Thursday, March 3, 2011

Peanut Butter Soup and Banana Bread

So after three weeks, I'm finally back. I could try to give you some sort of long-winded, trite explanation, but I'm pretty sure I can just boil it down to being lazy. My cooking has suffered slightly, but rest assured, I have maintained my goal of trying one recipe each week from my grandmother's cookbooks. Sort of.

I kind of wimped out the week after making crepes, so I did two last week to make up for it. I still have to do one this week, hopefully today if not tomorrow.

But on to the main dish, I say. Last week I made two recipes from the Pomeranian cookbook (and for those interested, here is more information on Pomerania). My mother's side is very German/Pommern and I believe this cookbook is our very extended family's collection of Pommern recipes. My grandpa, being the semi-pro genealogist/historian that he is, could probably give me a very detailed explanation of where this cookbook came from and who all these people in it are and more than three generations worth of information on Pomerania, but I'm behind on my blog so I'm going to skip all that today.

The two recipes I chose were Wallace H.'s for Peanut Butter Soup and Beverly D.'s for Banana Bread. Now, I know what you're thinking: Neither bananas nor peanuts are grown in are these considered "Pommern" recipes?! I should probably clarify then that these are, in all likelihood, Pommern-American recipes, but they seemed pretty wholesome overall, so I tried them anyway.

I chose the peanut butter soup one because, well, it sounded awful. I couldn't believe someone would make something so ridiculous sounding as peanut butter soup and actually eat it. And then I thought, well, if it sounds so bad, it's probably actually surprisingly good or no one would try it. So I did try it. Here is the recipe below:

1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup diced onion
1 large rib of celery, diced
1 1/2 T. flour
4 cups chicken stock or broth, hot
4 oz. creamy peanut butter (about 1/2 cup)
1/2 t. salt or to taste
1 1/2 t. lemon juice

In 4 quart saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Add onion and celery. Saute till limp, 3-5 minutes. Stir in flour all at once. Cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Gradually whisk hot chicken stock, bring to boil, then reduce to simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat. Strain soup to remove vegetables. Stir peanut butter, salt, and lemon juice into strained liquid. Return to saucepan to reheat to serving temperature. Makes about 6 servings.

I did end up sauteing the onion and celery very well done, but since I was straining them out later, I wasn't too concerned and figured the burnt-ness might add some extra flavor. I used organic peanut butter instead of traditional to make it a little healthier, and I don't know if it was that or the fact that it was peanut butter that made it kind of hard to fully stir it into the soup, but I think with more heat it would've been a little better mixed.

Bottom line though, it was interesting. I didn't hate it, but I didn't really love it. I enjoyed the nutty flavor from it that you don't really taste in soup, but because it was essentially broth, there really wasn't much to it and I didn't find it very satisfying. I considered adding things to make it more filling, but I didn't have any great ideas about what would taste good in a nutty soup like this. If anyone else has an idea, I'd be willing to retry the recipe. Otherwise, I think once was enough for me.

The banana bread recipe was chosen because, let's face it, who doesn't love banana bread? I don't think I've ever made it, but I know a lot of people do it all the time and so it's something I've always wanted to make. Plus, this recipe doesn't call for nuts and I hate nuts in my baked goods. There's just something about having crunchy bits in my soft and moist breads and cakes and cookies that just ruins it for me, so to have a recipe on hand that excludes them seemed perfect. Here is Bev's take on banana bread:

1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
2 large or 3 small bananas
3 T. milk or cream
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups flour
1/2 t. baking powder
1 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt

Mash the bananas. Mix in the order mentioned. Bake in a moderate oven, 350 degrees, for 45 minutes. More milk may be added if the batter is too stiff. This bread is nice if baked in empty tin cans to make a round loaf.

The recipe was easy enough. I didn't even use especially ripe (re: BAD) bananas. They were on the brown side but still very much edible. I didn't really understand the bit about tin cans so I just put it in a glass pan about the size of a medium loaf and cooked as the directions called. When I pulled it out of the oven, it looked perfectly brown on the outside and light and tasty on the inside.

Then I let it cool down and it became obvious that the inside was not quite done yet. I probably could've done the toothpick check and seen this, but it looked too good to not be done. If you're going to use a glass pan like me (rather than this whole tin can business), I would recommend lowering the temperature slightly (maybe 325°) and going for an hour or so. In the end, there was a bit of goopiness in the middle, but it was quite delicious despite this. I'll definitely remake this at some point and see if I can perfect the cooking time.**

I still haven't found something in the PTA book, and I think the real issue is that 90% of that book is desserts and I'm a little dessert-ed out. I will eventually make something, but I also need to find a recipe in Julia Child's holy grail of French cooking. So we'll see what I'm in the mood for today.

Also to note, my husband and I made a combined red cake and it turned out...interesting. First, we (re: my husband) dropped one of the layers on the floor right before it was to go in the oven, so we made a little cake with two layers instead of the full thing. Whether it was the missing batter in the oven or my insistence on using butter that hardened the remaining cake, I don't know, but it was not as moist as before, though it still tasted good. We compromised on one tablespoon of cocoa (to my husband's chagrin) and went 50/50 with butter and shortening. We used my recipe for frosting in its entirety and it actually turned out even better than the first time because it thickened up much more. We'll have to keep tinkering away at this until it's perfected, but I think we need a break from red cake, which is probably why I made this fabulous (and fabulously bad for me) S'mores Cake last night.

I have been keeping busy and have a lot to catch up on, so I'll post more today/tomorrow.

**EDIT: My friend (who suffers the same problem with her banana bread as I did mine) offers this advice: Banana Muffins. Her loaf recipe makes about 18 muffins, bake for 20 minutes.

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