a little bit more buttermilk and mix again. Drop spoonfuls of the batter over the leeks. It’s OK if there are gaps in the blobs; the batter will spread.

Bake for 50 minutes until the biscuit is nicely browned. Let stand for 5 minutes as it is ferociously hot straight out of the oven.

Adapted from a recipe in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman, Double B Publishing, Inc., 2007.

Cooking Cucumber: the French Way

Cucumbers – at least one plant in my garden every summer

I previously blogged about cooking cucumber. Those recipes were Asian-inspired. I mentioned that the French cook cucumber too and that Julia Child had a number of recipes for cooked cucumber. As befitting a proper French dish, many of them contain a heckuva lot of cream. France has some of the richest dairy land in the world and they are justly proud of their cream and cheese. Still, as much as I love cream, her recipes seem a bit excessive to me. As sacrilegious as it may sound, I’m going to tweak dear Julia’s recipe.

The basics remain the same: you need to draw out much of the water in the cucumber before baking it. Otherwise, you end up with soupy boiled cucumber, which isn’t all that appetizing.

Baked Cucumber with Cream
(serves 4-6)

6 medium cucumbers
2 Tablespoons white wine vinegar
⅛ teaspoon sugar
1 ½ teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh dill (or use basil or parsley)
⅛ teaspoon black pepper
3 Tablespoons heavy cream
more black pepper

Peel the cucumbers and cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds with a spoon. Slice the cucumbers the long way into about ½” slices. Then cut into 3″ pieces. Place in a large bowl. Sprinkle with vinegar, sugar, and salt. Mix and let sit for 30 minute to an hour. Drain, pour onto a towel, arrange in a single layer then pat dry with another towel. You want the cucumber pieces dry so they cook up crisp.

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Melt the butter with the fresh herbs and ⅛ teaspoon black pepper in a small saucepan. Place the cucumbers in a large shallow baking dish – large enough so the cucumbers are in a single layer. Pour over the melted butter and mix. Place the baking dish in the oven and bake for 50 minutes, stirring a few times during the baking. Remove from oven. Stir in cream and additional black pepper, if desired. Serve immediately.

Adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking: Volume One – Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck, Borzoi, 1961.

Baked Penne with Butternut Squash and Turkey Sausage

Here’s a recipe to use the tomato sauce posted on October 27. This is a tasty fall pasta dish. It uses butternut squash, a beautiful seasonal ingredient. Adding the squash up’s the nutrition and makes the pasta very filling with a relatively small portion of sausage. And this is quite filling – it’s a grand meal served with a mixed green salad.

The cinnamon is an interesting addition. It evokes Greek pastitsio more than Italian. Greek pastitsio and Italian pasticcio are similar and a bit more complicated than this recipe since they use a bechamel sauce. Both are delicious but this is a lot easier.

Baked Penne with Butternut Squash and Turkey Sausage
(serves 8)

1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 medium Onion, chopped
2 cloves Garlic, minced
½ cup Dry White Wine
¾ pound Sweet Italian Turkey Sausage, without casings
½ teaspoon Ground Cinnamon
1 pound Butternut Squash, ¾” dice, about 4 cups
2 cups Tomato Sauce
1 cup Vegetable Broth
⅓ cup Heavy Cream
Salt And Black Pepper
1 pound Penne Pasta
3 ounces Soft Mild Goat Cheese (Such As Montrachet), crumbled
3 ounces Shredded Part-Skim Mozzarella
¼ cup Grated Parmesan Cheese

1. Preheat oven to 450℉. Coat a 13″x9″x2″ baking dish with cooking spray and set aside.

2. In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and saute until golden. Stir in the garlic and saute 1 more minute. Pour in the wine and cook until it has evaporated and the onion is browned, about 8 minutes. Add the sausage and cook, breaking up into chunks with a spoon, until it is no longer pink. Add the cinnamon.

3. Add the squash, tomato sauce, broth, and cream. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid boils. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered and stirring occasionally, until the squash is tender, 15 minutes. There should be plenty of liquid. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

4. While the squash is cooking, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook penne according to package directions until al dente. Drain well.

5. Combine goat cheese and mozzarella in a medium bowl.

6. Add the pasta to the sauce and stir. Add ½ of the cheese and mix well. Spread the pasta in the prepared baking dish, smoothing out the top. Top with the remaining cheese mixture and the Parmesan cheese.

7. Bake until the cheese melts and bubbles, about 15 minutes. Let sit 5 minutes before serving.

Adapted from The Essential Best Foods Cookbook by Dana Jacobi, Rodale, 2008.