Sunday, October 21, 2018

Ruth Reichl's Banana Bread

Black bananas sitting on the counter. No room for any more in the freezer. Couldn't bear to throw them out. Forgotten. Sad. They had great plans to be split down the middle, dolloped with vanilla yogurt, and drizzled with a handful of colorful berries for a beautiful and healthy breakfast that never happened. Instead, they sit staring at me, reminding me of all the things I planned to do and couldn't.

Busy weeks. Busy weekends. Run every single second of the day from the first crack of dawn til everyone's in bed. Decide something has to give. Realize nothing can. Instead, get even more thrown on your plate. Wake up and repeat. Maybe even throw on your camo shirt. After all, each day is starting to feel as if you're going to war.

I didn't have time to enjoy my breakfast banana splits last week. However, I did remedy that by making Ruth's Banana Bread because I sure as hell have time to grab a bag with a slice of banana bread in it and eat it in the car.

Banana bread should win a prize for versatility. Plain or with nuts, chocolate chips, peanut butter, dried fruit, coconut. Bourbon banana bread. Cream cheese banana bread. Banana bread with a chocolate glaze. Banana bread with a maple glaze. The possibilities are endless an usually all delicious. I have tried several variations over the years.

However, I must say that my all-time favorite banana bread is just the regular old-fashioned loaf. No fussy add-in's or adornments. This loaf fits that bill. What's different about this recipe is that it's made with buttermilk, which we all know produces a very tender and dare I say it...moist loaf. I had never made banana bread with buttermilk before and I must say I liked the result! I think you would too!

Is this my all-time favorite banana bread recipe? I'd have to say no but only based on personal preference. My all-time favorite banana bread recipe belongs to Tessa Kiros and you can find that recipe HERE. The reason I love Tessa's Banana Bread is that she uses a hefty dose of brown sugar (1 full cup to Ruth's 3/4 cup) and I'm incredibly partial to brown sugar for both it's aroma and flavor. Tessa's recipe also uses 3 to 4 bananas, whereas Ruth's only uses 2 bananas, and while I appreciate the subtleness of Ruth's Banana Bread, I found I like a more pronounced banana flavor. Additionally, Tessa's recipe includes cinnamon and cardamom, which add a lovely degree of warmth to the bread. 

Now, don't get me wrong, I do love Ruth's recipe and anyone would be more than happy to eat a slice, or two. I just feel a responsibility to compare and contrast and share my own personal preferences, especially since I've posted several banana bread recipes to my site.

Inspired by Ruth's short but sweet writing in My Kitchen Year I could sum up this post by saying this short quote:

"Black bananas. Forgotten and sad. Shortage of time. Feeling defeat.
Camo shirt. Hair in a bun. Banana Bread."

I've always been long-winded. That ends now.

Banana Bread 
Adapted from My Kitchen Year
by Ruth Reichl
Serves 6-8

2 very ripe bananas
3/4 cup buttermilk
8 tablespoons butter
3/4 brown sugar
1/2 sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 325F. Cream the butter and sugars together in a medium-sized bowl with a mixer. Beat in the eggs.

Mash the bananas and squash them into the butter mixture, along with the vanilla. 

Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a bowl and add it into the butter/banana mixture, alternating with the buttermilk (you can also use yogurt).

Pour the batter into a greased loaf pan and bake for about an hour.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Ruth Reichl's Pumpkin Pancakes {and other Pumpkin and Butternut Squash Favorites}

I had been craving butternut squash something fierce when Deb asked me what ingredient/dish we should chose for our Monthly Featured Ingredient/Dish challenge over at I Heart Cooking Clubs. I was having dreams about some of my all-time favorite squash recipes (see below).

As soon as we agreed that orange squash was to be the ingredient I knew instantly what I would make. Something I've been wanting to make for ages, Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese. I was all set to make it and copy of Ruth's My Kitchen Year arrived in the mail and it stole my heart.

"Mysterious misty morning. Crows wheeling, cawling. Storm is on the way. 
Coffee black. Egg fried. Toast burnt.
Gourmet's over. What now?" -Ruth Reichl, My Kitchen Year

I am now convinced that Ruth's cookbook, My Kitchen Year, is something every cook should own. I intended to simply flip through it and jot down recipes, but the writing is so compelling. I was pulled in straight away and read every page, start to finish. My Kitchen Year is so much more than a cookbook. It's the story of how Ruth overcame the end of an era, the shuttering of Gourmet magazine. Anyone who has ever suffered a great loss will identify with this book. Anyone who believes in kitchen therapy will love this book. Five pages in I knew I was holding something special. A cookbook that I can easily say is one of my all-time favorites, which is saying something because I a whole room of them.

So Ruth's Pumpkin Pancakes it is! Fluffy pumpkin pancakes that are light as a cloud with a beautiful orange hue and a subtle touch of pumpkin flavor. Ruth calls for the egg yolks to be mixed with the pumpkin puree and other liquids while the egg whites are beaten to a stiff peak and folded in later. This ensures a light tender pancake that goes down easily and doesn't weigh you down. Ruth also calls for all the typical pumpkin spices: cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg. Oftentimes I feel as though pumpkin gets drowned out by all the spices, so I opted to use only a light touch of cinnamon. The end result was just as I had hoped: a mild tender pancake with a subtle pumpkin flavor! I garnished Ruth's Pumpkin Pancakes with some premium maple syrup, butter, and candied pecans. It was heaven on a plate.

"Gray skies. Rain. Fluffy sweaters and fluffy pancakes.
Warm butter. Real maple syrup. Candied pecans. Fall is here."

Ruth Reichl's Pumpkin Pancakes
Adapted from My Kitchen Year
by Ruth Reichl
Serves 4 to 6

3/4 cups pumpkin puree
1-1/4 cups flour
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoons cinnamon
4 eggs
8 tablespoons butter
1-1/4 cups milk
dash of vanilla

Note: Ruth says to add 1/4 teaspoons ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. However, I'm not a fan of spicy pumpkin, so I opted to go the more mild route, using only cinnamon. You will want to make sure you are using pumpkin puree, not pumpkin pie filling as this would make your pancakes too sweet.

In a fairly large bowl, whisk together the flour, brown sugar, and baking powder. Stir in a small amount (about 1/4 teaspoon) of each of the following spices: cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. Add a pinch of cloves and a bit of salt.  *See my note above.*

Separate the eggs, putting theyolks into a small bowl and the whites into a larger one. Beat the whites with clean beaters until they're beginning to hold stiff peaks, and set aside.

Melt the butter (this recipe will also work with a mere 4 tablespoons of butter - but it won't be as good), and stir it into the egg yolks, along with the pumpkin puree, the milk, and just a dash of vanilla. Stir the blendedliquids carefully into the flour mixture.

Fold the whites into the flour and pumpkin mixture. 

Heat a griddle, slick it with oil or butter, and cook the pancakes at the size that you like best. I tend to like these better when they're on the small side. Serve with maple syrup. 

This week we are all about Orange Squash at I Heart Cooking Clubs. As soon as fall hits I crave butternut squash and pumpkin pie something fierce. In the past few weeks I've had Butternut Squash Macaroni and Cheese, Butternut Squash soup, Butternut Squash Parmigiana, Butternut Squash Tomato Sauce with pasta, Pumpkin Chai Bread, and several slices of Pumpkin Pie and all of it has left me wanting more. 

Here are my all-time favorite Orange Squash recipes. If you're into Orange Squash, then I highly suggest trying these out!

Click on the recipe titles to link to the original post

THIS IS NOT ONLY MY FAVORITE ORANGE SQUASH RECIPE, BUT IT IS HANDS DOWN ONE OF MY ALL-TIME FAVORITE RECIPES! I can't explain how good this one is. Ironically, both of my butternut recipes in this roundup are Ina Garten recipes based off Ottolenghi recipes. That should tell you about all you need to know because Ottolenghi is known for his mind-blowing combinations of flavor and texture. This dish is a prime example of that. It's crunchy, creamy, chunky, sweet, savory, bright, and simply full of flavor. It's got everything a dish could have and then some.

This is the perfect appetizer to make for any fall get together. I love the brilliant orange color and all the fun toppings on the hummus. Creamy butternut squash hummus adorned with chunks of roasted butternut squash, roasted squash seeds, a drizzle of maple syrup, and a scattering of pretty green parsley. It is simply a masterpiece of a dish!

If pumpkin pie is something you make over the holidays, then I would encourage you to try Donna Hay's Pumpkin Pie with Brown Sugar Mascarpone Cream. It is a very light pumpkin pie, perfect for enjoying after a heavy Thanksgiving dinner, and then there's the Brown Sugar Mascarpone Cream...need I say more?

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Ruth Reichl's Parmesan Walnut Salad in Endive Leaves

Today marks the beginning of a six-month cooking adventure with Ruth Reichl. I ordered Ruth's The Gourmet Cookbook, which is the largest cookbook I own, at over 1000 pages and over 1000 recipes. The cookbook is so big it's funny. My 11-year-old son says, "Wow, mom. You're like the biggest food nerd ever." Every time he sees me with it he tells me, "If you read that whole book then I'm gonna expect you to know everything there is to know about food."

 I've spent hours pouring through the book and I still haven't been able to look through it completely, which is saying something. It is simply enormous and full of great recipes and quite simply, I adore it. I highly recommend it to all avid home cooks.

I'm in a fit of laughter today because out of this ginormous cookbook full of recipes I've chosen to share Parmesan Walnut Salad in Endive Leaves first. How does that happen?

Let me explain. I started a list of all the Ruth recipes I wanted to make and as usual, it became quite long. I was thinking about starting my adventure with a pasta dish like Macaroni and Cheese or Four-Cheese Pasta, but then I started to think about how I was going to make a pasta dish next week. Then I thought about making a dip, but then I remembered I was making one the week after. So, in an effort to make something completely different and unlike my next few posts, I opted for this Parmesan Walnut Salad in Endive Leaves and I'm so glad I did!

The nuttiness of Parmesan is wonderfully paired alongside walnuts. Then the Parmesan and the walnuts are coated with a light touch of mayo, lemon juice, and olive oil, as well as finely diced celery and parsley. You've got a bit of everything as far as texture and flavor go. It's chewy and crunchy and bright and flavorful. The slight bitterness of the endive leaves makes it the perfect vehicle for the nutty sweetness of the Parmesan and walnuts.

This is really one amazing appetizer! More importantly, I think this is an appetizer than almost anyone would love. It's healthy, vegetarian, and light yet delicious. I think that goes a long way at parties these days. I can see the plate being wiped clean every time. Thanks to Ruth for an amazing recipe that will be a new go to!

Parmesan Walnut Salad in Endive Leaves
Adapted from The Gourmet Cookbook
by Ruth Reichl
Makes about 25 Hors D'oeuvres

1 small garlic clove
pinch of salt
1 tablespoon mayonnaise*
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice*
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 (6-ounce) piece Parmigiano-Reggiano, sliced 1/8" thick and cut into 1/8" dice
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1 cup walnuts, lightly toasted and finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
4 Belgian endives, trimmed and leaves separated

*Note: It's worth sourcing a very good Parmigiano for this recipe. Also, make sure your walnuts are fresh as they can go rancid if they languish in your pantry (I store mine in the refrigerator). When I typed up this recipe I realized that I omitted the olive oil by accident. This makes sense because my salad became dry when it sat and I had to add in a touch more mayo and lemon juice. I bet the olive oil would've loosened things up a touch more. If not, feel free to add a little more olive oil, lemon juice, and/or mayo before serving. Also, I found the leaves were great served with a wedge of lemon for drizzling right before eating. Word to the wise, I did season the dish with a touch of salt and pepper. I love salt and use it liberally. I held back on the salt in this recipe and was happy I did. I think it can quickly become too salty.

Using a large knife, mince and mash garlic to a paste with salt. Whisk together garlic paste, mayonnaise, lemon juice, and oil in a medium bowl. Stir in cheese and celery, then stir in walnuts, parsley and salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate, covered for at least 3 hours to allow flavors to develop. Mound 1 tablespoon salad onto wide end of each endive leaf. Arrange on a platter and serve.

Every Sunday @ Kahakai Kitchen