Have you ever ordered fish cooked in a banana leaf wrap in a restaurant? Delicious; and so I thought I would try making such a dish at home.
Banana leaves are very inexpensive to buy – a few dollars for a large pack. Banana leaves come in large, flat plastic bags at your local Asian market or supermarket (check the freezer if you can’t find them on the shelf or in the produce section).
Banana leaves can be used for baking anything “wrapped”, in the same way, you would use tin foil or parchment paper. However, banana leaves are porous (unlike tin foil), so some of the “sauce” or juices from your food item may seep through. It’s, therefore, a good idea to place your banana leaf “packets” in a glass casserole dish, or a tray that has sides on it, so that the juices don’t drip to the bottom of your oven.
Banana leaves serve many purposes, from adding flavor to foods cooked inside them, to simply being used as a colorful and exotic background for serving plates and party platters.
Banana leaves contain large amounts of polyphenols that are natural antioxidants. These are found in many plant-based foods and green tea. Food served on the banana leaves absorbs the polyphenols which are said to prevent many lifestyle diseases. They are also said to have anti-bacterial properties that can possibly kill the germs in food. The leaf wrapping protects delicate fillets from harsh, dry heat.
You can also use banana leaves as a kind of “mat” for barbecuing fragile fillets of fish, smaller shrimp, or vegetables that have a danger of falling through the grill. Simply lay a piece of banana leaf on your grill, then cook your food items on top of it (as you would with tin foil). The banana leaf will turn bright green at first, then brown as you cook. It will give your food a hint of flavor that is very pleasant.
To store banana leaves, simply wrap them in plastic and place them in a ziplock plastic bag and keep in the freezer. Banana leaves only require about 30 minutes to thaw, so this is a convenient way to keep them fresh.
Use scissors to cut the banana leaves into the size you need, depending on your recipe. For wrapping and baking food items, you will need a large “sheet” or leaf. Place enough for one serving in the center of the leaf, then fold like a handkerchief to make a square packet.
Banana leaves are also excellent for steaming, as it allows the steam to penetrate the food inside or on top of it. You can use banana leaves to line a steamer or to wrap your food and then steam it.
Secure banana leaf “packets” with kitchen twine. Or simply place the packet “seam-side” down to keep it from opening.
Caribbean Inspired Fish Wrapped in Banana Leaves
Serves 2. Double the ingredients for 4 servings.
6 navel orange slices, rind removed
2 (6-oz.) sustainable skinless white fish fillets (such as snapper, halibut, or sea bass)
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 (12-in.-square) fresh or thawed frozen banana leaf pieces
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro
Preheat oven to 400°F. Place the thawed banana leaves in hot water to soak for 10 minutes. Drain and place on a kitchen towel.
Coat fish fillets with oil and place them in the center of each banana leaf. Stir together salt, coriander, cinnamon, red pepper, ginger, and nutmeg; sprinkle evenly over the tops of the fish fillets. Place 3 orange slices on top of each fish fillet.
Fold each banana leaf piece to enclose the fish. Place packets, folded side down, on a baking sheet or in a glass baking dish. Bake at 400°F until fish is done, about 15-20 minutes. Unwrap and transfer fillets and orange slices onto serving plates. Garnish with chopped cilantro, if desired.
Wild Rice, Almond and Mushroom Pilaf
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cups chicken broth
1 cup Lundberg wild rice blend
Salt to taste
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Half a red onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 oz mushrooms, trimmed and chopped
1 chopped celery stalk
2 tablespoons toasted almonds, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoon dry sherry
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Bring the broth, rice, oil, and salt to a boil in a large saucepan. When the liquid returns to the boil, lower the heat, cover and simmer 40 -50 minutes until the rice is tender and the liquid has evaporated. Set aside.
Heat the oil over medium heat in a large nonstick skillet, and add the onion, garlic, celery, and mushrooms. Cook, stirring often, until tender, and the mushrooms have softened about 10 minutes. Stir in the cooked rice and the remaining ingredients. Cook, stirring until the sherry has evaporated. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve with the fish.
Honey- Baked Squash
1 large acorn squash (1 1/2 pounds), seeds removed cut into 8 lengthwise wedges
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon honey
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Arrange the squash wedges on a foil-lined baking sheet.
Drizzle the olive oil over the squash wedges.
Adapted from an article by Anthony Bourdain in Gourmet.
4 tablespoons butter, divided
4 ounces small whole mushroom caps
1 chopped shallot
2 minced garlic cloves
1 cup of water
½ cup dry white wine
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Bouquet garni (wrap two sprigs of parsley, two bay leaves, and a sprig of fresh thyme in a piece of cheesecloth. Tie into a neat bundle with string)
1 pound fresh sea scallops, dried well
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Bread crumbs for the topping
Grated Gruyère or Fontina cheese
In 2 tablespoons butter in a medium saucepan saute the shallots, garlic, and mushroom caps until the mushrooms brown and lose their liquid. Remove to a bowl and set aside.
Add the water, wine, bouquet garni, and lemon juice to the saucepan and bring yo a boil. Add the scallops, cover, and remove the pot from the heat. Let the scallops sit in the liquid for 5 minutes. Remove the scallops with a slotted spoon and set aside.
Strain the liquid and discard the bouquet garni. Set aside
Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons butter in the saucepan and whisk in the flour. Do not let it get dark. Add 3 tablespoons of the scallop cooking liquid and mix until blended. Over very low heat, blend the flour mixture into the remaining scallop cooking liquid. Add the cream and simmer and stir until blended and thickened. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the scallops and mushroom mixture, and stir.
Fill 4 scallop shells or shallow 6-inch ramekins almost to the top with the scallop mixture. (If you’re not ready to serve the scallops, cover them with plastic wrap and refrigerate.)
Sprinkle the top lightly with bread crumbs and top with grated cheese.
Preheat the broiler. Broil the scallops until the mixture bubbles and the cheese melts and turns golden brown.
Save the leftover roasted vegetables for a delicious quiche. Recipe after Christmas.
1/2 cup olive oil
4-5 large carrots, peeled, cut on the bias, about 1-inch thick
3-4 parsnips, peeled, cut on the bias, about 1-inch thick
1 bulb fennel, trimmed and quartered
1 medium red onion, peeled and quartered
4 garlic, cloves, peeled and cut in half
4 fresh thyme sprigs
1/2 teaspoon Maldon sea salt
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Cover a large baking sheet with sides in foil.
Heat the olive oil in the microwave until hot. Place the carrots, parsnips, fennel, onion, garlic, and thyme on the prepared baking sheet. Pour the hot oil over the vegetables. Sprinkle with the salt. Transfer to the oven and roast until tender and brown, about 45 minutes.
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 teaspoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons Shao Hsing rice wine
11 ∕2 teaspoons cornstarch
1∕2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 pound boneless steak, all fat removed and cut diagonally across the grain into thin slices
1 tablespoon Shao Hsing rice wine
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon Sriracha (hot chili sauce)
2 teaspoons honey
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1/2 cup lower-sodium beef broth
1 tablespoon cornstarch
8 dried Shiitake Mushrooms
4 cups chopped broccoli florets (3 stalks)
3 sliced green onions
1/2 cup walnut pieces, toasted and coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons peanut oil
In a medium bowl combine the beef, ginger, 2 teaspoons soy sauce, 2 teaspoons rice wine, cornstarch, salt, and sesame oil. Refrigerate for 2-3 hours.
Pour boiling water to cover over the shiitake mushrooms and let them sit for 30 minutes. Drain and slice into thin strips. Set aside.
Bring a pot of water to a boil and add the broccoli. Blanch for 2 minutes. Drain and set aside.
In a small bowl combine the stir-fry sauce ingredients.
Heat a 14-inch ﬂat-bottomed wok or 12-inch skillet over high heat. Swirl in 1 tablespoon of the peanut oil and carefully add the beef, and spread it evenly in one layer in the pan. Cook undisturbed 1 minute, letting the beef begin to sear. Then stir-fry 1 minute, or until the beef is lightly browned but not cooked through. Transfer the beef to a plate.
Swirl the remaining 1 tablespoon peanut oil into the wok, add the green onions and broccoli and stir-fry 15 seconds or until just combined.
Return the beef with any juices that have accumulated to the pan. Add the mushrooms and swirl in the stir-fry sauce mixture into the pan. Cook until the beef is just cooked through and the sauce has thickened. Stir in walnuts.
Transfer to a serving bowl. Serve with rice or cauliflower rice, if desired.
Most of the ingredients in this pie are leftovers from my roast chicken dinner that I shared last week. Here is a link to the post: https://jovinacooksitalian.com/2019/11/13/mediterranean-style-roast-chicken/
Roasting a whole chicken is a delicious and economical way to give you several meals over the next week. Here is the recipe for one of them. Later in the week, I will share the Chicken Enchilada recipe I made with the remainder of the chicken.
2 carrots, diced
2 cups cubed leftover roasted chicken
2 cups diced leftover green beans with mushrooms and onions
11/2 cups leftover sauce from roasting the chicken
2 cups leftover olive oil mashed potatoes
Butter-flavored cooking spray
Partially cook the carrots either in the microwave or by boiling. Set aside.
Reduce the chicken sauce down to 1 cup in a small saucepan.
In each of 2 individual ovenproof casserole dishes, place half the carrots, half the chicken, half the green beans and ½ cup chicken sauce. Mix well.
Spread 1 cup of mashed potatoes over the top of each pie bringing the potatoes to the edges of each dish.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Lightly spray the mashed potato topping with butter-flavored cooking spray.
Bake for 45 minutes. Turn the broiler on for a minute or two to brown the topping if it doesn’t brown during the baking.
4 lb organic chicken
1 medium onion quartered
1 celery stalk cut into 4 pieces
A handful of fresh garden herbs (Sage, Rosemary, Oregano & Parsley)
2 cloves garlic
Juice of one lemon
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon onion powder
Preheat the oven to 425F
Rinse the chicken thoroughly and pat dry with paper towels.
Place fresh herbs, garlic, onion, and celery inside the chicken cavity,
Mix together the rub ingredients and coat the chicken with it.
Pour the chicken broth into the bottom of the baking dish. Mix the melted butter with the lemon juice and pour over the chicken.
Roast for 30 minutes. reduce the temperature to 375F and roast for 30 minutes or until a digital meat thermometer registers 165 F. Baste the chicken several times during the roasting time.
Remove the chicken from the oven and let rest 15 minutes before carving. Serve the juices in the bottom of the baking pan poured over the sliced chicken.
Mashed Potatoes with Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
The better the oil, the better the flavor in the potatoes.
Makes 8 servings
4 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled, cut into cubes
7 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
Place potatoes in a heavy large pot. Cover with cold water. Add 1 tablespoon kosher salt. Boil over medium-high heat until potatoes are tender when pierced with a fork, about 40 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 1/2 cups potato cooking liquid.
Return the potatoes to the dry pot. Stir over medium heat until any excess liquid evaporates. Add 6 tablespoons of olive oil and mash until almost smooth. Mix in enough potato cooking liquid as needed to moisten. Adjust seasoning to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer potatoes to a large bowl. Drizzle with the remaining tablespoon olive oil and serve.
Florida Green Beans with Caramelized Onions and Mushrooms
1 pound Florida green beans, stems trimmed
8 oz sliced button mushrooms
1 large onion, peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Sea salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
Preheat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to the preheated pan. Add sliced onions to the pan and cook them for 3 to 5 minutes until almost caramelized. Add the green beans and garlic to the pan and continue to cook ingredients for another 3 to 4 minutes until the green beans are almost to the desired tenderness. Add mushrooms, Worcestershire sauce, and butter. Cook another 4 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. Remove from the heat and serve.
Mini Crab Puffs with Remoulade Sauce
The crab puffs can be baked ahead, refrigerated and reheated just before game time.
1/2 pound fresh crab meat
2 tablespoons minced bell pepper
2 tablespoons minced celery
1 scallion, minced
1 garlic clove, grated
1 tablespoon finely chopped chives
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon crab seasoning (recommended Old Bay)
2 tablespoons almond flour or all-purpose flour
Combine all the ingredients except the crab in a mixing bowl. Mix well and then fold in the crab meat.
Cover the bowl and chill the mixture until ready to bake.
Coat a mini muffin pan with cooking spray and, using a cookie scoop, fill 15 openings to the top of the muffin cup with the crab mixture.
Bake at 350 degrees F for 15 -20 minutes until cooked through and lightly golden brown.
Cool in the pan for 10 minutes and remove to a serving platter.
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons sour cream
1 tablespoon ketchup
1 teaspoon pickle relish
1/4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
¼ teaspoon black pepper
Combine all the ingredients in a serving dish. Whisk until completely mixed. Cover and refrigerate until serving time.
Spinach Stuffed Mushrooms
This recipe can be made ahead and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature and bake before serving.
15 large mushrooms cleaned and stems removed
1 scallion, minced
1 small garlic, grated
1 pkg frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
2 tablespoons heavy cream
4 oz cream cheese at room temperature
3 ounces feta cheese
1/4 teaspoon Greek seasoning or dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Hollow out the mushrooms and reserve the mushroom stems for another use.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Place 2 tablespoons of butter in a glass baking dish and put the dish in the oven while the oven preheats.
Combine all the filling ingredients in a mixing bowl. Stuff the caps with the filling and place in the hot prepared pan.
Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.Place on a serving platter.
If the Mushrooms have been in the refrigerator, bring them to room temperature for an hour before cooking.
They may need to be baked a little longer.
Mini Pepper Nachos
15 mini peppers
1 lb lean ground beef
2 tablespoons taco seasoning, see recipe below
½ cup of water
1 cup of salsa
Half an onion, diced
Sliced pickled jalapenos to taste
15 Mini peppers
1 cup Velveeta light cheese, cubed
½ cup shredded Mexican blend or Monterey Jack cheese
1/4 cup milk
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Oil a13x9 inch baking dish.
Cut the mini peppers in half and remove the seeds. Place the halves in the baking dish.
Brown the meat in a medium skill. Add the taco seasoning and water. Simmer until the liquid evaporates. Spoon the beef into each pepper half. Place a spoonful of salsa on each pepper. Sprinkle the diced onion on top. Add slices of jalapeno to taste. Place the dish in the oven and bake for 30 minutes.
Make the cheese sauce: Place the cheeses and milk in a microwave-safe dish or measuring cup. Hear for two minutes. Stir. Return the mixture to the microwave for 30 seconds if the cheese is not melted or set aside for a few minutes and the cheese will finish melting. Stir well.
Remove the baking dish from the oven and pour the cheese sauce over the peppers and place the dish under the broiler. Broil for a few minutes, just until the top begins to brown. Watch carefully.
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1 tablespoon of sea salt
1/2 tablespoon black pepper
1/2 tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Stir all ingredients together. Store in an airtight container.
Add 2 tablespoons taco seasoning and 1/2 cup water per pound of browned meat.
Szechuan peppercorns are a spice produced from the husks of seeds of two species of the prickly ash shrub. Szechuan peppercorns can be used whole or ground into powder. The spice is one of the five ingredients that comprise five-spice powder (the others are star anise, fennel, clove, and cinnamon), and it’s used in many savory Szechuan dishes. Check the peppercorns and discard any twigs, leaves, and any tiny black seeds in the package. Then heat the peppercorns in a frying pan over medium-low heat until they become fragrant. Remove them from the heat and grind them or crush them when cool. The roasted peppercorns can also be saved in an airtight jar to grind when needed in a recipe.
1 pound lean ground beef
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
2 teaspoons plus 1 tablespoon cornstarch, divided
1 teaspoon five-spice powder
1 garlic clove, minced
½ teaspoon crushed Szechuan Peppercorns
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup reduced-sodium beef broth
4 teaspoons vegetable oil, divided
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
1/4 cup Szechuan sauce (store-bought or homemade- see recipe below)
2 cups shredded napa (Chinese) cabbage
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1 cup bean sprouts
1 cup dried shiitake mushrooms
2 scallions, sliced
Chinese noodles or rice for serving
Reconstitute mushrooms with boiling water to cover. Drain and slice.
Gently mix beef, onion, 2 teaspoons cornstarch, five-spice powder and salt in a medium bowl until combined. Shape the mixture into 15 meatballs (use about 2 tablespoons each to make 1½-inch meatballs).
Whisk broth and the remaining 1 tablespoon cornstarch in a small bowl until smooth.
Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet or nonstick wok over medium-high heat. Add the meatballs and cook, turning once, until brown on all sides. Transfer to a plate.
Add the remaining 2 teaspoons oil to the pan. Add garlic and crushed red pepper and cook, stirring for 15 to 30 seconds. Add the reserved beef broth mixture, ginger. Szechuan sauce, cabbage, carrots, bean sprouts, and mushrooms; cook, stirring, until the cabbage is just wilted, about 2 minutes.
Reduce heat to a simmer, return the meatballs to the pan, cover and cook until the sauce is thickened and the meatballs are cooked through 8 to 10 minutes. Serve sprinkled with scallions over noodles or rice.
Keeps for 10 days in the refrigerator
1/2 teaspoon Szechuan Peppercorns (or substitute black peppercorns)
1/4 cup soy sauce
3 tablespoons honey, maple syrup, coconut sugar, brown sugar or sugar alternative
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Chinese cooking wine (Shaoxing)
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, finely minced ( or use ginger paste)
1 tablespoon garlic chili paste (like sambal oelek)
1/2 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice powder
2 teaspoons cornstarch, to thicken
Toast Szechuan peppercorns in a hot dry skillet over medium heat, until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Crush.
Place all ingredients in a medium bowl or small jar and whisk until well combined.
Whisk in 2 teaspoons cornstarch.
Makes a little over ½ a cup.