Amazing bananas star in delectable main dishes, desserts

by VALLE NOVAK Contributing Writer
| January 10, 2021 1:00 AM

“I’m Chiquita Banana with a message grave, about a million children that we want to save! Don’t let them starve so this is what to do — eat more fresh vegetables and fresh fruits too. Then we’ll send them fats and wheat and all sorts of food in cans” so went the first verse of the U.S. governments’ radio plea — and the advent of rationing — that earmarked the early days of World War II.

Carmen Miranda — the Brazilian bombshell — who co-starred in some of the Bing Crosby-Dorothy Lamour — Bob Hope “Road” movies — wore a fruit headdress featuring bananas in newspaper articles and movie shorts as Chiquita Banana in the plea for aid to European nations being crushed under the Nazi heel. And so it was that butter (and a myriad other things- like coffee) was rarely available and Nucoa was introduced. This was a pure white, bland lard-like block sold with a tiny plastic container of food color which was to be stirred in for a buttery look. Our family, recently moved to Coeur d’Alene from our Chilco home — where we reveled in our cow Buttercup’s rich milk, cream and ensuing butter- made do as people must in wartime. I hated Nucoa and to this day will only use real (and now organic) butter.

Now, put together Chiquita’s banana head-dress and the butter story and you’ll get the message in some of today’s recipes — featuring bananas!

Over the years, travel has treated me to more than history. It has opened my eyes to amazing cookery, often of things one doesn’t generally consider — such as bananas! From Bananas Foster at Brennan’s in New Orleans, to Monet’s cookbook (purchased at his lovely Giverny home), to a native luau in Maui, I realized that cooking bananas was not uncommon. What was in common was that they all use butter. Real butter that is, because even the “best” margarines won’t cut it. With that in mind, please enjoy the following (admittedly rich) offerings beginning with the afore-mentioned sites.

One should never leave New Orleans without enjoying this fabled treat from Brennan’s (if it still exists after all their flooding and hardships!).

Bananas Foster

(for four)

4 Tbs. butter

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

2 Tbs. banana liqueur

4 medium-size bananas, halved

1/4 cup rum

4 scoops vanilla ice cream (I recommend Breyer’s or Alden’s)

In flambé pan or shallow skillet, melt butter. Add sugar, cinnamon and banana liqueur; stir to mix. Bring to boil, lower heat and simmer 2 minutes. Place bananas in sauce. Cook, stirring and carefully turning bananas from time to time, until soft — about 4 minutes. Add rum, allow to heat slightly, ignite carefully (with a long fireplace match). With a small soup ladle or large-cupped serving spoon, divide evenly over vanilla ice cream ready in four shallow shallow bowls and serve.

Monet’s Baked Bananas

(Bananes Au Gratin)

(For 6)

6 bananas

1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 tablespoons melted unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice bananas in four lengthwise quarters. Arrange in a shallow buttered ovenproof dish. Combine confectioners’ sugar, lemon juice and melted butter and pour half over the bananas. Bake for 20 minutes, basting with remaining sauce every five minutes. Serve hot or cold. Whipped cream would not be remiss here!

Now, Hawaii’s never-out-of-season gift to our cuisine! During a visit to daughter Shelley and son-in-law Ray Allen during their three-year stay on beautiful Maui, I got an amazing new take on bananas at native luaus (not the big commercial ones) which always included this staple. We give you the easy version so you needn’t dig a barbecue pit!

Luau Baked Bananas

Perfectly ripe bananas, 1 per person

Butter

Wash skin: do NOT peel. Place bananas into a baking pan with a little water in it. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Serve as you would a baked potato, splitting the skin and inserting a pat of butter to melt inside. Unbelievable!

Our next recipe reveals a savory delight that can serve as a side with baked sweet potatoes or yams with pork, curry, or on its own as a dessert.

Scalloped Bananas

¼ cup evaporated milk (not sweetened-condensed)

6 firm, not too ripe bananas

½ teaspoon cinnamon

¾ cup grated coconut

Butter for frying

Peel bananas and cut into diagonal pieces 2-3 inches long. Place evaporated milk in a small bowl. Mix cinnamon and coconut together and place in another bowl. Dip banana pieces in milk to coat then roll in coconut mixture, making sure to cover ends as well. Fry in butter over medium heat, turning until crust is nicely brown and crisp.

Our final recipe is an easy-to-make delight featuring “winter fruits” and perfect for dessert for family or company.

Wintertime Fruit Pie

1 8-oz. pkg. cream cheese

1/2 cup cane sugar

1 Tb. lemon juice

2 tsp. grated lemon rind

1 cup heavy cream, whipped

1/2 cup shredded coconut

1 1/2 cups banana slices

1 1/2 cups orange sections, halved

1/2 cup orange marmalade

Combine softened cream cheese, sugar, lemon juice and rind. Mix until well blended. Fold in whipped cream and coconut. Spread mixture evenly in 9-inch pie plate, spooning high around rim (see photo). Freeze until firm (2-3 hours). About five minutes before serving, toss banana slices and orange sections with marmalade. Fill center of the frozen pie shell with fruit and serve immediately as is or with whipping cream on the side, if you wish.

Valle Novak writes the Country Chef and Weekend Gardener columns for the Daily Bee. She can be reached at bcdailybee@bonnercountydailybee.com. or by phone at 208-265-4688 between the hours of 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

photo

Valle Novak