Thursday, December 5, 2013

Small Expectations





























In this season of excess, it may be surprising, but the best things often appear in the smallest of packages.  And no, I'm not talking diamonds. 

Perhaps you haven't heard yet, but did you know that small is the new big or that less is the new more?  Not yet, but you will.

And if this trend really begins catching on in a big way (as it will, most likely, after the holidays, of course), I guess I'll be hearing, “Hey, super small me!" at the fast food takeout window, or, "I’d only like one," at the all-you-can-eat seafood buffet.

So, condensed down to its smallest, bite-sized morsel, what’s all this add up to?  Well, if you want more, just expect less!

Hmmm, I guess that came out kind of funny, but you do get my drift.  Don’t you?  Which brings us right around to our BIG topic about the smallest of things.

First of all, never mistake size for impression.  Some things in small packages, can be deceptively powerful, like beans in chili, for example.  But moving northward, away from the gaseous regions, let's talk about peppers, as in chili peppers.  Did you know that the smaller the pepper, the bigger the heat?  And if you don’t believe me, just try biting into a couple of Scotch Bonnet peppers or tiny Habaneros after you call the paramedics.  Those little dudes can pack a punch that would make Mohammed Ali proud.  So, size does matter.  But, just not in the way you’d think.

Or, let’s take bananas.  They come in several sizes and a myriad of colors, too.  Just like shoes.  There are Cavendish bananas (which are the ones you most often encounter in the grocery store), the more square and stumpy burro bananas and cute, little 3-inch bananas called – what else?  Baby bananas.

And just to mix it up a bit, there are bananas out there you'd never recognize.  Wild bananas that look like regular party animals, with fuzzy bubblegum pink skins or green and white striped peels with flesh the color of orange sherbet.  I'm even told there’s a banana that when cooked, tastes like strawberries.  Now that's a cross-dresser.  But you’d have to visit New Guinea, Malaysia or the Philippines if you wanted to take a peek and a nibble.

But getting back to the ones we're more likely to find, it's the smallest bananas (called baby bananas, bananitos, Ladyfinger or finger bananas) that are the most sweet of all.  So, in the banana world, it seems that small isn't about heat; it’s instead about sweet.

But although small and cute, they do have one major setback.  For like most small and cute things, they're also thin-skinned and easily bruised.  So, be nice, because, when they get upset, they’re a lot less appealing (sorry, I somehow had to work that in).

However, it's worth putting up with because their naturally sweet and rich taste makes them a great dessert addition, as you can imagine.  So imagine this, for starters.  Sweet baby bananas dressed up in their holiday finest.  Who needs dancing sugarplums, when we've got a melted butter sauce with fresh ginger, brown sugar and candied pecans.



GINGERED PECAN BABY BANANAS

Serves 3 – 4

6 baby bananas
2 tablespoons salted butter
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon fresh ginger (peeled, finely chopped)
1 teaspoon canola oil
10 candied pecans

Peel the bananas, then halve them lengthwise.  Set aside. 

Heat ½ teaspoon of the canola oil in a large, heavy skillet set over medium high heat.
When oil is hot (surface ripples), add half of the bananas.
Cook until well colored, then turn & cook other side.  Transfer to serving platter.
Repeat process with remaining bananas, transferring them to the platter when done.

Lower heat to medium and add the butter.
When butter is melting and beginning to foam, add the brown sugar.
Stir for about 15 seconds, then add the ginger and stir for another 30 seconds until fragrant.
Add the candied pecans, stirring to coat them well, before pouring the butter mixture over the bananas.  Serve immediately.

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