Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Stitching bananas

As far as I'm concerned, fresh fruit is the pinnacle of gastronomy... with the exception of ripe bananas.  Unripe bananas are higher in starch than their jaundiced counterparts and thus have a somewhat lower glycemic index. On the other hand, since the body is not so good at breaking down and absorbing those plant starches, the undigested starch can cause a mild osmotic diarrhea, similar to that caused by the xylitol or sorbitol in "sugar-free" candies and chewing gum. On the other other hand, they have a firmer texture and pleasantly grassy taste than mushy, cloyingly sweet ripe bananas, which, for the record, are among the fruits that suffer most from inbreeding and destruction of unique and subtle cultivars.

Most importantly, they're better for suturing practice! Firmer, less friable skins, you see, are easier to stitch up. I'm less than naturally talented when it comes to manual skills, so these bananas are making a noble sacrifice in the name of medical education. The backstory for how the banana came by its laceration: When the lights in the supermarket go off for the night, the great battle between the bananas and apples begins. The apples have cleverly recruited the nopales as their chief allies. Though many have been neutered by conscientious suppliers, some hale and hearty nopales retain at least a few of their potent spines. This particular banana is a young private who threw herself in front of a colonel to protect him from a killing blow.

Like I said, manual skills: not my thing.

More practice is needed. I'm also working on the vertical and horizontal mattress stitches, and fueling my efforts with vegetarian eggs Benedict using Alton Brown's hollandaise recipe.

Hollandaise, for the uninitiated, is one of the French sauces de bas, or mother sauces. It's an emulsion of butter in egg yolk, with a touch of lemon juice and pepper. In the interests of avoiding an anxiety attack, I'm refusing to calculate how many calories are in the portion I just made.

And who'd have thought there's such a thing as Canadian fake'n? I'm not too impressed--it's somewhat generic-tasting--but the dish wouldn't have been eggs Benedict without it.

English muffins
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon gluten
1 tablespoon sourdough starter (somewhat optional)
1 3/4 cup buttermilk at 110 degrees
1 egg
2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/4 tsp salt
3 tbsp melted butter
2 1/4 tsp yeast
semolina for dusting

Mix the melted butter, warm buttermilk, starter, and yeast. Let sit 10-15 minutes, or until the yeast blooms. Add the remaining ingredients and mix until the dough is smooth and pliable. Set in a warm place to rise about 2 hours, or until doubled. Punch down and divide into two-ounce portions; dust with semolina flour. Flatten and rest for 20 minutes while you heat a cast-iron skillet or griddle to medium-low with scant canola oil therein. Cook 10-12 minutes on each side, or until deeply browned.

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