Milena’s Cooking Adventures
Yesterday we had a wonderful lunch. Two of our dear childhood friends are visiting from the U.S. and I wanted to cook a lunch for all of us. My French love came from out of town and helped advise us in what order to drink our wines (a Very Important Decision). We bustled furniture around to make everyone fit around the table and put the wines out on the balcony to get nice and cold. It was so lovely to be surrounded by old friends, translating important English words like “heckin” and “potate” for our French visitor. This, in case you weren’t aware, is a heckin potate:
Whenever I find myself facing a multi-course meal, I find it’s best to combine the known and unknown– a couple of dishes that are tried and true, and then some that I’ve done a million times and know I won’t need to think too hard about. And to prepare as much in advance as possible. This is about how my brain works when I look at the menu I prepared.
- Salad with Mayonnaise Mustard Sesame Dressing and Cherry Tomatoes
- prepare dressing ahead of time and try not to eat it
- mm this is tasty I’ve been eating this for weeks and still am not tired of it I should make more of this for the lunch cos now I’ve depleted it
- Mee Goreng with Carrots and Tofu
- man I love this recipe it’s my go-to
- dammit France has none of the ingredients I need argh
- welp this is gonna be different oh well
- prepare sauce a day ahead of time
- Light Kefir Banana Bread
- time to try out a totally new recipe! :O
- make the night before and try not to eat it
Wines: Beaujolais, Côtes de Beaune, Gewurztraminer (w/ banana bread)
I’ll definitely put up the other recipes another day, but today I’d like to talk about the benefits of trying new recipes. It helps me remember that there is never a “best” recipe. I’ve been using the same basic banana bread template with variations each time, and I’ve loved it so much (Deb Perelman is a genius) that in the back of my mind I realise I had decided unconsciously never to stray from it.
Trying out a new recipe made me remember that there are many different goals in cooking, and in life. My standard banana bread is rich, boozy, and dark. It’s a beautiful moist and complex almost-cake. I make many different kinds, with Bailey’s, sherry, or bourbon, with raisins or walnuts or pumpkin. It’s always deeply satisfying. But this new banana bread is the sun, not the moon. It’s light, fluffy, and the fruity banana flavour comes more to the fore. It went perfectly with the Guwurztraminer. It’s one I’ll be adding to my cookbook, because, like people, recipes have their own goals and talents; there is no “best.” We’re all striving towards our own happy goals.
It’s nice to think of everyone as types of banana bread, all leading parallel lives that may be pumpkin-flavoured, bourbon-flavoured, or chocolate. Or kefir, for that matter.
Lighter Kefir Banana Bread
Adapted from Life Made Simple
- 3 large bananas, ripened then frozen, then thawed (see here for more info)
- 1 fresh banana
- 1/2 cup butter, softened
- a couple tablespoons of melted butter for brushing the crust
- 1 cup white sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup kefir
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 2 tsp nutmeg
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 cup chopped walnuts
- Grease a loaf pan and preheat the oven to 350F/180C
- Mash the bananas thoroughly. In a separate bowl, cream the sugar and butter together.
- Beat in eggs and kefir, then bananas. Then switch to a wooden spoon and stir in cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla.
- Add dry ingredients and mix. Towards the end of the mixing process, add in chopped walnuts.
- Pour into loaf pan. Then slice the fresh banana and place slices on top of batter, pressing slightly to make them even with the surface.
- Bake in oven for 45 minutes to an hour, until a toothpick inserted in the loaf comes out with a couple crumbs on it. About halfway through, when the surface is setting, remove loaf and brush thoroughly with melted butter, making sure to brush each banana slice liberally. This will make the loaf brown nicely, but also help caramelise the surface of the banana slices.
- Remove from oven and let cool (ha ha). Eat however you like, but I can tell you Gewurztraminer is delicious with it (ask me how I know).