Thursday, August 30, 2012

One Ingredient Wonder

Generally, a news article with "healthy" in the headline isn't going to be at the top of my reading list. But since I've been making some yummy ice creams this summer, I went ahead and clicked through to The Washington Post to read "For healthy homemade ice cream, go bananas" and I'm so glad I did! This experiment with simply blending frozen sliced bananas to create a creamy, sweet "ice cream" is exactly what I imagine it must be like to be a chef at El Bulli or The French Laundry, where pure, uncomplicated, fresh ingredients are transformed into culinary gastronomy by using unusual or unexpected techniques.

This is a smoothy without the milk or ice. How different can it be? When you want a milkshake, are you satisfied with a smoothy? I'm not. But if I want Italian gelato, I fully suspect that this recipe will tickle the appropriate tastebud (minus the glorious Italian Riveria or charming Roman streetscapes of course.) 

It's one of those things where you truly have to try it to believe it, because it just doesn't seem possible that simply blending a frozen banana chunk could render a doppleganger for fat-laden calorie-busting ice cream. Will objects to my characterization that this is "as good as" ice cream, but nevertheless, we both consumed our frigid fruit with great satisfaction. (And still had room for dessert!)

Frozen Fruit Gelato
The article says to use a blender. We used an immersion blender which did the trick, but it was helpful to soften the fruit a little bit after taking it out of the freezer. I don't want to push it too hard, because it's intended to be used with a little more liquid, but that would destroy the great texture of the plain pureed fruit.

Start with one banana, sliced, and frozen on a tray so the pieces stay separate. Puree until smooth. Return to freezer briefly if desired, to get it really chilled, but don't let it freeze solid.
Experiment with add-ins. We tried cocoa powder (yum!), mango (yum!). Peanut butter and shaved chocolate are also good ideas, as are berries.

Then I decided to try just plain mango. It was fantastic - I would have believed it was Haagen Daz sorbet. It was just a little more difficult to blend. I'm sure strawberries or peaches would similarly come out like a sorbet. Try extract flavorings like almond or coconut or rum. This is a summer staple!

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