Thursday, May 27, 2010

Classic Banana Bundt Cake

A girl I know, once compared her pet peeves to unruly puppies.

I like to think of my pet peeves as puppies, because it makes them less menacing and more like adorable quirks.

My pet peeves:

1. Needless waste.
2. Moldering bananas, covered in fruit flies, turning dark brown.
3. Not having a good dessert on hand.
4. When my brothers don't put the toilet seat down.


I'm sure you really don't care about my pet peeves. But #2 really, really bothers me. And I hate wasting things(see #1).
What does this mean?

It means I'm OCD about wasting bananas. I'm that person who freezes the poor, ancient bananas for future smoothies.
I will not.
Will. Not. Throw. Away. Bananas.

So I turn those unloved, ugly bananas into something delicious.
The only problem is, most banana bread/cake recipes only call for maybe one or two bananas. What do you do if you have 4 or 5 overripe bananas?

You make this cake. It has 4 bananas in it.

Because this is a cake, and not pretentious health food, I added chocolate chips.
Which made me very happy. Even better, this cake improves with age. It's best a day or two after baking. This cake ripens. Like a banana.

And my pet peeves? When I made this cake, they curled up in little adorable balls and took a nap.

(Except for #4. Ahem.)

Classic Banana Bundt Cake
from Baking: From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 stcks unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 large, preferably at room temperature
About 4 very ripe bananas, mashed (you should have 1 1/2 - 1 3/4 cups)
1 cup sour cream or plain yogurt

Center rack in oven and preheat to 350 F.
Generously butter a 9 to 10 inch (12 cup) bundt pan. Don't place the pan on a baking sheet- you want the oven's heat to circulate through the Bundt's inner tube.
Whisk flour, baking soda and salt together.
Working with a stand mixer, preferably with paddle attachment, or with a handmixer and large bowl, beat butter until creamy. Add sugar and beat on medium speed until pale and fluffy. Beat in vanilla, then add eggs, one at a time, beating for about a minute after each egg goes in. Reduce the mixer speed to low and mix in the bananas. Finally, mix in half the dry ingredients (don't worry if batter curdles), all the sour cream and then the rest of the flour mixture. Scrape the batter into the pan, rap the pan on the counter to rebubble the batter and smooth the top.
Bake fro 65 to 75 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted deep into the center of the cake comes out clean. Check the cake after about 30 mintues- if it's browing too quickly, cover it loosely with a foil tent. Transfer the cake to a racka dn cool for 10 minutes before unmolding onto a rack to cool to room temperature.
If you've got the time, wrap the cooled cake in plastic and allow it to sit on the counter overnight before serving, it's better the next day.

p.s. I've decided that Dorie Greenspan cures all ills. When in doubt, turn to Dorie. She always has an answer.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Vanilla Cup Custards

You might think that the humble vanilla custard is nothing to write home about.
You're wrong.
Vanilla custard is divine. It's homey. It's comfort food.
It reminds me of my grandmother, in her kitchen, late at night, with all the lights on, laughing comfortably and eating this custard.
It reminds me of my mother.
This custard is home.

Vanilla Cup Custards
From Gourmet Today

3 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1 vanilla bean, halved lengthwise
3 large eggs
3 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
freshly grated nutmeg

equipment: eight 6-ounce ramekins or custard cups.

Put rack in middle of oven and preheat oven to 325 F.
Pour milk into a 1 quart heavy saucepan. If using vanilla bean, scrape seeds into milk and add pod. Bring milk to a simmer, then remove from heat. If using vanilla bean, let milk mixture steep for five minutes.

Whisk together eggs, yolks, sugar, salt and vanilla extract, if using, in a medium bowl. Add hot milk in a slow stream, whisking. Pour through a fine meshed sieve into a 1 quart glass measure or a bowl with pour spout. Skim off any foam with a spoon.

Divide misture among custard cups and sprinkle with nutmeg to taste. Arrange custard cups in a small roasting pan. Put pan in oven, add enough boiling water to pan to reach halfway up sides of cups and loosely cover pan with foil. Bake custards until just set around edges but still wobbly in center, 35 to 40 minutes. Transfer custard cups to a rack. Serve warm or chilled.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Lisa's Morning Glory Muffins

FACT: Muffins can actually be healthy.

My problem with most muffins is that they're dessert masquerading as healthful breakfast food.

But Lisa got it right. Lisa is one of my favorite people. She's extremely friendly and kind and amazing, and even though I haven't known her and her family for very long, they feel like old family friends.

Lisa has seen me at my best and at my worst, my worst being when I am very, very, very hungry.

These muffins will cure hunger pangs, they will make strangers friends, they are good bribes, and they are guilt free.



They're that wonderful.

I made over 24 muffins, and they all dissappeared within two days. Two days. That's a lot of delicious.

(Handy tip that will make muffin making actually enjoyable: use an ice cream scoop. Stroke of genius.)

Lisa's Morning Glory Muffins

Yield: 18 or more, depending on how biggish your muffin cups are and how much you fill them.

1 cup white flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 cup oat bran

1 1/2 cups sugar+ some for sprinkling

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoons baking powder

2 teaspoons cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 cups grated carrot (about 3 carrots)

2 cups grated zucchini (about 2 zucchini)

1 cup "Craisins"

1 cup slivered almonds

1 cup sweetened shredded coconut

2 green apples, grated

3 eggs

1/2 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease muffin cups or use muffin tin liners.

Mix the flours, oats, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.

Stir in oil, eggs buttermilk, and vanilla.

Stir in the carrot, zucchini, almonds, raisins, coconut, and apples.

Spoon the batter into greased or lined cups.

Sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for 12 to 18 minutes or until springy to the touch. (The muffins needed 18 minutes, the loaves actually needed about 25 minutes

Let muffins cool in tins and turn them onto a wire rack.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


I had my first taste of falafel in Paris, France exactly a year ago.

I thought I had died and gone to heaven.

Here is the thing, there is only ONE PLACE in the WORLD to get killer falafel. To get that amazing falafel, you have to go to Paris, France. To a place called Las Du Falafel.
The falafel there is so good that the restaurant has a cult following.
No joke.

Let me tell you, everything just has gone downhill since that falafel in Paris. Thinking about it makes me weep a little inside. It was that good.

Since last year, I haven't had really good falafel. Until now.*

For the uninitiated, falafel is just absolutely splendid stuff: garbanzo beans that have been ground and molded into balls or pancakes, that are then lightly fried.
What could be better?
You stuff the falafel in some pita bread, with some tomato and lettuce and sour cream and hummus. And then... You eat it. And you die and go to heaven.

Now you don't even have to go to Paris. Bummer, I know.

*Just for the record, my mom and little brother Jacob actually made this, and my other brother Michael took one of the pictures. They're a talented bunch.

  • 1 cup dried chickpeas
  • 1/2 large onion, roughly chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2-1 teaspoon dried hot red pepper
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 4-6 tablespoons flour
  • Soybean or vegetable oil for frying
  • Chopped tomato for garnish
  • Diced onion for garnish
  • Diced green bell pepper for garnish
  • Tahina sauce
  • Pita bread

1. Put the chickpeas in a large bowl and add enough cold water to cover them by at least 2 inches. Let soak overnight, then drain. Or use canned chickpeas, drained.

2. Place the drained, uncooked chickpeas and the onions in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the parsley, cilantro, salt, hot pepper, garlic, and cumin. Process until blended but not pureed.

3. Sprinkle in the baking powder and 4 tablespoons of the flour, and pulse. You want to add enough bulgur or flour so that the dough forms a small ball and no longer sticks to your hands. Turn into a bowl and refrigerate, covered, for several hours.

4. Form the chickpea mixture into balls about the size of walnuts, or use a falafel scoop, available in Middle-Eastern markets.

5. Heat 3 inches of oil to 375 degrees in a deep pot or wok and fry 1 ball to test. If it falls apart, add a little flour. Then fry about 6 balls at once for a few minutes on each side, or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Stuff half a pita with falafel balls, chopped tomatoes, onion, green pepper, and pickled turnips. Drizzle with tahina thinned with water.

NOTE: Egyptians omit the cilantro and substitute fava beans for the chickpeas.