A new way to utilize your grill: for dessert with salted maple grilled bananas, served up on thin ginger cookies with just the slightest bit of chocolate for a new take on the traditional s’more. Plus, an evening with fellow foodies at Caribbean restaurant Caribe in St. Paul for Big Banana Night.
I have to admit, my head is somewhere else this Monday morning. It’s hot and humid. I’m dwelling on it because I have a load of things to do inside my non-air-conditioned house when I’d rather be outside or hiding in an air-conditioned room. Hot, sticky, icky.
The thing is, I love the heat. Heat is good for gardens that are sad and behind for the first week in June thanks to a late start due to snow in May…ahem. But I don’t love the combination of stale, humid air in my house when mixed with the heat. The sort of air that just hangs there waiting for you to take a nice big gulp. Things like baking have taken a back seat and are on hold until it cools down later this week when we experience a 30-degree swing in temperatures. Hey-ho. Expect biscuits.
While baking is on back-order, things like grilled desserts are perfect for the heat, which is exactly what we have today. Grilled. Bananas.
The Story: Some reps for DOLE asked if I was interested in hosting a blogger event with 10 or so social media types. Knowing the wonder that is the MN Food Blogger community, I said not unless there were 40 media types, and Big Banana Night was born.
DOLE was looking to offer up bananas in other courses, outside of your daily breakfast routine. So as I went about finding restaurants in the Twin Cities that had bananas on their menu in non-breakfast areas – After Dark, actually – Ole set about bastardizing one of DOLE’s grilled banana recipes. (That’s how we work together around here. Teamwork is very important.)
The original recipe was to grill bananas, scoop onto graham crackers and serve with chocolate for a s’more where the banana replaces the marshmallow. You can do that, if you wish, or you can add a bit of salted maple sauce to caramelize around the banana and serve it up on ginger cookies instead of grahams. There is an obvious answer here.
Start by peeling a knob of ginger and grating it into a bit of maple syrup. Tip: If you leave the peeled portion on the full knob, it makes an excellent handle while you’re grating the ginger, thus preventing finger scrapes and injury.
In addition to the ginger, we’re going to add a bit of sugar (maple sugar, if you have it, or the darkest brown you can find) and salt to the syrup. Stir to combine and toss in a few banana chunks.
Skewer the bananas and toss them up on the grill. You could also use longer skewers and do several banana pieces at once. Turn the bananas 1/3-turn three times until grill marks form and the syrup starts to caramelize.
So, the reason for the grilled banana recipe, however, was that in the process of identifying banana-happy restaurants, I also had to choose one to host the event at. This is where Caribe came in. They’re a “small, chef-driven” restaurant in St. Paul serving up Caribbean flavors here in the Midwest. Already active in social media, I asked Steph for her opinion, and we knew they’d be the perfect fit to host a group of rowdy MN Food Bloggers. Meet Heidi and Tony Panelli and front of the house manager, Sharone.
Banana cocktails were planned. Tables were set. Invites were sent. And people showed up.
Grilled banana demonstrations and banana drinks started off the night in front of Caribe.
Kate from Kate in the Kitchen, Brenda from A Farm Girl’s Dabbles, Amanda from i am baker, Crystal from Cafe Cyan and Joy from City Pages (in the background!).
Adam Shulte of Ale Jail with Dania from Twin Cities Foodie (Lee of Simple, Good and Tasty to the left), Keane of Food Stoned and Matt from Thyme in Our Kitchen.
Tony cooked, Sharone served and Heidi greeted people. We ate and drank.
And ate and drank some more. (Ole proclaimed the lamb some of the best he’s had.)
A big thank you goes out to DOLE for sponsoring the event, Caribe for being so willing to close your doors and invite 40 of us in for a four-course dinner and to Ole for manning the grill, as usual. Another thank you to everyone who attended Big Banana Night.
Back to those bananas, well, they get dipped in chocolate and served up on ginger cookies, of course. They’re perfect for a backyard barbecue, especially when you’re looking to stay out of the kitchen and closer to the pool.
NEWS: The winner of the Bush’s Beans Grillin’ Kit is Katie S.! Thank you to everyone who entered, and thank you to Bush’s for sponsoring the giveaway!
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely grated
1 pinch of sea salt
3 bananas (just ripe with slightly green stems)
4 ounces dark chocolate (about 60% cocoa), melted
12 thin ginger cookies
Light a grill and heat to around 500° F. Mix together brown sugar, syrup, ginger and salt into a thick paste. Peel and slice each banana into four equal lengths and pierce each section with a bamboo skewer. Coat bananas with the mixture.
Brush clean and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Lay banana pieces onto the grill and allow the sugar mixture to caramelize for about two minutes, then rotate 1/3 of the way around and continue grilling for another two minutes. Rotate 1/3 turn more and grill for a final two minutes. Remove, dip in dark chocolate and set on a thin ginger cookie. Let cool for a minute or two before serving.
Makes 12 servings.