I decided to take the long way home yesterday, after a cancelled appointment left a large window of free time between my weekend snowshoeing in Lassen and my return to the city. I never regret taking the long way if it involves driving through National Forests, along river roads and migratory bird flyways and grand swaths of California orchards in full bursts of bright white blossom.
It was almost heartbreaking in its calm evening perfection: the sky a wash of deep pinks and soft blues, reflected like liquid rosy gold in the meandering Sacramento river, a huge, soft spring moon coming up over the hills, and the washed-out colors of valley agriculture, of grains and fields, glowing at dusk. It just makes my heart swell. Makes me have so much love for this crazy, glorious, bountiful, complex state.
I find that I need these moments so much more now than ever before – they’re an antidote to the mental focus required in the making of this cookbook. But let me make clear: I am really and truly and deeply loving the work of the cookbook. It’s just that I don’t think that I have ever taken on something that requires so much strategizing and orchestration, so much mental acuity. It is daunting, sometimes overwhelming. So I go to the woods and do things that force all of my focus very intensely into the present: snowshoeing, rock climbing. Or I go to the yoga mat. Or I drive along empty farm roads at dusk. These things fill me up and have never felt more necessary or dear.
A couple weeks ago I started to crave this funny roasted banana dish that I remembered from childhood. It’s comforting, perhaps because of the memory of it coming out of the broiler as a kid, though my dad has no recollection of it, and I don’t know where it came from or why we ended up roasting bananas at all. I think that our dad was trying to cleverly trick us into eating a healthy dessert. No matter, really. I fancied it up with cocoa nibs and pistachios, giving it just the right balance of rich, creamy banana flavor and sharp, bittersweet crunch. Perhaps it’s a little like a deconstructed sundae?
ROASTED BANANAS WITH CACAO NIBS + PISTACHIOS
2 ripe, firm bananas
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
2 tablespoons honey
Generous pinch cardamom
Generous pinch cinnamon
2 tablespoons cacao nibs
2 tablespoons chopped pistachios
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Lightly grease a baking pan. Slice bananas in half lengthwise.
When the oven is hot, roast the bananas for about 12-15 minutes.
While the bananas roast, whisk together the yogurt, honey, cardamom and cinnamon with a fork until blended.
To serve, divide half the yogurt between two plates, dolloping in the middle of the plate. Place two banana halves over the yogurt, and sprinkle with half the pistachios and half the cacao nibs over each. Sprinkle with a little coarse salt if desired.