15 March 2007

Banana Bread

We grow lots of bananas on our property, and we often have more than we know what to do with.

I decided to make banana bread using the recipe from How to Cook Everything, by Mark Bittman. This has become my go-to cookbook for all kinds of food. The recipes are simple, and always good. Bittman says that the dried, unsweetened coconut is the key to this bread, but I couldn't find any so I left it out, and added more banana to make up the volume. It's ironic that I can't find coconut, since I have a coconut palm not 10 feet from my house, but all the stores carry is the sweetened stuff. The recipe also calls for ½ cup of whole-wheat flour, which I didn't have; I used all-purpose.

This makes 2 loaves using 5" by 7" baking pans, or 18 muffins.

Dry ingredients:
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons salt
Mix these in a large bowl

Wet ingredients:
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 6 very ripe bananas
  • 1 ½ cups sugar
  • 2 sticks butter, creamed
For the end:
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup shredded coconut, unsweetened
Mash the bananas. I do this with a pastry blender, but you can also use a fork. Combine the banana with the other wet ingredients, then add the wet to the dry, mixing just enough to combine. Don't over mix.

Mix in the coconut and walnuts.

Divide the batter into 2 greased pans and bake for 45 minutes to an hour at 350F. When done, a toothpick sould come out fairly clean (sometimes not entirely, since the bread is so moist).

Banana Muffins

You can also make muffins using this same recipe. Butter the muffin tin, or use muffin papers.

Makes 18 muffins

02 March 2007


Whenever I make tomato sauce, I also make meatballs.

Note that I use only beef. Most people will suggest that you use some combination of beef, pork, and veal, but I cook the way my mother taught me.
  • 2 lbs ground beef
  • 1 small onion minced
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup Parmigiano Regiano cheese
  • 2 cups fresh Italian bread crumbs
  • extra-virgin olive oil for frying
  • salt and pepper
I make meatballs in two different sizes: a little bigger than a golf ball for tomato sauce, or about the size of a marble for soup.
  1. Mix all ingredients except the olive oil in a bowl. Don't over mix.
  2. Brown meatballs on all sides in olive oil, or bake at 350F for 25 minutes.
  3. Finish cooking the meatballs in tomato sauce for an hour or two.

Tomato Sauce

I make two basic tomato sauces: a simple one without meat for pizza, calzones, and nearly anything else you can think of, and a long-cooking meat sauce for pasta.

Simple Tomato Sauce

I make a very simple tomato sauce for pizza:
  • 2 28 ounce cans whole, peeled tomatoes.
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large onion, minced
  • extra-virgin olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  1. Heat the oil and add the onion and garlic to soften. Do not brown.
  2. Add the tomatoes, and break them up with a fork.
  3. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Simmer for 45 minutes with the pot loosely covered: you want some of the liquid to evaporate. If you want, puree the sauce with an stick blender (I always do). You can also do this in a counter-top blender.

Here's my mighty 2-piece stick blender. It's a Cuisinart, of course.

Sunday Tomato Sauce

OK, you can make this any day of the week, but it takes a long time (5+ hours, mostly unattended), so Sunday is a good choice for me.

This is an Italian tomato sauce as I've been making it for 30 years. It evolved from my mother's sauce: I still go to her constantly for recipes and cooking advice.

I know it's bad karma to use dried herbs, but if it was good enough for mom, it's good enough for me.

This long-cooked sauce (some might call it a sugo), of course, is for pasta. You can make a much simpler sauce for pizza (shown at the top of the page) and that sauce works for pasta as well.

I'm often asked if this sauce can be made with turkey sausage. Of course not.
  • 3 large onions, chopped
  • olive oil
  • 6 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 or more cups red wine
  • 1 6 pound 10 ounce can San Marsano whole tomatoes (I get these at Costco).
  • 3 lbs Italian Sausage (sweet, hot, or a combination)
  • 1 recipe meatballs
Since I'm cooking for seven, I always make double this recipe. You need a very large sauce pot (I use a 16-quart with a thick bottom). It makes enough for at least 6 pounds of pasta. It's enough for at least four meals for seven people, with meatballs and sausages left over for sandwiches. I freeze sauce and meat in 1-gallon freezer bags.
  1. Heat the sauce pot, and add enough olive oil to about 1/8"
  2. Add the onions, and immediately add salt. You want to soften the onions, not color them, and salt will draw out water. Stir occasionally.
  3. Add the garlic. Stir.
  4. Remove the casings from four or five Italian sausages, and add the meat to the pot. Break up the sausage with a wooden spoon, and brown.
  5. Add the oregano, basil, and bay leaves. Stir.
  6. Add the red wine, and simmer for five minutes.
  7. Add the San Marsano tomatoes. This will cool the pot enough for you to crush the tomatoes with your hands. Work quickly, or take the pot off the heat.
  8. Brown the remaining sausages in olive oil and set aside.
I generally cook this sauce (covered) for six hours (at least four), adding the browned sausages and meatballs an hour before serving. Use the lowest heat possible, and stir frequently. Add water when the sauce gets too thick.

Serve the sauce over pasta; spaghetti, ziti, riggatoni, and most dried pastas work well. Serve with Parmigianno Reggiano and crushed red pepper to taste. Use left-over meatballs and sausages for sandwiches.