bbest of the best banana bread

Of all the banana bread recipes I’ve tested, tried, tweaked, tried again, and finally posted, THIS banana bread recipe is the best of the best because it’s the simplest.

Sure, there are recipes that turn out a banana bread that’s as rich and tender as cake. Of course there are recipes for banana bread that are filled with chocolate chunks or other fruit or, god forbid, nuts. And obviously, there are very specific banana bread recipes for whatever diet lifestyle you’re on, whether that’s keto, paleo, vegan.

But those luxuries are not really what we need right now.

What we need whilst in quarantine during a global pandemic, is a banana bread that we can throw together in a bowl when we have neither the mental energy to follow overly specific measurements like “1¾ cup + 2 tablespoons flour” (seriously?), nor special, non-pantry-staple ingredients like sour cream, Greek yogurt, buttermilk, not even regular old milk because what single, childless woman keeps fresh milk in the fridge? 

This is THE banana bread recipe for the times, with suggestions for ingredient substitutions and additions.

best of the best banana bread

BEST of the BEST BANANA BREAD [recipe]

makes 1 loaf, which serves 1 to 10, depending on how you’re quaratined

INGREDIENTS

5 very ripe bananas + (optional) 1 ripe banana for topping
½ cup neutral oil (or melted butter)
2 large eggs
¾ cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1¾ cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ cup dark chocolate chips or chunks (optional)
2 tablespoons coarse raw sugar for topping (optional)

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray 8½ x 4½-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray, then line the bottom and sides of pan with parchment paper. This will make it easier to remove the baked loaf from the pan for cooling.

In a medium-sized bowl, mash bananas with a fork until smooth. Whisk in oil, eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla.

In a separate bowl, whisk all-purpose flour, baking soda, Kosher salt, and cinnamon together.

Pour banana mixture into the flour mixture and stir until just combined. If you’re adding chocolate chips or chunks, fold them into the batter.

Scrape batter into prepared pan. Slice optional 6th banana diagonally into ¼-inch-thick slices. Arrange banana slices on top on either side of loaf. If you’re using the sugar topping, sprinkle over top of loaf and sliced bananas.

Bake banana bread until toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean. Baking time can vary anywhere from 55 to 75 minutes depending on your oven; mine took 65 minutes.

Cool bread in pan on wire rack 15 minutes, then remove loaf from pan and continue to cool on wire rack.

Bread, tightly wrapped in plastic will keep for a few days. You can also slice the loaf and freeze.

ripe bananas for banana bread

INGREDIENT RESOURCES and SUBSTITUTIONS

  • Bananas. Use bananas that are so ripe, they are teetering on the edge of fermenting in their blackened peels into wine. This recipe calls for five bananas, most recipes call for three. If you only have three, make the banana bread anyway, just up the sugar by a ¼ cup to make up for the sweetness of the bananas.
  • Oil. I use olive oil, which has a distinctive scent, so use olive oil if you like that. This is the every day olive oil brand I use. You can literally use ANY oil for this bread, with the understanding that the bread will smell and taste like that oil. Neutral oils like canola and grapeseed oils are standard. You can use avocado oil, which is more neutral than some other oils, but also pretty expensive, and melted coconut oil. Softened/melted butter is a fantastic choice if you have it, but in my kitchen, butter is limited and I prefer to save it for recipes that require the very specific properties of butter, e.g. chocolate chip cookies
  • Brown Sugar. If you don’t have brown sugar, use white granulated sugar. You can also use honey or maple syrup. Honey is sweeter than regular sugar, so decrease the amount by about ¼ cup (4 tablespoons), and you might want to increase the amount of flour by the same amount to account for the liquid. Maple syrup is about as sweet as sugar, so substitute one-for-one with sugar here. Because it is also a liquid, just add about 2 tablespoons of extra flour to balance the added liquid. The texture of the banana bread will be slightly different with either of these substitutions and of course, will have a fragrance of either honey or maple syrup, which is definitely a very good thing.
  • Vanilla Extract. You can’t really substitute the flavor of vanilla, but you can substitute the vibe with rum or brandy, or even maple syrup. You can also sub in or even add up to a teaspoon of ground cinnamon. You didn’t know vanilla is a vibe? Now you do.
  • Flour. Banana bread recipes are generally pretty forgiving so you can use any flour you have, including gluten-free flour mixes, other grain flours like oat flour, bean and nut flours, with the understanding that the texture of the bread can (and will) be very different. If you have some regular wheat flour and are just trying to conserve it, use some of it with the alternative flours to “help” them. The only thing I’d stay away from is any kind of pre-made mix like pancake mix, which has other ingredients like sugar, leavers, and oils, which will be hard to account for in the rest of the Banana Bread recipe.
  • Baking Powder/Baking Soda. This is a substitution that you have to think about because the two ingredients are not completely interchangeable without changes to other ingredients in the Banana Bread recipe. If you have baking soda, proceed as directed. If you only have baking powder, use 2 teaspoons of baking powder.

ADDITIONAL NOTES and RESOURCES

  • Other Spices. If you like the flavor of ginger and/or nutmeg and already have them, add up to 1 teaspoon of ground ginger and/or 1/8 teaspoon of ground nutmeg with the dry (flour) ingredients. Just know that adding ginger and nutmeg start to take the banana bread toward holiday pumpkin spice bread territory.
  • Loaf Pan. I use an 8½ x 4½-inch loaf pan, which is just ever so slightly smaller than the oft-called-for 9×5-inch loaf pan. I like the smaller size because the banana bread baked up taller. If you use a larger loaf pan, your banana bread will just be a little shorter, and will probably require less baking time, so start checking on the bread for done-ness on the earlier side, 50 minutes. If you don’t have a loaf pan, you can bake this in muffin cups. You will have more batter than a 12-cup muffin pan, so just bake it twice, and make sure to check for done-ness at 25 minutes!

best of the best banana bread, slice

More Bananas

green goddess grilled cheese sandwich
Supposedly, Green Goddess, an invention of San Francisco’s Palace Hotel in the 1930s, is a salad dressing.

The reality is, Green Goddess is a state of mind.

After (re)discovering Green Goddess several years ago, we’ve been obsessed with the bright, fresh combination of green herbs, garlic, and lemon that make up the dressing, and have been inspired to add it to just about everything, to the point that we even took Green Goddess and herbs and rolled them up in rice paper to make Summer Rolls. Spring rolls. Grain bowls. Zucchini noodle pasta.

Sandwiches.

Specifically, a grilled cheese sandwich.

We made a fresh herb pesto with the standard Green Goddess herbs, plus a sneaky handful of kale, and now keep this Green Goddess Pesto as a staple in our refrigerator. We spread the pesto onto slices of La Brea Bakery‘s Whole Grain Gluten-free Bread, added Monterey Jack cheese, feta cheese for some tang, baby spinach for added greens, and of course, this wouldn’t be The Delicious Life if there weren’t avocado.

Make this Green Goddess Grilled Cheese. Hell, make any grilled cheese because April is National Grilled Cheese Month, so we have almost two more weeks to celebrate.

And if you happen to live in Los Angeles, go to the La Brea Bakery Café on Thursday nights during the month of April for their world-reknown weekly Grilled Cheese Nights. I went last week; check out my mini-review for deets.

greengoddessgrilledcheese_pan
green goddess grilled cheese sandwich

Green Goddess Grilled Cheese Sandwich {recipe}

We have been making versions of Green Goddess Grilled Cheese Sandwiches for years now, and have made them on many different types of bread — everything from basic white sandwich bread to super whole grain-y, seed-y rustic loaves.

This go ’round, we used La Brea Bakery’s Multi-Grain Gluten-free Sandwich Bread, not because we can’t eat gluten, but because the bread makes a pretty great grilled cheese sandwich.

For resources and recipe notes, see list at bottom of this recipe.

Ingredients

For each sandwich:

2 slices bread
2-3 tablespoons Green Goddess Herb Pesto {recipe}
½ cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
2 tablespoons feta cheese, crumbled
handful fresh baby spinach
¼ avocado, sliced
salt and pepper
grapeseed oil, or other neutral oil for cooking
butter, if you’re so inclined

Directions

For each sandwich:

Spread about 1 tablespoon of Green Goddess Herb Pesto onto each slice of bread. The pesto is strong, so if you’re sensitive to garlic or the slightly bitter taste of fresh kale, go light on the pesto.

On one slice of bread, add ¼ cup of shredded Monterey Jack cheese, baby spinach, sliced avocado, crumbled feta cheese, dashes of salt and pepper, the remaining ¼ cup of shredded Monterey Jack cheese, then top it with second slice of bread. Press together gently.

Heat 1 tablespoon grapeseed oil  in a frying pan over medium low heat. If you want to use butter, add it to the oil and let it melt.

Add the sandwich to the oil and cook until bread is golden brown, about three minutes. Press down on the sandwich lightly, then flip the sandwich over and cook until second side is golden brown, another three minutes.

Remove Grilled Cheese Sandwich to plate, let cool, cut into halves, and serve. Hot sauce and little pickled things like onions, cherry peppers, or other hot peppers alongside the sandwich are great!

RECIPE RESOURCES and NOTES

  • La Brea Bakery bread is available in most major supermarkets and even Costco!
  • Monterey Jack cheese is by Tillamook, available in regular grocery stores
  • feta cheese from Bristol Farms
  • avocados from JJ’s Lone Daughter Ranch, available at Santa Monica and Hollywood Farmers’ Markets
  • any and all other produce, organic, from local farmers’ markets or Whole Foods Market

green goddess grilled cheese sandwich
This post is sponsored by our friends at La Brea Bakery.

Jacques Torres Three Day NY Times Chocolate Chip CookiesThere is nothing particularly special about the ingredients in this Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe. All chocolate chip cookies are some ratio of flour, brown and/or white sugar, butter, eggs, and chocolate. However, what sets this chocolate chip cookie apart, what makes this chocolate chip cookie the BEST, is “the rest,” as in allowing the cookie dough to rest in the refrigerator for up to three full days before baking. { click for THREE-DAY CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES recipe }

coq au vin rose and classic roast chicken

Coq au Vin Rose Recipe first, Notes and Shopping Resources follow.

COQ AU VIN ROSÉ [recipe]

serves 4

INGREDIENTS
4 lbs bone-in, skin-on whole chicken parts or 8 thighs
2 teaspoons salt
olive oil for cooking
1 cup red onions, roughly chopped
3 large garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 sprig fresh thyme
3 stems fresh parsley
2 cups dry rosé wine
¼ cup Cognac or other brandy
1 cup + 1 cup extra chicken or rich vegetable stock
2 large pink carrots peeled and cut into 2-inch pieces
bunch of pink or red radishes, trimmed and cut into halves
red pearl onions, trimmed and peeled
salt and pepper to taste
chopped fresh parsley and thyme leaves for garnish

DIRECTIONS

Rinse chicken to remove any rogue bits of bone or giblets. Dry well with paper towels, and season all sides of each piece with salt.

Heat about 2 tablespoons of oil in a large Dutch oven (or a large pan with at least 2-3-inch high sides) over medium-high heat. Brown chicken skin side down first for 7-8 minutes until really golden brown, then turn over and brown for 3 more minutes. Remove chicken to a plate (or the overturned pot lid).

Drain off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat/oil. Turn down heat to medium and add onions, and garlic to pot. Stir until garlic and onions are translucent and anchovies have completely broken down.

Turn down to heat to low and add thyme, parsley, rosé wine and 1 cup of stock to the pot. Stir to loosen brown bits from bottom of pot. Turn up heat and bring braising liquid to a boil.

Return chicken back to pot, skin side up, and pour in any juices that have wept out of the chicken and onto the plate. Add carrots, radishes, and pearl onions. Add additional stock to make sure braising liquid is at least 3/4 up side of chicken if needed. Reduce heat to low, cover pot, and simmer 30 minutes, or until vegetables are tender and chicken is cooked through (thigh temperature is 165).

Remove chicken to serving plate with high sides. Simmer braising liquid with vegetables until reduced by about 1/3, about 10 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Ladle vegetables and sauce over chicken. Garnish with chopped fresh herbs.

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two days, or freeze!

classic roast chicken and Coq au Vin Rose

NOTES and RESOURCES

CHICKEN. Chicken thighs have the most flavor, but a whole chicken cut into eight to ten parts is the best value. If you buy a whole chicken, ask the butcher to cut it for you, and to save the backbone and giblets for stock and other delicious things later.

OIL. I use an affordable olive oil for every day cooking by California Olive Ranch. Because this recipe doesn’t require very high heat cooking, olive oil is fine, but if you want to use a more neutral oil, try grapeseed oil.

ROSÉ WINE. Scribe Winery makes my current favorite rose of all time, but it is a little too expensive and a lot of effort to acquire (direct from winery, rarely at very small niche wine retail stores) to not drink straight. I generally buy whatever “good” $15 to $20 bottle of California rosé is available at the grocery store when I’m buying the ingredients for the dish.

COGNAC. Cognac is a brandy from a specific region of France called, wait for it, Cognac. I have Rémy Martin in my bar so I use it, but if you don’t already have any kind of brandy, and don’t want to buy an entire bottle that you may not drink later, skip it and add the equivalent in additional rosé/wine.

VEGETABLES. I specified the color of pink carrots, red radishes, and red pearl onions because they LOOK pretty in the dish because it’s Coq au Vin Rosé, but you can technically use any color. And any vegetable for that matter. The traditional Coq au Vin made with red wine has onions and mushrooms.

SERVE WITH. If you’re making Coq au Vin Rosé for a small gathering, add a modified version of a Caesar salad with little gem lettuces (they look like tiny Romaine lettuces) and Anchovy Vinaigrette, as well thick slices of toasted crusty bread to soak up the rosé sauce. Like I said, my favorite rosé is from Scribe Winery and obviously pairs with a rosé-based dish. Your favorite white wine, whatever it is, will be great. It’s wine for God’s sake.

ultimate game day snack board

How to Put Together the Ultimate Game Day Board first, list of shopping resources/stores and Additional Tips and Tricks after. [click to continue…]

fry board with dips

How-to make a Fry Board first, followed by Shopping Resources and Additional Tips. My rambling thoughts and opinions that no one asked me about Fry Boards, this year’s “hot new trends,” social media virality, and whether a TOT is a FRY at the very end.

How to Put Together a French Fry Board

What You Need:

3-5 bags of bags of frozen french fries in different shapes (regular shoestring, curly, crinkle-cut, waffle-cut, wedges, etc)
1/3 cup ketchup
1/3 cup sriracha aioli [recipe]
1/3 chile con queso
1/3 cup honey or other mustard
1/3 cup whipped guacamole [recipe]
1/3 cup yogurt ranch [recipe]

Directions:
Prepare frozen french fries according to package instructions. Allot about 1 cup of french fries per person, and make sure to include a variety of french fry shapes.

You may not need to cook all of the french fries, though it’s pretty likely that you will need to cook the french fries on multiple baking sheets on more than one oven rack.

While the french fries are baking, prepare the dips. Put each dip in a small bowl or ramekin, then place on the serving board, tray, or baking sheet. I like to arrange them in a row down the center of the board in rainbow order, but that’s just me and my weird OCCD (obsessive color coordination disorder). You do you. If your sauce placement is totally random though, I don’t want to know about it.

When the french fries are cooked, remove them from the oven. Using tongs because the french fries are hot, immediately place them on the serving board around the sauces and dips.

Serve immediately.

frozen fries on baking sheet

SHOPPING/INGREDIENT RESOURCES

  • FROZEN FRENCH FRIES. I used Alexia frozen french fries, organic when available, for the boards in this post. I have seen other national and store brands in grocery stores, but have not tried any of them. Alexia’s frozen french fries cook from frozen between 18-24 minutes depending on which kind/shape.
  • FRENCH FRY TYPES. Choose anywhere from 3-5 different types of french fries, including a basic straight shoestring french fry. If you only serve one type, it’s not a board, it’s “just fries.” If you choose too many different types, you 1) may not have enough space on your board and 2) overwhelm people with choices. My favorite fries are the types featured on the Fries Board in the photo. I am still undecided about whether a tater tot is actually a french fry and can be included on the board.
  • KETCHUP. The ketchup on the regular fry board is an organic, unsweetened ketchup with additional various vegetable purees added. I used it on this board because I had it, but I don’t actually eat ketchup, so use ANY ketchup you like for your board. On the sweet potato fry board, it is everyone’s favorite ketchup.
  • SRIRACHA AIOLI. I make the recipe below for an aioli that has no egg, then stir in a very generous amount of sriracha. You can also stir sriracha or any hot sauce to your taste into 1/4 to 1/3 cup of regular mayonnaise.
  • CHILE CON QUESO. I used a jar of store-bought Chile Con Queso; I’m not sure I can name names so I’ll just say the brand name rhymes with Most Tito’s. Does that stuff have real cheese? Who knows, but it is delicious and every fancy, homemade, from scratch or otherwise queso I have had tastes like salty uncooked flour. 
  • HONEY MUSTARD. Just buy your favorite in a bottle or jar. Why waste your time.
  • WHIPPED GUACAMOLE. This is a guacamole that has no other “chunky” ingredients especially tomatoes which should NEVER be in ANY guacamole EVER anyway, and is whipped until smooth and airy so that it’s easily dippable for french fries. See the recipe below. You can use any guacamole, but if you know guacamole, you know that most fries will not stand up to thick, chunky guacamole with other heavy ingredients.
  • YOGURT RANCH. Without ranch, there are no fries. This version is made with all yogurt rather than mayonnaise and sour cream for the obvious reason that mayonnaise is absolute trash. For a Fry Board, especially one comprised of store-bought fries, keep it simple and use any and all dips from a bottle or jar you buy in the store, EXCEPT RANCH. Never use bottled ranch. Just never.
fry board with sweet potato fries

ADDITIONAL TIPS

  • BOARD. You can use any board, platter, or tray that is large enough to hold the french fries and dips together, and is suitable for hot foods. For both the regular and sweet potato french fries boards in this post, I used a 15-inch x 20-inch Boos cutting board, which is slightly larger than a 13-inchx18-inch half sheet pan. 
  • SERVING HOT. The best way to keep french fries hot for the longest time is to serve the fries on one of the hot metal baking sheet that you used for cooking them in the oven. The obvious problem here is I don’t know maybe the hot metal baking sheet straight out of the oven that could sear the hand, wrist or forearm of any person who touches it. Position a kitchen towel or hot pads under the baking sheet in a way that people can see them, a signal that it’s hot, and obviously warn your guests that the tray is hot. You can also just make sure you have enough guests who will eat all the french fries while they’re still hot. This is not a “grazing” board that people pick at over the course of a few hours, it’s an “eat it while it’s hot” french fry board.
fry board with french fries

IDEAS for DIPS and SAUCES

These are all the suggestions from instagram and twitter for dips and sauces to go with french fries on a FRY BOARD. I will leave it to you to decide which ones you want to include. If I missed one, let me know in the comments or DM me on instagram:

  • BBQ sauce
  • blue cheese dressing, which is controversial on its own, but for fries? I can’t believe I have to put this so high on this list just because it’s alphabetical
  • chipotle mayo
  • cinnamon sugar butter
  • Dublin dip – I don’t know what this is and when I googled it one of the results was from Urban Dictionary so now I really don’t think I want to even know.
  • feta dip
  • fondue
  • fry sauce – 1:1 combo of ketchup and mayo. no comment.
  • garlic toum
  • ginger apricot jam, I don’t know about this
  • gravy. like on poutine
  • green goddess
  • horsey sauce from Arby’s lol
  • hot honey
  • hot mustard
  • hummus
  • In n Out spread, which according to research, looks like Thousand Island dressing, which is essentially a combination of ketchup and mayo
  • jalapeño sauce from Trader Joe’s
  • malt vinegar
  • marinara
  • mayonnaise WHO DOES THIS
  • milkshake
  • special sauce from McDonald’s or Sir Kensington’s
  • sriracha ketchup
  • sweet and sour
  • tartar sauce, and someone specified Skippers
  • tzatziki

OTHER TYPES of FRIES

If it’s not made of potatoes, it’s not french fries. I firmly believe this statement, with the exception of sweet potatoes, which are not potatoes, but have so invaded the collective culinary consciousness that I have broken down. This all being said, there are circumstances in which you might want to make a Fries Board with “fries” made from other vegetables like cassava and yucca. Go ahead.

I have also seen fries made of asparagus, avocado, green beans, and mushrooms, which are all dipped in some sort of batter or breading for the crunch effect, but to me, these are tempura, not fries, but I am here to spread the gospel of crunchy vegetables dipped in salty deliciousness so do whatever you have to do to make that happen.

Here are some examples of alternative vegetable fries and how to make them:

  • ASPARAGUS fries – Dip spears in ultra light rice flour tempura batter and fry
  • AVOCADO fries – Cut not-quite-ripe avocado into long wedges, coat with breadcrumbs, and “oven fry,” as avocado holds up better on a baking sheet than rollicking around in a pot of frying oil
  • GREEN BEAN fries – Like asparagus, dip in light batter, and deep fry
  • MUSHROOM fries – Slice portobello mushrooms caps into long “fries,” dip in light batter and fry. Portobello mushroom caps also work with the “breadcrumb” coating too.
  • TOFU fries – Slice extra firm tofu into long strips. Press between layers of paper towels to drain out as much water as possible. Lightly coat in corn starch or flour (you probably don’t need an egg wash). Fry.

FRY BOARDS in the NEWS

  • New Idea in Food “Forget cheese boards ‘Fries boards’ are the hot new entertaining craze of 2020!” Jan 7, 2020
  • DailyMail “Grazing platters loaded with every type of fries are the hottest food trend of 2020” Jan 8, 2020
  • Good Morning America “What’s better than a cheese board? Enter the French Fry Board” Jan 17, 2020
  • Washington Post “Cheese plates conquered Instagram, and now we’re putting pancakes, french fries and everything else on boards” Feb 25, 2020

crispy braised chicken thighs with beans and greens
You can make this dish either starting with dried beans and slow cooking them first in the pot then adding the browned chicken after to finish cooking, or with canned/cooked beans that you add to the end of braising the chicken. Most (week)nights, the canned bean version cooks MUCH faster, but when you have the time and, obviously, the foresight to plan to soak beans the night before, etc, the dried bean version FEELS much better. Once you’ve done both, you’ll understand the difference. [click to continue…]