Jan 9, 2012

The 'Apple' Banana

Moloka'i Apple Banana
The apple banana is most commonly grown in subtropical and tropical regions, specifically the Hawaiian Islands, Honduras, Malaysia and Mexico. This short, fat fruit has a sweeter and more apple-like taste than the more common dessert banana. The Apple banana is not grown for large scale commercial production, thus its culinary relevance is mainly within its growing region. 

Apple bananas are commonly used as a dessert once they reach peak maturity.

These bananas grow all over Moloka'i and can be purchased at the farmers' market on Saturday mornings.

Hawaiian Fruit Salad with Banana Dressing
1 pineapple
1 medium cantaloupe
1 medium honeydew melon
1 papaya cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 mango cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 kiwi cut into 1/4 inch slices
1 cup seedless red grapes
1 cup strawberries -- halved lengthwise
leaf lettuce
1/2 cup roasted, crushed, macadamia nuts (for garnish)

Ingredients for Banana Dressing:
2 ripe bananas
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon lemon juice

Procedure for Banana Dressing:
Combine all dressing ingredients in a blender or food processor. Cover and process for 12 to 15 seconds until smooth. Refrigerate for up to 1-2 hours.

Procedure for Fruit Salad:
Remove the top from the pineapple. Cut into quarters length-wise. Trim the peel and remove eyes and core. Cut into 1 x 2 inch pieces. Using a melon baller, cut balls from melons. Arrange all the fruit on lettuce, and serve with banana dressing. Or cube all and toss together, serve on individual lettuce lined plates, and top with dressing, top with crushed macadamia nuts. Makes 8 servings.

Apple Banana Smoothie
1 frozen apple banana
1 apple, peeled, cored and cut into quarters
1/2 cup fat free milk
1 cup orange juice
honey (optional)

Peel the banana and apple and cut them into pieces. Add them into the blender together with the milk and orange juice and blend until smooth, then serve immediately. Some honey may also be added and you can increase the ingredients depending on the amount of people you are serving. Makes 2 servings.

Chocolate-Banana Wontons
1 (13 ounce) jar Nutella (chocolate hazelnut spread)
wonton wrappers
2 medium bananas
1 egg beaten
canola oil (for frying)
confectioners sugar (for dusting)

Separate wonton wrappers into individual sheets. In the center of each wrapper, place a small dollop (approximately 1 teaspoon) of Nutella and top with a slice of ripe banana. Use a pastry brush to moisten the edges of the wonton with a beaten egg mixture. Fold the wontons in half to form a triangle. Use your fingers to press the edges of the wonton firmly together to seal completely.

Preheat a deep fryer, or heat two inches of oil in a pan to approximately 350˚F. Drop the wontons in a few at a time and cook, turning them over during the process, until they are lightly browned and cooked through, usually 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar and serve warm.

Banana-Pineapple Bread
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup mashed banana
1/2 cup crushed pineapple
2 cups sifted flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chopped macadamia nuts

Cream butter and sugars thoroughly. Blend in fruit. In separate bowl, sift remaining dry ingredients into flour. In a 3rd bowl, combine eggs, milk and vanilla. Add dry ingredients alternately with liquid to creamed mixture. Fold in nuts. Pour into 2 small well-greased loaf pans. Bake at 350˚F for 50 minutes to an hour. Makes 2 loaf pans or 16 servings.

Coconut-Banana Bread with Rum
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 large eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed ripe banana (about 3 bananas)
1/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt
3 tablespoons dark rum
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup flaked sweetened coconut
cooking spray
1 tablespoon flaked sweetened coconut
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime or lemon juice

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt, stirring with a whisk. Place granulated sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add banana, yogurt, rum, and vanilla; beat until blended. Add flour mixture; beat at low speed just until moist. Stir in 1/2 cup coconut. Spoon batter into a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan coated with cooking spray; sprinkle with 1 tablespoon coconut. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack; remove from pan. Combine powdered sugar and juice, stirring with a whisk; drizzle over warm bread. Cool completely on wire rack. Makes 1 loaf or 8 servings.

Banana-Brown Sugar Ice Cream

1 1/4-pounds very ripe bananas (6-7 medium), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch slices
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 cups coconut milk or full-fat sour cream
big pinch of sea salt
1 teaspoon dark rum
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
optional: a few drops lemon juice

In a wide skillet or saucepan, heat the brown sugar with one-quarter of the coconut milk or sour cream, stirring, until smooth and bubbly.

Add the bananas and salt, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the bananas are soft and completely cooked through. It should take about five minutes.

Remove from heat and stir in the remaining coconut milk or sour cream, rum and vanilla. Taste, and add a few drops of fresh lemon juice if it taste too sweet.

Puree in a blender or food processor until completely smooth.

Chill thoroughly, then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. (If it's too thick when you take it out of the refrigerator, whisk it briskly, which should thin it out so you can pour it into your machine.) Makes about 3 cups.

Fried Apple Banana Lumpia
A Filipino dessert that is a favorite in Hawaii.

4 apple bananas, ripe but firm
1/2 cup brown sugar
8 lumpia wrappers
canola oil for frying

Defrost and peel each lumpia wrapper from the stack of lumpia, as it will most likely be stuck together due to being frozen at the store. Then peel the bananas and cut them in half. Once cut in half, slice each half through the middle of the banana. Leaving you with a banana slice that is flat on one side. Each banana will give you 4 slices. Place the lumpia wrapper in front of you in a diamond shape. Place a banana slice a little lower than the middle of the diamond, make sure that the banana slice is flat side facing up. Then add about a spoon of sugar on the flat surface of the banana.

Take both sides of the wrapper, left and right and bring to the center covering the banana, then bring the bottom up. Tuck in any excess space and roll it up. When you reach the tip, press down a bit of water so it can stay put. Then set that aside on a plate, with the end facing down so it won't unwrap. After you've wrapped them all, put oil in a frying pan or wok, preferably more oil than you usually fry with, because the wrapper could burn before it actually cooks. Fry until light golden brown. Place on a large plate lined with paper towels to soak up excess oil. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream. Makes 8 fried banana lumpia.

Caramelized Banana Crêpes
with Roasted Macadamia Nuts

A crêpe is a type of very thin pancake, usually made from wheat flour or buckwheat flour. The word is French in origin, originating in Brittany, a region in the northwest of France. Crêpes are served with a variety of fillings from sweet to savory. The fresh fruit found here in Hawaii and French Polynesia, mango, papaya, pineapple and banana, make a perfect filling for a sweet tropical dessert, using French crêpes. Simple caramelization of fresh tropical fruit to enhance the natural sweetness, and warm crêpes, topped with roasted Macadamia nuts to add crunch and texture.

Ingredients for basic sweet crêpes:
1 cup wheat flour (leveled)
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 cup milk (full, low, or nonfat)
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons unsalted butter, melted
2 large eggs

Procedure for basic sweet crêpes:
Combine flour and sugar in a bowl and set aside. Blend milk, water, melted butter, and eggs in a blender. Slowly add in dry ingredients and blend until smooth. Cover and set in the fridge for one hour. Spray an 8-inch frying pan and heat. Pour 1/4 cup of batter into the pan and swirl the batter so that it fills the pan in one thin layer. Cook on one side until for about 1 minute or until lightly browned (as seen by carefully lifting the crêpe with a spatula). Carefully flip on the opposite side and cook through. Repeat until the rest of the batter is finished. Makes 12-14 crêpes.

Ingredients for caramelized bananas:
4 large bananas, sliced
4 ounces unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar

Procedure for caramelized bananas:
Melt the butter and sugar in a large frying pan or saucepan on a medium heat. Once sugar has dissolved, add the bananas. Watching carefully, gently cook until the bananas are well caramelized, and sauce has thickened, about 5 minutes.

Ingredients for caramelized banana crêpes:
one recipe basic crêpes
one recipe caramelized bananas
1/2 cup crushed, roasted macadamia nuts
vanilla ice-cream to serve, optional

Procedure for caramelized banana crêpes:
After preparing a stack of crêpes, set aside. Prepare the caramelised bananas. Fill each crêpe with 2-3 pieces of banana. Drizzle caramel sauce over the finished crêpe and garnish with a few roasted macadamia nuts. Vanilla ice-cream optional. Makes 4-6 servings.

Apple Banana Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies
Apple bananas are small bananas that grow here in Hawaii. They have a tang to them, similar to apples, and give these chocolate chip oatmeal cookies a delightful tropical flavor. Unfortunately you'll have to come to Hawaii to buy apple bananas, so just use regular bananas if you don't live here.

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup light brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large banana, mashed
1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine butter and sugars, mix until smooth. Add in vanilla extract and egg. Next, add the banana. Beat well. Slowly add in flour mixture until just combined. Stir in oats and chocolate chips. Drop cookie dough by heaping tablespoonfuls 2 inches apart onto baking sheets that have been lined with parchment paper or Silcone baking mats. Bake at 350 degrees F for 15-18 minutes or until golden. Remove cookies from pans; cool completely on wire racks. Makes about 2 1/2 dozen cookies.

Fried Apple Banana Fritters
Fried Banana Fritters are popular all over Asia. It's important to use the right banana for this dessert. The Apple Banana here in Hawaii is perfect, with a sweet/sour flavor. The batter has to be crispy, and the banana must be ripe and tender and moist on the inside. Using ice-cold soda water helps the batter to be crispy, but you want to make sure that you don't put too much in the batter,  adding it slowly as you stir the batter, keeping it thick. It's also a good idea to drain the grease from the fritters so they are not oily and use oil that has not been used before. 

3 ripe apple bananas, chopped into bite sized chunks
1/2 cup self-raising flour
1/4 cup corn starch
1 tablespoon rice flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 tablespoon canola oil (to add to batter)
1/2 cup club soda (ice cold)
Canola oil for deep frying
Powdered sugar for dusting
Honey for drizzling

In a large bowl, mix together the self-raising flour, corn starch, rice flour, cinnamon, salt, baking powder and 1 1/2 tablespoons of canola oil until smooth and thick.

Now slowly add the ice cold club soda and whisk gently just until well incorporated and smooth.

In a wok, or small skillet, heat one inch of oil on medium-high heat. While waiting for the oil to come up to temperature,  325˚F, begin dipping the apple banana chunks into the batter. Using a slotted spoon, test the temperature of the oil by carefully dropping a small bit of the batter into the oil. If the oil is hot enough, the batter should begin to bubble up and lightly brown within a few seconds.

Adjust heat to medium then carefully place the battered banana chunks into the hot oil, leaving enough room in between them to turn over. Fry on each side for just about 2 or 3 minutes or so until lightly golden brown. Drain on a paper towel lined cookie sheet. Repeat as necessary with remaining banana chunks. Keep the bananas warm in a 200˚F oven, this will keep them crisp.

Place warm bananas on a serving plate. Dust with powdered sugar and drizzle with honey before serving, or serve with vanilla ice-cream. Makes 18 fritters depending on the size of the bananas.

Note: If you don't have self-rising flour, you can make your own by mixing 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon of salt with 1 cup of all-purpose flour. Also make sure your baking powder is current. Check the expiration date on the box. Baking powder can lose its potency over time, which means your baked goods won't rise as they should.

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