Sunday, October 21, 2012

Bananas, No Dramas. Fast and Easy Banana Salad

   When I was a kid the one thing I hated to see in salads were bananas. Hard chunks of flavorless, vaguely banana-flavored "stuff" that was the fruit version of hamburger helper. Bananas were dropped into fruit salads in an attempt to stretch whatever was not in season into a full blown appetizer, side dish or heaven forbid, dessert. While I'm on the subject, I also hated to see them in lunch boxes or brown bags at school. Trust me, you don't want to know what happens to a ripe banana after 4 hours in an overheated, Catholic Elementary School cloakroom.The only thing I really enjoyed with bananas was dropping big chunks of them off the Maestros balcony of the San Francisco Opera House. Yes, if you were walking near there ages ago and were hit by a stray banana.. that was me.

   I was a volunteer there when I was about 14. Stuffing envelopes, running errands, whatever they needed. This was not because I was so crazy about classical music. I knew nothing of classical music. My only experience at that point was a trip with the nuns to see a production of The Bartered Bride by Smetna. Let us say I was not impressed. No, I was at the Opera House because my mom had friends who volunteered there, I was too young to be a Candystriper (my dream volunteer job) and it kept me out of her hair during the Summer months. Maestro Adler  liked me for some reason since I was the kid in the office, and he used to let me have my bag lunch on his private balcony.

Maestro Kurt Adler

He'd go out for lunch with important guests, divas and such, and he'd allow me to go through his office and out onto the lovely balcony overlooking the street. See that window, right up there where the flagpole is? That was me. Or rather where I used to hang out at lunch, dropping various food items that bored me (banana pieces) off the roof. Bombs away.

   Yes, it was immature, but I was immature, trapped in a temple of classical music with nothing but a bag of peanut butter sandwiches and a banana. Occasionally I'd creep up into the upper balcony and watch a rehearsal for a few minutes. I never dropped any banana bombs in the building however. Stay classy Kathy.

   Which brings me back to my current banana relationships. Slim to none until the last week when I was in a pinch for a side dish to go with a dinner I was making. I couldn't find a ripe mango to save my life and I needed something special. That something turned out to be the always available banana. That was when I stumbled across a recipe for a banana salad that I would never in a million years want to throw off a balcony.

Banana Yogurt Salad

Here's What You Need:

1 and 1/2 cups of chopped banana
1 Tbs of seeded finely chopped serrano chili
A pinch of turmeric
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
a pinch of mustard seeds
1/2 tsp of salt
1 and 1/2 cups of plain yogurt
2 tbs of grated dried unsweetened or fresh coconut
1 Tbs coconut oil or vegetable oil
3 fresh curry leaves or 1 laurel leaf
1 Tbs finely chopped fresh ginger

Here's What To Do:

Grind the mustard seeds in a grinder or mortar or bowl.

Mash together the ground mustard seeds, chili, coconut and salt into a paste.

Set it aside.
In a skillet heat the vegetable oil.

When the oil is hot, toss in the pinch of whole mustard seeds.
When the mustard seeds start to pop, add in the curry leaves, the coconut mustard chili paste and the ginger.
Saute everything together for about 2 minutes or so.
Add the turmeric and stir it in.
Toss in the pieces of chopped banana and cook them up for about 1 minute.

Turn the heat waaaaaaaay down.
Add the yogurt.

 It's important to keep the heat low so that the yogurt doesn't curdle when you add it.
Just warm it a bit.
Turn the heat off and set the salad aside to cool to room tempertature.
As it cools, it'll  thicken and firm up.
Transfer it to a bowl.
Put a lid on the bowl and tuck it in the fridge.
Give it a good stir before you serve it up.

   This will keep covered in the fridge for about 3 days, but there was none left. I really think I'd finally found a banana recipe worth keeping. Coming up next, a very, very, special evening with The Essential James Beard Cookbook and California Olive Ranch. Want a peek?

Follow along on Twitter @kathygori 


  1. Loved your story!! And what wonderful memories of the city. I haven't been to the Opera House in Years, and when I was there, luckily I didn't have any banana drop on my.
    My kids adore banana, have since the moment they were born, but they have never had them cooked or even warm... I think I'm going to give this a try and see what they think!

    1. This turned out really well. I'd never used bananas in this way before, but it's going to become a staple around here

  2. Greta story. do you use normal bananas or plantain? And I suppose they were a little unripe? (if normal bananas, plantains would be firm enoguh anyway)

    1. I used normal bananas but I do love plantains and I think if they were super ripe it would be amazing. In fact I'm going to try this again with plantains



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