Banana acts as a binder in this Indian-inspired spicy sweet snack that is best enjoyed with an afternoon cup of chai.

Rethinking Old Reliable: The Banana

One of the food staples in my house is bananas.

One of the food staples in my house is bananas.

Like eggs and milk, bananas are always used up daily and always bought when I go on a grocery expedition.

This is a habitual ritual that I grew up with — my mom always said, “if there are no bananas in the house, then it feels like there is nothing to eat.” And, I would have to agree!

For me, and maybe for many others, bananas are the old reliable fruit that never disappoints. They are available all year round and always seem in season. They aren’t deceptive, like a strawberries in the winter months, looking juicy red and tempting on the store shelves, but tasteless when you sink your teeth into them.

There is no guesswork when it comes to picking the right banana, either — you rarely see anyone lifting, tapping, sniffing or manhandling a banana. With just about the right amount of yellowness, sweetness is guaranteed; and if you buy them a little green, you simply let them hang out in the fruit basket and they will ripen.

The only negative characteristic about the fruit is that they are very delicate and bruise very easily.

Another unique attribute is that it tastes different at every stage of ripeness. When the peel is green to yellow, the flavour of the flesh is bland and its texture is woodsy. As the peel changes to brown or black, it has a sweeter flavour and more of a banana aroma, but still keeps a firm shape when cooked.

No matter what its exterior looks like, though, the inside of the fruit will remain white to creamy yellowish, unless of course it has gone beyond the overripe stage.

Because of its different taste and texture at various stages, the banana can also be used in variety of recipes. Green skinned bananas have a potato-like texture, making them ideal for serving them as fries; just peel and cut into strips and fry like its potato counterpart.

In Asian countries, raw bananas are used to make curries, soups and stir-fries.

When they are overripe, they are perfect as a base ingredient for a range of delicious cakes, breads, desserts, smoothies and shakes. Let us not forget about banana breads and muffins. Everyone loves them and we all have a tried and true recipe.

Not only are they great in sweet dishes, but bananas are extremely versatile and compliment chicken, pork and savoury breads. In a recent chili cook-off that I attended, a contestant added a banana to the chili, creating a unique sweet, spicy flavour profile.

In using my recipes, I decided to go for something healthy, something ethnic, something different and, of course, something a little “bacony.”

Banana facts

– Storing bananas in the refrigerator will make the skins turn black, but you can still eat them.

– To ripen green bananas, put them in a paper bag.

– A banana tree is not really a fruit tree, but a herb, with a trunk that is a stem of tightly wrapped leaves. The banana we eat is the fruit (technically a false berry) and the black piece that sometimes remains on the end of the banana is the dead flower.

– Amongst sport fishermen, there exists a belief that bananas on a boat are unlucky;,

– According to the leading producer and distributor of bananas, Chiquita, bananas are the most popular fruit. There are more bananas eaten than apples and oranges combined. In fact, the average American eats 27 pounds (12.25 kg) of bananas every year.

– Banana contains about 422 mg of potassium (a little less than half a gram), making bananas a potassium super fruit — that’s 13 per cent of the daily-recommended amount of potassium from only one banana!

Madhu Badoni is a Red Deer-based freelance food writer. She can be reached at madhubadoni@gmail.com or on Twitter @madhubadoni. Watch for Madhu’s Masala-Mix blog on bprda.wpengine.com.

Bacon Wrapped Banana

1/4 cup soy sauce

1 tablespoon honey

4 ripe bananas, each cut into 5 chunks

10 slices of bacon, halved crosswise

20 toothpicks

Whisk soy sauce and honey together in a large bowl; add bananas and stir to coat bananas in marinade. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Remove banana chunks and reserve marinade. Set oven rack about six inches from the heat source and preheat the oven’s broiler. Wrap bananas with bacon and secure by threading a toothpick through the bacon. Dip wrapped bananas in reserved marinade and arrange on a baking sheet. Broil in the preheated oven until bacon is browned and crispy, eight to 10 minutes.

Healthy Banana Cookies

3 ripe bananas

2 cups rolled oats

1 cup dates, pitted and chopped

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 F (175 C). In a large bowl, mash the bananas. Stir in oats, dates, oil, and vanilla. Mix well, and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until lightly brown.

Banana and Brie Savoury Muffin

4 eggs

1 1/3 cup self raising flour

½ cup melted butter

2 bananas, chopped

125g brie, chopped

Mix the melted butter into the four eggs, then fold in the flour. Stir in the chopped bananas and brie into the muffin mixture. Fill each muffin tin and bake at 390F (200C) for 20 minutes.

Savoury Banana Pastry

1/2 cup ripe mashed banana

1 cup flour

Red chili powder to taste

Salt to taste

1 tablespoon oil

Oil for deep frying

Combine the banana , flour, salt, red chili powder and a tablespoon of oil in wide bowl and make a soft dough. Divide the dough into small balls and roll out the dough into thin circles. Cut them into diamond shapes. Heat oil for deep frying and fry the diamond cuts until golden colour. Remove from the oil and store in a airtight container. Serve with a cup of chai.

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