Let’s call today Fun Fact Wednesday, shall we? The first fun fact: The banana tree is one of the oldest cultivated plants known to man. In fact, it’s believed banana cultivation began between 10,000 and 15,000 years ago. FUN.
Second fun fact: The banana originated in Southeast Asia and was spread to Europe by the Moors.
Third fun fact: Thank Christopher Columbus for the modern day banana. Why? The Columbian Exchange, obvsly. Yes, the “discovery” of the New World by an old Italian was not only responsible for introducing new and exotic foods to Europeans, but we westerners got a little sumpin’ sumpin’ out of the deal, too. Remember the dread, gold-obsessed, bloodthirsty, murderous hordes of Spanish Conquistadors we’re trained to loathe? Well, they brought bananas to the Western Hemisphere, thus forever enriching our diets. Dirty dogs!
Fourth fun fact: All commercial bananas today are of the Cavendish variety. They’re also clones. So it was really bananas they were fighting for in the Clone Wars movie. Super-Fun Fact!
BTW, bananas are not technically a fruit, but whatevs.
While most people enjoy bananas in the handiest form, simply peeled and consumed raw, there are an astonishing number of ways to extract the nutritional and flavor benefits from these tropical indulgences. In the U.S., we enjoy cooked bananas as a sweet home-style dessert. The most familiar are banana bread and banana pudding. Personally, I like the Cheffed Up desserts in New Orleans, like the classic bananas Foster, or French toast smothered with chocolate banana sauce. How about a Miami-style Dolce de Leche cake finished with caramelized bananas? Yes, sir! Or maybe chocolate pancakes with a boozy banana liquor-spiked Anglaise sauce and garnished with sautéed bananas. These are the noshes I crave when I think bananas.
I can go savory as well. For me, the Indians got it right, using chutneys and curries in which bananas have a starring role.Imagine a perfectly pan-roasted mangrove snapper, coconut milk steamed basmati rice, and a spicy, piquant, banana chutney. YUM. Give this little banana chutney recipe a whirl. It’ll make you smile almost as much as Fun Fact Wednesday.
CHEF BILL’S CARAMELIZED BANANA CHUTNEY
- 4 almost-ripe bananas, peeled and halved lengthwise
- 2 cinnamon sticks, broken
- 2 Serrano chili, seeded and brunoise
- 1 tbsp. butter
- 2 cloves
- 1/4 tsp. cumin seed
- 2 tsp. mustard seeds
- 1 tsp. fenugreek
- 2 cardamom pods
- 1 tsp. ginger, grated
- 1/4 tsp. turmeric
- 1/2 cup brown sugar, or as needed
- 1/2 tsp. rice wine vinegar
- Place the bananas cut side up on a sheet pan. Sprinkle liberally with brown sugar.
- Caramelize the sugar with a blowtorch or a broiler. Allow to cool slightly and dice.
- In a sauté pan, toast the cumin, mustard, fenugreek, cardamom and cloves until just fragrant.
- Coarsely grind the toasted spices in a spice grinder.
- Heat the butter in a large sauté pan and sweat the Serrano with the ginger, then add the vinegar.
- Add all the remaining ingredients and simmer at medium for about three minutes.
- Taste and season with salt.
Until we cook again,
Contact Chef Bill Thompson, owner of The Amelia Island Culinary Academy, at MAILTO:#mce_temp_url# to find inspiration and get you Cheffed Up!