(A disclaimer: My camera is in rehab. I am without it for at least 2 weeks while the kind folks at Nikon repair the damage I inflicted on it when it fell out of my lap in Berlin onto the sidewalk, landing squarely on the lens and damaging the camera body, too. Sob. I was going to use my trusty old point-and-shoot in the interim, but I can't find the cable that connects it to the computer anymore. Double sob. So I'm using my iPhone camera. Yes. And it stinks. I know. Patience.)
My dearest readers, thank you all so much for your comments, your emails, your love sent from across the borough, the city, the country, the world. I know we don't know each other, traditionally, let's say, but all the love and comfort I felt and still feel reading through what you wrote to me sustains me as much as any hug from a good friend. Really truly.
I think I've said it before, but I'll say it again. After all, it bears repeating. This decision to start a blog four years ago? One of the best of my life. This internet thing? Such a lovely place. I love the little spot I've carved out for myself here. Sometimes I imagine it as a cozy little den where I've got a nice fire roaring, a few warm lights flickering, a pot of something or other bubbling quietly on the stove and all of you gathered around with a cup of tea or a glass of wine to sit and chat with me for hours.
Back in the summer of 2005, when I started the blog, I didn't expect this to happen, to have an audience of more than a few. I was a little wary of the internet, of social networking sites and group blogging events, to say nothing of internet dating. I liked my real-world, flesh-and-blood community and I liked to write. I figured all that would come of the site would be a writing practice and the chance to work through all those damn recipes clogging my desk drawers.
And then. The first comment came in. And then the next. And the third. There were emails and more comments and before I knew it, I was totally charmed. There was a whole other community, a virtual one, to fall into, to be a part of. And it wasn't nearly as scary as I thought. In fact, it was rather warm. After all, we sit around writing about recipes, swapping notes, cooking for each other, right? It's like one big Kaffeeklatsch. I love it.
My first and most loyal pen pal was sweet Molly at Orangette. We wrote each other great big emails about life and love and food and then we met and talked for hours and then we wrote some more. You know the term kindred spirit? I think that's a pretty good term for what she is to me. I know I'm not alone when I say that I always knew she'd write a book. Right? She's just got it. And what a book she finally did write, A Homemade Life, filled to bursting with stories of her father, her love affairs, meeting her husband, and more. It's juicy and beautifully written, it brought me to tears more than once, and even made me laugh out loud. It's just like Molly herself.
Best of all, I suppose, is that once you've devoured the book and have gone and told your dad how much you love him, and planned a trip to Paris, and daydreamed about finding your own true love, you can cook from the book. And cook from it I have. From a bitter-creamy salad of endive, avocado, radicchio and feta, to tender little tuna bouchons flavored with Gruyère and parsley, to slow-roasted tomatoes sprinkled with ground coriander (you, quite literally, cannot just eat one), the book is crammed with good food. I've kept it by my bedside and I've had it splayed open in the kitchen and sometimes I think I should just have two copies, one for each place.
This weekend I finally tried her banana bread (you know about Molly and the special place in her heart for banana bread) with crystallized ginger and chocolate. The recipe first appeared on her site years ago, but she tweaked and perfected it over the years and now it's something else entirely. A delicious, elegant loaf that is not too sweet, spicy in places, and oozing with melty little pockets of chocolate. It's quite a triumph. Much like her book. Much like herself.
So proud of you, girl.
Banana Bread with Chocolate and Crystallized Ginger
Makes 1 loaf or 1 8-inch round cake
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1/3 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger
2 large eggs
3 large ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup well-stirred whole-milk plain yogurt (not low or nonfat)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Set a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat to 350F. Grease a 9- by 5-inch loaf pan or an 8-inch round cake pan with cooking spray or butter.
2. Melt the butter on the stove or in a microwave and set aside to cool slightly.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt. Add the chocolate chips and crystallized ginger and whisk well to combine. Set aside.
4. In a medium bowl, lightly beat the eggs with a fork. Add the mashed banana, yogurt, melted butter, and vanilla and stir to mix well. Pour the banana mixture into the dry ingredients, and stir gently with a rubber spatula, scraping down the sides as needed, until just combined. Do not overmix. The batter with be thick and somewhat lumpy, just make sure all the flour has been incorporated. Scrape the batter into the loaf pan and smooth the top.
5. Bake into the loaf is a deep shade of golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 50 mins to an hour. If the loaf seems to be browning too quickly, tent with foil.
6. Cool the loaf in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes. Then tip out onto the rack, and let it cool completely before slicing. The loaf freezes well wrapped in plastic wrap and again in foil to protect from freezer burn.