Breakfast/Brunch


Ah, Banana Bread.  Is there any other baked good that you have to plan a week in advance to make.  You might get your craving for Banana Bread on a Monday, but by the time you buy the under-ripe super market bananas and wait impatiently for them to ripen it might be Sunday, and by then you might have a whole new craving.  That’s why when I was presented with three perfectly ripe bananas by my visiting in-laws, I knew I had to seize the moment.  Banana bread must be made.

Actually, in truth the bananas could have used a day or two more.  Then they would have been overripe – totally black and ugly – absolutely perfect for banana bread.  But these three normally ripe bananas would have to do.  When peeled and mashed they gave me almost a cup and half of banana mush – the amount needed to make my mom’s famous banana bread.

Now my mom makes this bread for everything.  When I was growing up it was her go-to homemade Christmas gift,  her go-to breakfast item, heck, there were times it was her go-to dessert.  Because this bread is dense and moist it can serve all of these purposes and more.  Plus it freezes beautifully.  Many people have received previously frozen banana bread as gifts from my mom and were never the wiser.

The only thing I’ve ever changed about my mom’s recipe is the spices.  Since I’m addicted to nutmeg I always tend to add bit of freshly ground nutmeg.  This time I also added in a pinch of cinnamon.  Personally, I think they give the bread a nice warm spiciness, but to honest, Mom’s original recipe works just fine.  You really can’t go wrong – either eat it yourself or give it away.  Or just hoard it in your freezer, since you never know when that banana bread craving will attack, and there’s no better way to be prepared.

Banana Bread

Makes 1 loaf

Ingredients:

1/2 cup butter

1 cup sugar

1 1/2 cup mashed bananas

2 eggs beaten

1 t. vanilla

2 cups flour

1 t. baking soda

1/2 t. salt

1/2 cup milk

pinch of nutmeg and cinnamon (optional)

1/2 cup walnuts or pecans

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degree.  Butter and flour a loaf pan.

Combine the flour, baking soda, and salt in one bowl and set aside.  Cream butter and sugar together.  Add in the mashed bananas, eggs and vanilla.  Add in the flour mixture.  Add in the milk as well as the nutmeg, cinnamon and nuts it needed.

Pour mixture into the prepared loaf pan.  Bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours.  Remove from oven and let rest in the pan for 15 minutes.  Then remove from pan and let fully cool on a rack.

To freeze – double wrap the loaf in aluminum foil and place in a zip lock plastic bag.

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As far back as I can remember eating, I have been eating grits.  I know it sounds strange for a born and raised Californian to say she has been eating grits her entire life, but I take it as a sign that I was destined to spend a part of my life living in the South.  Grits in my house growing up were almost always prepared simply (just boiled in water) and then served with lots of butter.  Occasionally my grandmother would bake them, or fry them, but the majority of the time, I would just smother my grits in butter and devour them.  Of course, I never realized that I was missing out one of the more fabulous ways to eat grits…with Shrimp.


Had I known this when I was younger, I would have made a point of eating shrimp and grits at every meal.  I guess in the long run, it was a good thing I had to wait to learn of the glories of Shrimp and Grits.  You know, good things come to those who wait.  Boy did it last week when we had shrimp and grits with Crawfish and Pork Andouille Sausage!

One might call it excessive.  One might call it gratuitious.  I call it the perfect early Saturday morning breakfast.  A pound of leftover shrimp, a half pound of sausage, leftover diced onion from the previous nights dinner, a green pepper, a little shredded cheese, a sprinkle of Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning, and of course GRITS!  Now if you are not sausage fan, you can always substitute a couple slices of bacon.  It was just what I needed to get the morning off to the right start.

Shrimp and Grits
Serves 6

1 Cup Stone Ground Grits
4 Cups Water
3 Tbsp Butter

2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1/2 pound of Andouille Sausage split in half, then sliced
1 pound of Shrimp, cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 of a large Vidalia Onion, diced
1 Green Pepper, diced
1 Tbsp Unsalted Butter

Salt and Pepper, to Taste

1. In a saucepan, bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Once boiling, add the grits. Return the grits to a boil and then reduced the heat to simmer. Stir frequently until they reach your desired consistency. I usually cook them until the water is absorbed and they are thickened. Add 3 Tbsp of butter and stir to combine.

2. In a separate pan, melt 1 Tbsp butter and 1 Tbsp of olive oil. Add the onions and green peppers and saute for 5 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

3. In another pan add the remaining Tbsp of olive oil and saute the sausage for 10 minutes. Remove the sausage from the pan and set aside. Reserve some of the grease from the sausage

4. Using some of the reserved grease, saute the shrimp until pink.

5. To assemble, fill the bowls with Grits, then onions and peppers, shrimp, and sausage. If you so choose (and I always do) top with Tony’s and shredded cheese.

Aunt Agatha's Blueberry Buckle

Aunt Agatha's Blueberry Buckle

So here’s the thing about old family recipes – you start asking too many questions and you find out the recipes you know and love from childhood are first, not that old, and second, not from any family you know. My mother is known for her Blueberry Buckle. Made with fresh blueberries – it is her go-to brunch/dessert dish for the summer. She makes it so often she could probably make it in her sleep – but no matter where she takes it, the Buckle always garners rave reviews. Growing up, I often glanced at the worn, yellowed recipe card she used and I noticed that the Blueberry Buckle was attributed to Aunt Agatha. Now I come from a fairly large extended family, so I figured the recipe was handed down from a great or great-great aunt I had simply never met. Fast forward to a few weeks ago when I was back home in Rochester and copying down the Buckle recipe, having found I needed to be able to prepare this dish on my own.

“Now who was Aunt Agatha again,” I asked my mother.

“Honey,” she said with a smile, “you don’t have an Aunt Agatha.” She proceeded to tell me that the recipe had been given to my grandmother by her next-door neighbor, who had picked up the recipe from an Amish woman in Pennsylvania Dutch country. So while the Buckle recipe was used by my mother and grandmother, in my family it only dates from the 1960s. It’s a retro recipe rather than an old family recipe.

Putting aside my slight disappointment at the loss of the fictional Aunt Agatha, I set out to do my mother proud and make a grand blueberry buckle. In essence, a buckle is a coffee cake. The method of putting together the batter is similar to what you would do when making any quick bread or muffin mixture. It’s the topping that sets it apart. Made with melted butter, it sort of melds with the batter while baking. Once baked, this results in the ‘buckling’ of the topping, creating crevices and caverns across the landscape of the cake.

Unbaked Blueberry Buckle

Unbaked Blueberry Buckle

The resulting cake is extremely moist and tender, but it also lets the ripe blueberries be the star of the dish. I suppose you could make a buckle with just about any kind of berry or even stone fruits, like peaches and plums. I (and as far as I know my mother) have only ever made buckles with blueberries – it seems almost sacrilegious to Aunt Agatha to do otherwise. Whoever she may be…

Baked Blueberry Buckle

Baked Blueberry Buckle

Aunt Agatha’s Blueberry Buckle

Ingredients:

For the Cake –

3/4 c. sugar

1/4 c. butter

1 egg

1/2 c. milk

2 c. flour

2 t. baking powder

1/4 t. salt

2 cups drained blueberries

(note – there is no vanilla in this recipe. You can definitely add it if you prefer the vanilla flavor in your baked goods.)

For the Topping-

2/3 c. sugar

1/3 c. flour

1/2 t. cinnamon

1/3 c. melted butter

(note – I added a a bit of freshly ground nutmeg – but as has previously be established, I am a nutmeg addict)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Mix together sugar, butter and egg. Stir in milk. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Add this mixture to the sugar mixture. Blend in blueberries. Spread batter into a well greased and floured square pan (I used a 9×9 pan).

Combine all the ingredients for the topping. Sprinkle the topping onto the batter. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until golden brown on top.

Saturday morning, H, our friends Bentina, and I ventured off to one of our favorite restaurants, Hominy Grill. There are times when all I think about is a hot plate of shrimp and grits, and the shrimp and grits from hominy grill are about as close to perfection as you can get. The flavors are simple, Shrimp, Bacon, Green Onions, Mushrooms, Cheese Grits, and a spritz of lemon. Nothing is over sauced or too buttery. Just perfect comforting food…mmmmm!

Of course, a meal at Hominy Grill is not complete without some fried green tomatoes. Now, if you are not a shrimp and grits fanatic like me, the Fried Green Tomato BLT is my second favorite thing on the menu. I think fried green tomatoes are the greatest southern food discovery I ever made. I really love them, not just a lustful love, but more of a long lost soul mate love.

If you are in Charleston, stop by Hominy Grill for an amazing brunch destined to get your day started off right. Love on the food and let it make you whole.