Monday, January 27, 2020

Lusciously moist chocolate chip banana loaf

I know most of you are familiar with banana bread, but I refuse to call it that. It’s not bread folks. With butter, sour cream, eggs, sugar and more, it’s really cake. So why does everyone call it banana bread? And more irritating, why do I sometimes find it in the bread basket on restaurant tables, when what I really want with my steak dinner is a good baguette or crusty piece of Italian bread.

This recipe is from a website cooked Cookies and Cups  and it’s referred to as “The Best Chocolate Chip Banana Bread Recipe.” While it’s pretty darn delicious, another pet peeve of mine is when recipes are referred to as “the best” or “world’s best.” I mean, come on, have you really tasted every single recipe for that particular dish that’s out there? But enough kvetching. I guess that class decades ago at Columbia Journalism School with Judith Crist critiquing (no, savaging) my work taught me and my classmates how to write without hyperbole. Moreover, years of working in a newsroom with editors breathing down your neck also forced me to write “just the facts, ma’am” (except the editors weren’t so kind in their comments.) But I digress.

What I can honestly say though, is this is the best chocolate chip banana bread/cake/loaf I’ve ever eaten. My decades-old version of this recipe is getting the heave-ho to make room for this one. And you may feel the same way if you give this a try.

It’s simple to make using just a bowl and a wooden spoon to mix. It contains both butter and sour cream, and in addition to the mashed bananas, it uses thinly sliced bananas, making for one moist cake. Make sure your bananas are really ripe — dark brown and ready-for-the-trash can ripe. You’ll get the most intense flavor that way.

After lining the pan with some parchment paper and pouring in the batter, sprinkle with some additional chocolate chips. And use the mini chips, since the large ones have a tendency to sink to the bottom.Bake it for at least an hour (it took 65 minutes for mine to cook completely), slice and enjoy. It’s especially good when warm, but the next day it’s even better since the flavors have had time to meld.You could omit the chocolate chips and the walnuts too, if you like, and you’ll still be left with one delicious banana bread, er, loaf, or cake or whatever. It may even be the world’s best. But I doubt you’ll hear that from me.

Click here to connect with me on Instagram and find out what Ciao Chow Linda is up to in the kitchen (and other places too.)

Chocolate chip banana loaf
Author: Ciao Chow Linda via
  • 3 medium bananas, divided
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (and more to sprinkle on top)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Spray a 9×5 loaf pan with nonstick spray. Line the bottom and up the short sides with a strip of parchment paper. Spray again with nonstick spray.
  3. Set aside.
  4. In a medium bowl mash 2 of the bananas with a fork, leaving them slightly lumpy.
  5. Slice the remaining banana thinly, and set aside.
  6. In a large bowl stir together the butter and sugar.
  7. Mix in the eggs and vanilla and stir until smooth. Add the sour cream, mashed bananas, baking soda, and salt, and stir until blended.
  8. Next mix in the flour until incorporated.
  9. Fold in the chocolate chips, walnuts, and sliced banana.
  10. Pour batter into the prepared pan – sprinkle with a few more chocolate chips — and bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. (mine took 65 minutes to completely cook)
  11. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, and then using the parchment paper as handles, carefully lift the banana bread out of the pan to cool on a wire rack.


Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Pot Roast with porcini mushrooms and onions

It all started with a bottle of wine — well, two to be exact. A good friend of my husband’s — who owns an extensive wine cellar — sent us a surprise gift of two bottles of Brunello di Montalcino. He knew we had been in Montalcino a couple of years ago, where we had enjoyed wines from the Caparzo vineyard, so he wanted to repay some hospitality with a bottle of the 2013 and the 1990 vintage. We couldn’t wait to crack open the older vintage first. But I knew I needed to accompany it with a meal worthy of this 30 year-old wine. I had some dried porcini mushrooms I had bought in Italy waiting to be used, so I decided to incorporate them into a rich pot roast.

Start by dusting the meat (mine was a chuck roast that weighed 2 1/2 pounds) with flour, salt and pepper, and browning it in olive oil. Then remove it from the pan.

Add the onions and sauté them in the oil that remains in the pan. They’ll add a sweetness and richness to the dish. While the onions were cooking, I soaked the porcini in water.

The onions reduced considerably and turned a golden color. Those browned bits on the bottom of the pan will add lots of flavor too, once the liquid is poured in and everything has a chance to blend together.

Place the browned meat back into the pan and add the liquids, plus the seasonings — bay leaf, herbs de Provence, salt and pepper.

Place a lid on the pot and put it in a preheated 350 degree oven. Let it cook for two hours, checking it every once in a while.

Remove the meat from the liquid. If you have time to let it cool, let it sit for a half hour. It’s not necessary, but it makes it easier to slice. 

If you want, you can place the platter in the microwave to reheat it, then add the hot porcini and onion sauce to ensure it’s piping hot when served.Sprinkle with some minced parsley and serve more sauce on the side.

We drank the wine with our pot roast dinner, accompanied by sweet and sour cabbage, mashed potatoes and carrots. I think we did the 1990 vintage justice. Now onto the 2013!

Click here to connect with me on Instagram and find out what Ciao Chow Linda is up to in the kitchen (and other places too.)

Pot Roast with porcini mushrooms and onions
Author: Ciao Chow Linda
  • 1 2 1/2-3 pound chuck roast, dusted with flour, salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 1/2 large onions, sliced (about 3 cups sliced onions)
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms, rehydrated in 1 1/2 cups water for about 1/2 hour
  • 2 cups beef broth
  • 1 cup red wine
  • a few fresh bay leaves (use dried if fresh unavailable)
  • 1 teaspoon herbs de Provence
  • salt, pepper
  1. In a heavy Dutch oven, add the olive oil and bring to a medium to high heat.
  2. Dust some flour, salt and pepper on all sides of the chuck roast, shaking off any excess.
  3. Place the meat into the pan with the olive oil and brown all around.
  4. Remove the meat to a platter.
  5. Turn the heat lower and add the sliced onions, cooking them until they caramelize.
  6. Add the crushed garlic and cook for a minute or two, then return the meat to the pan.
  7. Add the red wine, beef broth, the mushrooms and the liquid from the mushrooms.
  8. Add the bay leaves, herbs de Provence, salt and pepper.
  9. Place a lid on the pan, then place it on the middle rack of a 350 degree preheated oven for two hours, checking every once in a while to make sure the meat is immersed in liquid.
  10. After removing the pan from the oven, gently take the meat out of the pan and onto a platter.
  11. This step is not necessary, but it makes for easier slicing, especially if the meat has rested at least a half hour.
  12. Reheat the sauce to make sure it’s piping hot, then pour some of the porcinis and sauce over the meat and serve the rest of the sauce on the side.
  13. Sprinkle with a little minced parsley for garnish.


Thursday, January 9, 2020

Pork Chops in Lemon Caper Sauce and Oven-Baked Polenta

While the calendar says the days are getting shorter, it’s still a long way until warm weather and eating dinner on the patio. With several months ahead of us when the threat of snow is in the air (and on the ground), comfort food sometimes is just the right thing. This dish, which I found in the New York Times, but is originally from Toni Tipton-Martin’s  “Jubilee: Recipes From Two Centuries of African American Cooking,” fits the bill perfectly for one of those stay-in types of days when the fire is roaring and that bottle of pinot noir pleads to be opened.

I accompanied it with polenta to sop up all that sauce (by the way, the recipe calls for four pork chops but I cooked just two and made the full sauce recipe). I’ve made polenta many times, both the old-fashioned way, stirring for 45 minutes and in the slow cooker. One of my cousins in Italy told me she makes it in the oven, where it practically requires no tending, so I thought I’d give it a try. It really works! And it was soft and creamy, just as I like it.

Broccoli Romano  — one of my favorite vegetables — was available in my supermarket, so I served that alongside the meat and polenta. I’m getting hungry again just looking at the pictures. I hope you give this a try.

Click here to connect with me on Instagram and find out what Ciao Chow Linda is up to in the kitchen (and other places too.)

Pork Chops in Lemon Caper Sauce and Oven-Baked Polenta
Author: Ciao Chow Linda
  • 4 bone-in pork chops (about 8 ounces each)
  • Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
  • ½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 very small shallot, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced (about 1 teaspoon)
  • 2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 ½ cups chicken stock, homemade or low-sodium, if store-bought
  • 2 tablespoons drained capers
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley, plus more for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated lemon zest, plus 2 tablespoons juice
  • Hot sauce (optional)
  • 1 1/4 cups cornmeal (I use Anson Mills)
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  1. Dry the chops with paper towels, and season aggressively with salt, pepper and the thyme. Swirl the olive oil into a large skillet, and heat over medium until the oil begins to shimmer. Add chops, and cook until well browned on each side and cooked through, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer chops to a plate, and cover to keep warm.
  2. Drain the fat from the skillet, then melt 2 tablespoons of butter in it over medium heat until sizzling. Add the shallot and garlic, and sauté until the aromatics soften, reducing the heat if necessary, about 1 minute. Sprinkle in the flour, and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Whisk in the wine and chicken stock, raise heat to high and bring the liquid to a boil, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Reduce heat to medium-high and cook, uncovered, until the liquid is reduced by half, 7 to 10 minutes.
  3. Stir in the capers, parsley, lemon zest and juice and hot sauce to taste (if you’re using it), and simmer for 1 to 2 minutes. Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter until it’s melted and the sauce looks smooth. Nestle the pork chops into the sauce, and allow them to warm up for a couple of minutes, then serve, pouring sauce over each pork chop to taste. Garnish with more fresh parsley.
  5. Add the cornmeal, water and milk and salt to a saucepan and whisk together. Place in a 350 degree oven uncovered, for one hour, stirring once every twenty minutes. If the polenta isn’t thick enough after one hour, leave it in for another twenty minutes and test again. Remove from oven, add the butter and parmesan cheese and serve.