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GOOD COOKING

A Banana a Day

March 17, 1994|ABBY MANDEL

I know people who consider bananas the way others do apples: A banana a day keeps the doctor away. High in carbohydrates, low in protein and fats, bananas are rich in potassium and Vitamin C.

Bananas are also one fruit that develops better flavor when ripened off the tree. Even though it can be maddening to find mostly green bananas at the market, they do ripen quickly at room temperature, especially when they are enclosed in a brown paper bag.

Once fully ripe and fragrant, bananas boost the flavor of the recipes they are used in. Besides enhancing flavor, the richness and thickness of ripe banana puree help reduce the fat in many recipes.

Consider these recipes. The chocolate-banana cake and banana French toast work without the benefit of many egg yolks or much fat. Warm banana-maple syrup completes the pleasure of the French toast. The banana s'mores are delicious without chocolate chips. But if you can't resist, just a few--instead of a whole chocolate slab--will suffice. Try it--I know you'll like it--it's a quick, low-fat dessert.

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Banana boosts the moisture in this cake despite the relatively low amount of fat used. Because the batter is heavy, the cake bakes more quickly around the edges and is slightly lower in the center. That's not a problem as far as taste or presentation.

CHOCOLATE-BANANA CAKE 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar, divided 1 egg yolk 2 teaspoons vanilla 1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk 1 3/4 cups pureed ripe banana 1 3/4 cups cake flour 1/2 cup cocoa (preferably Dutch-process) 1 teaspoon baking powder 1 teaspoon baking soda 1/2 teaspoon salt 3 egg whites 2 tablespoons powdered sugar

Mix butter, 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar, egg yolk and vanilla together in bowl with electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add buttermilk and banana. Mix well.

Sift together flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Gradually add flour mixture to batter. Mix until very smooth.

Beat egg whites in clean, grease-free mixing bowl until foamy. Gradually add remaining 1/4 cup granulated sugar and continue beating until whites are soft and moist, yet hold their peaks. Gently fold whites into batter.

Transfer batter to greased and lightly floured 9-inch-square cake pan. Smooth surface with spatula. Bake on center oven rack at 350 degrees until wood pick inserted in center comes out clean, about 1 hour. Let cool on rack at least 30 minutes. Shake powdered sugar through fine sieve over cake before serving (it tastes best when served day it's baked). Makes 1 (9-inch) square cake, about 8 servings.

Each serving contains about: 391 calories; 240 mg sodium; 58 mg cholesterol; 11 grams fat; 73 grams carbohydrates; 6 grams protein; 0.59 gram fiber.

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Use a blender or processor fitted with metal blade to completely mix the ingredients for the French toast. The warm maple syrup with slightly cooked bananas is a great enhancement.

BANANA FRENCH TOAST WITH WARM BANANA-MAPLE SYRUP 1 large ripe banana, pureed (about 2/3 cup) 2 egg whites 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon 1/3 cup 1% milk 6 slices day-old challah or brioche slices, about 3/4-inch thick Banana-Maple Syrup

Mix pureed banana, egg whites, cinnamon and milk in blender or processor fitted with metal blade. Transfer mixture to shallow pie plate.

Grease non-stick griddle and heat. Use tongs to soak bread slices on both sides until just saturated but not falling apart. When griddle is hot, cook toast over medium heat until browned on both sides. Keep warm in 200-degree oven while cooking rest. Serve warm with warm Banana-Maple Syrup. Makes 3 to 4 servings.

Each of 3 servings contains about: 574 calories; 462 mg sodium; 3 mg cholesterol; 3 grams fat; 130 grams carbohydrates; 11 grams protein; 0.96 gram fiber.

Banana-Maple Syrup 3/4 cup maple syrup 3 medium bananas, cut into 1/4-inch slices

Simmer syrup and bananas in small saucepan until heated through and bananas just begin to turn translucent. Serve immediately.

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S'Mores are time-honored campfire fare, but they also make a quick, satisfying dessert at home. Usually, chocolate is sandwiched between the graham crackers, but it's possible to omit the chocolate and still enjoy the oozing marshmallow and warm banana slices. On the other hand, if you can't resist, sprinkle just a few semisweet chocolate bits on the marshmallows.

BANANA S'MORES 8 whole graham crackers 2 medium bananas, thinly sliced 16 marshmallows, snipped in half horizontally with kitchen shears 1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips, optional

Place 4 graham crackers in single layer on baking sheet. Cover crackers with 1/2 banana slices. Space 8 marshmallow halves evenly over each cracker. Sprinkle chocolate chips over top (if using). Arrange remaining banana slices over marshmallows, dividing evenly. Cover each with graham cracker to make sandwich. Cover S'Mores with tent of foil.

Bake on center oven rack at 400 degrees until marshmallows just start to ooze, about 10 minutes. Serve warm. Makes 4 S'Mores.

Each serving, without chocolate chips, contains about: 253 calories; 202 mg sodium; trace cholesterol; 3 grams fat; 57 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams protein; 0.6 gram fiber.

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