Peanut Butter Banana Bread

While I loved the fish and chips, chicken tikka masala, and scones with clotted cream we tried during our trip to London already four months ago (time flies!), it was the peanut butter banana bread from the cafĂ© (called Department of Social Sciences and Coffee) next to our apartment that stayed with me most. Apart from the fact that it was delicious -- served lightly toasted, with a little butter and jam -- its appeal also lay in the fact that it was so clearly, blatantly, un-Italian. Now, don't take that the wrong way -- you know I love Italian food!-- but every once in a while its nice to eat something a little different, something you know you'll never, ever find in Italy, just to shake things up. I ditched my usual cappuccino-and-cornetto routine and had a slice of peanut butter banana bread for breakfast every morning in London, and I've had it in my head to recreate it ever since then.

Now! If you're not American, I know what you're thinking. You're having doubts about the peanut butter/banana combination, aren't you? The thing is, we Americans loveeeee peanut butter. We spread it on crackers, bagels, and toast, pair it with apples and celery, and sandwich it between bread to make peanut butter sandwiches. And not just plain pb sandwiches -- in the U.S of A we also love our peanut butter and bacon sandwiches (yes, you read that correctly, and its divine) peanut butter and Fluff sandwiches, and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. If this all sounds strange -- some of those "only in America" flavor combinations -- you'd be absolutely right. But consider this -- peanut butter is one of those ingredients that has an uncanny ability to complement and exalt a variety of other ingredients, odd as the pairings might seem. Its salty sweetness wakes up milder flavors (the aforementioned apple) and emphasizes stronger ones (dark chocolate, for example) and also tempers sweeter ones, which brings us back to today's peanut butter and banana combo. There are few better breakfasts than a slice of toast with peanut butter and banana, as far as I'm concerned, and if you're still skeptical, remember: Elvis Presley himself enjoyed (fried) peanut butter and banana sandwiches. If its good enough for the King, its good enough for you.

So! Today's peanut butter and banana bread puts together these two somewhat unlikely but incredibly compatible flavors, giving the classic banana bread a delicious twist. The peanut butter and banana flavors both shine and play together nicely here, neither one overwhelming the other; the texture is perfect, light and fluffy; the sweetness is spot on, just enough, another one of those "not-too-sweet" baked goods I've been making more and more of; and the peanut butter, yogurt, and whole wheat flour make this seem like a vaguely healthy breakfast choice (certainly healthier than a donut, at least!) It is lovely served with a swoosh of peanut butter or a drizzle of honey, a treat at breakfast, brunch, or for (midnight)snack. My peanut butter banana bread craving has been successfully satisfied, but even if you haven't been dreaming about this the past four months, I suggest you make it, too. Yummm.

A couple of notes: I think the whole wheat flour here is really nice, but feel free to use all white flour instead of whole wheat flour here, if you don't have it. I think a little cinnamon would also be a tasty addition. Feel free to add chocolate chips if you want to make things a little more decadent, and remember to use overripe banaas (the brown, ugly ones) as they have the most flavor. You can also bake the batter in muffin pans if you want Peanut Butter Banana Muffins.

Looking for other banana-y recipes? I've got these Banana Pecan Waffles, this Chocolate Chunk Banana Bread and these Banana Nutella Muffins. Want more peanut butter recipes? I've got these Peanut Butter Oatmeal Sandwich Cookies, these Magical, 4 Ingredient Peanut Butter Cookies, and this Peanut Butter Pie. In search of more breakfast-y loaf cakes? Allow me to recommend this Ricotta Pound Cake, this Chocolate Loaf Cake, this Lemon Poppy seed Cake, and this Triple Orange Pound Cake.

PEANUT BUTTER BANANA BREAD

Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups (195 grams) flour
1/2 cup (65 grams) whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 overripe bananas, mashed
1/2 cup (120 grams) peanut butter
1/2 cup (100 grams) sugar
1/2 cup (85 grams) light brown sugar
1/3 cup (85 grams) plain yogurt
1/4 cup (50 grams) vegetable oil
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (170 degrees Celsius). Butter an 8x4 inch loaf pan and set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, and salt. In a large bowl, whisk together the peanut butter, sugars, yogurt, oil, eggs, and vanilla.
Add the mashed bananas to the peanut butter mixture and stir until the bananas are well incorporated, then add the dry ingredients and stir until everything is just combined. 

Pour the batter in to the loaf pan and bake for about an hour and 15 minutes, being sure to cover the loaf with aluminum foil if it starts to brown (you'll probably have to do this at the 45 minute mark). When a tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean with a few crumbs attached and no batter, the bread is ready. Let your Peanut Butter Banana Bread cool completely before slicing and serving. Serves 10-12.








Roasted Asparagus with Gremolata + Burrata

When I first made this dish, I reported back (as I always do) to a few of my friends who are buone forchette, food enthusiasts who humor me whenever I feel I've come across something blog-worthy. While everyone was clear on what asparagus is, the other two words in this recipe title -- burrata and gremolata -- seemed to be fuzzier: "Never heard of gremolata, can't say I've ever eaten burrata though it sounds familiar" -- commented one, while another commented: "gremolata...sounds kind of like gremlin??". 

Firstly, no gremlins were harmed in the making of this recipe, and secondly, a little background on these two ingredients: Contrary to what their respective -ata endings might lead you to believe, burrata and gremolata are actually two very different and completely unrelated ingredients. Burrata can be best explained in my opinion as mozzarella di bufala, but even better, or rather, scraps of mozzarella di bufala that are mixed with cream (!!!) and then wrapped up in a sort of little cheese bag -- see photo below if you're confused -- that you cut in to release all the incredibly rich, tasty burrata. It is the most heavenly of all cheeses, as far as I'm concerned, one that has gained increasingly popularity in places other than Italy lately -- you can now find it in lots of supermarkets, even in my state of Rhode Island. Our second lesser known ingredient, gremolata, is reminiscent of pesto, a no-cook, herb-y sauce from the Lombardy region of Italy made of garlic, lemon zest, and parsley. It is traditionally served with meat like osso buco alla milanese or scaloppine.

This dish is a sort of jumble of things; you'd be hard-pressed to find gremolata served over asparagus here in Italy, for example. Burrata is most commonly served with tomatoes, not asparagus, and while gremolata and burrata are both Italian items, you wouldn't probably see them served together; the burrata and makes this dish feel luxurious, while the asparagus and green gremolata simultaneously make the dish seem light and refreshing. But that's exactly what's so special about this dish, at least for me: its not quite the usual burrata, tomatoes, and basil I find so often in Rome, but rather something a little different, Italian-ish, at best. The ingredients combine to make something that is both rich and fresh at the same time, a mix of crisp, virtuous asparagus and soft, gooey cheese, the mildness of the cheese playing off the tartness of the balsamic vinegar in the asparagus in a lovely way. The lemon and parsley keep things bright and refreshing, and the garlic adds a little bite and spiciness to keep things interesting. This is my new favorite thing to eat for dinner or as a starter for a dinner party if my sister and I feel like sharing -- and oh, did I mention it all comes together in about 20 minutes? Yes indeed.  

A couple of notes: If you can't get your hands on burrata, you can substitute mozzarella di bufala, and if you want to take the dish in a completely different direction, you can substitute a poached egg or two for the cheese. If you're not a fan of asparagus, I imagine green beans would stand in well here as well. Feel free to grill the asparagus instead of roasting it, or substitute the basil for parsley once the Summer is here -- it won't quite be gremolata, but it will still be delicious. I used a thicker variety of asparagus here, so if you use a thinner one, be sure to reduce the cooking time accordingly as it will of course cook faster.

Looking for other Spring-y, green recipes? I've got this Asparagus with Prosciutto, this Frittata di Spaghetti con Asparagi, these Carciofi alla giudia, this Pasta with fave, pecorino, e guanciale, this Risotto with Pancetta and Peas, and this superb (if I don't say so myself) Torta Pasqualina.

ROASTED ASPARAGUS WITH GREMOLATA + BURRATA

Ingredients for the asparagus and burrata:
10-12 spears of asparagus
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 burrata cheese (about 250 grams)

Ingredients for the gremolata:
2 teaspoons lemon zest (from one large lemon)
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 generous tablespoon parsley
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (170 degrees Celsius). If you're dealing with very thin asparagus, snap off the tough ends (this will happen easily). If you're using a thicker variety of asparagus, chop off the tough ends with a knife. Toss the asparagus with the olive oil and balsamic vinegar on a baking sheet, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes, moving the asparagus around occasionally with a spatula, until it is lightly browned and can be pierced easily with a fork.
While the asparagus is roasting, prepare your gremolata. Chop up the parsley and garlic very finely, and mix with the lemon zest and olive oil along with the salt and pepper in a small bowl.
Place the roasted asparagus on a platter and spoon over the gremolata. Place the burrata alongside with a little more gremolata on the top, and dig in. Serves 2 for a light lunch and 4 as a starter.