Chocolate-Dipped Cherries and Banana Macadamia-Nut Pancakes
I spent yesterday afternoon painting the kitchen walls. My cousin D was the brains behind this particular operation while I played the role of assistant and rank amateur. Painting 101? Scrape the excess paint off your brush so that you don’t drip paint all over your aunt’s nice, clean floors. D, who’s so good at this that she doesn’t need newspapers or any of those other amateur props, soon had to lay a lot of them on the floor for me.
I soon hit my stride and before long we were painting side by side in companionable silence. (We’ve known each other long enough that we don’t have to talk all the time.) Regina Spektor, Pearl Jam, Gaga, Dire Straits and Abba kept us company in the kitchen while the rain pattered quietly outside. There is just something so rewarding about doing things with your hands, whether it is cooking or painting. My only regret was there wasn’t any of that delicious tart or the cake I had baked left over to eat sitting cross-legged on the kitchen floor.
But there were cherries – you know those things that I’ve been raving about lately? Pairing them with chocolate was an idea I chanced upon one night when I was staring blankly at my fridge looking for a quick dessert. (I have this habit, one which drives my mom crazy, of opening the fridge when I’m hungry and staring at it, waiting for inspiration to hit.) This time, my eyes settled on the bag of cherries and the chocolate that always seems to worm its way into my fridge no matter how hard I resist.
I melted the chocolate with some cream and unsalted butter for an impromptu (and very quick) ganache. I then dipped the cherries in the ganache and the idea was to chill the chocolate-dipped cherries until the chocolate had set. If you’ve been reading this blog, you’ll know by now that I didn’t wait for that. It was more of a dip-and-eat operation. And since I had my own bowl of ganache, I will also admit to double-dipping. The dark, bittersweet chocolate swirled on my tongue followed by the summery pop of the dark, ripe cherries. Isn’t that the kind of dessert that sounds just perfect for a night in?
Let’s follow a lovely quickie dessert with an equally delicious quickie breakfast – did I hear someone say Banana Macadamia Nut Pancakes? It’s not everyday that something ugly-looking inspires something amazing, but over-ripe, mushy bananas always seem to do that. I modified a standard pancake recipe to accommodate the blackened beauties and added some yogurt for added tenderness. Rooting in the pantry, I came across a bag of macadamia nuts left over from a recent bout of cookie-making and in the oven they went, toasted to a golden perfection and then folded in the pancake batter.
The butter sizzled in the pan and the batter bubbled as I watched Nadal win a really close 3rd round match. (Whew! But this also caused me to burn the underside of my pancakes a little.) I flipped the pancakes over, a task I have still not mastered. I dream of the day I can do this without a spatula, just flipping the pancake in the pan with a nonchalant flick of my wrist. Till then, I will drizzle the golden syrup over my imperfectly shaped pancakes, crisp and tender with perfect bites of banana and macadamia nut. Don’t you love jobs like painting the kitchen that don’t leave too much time for cooking?
(P.S. This is not the amount of syrup I usually pour over my pancakes. But try drizzling syrup with one hand and clicking a decent picture with the other, and you’ll know why there’s so much on that plate, not that I’m complaining.)
5 oz (150 gm) bittersweet chocolate
5 tablespoons cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
24-30 dark ripe large cherries with stems
Melt the chocolate, cream and butter over a double boiler or in a microwave (in 20 second bursts). Stir until smooth.
Holding the cherries by the stem, dip them in the chocolate, one by one.
If you’re greedy like me, dip and eat. Else, place the cherries, stem up, on a baking sheet lined with waxed paper. Chill until the chocolate is firm, about 20-30 mins. You can store it in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
Banana Macadamia Nut Pancakes
1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 heaped teaspoon baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk
4 tablespoons yogurt
2 very ripe bananas
1/3 cup toasted* macadamia nuts, roughly chopped (optional or you can use toasted pecans or walnuts)
Butter for frying
Sift the flour and baking powder in a large bowl. Mix in the sugar.
Make a well in the center of the flour mixture. Add the eggs and milk and gently stir to incorporate the flour slowly into the liquid until the batter is smooth.
Stir in the yogurt.
Mash the bananas; you don’t need a puree, it’s fine, in fact better, if some chunks remain.
Stir the bananas and then the nuts into the batter.
Let the batter rest for 20 mins.
Melt a little butter in a non-stick pan over medium heat. Pour a ladle of the batter into the pan and let it cook until the top is bubbling. Flip the pancake over and cook on the other side, about 1 minute. Continue until you’ve used up the batter. I usually get 8-10 pancakes from this batter, depending on the size of the pancakes.
*Toast skinned macadamia nuts in a preheated oven at 350°F (175°C) for 8-10 mins. Cool completely before using.