Friday, July 29, 2016

The Very Best Banana Bread

Apologies...I am so far behind in posting, but there is a good reason.  Our annual trip to Oregon was in July.  We have traveled to the lake every year since 1987.  That tells you how much we enjoy going.  When we are at the lake, for the most part, we do not have cable, internet or cell reception. Twice though, a random connection happened and we actually got two phone calls!

The day before we left I did some baking.  One of the items I made was this wonderful banana bread. I happened on the recipe while visiting my oldest daughter in Seattle.  She requested that I make a banana bread.  After much searching and comparing, I decided that Martha would be my friend.

We were not disappointed.  In fact, this recipe has officially replaced my old banana nut recipe.  It is very moist and flavorful.  And, as we drove North at dark-thirty in the morning, with our coffee in hand, it certainly hit the spot!

The Very Best Banana Bread
adapted from Martha Stewart

Yield:  1 loaf pan
Preheat oven:  350° F.

1/2 cup butter, room temperature (1 stick), plus additional for the pan
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 cup mashed bananas (very ripe, about 3)
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Prepare a loaf pan (9 X 5 X 3) with butter and set aside.  

In a medium bowl, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time beating after each to incorporate.

Mix together the flour, soda and salt in a separate bowl.  Add this to the butter mixture.  Mix until combined.  Stir in the bananas, vanilla, and sour cream.  Stir in the nuts.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan.

Bake the cake until a tester, inserted in the center of the loaf, comes out clean, approximately 1 hour and 10 minutes.  Remove from the oven.  Allow the bread to rest for 10 minutes and turn out onto a rack to cool.

Note:  I have made the recipe four times, using different ovens.  Each time I have removed the bread after about 58 minutes.  I would recommend checking the bread after 55 minutes and then watch closely as it finishes up quickly!

I am sharing today at Full Plate Thursday hosted by Miz Helen's Country Cottage.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Watermelon-Tequila Granita - SRC

Timing is everything!  That is exactly the feeling I had when I got my Secret Recipe Club assignment for couldn't have been more perfect.  You might ask, "Why?"  Let me tell you why. First, it was 111 degrees outside.  There was a touch of humidity.  It was miserable.  Second, I was not budging from the house.  Third, I had guests coming for dinner.  And fourth, I had watermelon.

But, fifth, and most importantly, I was assigned Camilla's lovely blog, Culinary Adventures with Camilla!  I have been in group B for over a year and have been waiting for this assignment.  Camilla is a sweetheart!  She has an unending amount of energy.  She is the mother of three boys and describes herself as "a tree-hugging, veggie-crunching, jewelry-designing mean mommy who loves to cook but hates to clean."  She has spent time as a florist, waitress, SCUBA dive master, stock photo agency manager, stroller fitness teacher, writer, editor, and au pair. She also lived and worked in Rome where she learned to cook.  Camilla visited the markets, talked to farmers and fishmongers, and pestered them to learn how to prepare various dishes that are now part of her repertoire. I should be that lucky! 

On this day, I immediately started looking for an appetizer or dessert.  Company was coming. The Champiñones al Ajillo and Prawn Ceviche with Avocados sounded heavenly.  We would have enjoyed either one with a glass of wine.  We would have enjoyed both....but on another day.  My search led me to desserts.  I was looking for something refreshing and light and I found it: Watermelon -Tequila Granita!

Watermelon-Tequila was like finding gold!  Or, was my tequila gold?  Hmmm...I think it was both.  This was super easy, super refreshing, super tasty and just all around wonderful!  With or without the tequila it was wonderful....  

It is an adult snowcone....and the syrup is tequila!

Watermelon-Tequila Granita

6 cups seedless watermelon, cubed
3/4 cup granulated sugar
Juice from one Meyer lemon
One shot of tequila per serving

Place the watermelon cubes, sugar and lemon juice in a blender. Purée until smooth.  

Pour the mixture into a large casserole dish (or any flat container).  Freeze the mixture for 1 hour. Run a fork across the surface of the mixture to break up any large frozen parts.  Repeat the process every hour until frozen.  It will take 3-4 hours to freeze.

Prior to serving let the granita soften just a bit on the counter.  Drag the fork through the granita to create ice flakes.  

To serve, spoon the granita into individual bowls or glasses and pour a shot of tequila over the top.

Garnish with a few mint leaves.


Friday, July 8, 2016

Moroccan Spiced Chicken Skewers with Cucumber and Feta Salad

I mentioned the recipe for Moroccan Spiced Chicken Skewers in my earlier post for Ras El Hanout. What I didn't discuss is that we served the chicken on flatbread topped with this wonderful Cucumber and Feta Salad.

All together it was a very flavorful and light meal!  We have used the spice mixture a number of times and find it to be a winner!

Cucumber and Feta Salad
adapted from David Lebovitz

1 large English cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
Kosher salt
8 oz feta cheese
1/4 cup olive oil
2-3 Tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 Tbsp water
Fresh ground pepper, to taste
1/2 red onion, peeled, finely diced
1 Tbsp chopped dill
1 Tbsp chopped parsley
1 Tbsp chopped mint

In a colander, mix the cucumber with a light sprinkle of salt.  Allow it to drain 30 minutes to an hour. Shake the colander and/or lightly squeeze the mixture a few times.

Crumble the feta into a medium-size bowl and mash it together with the olive oil, lemon juice, water, and a few twists of fresh ground pepper.

Add the cucumbers, onion, and herbs to the feta mixture and stir.  Taste and add additional salt, if desired.

NOTE:  This mixture may be served as a topping for Moroccan Spiced Chicken Skewers or served as a appetizer with crackers or with soft or toasted pita triangles.


Moroccan Spiced Chicken Skewers
adapted from David Lebovitz

Mix up the Ras el Hanout.

3/4 cup whole milk, Greek-style yogurt
6 cloves garlic, peeled
1 small onion peeled
3 Tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
5 tsp. Ras el Hanout
1-2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp paprika, sweet smoked or spicy smoked paprika
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

1 1/2 to 2 pound mixture of boneless, skinless chicken thighs and breasts, trimmed and cut into small chunks for skewering.

Chop the garlic and onion into small pieces and finely chop in a mini-chopper.  Put the mixture into a large zip-top freezer bag. (A medium-size bowl works fine, if you prefer.)

In a bowl, mix the yogurt, lemon juice, ras el hanout, black pepper, paprika, red pepper, and the pieces of chicken.  Pour the mixture into the bag with the garlic-onion mixture.  Remove excess air and seal the bag.  Massage the chicken pieces to assure that they are well covered by the marinade. Refrigerate for a minimum of one hour or over night.

Thread the chicken onto skewers.  Light the grill until very hot.  Brush the grill with oil.  Grill the skewers on one side until seared with grill marks, 4-5 minutes.  Turn and grill until cooked through. Total cooking time is 8-9 minutes.

Serve the chicken on flatbread or pita with a dollop of the cucumber and feta salad.

PRINTABLE RECIPE (both chicken and salad)