Caribbean-Style Banana Bread w/ Sweet Orange Blossom Cashew Cream

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I’ve been wanting to make this Banana Bread recipe for a few weeks, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to top it with.  I knew I wanted something creamy but what flavor….?  That was the question.  Time was ticking as my bananas were at their ripest and I didn’t want to start over with a new batch of bananas to ripen.  As you can tell, I was very determined to get the perfect topping for it.  And then it happened…that aha! moment. I was looking through a couple of cookbooks searching for a dinner recipe, when I came across Bryant Terry’s Afro-Vegan Cookbook.  Let me just say, this book is amazing.  It a cookbook bursting with African and Caribbean flavors that are vibrant, colorful…a celebration if you will of plant-based foods with a taste of tradition.  I came across Bryant’s Sweet Orange Blossom Cream and I got my a ha! moment.  It was serendipity. 

Let me just say that I love banana bread.  It is a quick and simple classic quick bread, however I wanted to zhuzh it up a bit.  Give it life.  And life I did give it.  The orange blossom cream was heavenly on top of it.  I made a few changes.  Instead of silken tofu, I used soaked cashews, thereby making a cashew cream.  I opted out of using bourbon (the original recipe) as I wanted it to be more for breakfast or a snack.  However, if you feel the need to add the bourbon (Bryant uses 1 Tablespoon), go for it.  I also used maple syrup instead of agave, but feel free to use your favorite sweetener.  The absolute best part about this recipe is the Orange Blossom Water or Orange Flower Water.  It is a clear and perfumed essence made by the distillation of fresh bitter orange blossoms.  Get a bottle and take a whiff.  You’ll want to put it in your food, put it in your favorite drinks, spray your sheets, etc.  You can find Orange Flower Water at Middle Eastern markets or buy it here.  It is used in a lot of desserts such as baklava and Mexican Wedding cakes. 

Enjoy!

 

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Caribbean Style Banana Bread w/ Sweet Orange Blossom Cashew Cream//makes 1 loaf
Adapted from B. Smith's Entertaining and Cooking for Friends

¾ cup unbleached all-purpose flour
¾ cup white whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon allspice
½ cup vegan butter
1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 ¼ cup mashed ripe banana
½ cup Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Sweet Orange Blossom Cream//1 cup
Adapted from Afro-Vegan

1 ½ cups raw cashews, soaked for at least 4 hours, drained, and rinsed
¼ cup agave or maple syrup
¼ cup non-dairy milk or water (I used almond milk)
1/8 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons melted coconut oil
¼ cup freshly squeezed navel orange juice
Finely grated zest of 1 navel orange
1 teaspoon orange blossom water

To prepare the frosting, place the cashews, syrup, non-dairy milk or water, salt, and extract in a high-speed blender or food processor. Blend or process until the mixture is mostly smooth; in a high-speed blender, this will be about 2 minutes once you get to high speed, and in a food processor it should take about 4 minutes, with a few breaks to scrape the bowl down. Then, with the machine running, drizzle in the coconut oil. Continue blending till the frosting is smooth and emulsified. Transfer it to an airtight container to chill for at least 2 hours. It will keep in the fridge for up to 4 days.

For the banana bread, preheat the oven to 350° F. Grease a 9x5-inch loaf pan.  In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, salt, nutmeg, cinnamon, and allspice.  In another large bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light.  Beat in the eggs, one at a time.  Then fold in the flour mixture, alternating with mashed banana, yogurt, and vanilla.  Stir in the nuts.  Pour the batter into the loaf pan and bake for 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Transfer the bread to a wire rack to cool.  

Spiced Cauliflower White Bean Soup w/ Fried Curry Leaves & Beer Bread

Spiced Cauliflower White Bean Soup w/ Fried Curry Leaves & Beer Bread

I don’t think I could ever tire of eating soup.  No matter the season, soup is a welcome guest I always make room for.

This is a simple soup yet intensely flavored with coriander, mustard seeds, fennel and curry leaves (more on the curry leaf later).  Most of the fussy prep for this soup is grinding the spices and preparing the roasted cauliflower, toasted garlic, and fried curry leaves…the garnishes for this soup.  Curry leaves?  Think bay leaf but with an intense aroma.  Curry leaves have little to do with curry, the complex spice mixture widely used in Indian cuisine and can vary depending on the geographic region.  Curry leaves are an herb that have a distinct, smoky, citrus-like flavor and smell.  The leaves are pungent and I find add a greater depth of flavor to all of my Indian dishes.

You can find them at your local Asian and Indian grocery stores or if you’re having no luck, you can purchase it here.  They can be stored in a plastic baggie inside your refrigerator, but can last up to 6 weeks wrapped tightly in your freezer. They are a pretty resilient herb, but will blacken overtime in your refrigerator.

This soup will definitely be my lunch at least for the next two days.  It is filling and so flavorful.  I made a beer bread (recipe follows) as an accompaniment, but feel free to keep with the theme and eat with naan bread or even better, pappadam’s (a crispy Indian flat bread). 

Bye for now!

 

Spiced Cauliflower White Bean Soup w/ Fried Curry Leaves & Beer Bread//serves 4

soup
3 tablespoons coconut oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, ground
1 teaspoon mustard seeds, ground
1 teaspoon fennel, ground
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon fresh black pepper
1 (14.5) ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 medium head cauliflower, broken up into florets
5 to 6 curry leaves
1 quart reduced sodium vegetable broth
1 cup almond milk or other plant based milk

garnish
5 to 6 cauliflower florets, halved
2 cloves garlic, sliced and toasted
6 to 8 curry leaves

Beer Bread//yield 1 loaf
Adapted from Half Baked Harvest

 3 cups flour
4 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ cup brown sugar, loosely packed
12 ounces of your favorite beer
½ teaspoon salt

Heat the oil in a heavy bottom pot over medium heat.  Add onion, garlic, spices, salt and pepper stirring often.  When onion and garlic are soft, add beans, potatoes, cauliflower, vegetable stock and almond milk.  Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook until the cauliflower and potatoes are tender.  Allow to cool.  Transfer mixture a blender or use a hand held blender to puree until smooth.  If the mixture is too thick, add more broth.  Taste and adjust seasonings.

For the roasted cauliflower, preheat oven to 400’.  Cut cauliflower florets in half.  Place on baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil and salt.  Roast uncovered for 30 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool. 

For the curry leaves, heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a frying pan over medium high heat.  Add 6 to 8 curry leaves and fry for 30 seconds.  The leaves will quickly crisp up.  Remove the leaves and place on a paper towel to drain.  Using the oil to fry the curry leaves, toast the sliced garlic until golden brown.  Remove and transfer to paper towel to drain.

To assemble, ladle cauliflower white bean soup into bowls.  Add the roasted cauliflower, fried curry leaves and toasted garlic on top of the soup.  Serve immediately.

For the beer bread, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a 9x5 loaf pan with nonstick spray.  Add the flour, brown sugar, baking powder and a pinch of salt to a mixing bowl. Pour in the beer and stir with a mixing spoon until just combined. Pour the batter into the loaf pan. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until the top of the bread is lightly browned and the middle is set.

 Note: You can use a spice grinder or mortar and pestle to grind your spices.

Vegan Cornmeal Biscuits w/ Blackberry-Thyme Chia Seed Jam

There isn’t a piece and/or slice of bread that I have met and didn’t like.  Biscuits are no exception.  Flaky, buttermilky (is that a word) mounds of golden crust on the outside and soft on the inside.  And, depending on where you grew up, you either slather your biscuit with just butter, butter and jam, butter and honey, maple syrup, gravy, etc.  It’s that serious.  Admittedly, I didn’t grow up eating homemade biscuits. I’m a Jersey girl that visited family in the South and many of the meals I had focused more on my other favorite quick bread: Cornbread.  But, that’s for another post.  Back to biscuit talk.

As much as I adore biscuits, I wanted to create a lighter, healthier version.  I found Thug Kitchen’s Whole Wheat Biscuits recipe and adjusted it by adding cornmeal and unbleached all-purpose flour instead of whole wheat pastry flour.  Why cornmeal?  Well, a good deal of cooking for me at least, is either inspiration, “why not,” or I’m in the mood for such and such.  This recipe is largely a mix of inspiration and a bit of “why not.”   The last piece to this recipe is the Blackberry-Thyme Chia Seed Jam.  I’ve never made homemade jam before because I thought the process was too laborious, but I found a wonderful recipe that I adapted called Almost-Instant Blackberry & Chia Seed Jam from modernhippiehw.com.  It was quick, vegan and healthy.  I added thyme for an extra layer of flavor and because I find that fruit and herbs are a nice combination.

These biscuits can be adapted any way you like. You can add cheddar cheese, herbs, and buttermilk instead of plant based milk.  Either way, these Cornmeal Biscuits are tasty and can be enjoyed at any time of the day.

Here are few tips for making the perfect biscuit.  Heed these instructions.

1.       If you’re using coconut oil, make sure it is solid and opaque.  Place in your refrigerator until it solidifies.  I placed mine in the freezer for two hours, and got the result I needed.  If you’re not in a hurry, let the coconut oil sit overnight.  If you’re using butter, ensure the butter is cold. You just have to...trust me.

2.       Crumble the coconut oil or butter into the flour with your fingers and break up into pieces until coarse mixture forms.  I used my food processor. If using cold butter(vegan or non-vegan), another way to fully incorporate the butter is to grate it into the flour and mix until coarse.  

3.       Do not over handle your dough or it will be tough.  You want to gently knead the dough.  The dough should feel light in your hands.

4.       Do not roll out dough with a rolling pin. The dough needs to be handled as little as possible. Use your hands to form the dough into a 1 1/2-inch thickness and using a biscuit cutter or similar shaped object, cut out your biscuits.

 

Vegan Cornmeal Biscuits w/ Blackberry-Thyme Chia Seed Jam//serves 8

biscuits – adapted from Thug Kitchen
1 cup almond or other nondairy milk
½  teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup cornmeal
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup solid refined coconut oil

Turn oven on to 425’ and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Mix together the milk and vinegar in a small glass and set aside.  Sift the flours, baking powder, sugar and salt together in a medium bowlCrumble the oil into the flour a tablespoon at a time using your fingers and break up into pieces a little bigger than a pea.  The mixture should be coarse.  Make a well in the center and pour in the milk mixture. Stir until a shaggy dough is formed, but be careful not to overmix or your biscuits will be tough.  If it is too dry, add a tablespoon or two of milk.

If you are using your food processor, place all ingredients in the food processor, and pulse the flour mixture while adding the solid coconut oil or butter if you choose.

Turn the dough out on a floured surface and pat into a roughly 8 X 5 -inch rectangle about 1 ½ inches thick.  Using the open end of a glass or biscuit cutter, cut out the dough until you have 8 biscuits.  You will have to reshape the dough into another rectangle to get the remaining biscuits.  Just remember to gently reshape the dough.

Bake the biscuits until the bottom are golden, 15 to 18 minutesLet them cool then add..

Almost Instant Blackberry-Thyme & Chia Seed Jam (adapted from modernhippiehw)//makes 1 ½ cups
3 cups blackberries, fresh or frozen (or blueberries, strawberries, etc.)
4 tablespoons pure maple syrup or honey (add more to taste – depends on the berry)
3 thyme sprigs
2 tablespoons chia seeds
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Add berries and sweetener to a medium sauce pan and mash with a potato masher.  Bring berries to a simmer and cook for about another 5 minutes.  Add the thyme sprigs and chia seeds. Reduce heat and cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring frequently, until mixture thickens.  Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and add more sweetener if you’d like. The jam will continue to thicken as it cools. Store in a covered container in the fridge.  The jam will last up to 2 weeks.