February 27, 2014

The Best Banana Bread

This is it. The only recipe for banana bread you need. The only one you’ll ever make again. Dense. Moist. Banana Heaven. Go ahead and toss all your other banana bread recipes. 

Then go make this banana bread.  

Whisk together dry ingredients – flour, sugar, baking soda, salt.

Add walnuts and stir to incorporate them.

In a separate bowl, mash bananas. It’s important to use very ripe, darkly speckled bananas to get the best flavor.

To the bananas, add yogurt, eggs, melted butter, and vanilla extract. Mix well.

Fold the banana mixture into the flour.

Spread into a nonstick loaf pan.

Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the banana bread comes out clean.


The Best Banana Bread

Adapted from Cook's Illustrated 

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (I use 1 cup all purpose flour and 1 cup white whole wheat flour)
3/4 cup granulated sugar (I like 2/3 cup, but my husband prefers it a little sweeter)
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped (optional)
3 or 4 very ripe bananas, mashed well (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/3 cup plain yogurt
2 large eggs, beaten lightly
6 Tbsp (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 ½ tsp vanilla extract

1.    Adjust oven rack to lower middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a nonstick 9-by-5-inch loaf pan; set aside.
2.    Combine first five (flour through walnuts, if using) ingredients together in large bowl; set aside.
3.    Mix mashed bananas, yogurt, eggs, butter, and vanilla with wooden spoon in medium bowl.
4.    Lightly fold banana mixture into dry ingredients with rubber spatula until just combined and batter looks thick and chunky. It might look at first like there is too much dry ingredients and not enough liquid, but don’t worry. It will come together, just keep folding gently but consistently.
5.    Scrape batter into prepared loaf pan. Bake until loaf is golden brown and toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 55 minutes to an hour. Cool in pan for 5 minutes, then remove from pan and finish cooling on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Makes one 9 x 5 inch loaf.

February 10, 2014


A few weeks ago my husband and I went to see Gravity in the theater. Watching a movie in a theater is a big deal for us. If I’m paying for a sitter to go watch a movie, then the movie better be worthwhile.

Most movies we go out to see are big budget action flicks best appreciated on the big screen. Think James Bond and Jason Bourne.

We’d heard and read a lot about Gravity. That the special effects were AMAZING. That the technology behind the visual effects was MINDBLOWING. That we simply HAD to see it in the theater. And not just any theater. An IMAX theater. So we did. And it was…boring. Yes, the special effects were good. But with the amount of hype I’d heard, George Clooney would have had to take my hand and pull me into his orbit to live up to my expectations.

That’s the problem with hype. Most things can’t live up to it.

That's why I waited so long to buy Jerusalem, the not-so-new cookbook featuring the multiculturally-influenced cuisine from (you guessed it) Jerusalem. I’d heard about it. Of course I had. It had generated lots of buzz in the foodiverse. But the hype held me back. There were too many superlatives being used to describe it. Too much swooning. Too many adjectives ending in “est.”

But then I heard about specific dishes. Read a couple of recipes featured alongside the book reviews. Saw photos. Of roasted butternut squash and red onion drizzled with tahini sauce. Lentils and rice topped with caramelized onions. Chicken and rice infused with cardamom. Tomato and eggplant baked into cheesecake. And shakshuka, a mix of tomatoes and peppers, flavored with harissa and topped with poached eggs. This year’s Eggs in Purgatory, apparently.

So I gave in. In spite of my misgivings I bought the book. And tried one recipe after another. The book opened up a new world of flavors for me. Earthy z’aatar, piquant harissa paste. Savory dishes redolent with cinnamon and cardamom. Simple ingredients, prepared simply, but in unfamiliar ways.

Some things, it seems, do live up to the hype.

Finely dice red peppers.

 Put peppers in a large saute pan along with harissa, tomato paste, garlic, cumin and salt.

Cook down until the peppers are soft

Add tomatoes (I used canned).

Simmer until the tomatoes and peppers begin to dissolve into a thick sauce.

Create dip in the sauce and pour one egg (or yolk) into each dip.

Cook until egg whites are set and yolks are done to your liking.

Serve hot with sliced baguette.


Recipe from Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp Pilpelchuma or harissa paste
1 tsp smoked Spanish paprika (this isn’t in the recipe, but I added some for extra kick)
2 tsp tomato paste
2 large red peppers, cut into ¼ inch dice (2 cups in total)
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tsp ground cumin
5 large, very ripe tomatoes, chopped (a 28-oz can of diced tomatoes is also fine)
4 large eggs, plus 4 egg yolks
½ cup labneh or thick yogurt

1.    Heat the olive oil  in a large frying pan over medium heat and add the pilpelchuma or harissa, smoked paprika (if using), tomato paste, peppers, garlic, cumin and ¾ teaspoon salt. Stir and cook over medium heat for about 8 minutes, to allow the peppers to soften.

2.    Add the tomatoes, bring to a gentle simmer, and cook for a further 10 minutes until you have quite a thick sauce. Taste for seasoning.

3.    Make 8 little dips in the sauce. Gently break the eggs and carefully pour each into itw own dip. Do the same with the yolks. Use a fork to swirl the egg whites a little bit with the sauce, taking care not to break the yolks.

4.    Simmer gently for 8 to 10 minutes until the egg whites are set but the yolks are still runny (you can cover the pan with a lid if you wish to hasten the process).

5.    Remove from the heat, leave for a couple of minutes to settle, then spoon into individual plates and          serve with the labneh or yogurt. (I served with slices of baguette.)

Serves 2 to 4