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Bananarama.

WHILE IDIOMS DON'T OFTEN SURVIVE conversion into other languages, it seems that someone ought to run "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" through the German translation mill and send the result off to one Karl-Friedrich Lentze. In late 2004, the Teutonic inventor made headlines when applying to patent the "cigar-banana," or, a banana run through a series of machines that would cut off the fruit's naturally curved center, then re-adhere the top and bottom sections with an edible plaster. The thinking behind his plan? "Once people get used to them, I believe the cigar-banana will drive the curved banana from the market. It's easier to eat and easier to store," Lentze explained to the press. He's made provisions for the discarded centers--they'll be sold for use in fruit salads and baby food--but fails to address the re-application of the banana's protective peel. Further, it's worth noting that straightening bananas is only one in a series of Lentze's dubious schemes, which have also included a restaurant that would use human breast milk in the baked goods; a nightclub and brothel for dogs; and having his dead body fed to piranhas at the Cologne Zoo.

Until Herr Lentze's banana straightening facility is up and running, we can content ourselves with the fruit that was curvaceously domesticated some four thousand years ago in New Guinea. Arab traders are credited with transporting the plants to the Near East and western Africa. The Portuguese brought them from Africa to the Canary Islands in the 1400's, by the next century they made their way to the West Indies, and within another hundred years Central and South American farmers had begun to cultivate banana plants. It wasn't until 1870 that bananas first appeared in the United States, courtesy of Captain Lorenzo Dow Baker. He purchased 160 bunches in Jamaica, at roughly 12 cents per bunch, and quickly sold them in Jersey City for two dollars apiece. Encouraged by this hefty profit margin, Baker and several of his like-minded peers began to develop parallel banana businesses in Boston, Alabama and New Orleans that would eventually give rise to the formidable United Fruit Company. 1903 saw the launch of the S.S. Venus, the refrigerated boat that prevented bananas from succumbing to the overripening power of their self-generated ethylene gas while in transit and helped make bananas the most-consumed fruit in the States. The average American now peels and eats 27 pounds per year, roundly beating the far more iconic apple's 16 pounds average.

There are more than 100 varieties of banana in existence, but the majority of what appears on wholesalers' lists and supermarket shelves are either Cavendish or Gros Michel varieties. Cavendish is a native of southern China, while Gros Michel comes from Southeast Asia. Both are bright yellow, with thick skins that make them suitable for shipping to temperate climates, and a fruit that measures six to ten inches. Of the remaining varieties, the following are among the most widely available to the banana-curious:

BABY, LADYFINGER OR NINO BANANA:

This is a smaller variety of the Cavendish, nearly always sold in bunches of six to ten and generally eaten out of hand or used in baking.

BLUE JAVA OR ICE CREAM BANAN:

Named for its sweet, creamy white flesh and silvery-blue peel that turns yellow as the fruit ripens.

BURRO:

Possessed of a distinctive lemon flavor when ripe, these bananas are somewhat flat and rectangular, and tend to be shorter and thicker than the Cavendish. Burros were first cultivated in Mexico.

HUA MOA OR HAWAIIAN BANANA:

This variety, a Tahitian native, takes its name from the Polynesian word for "chicken egg" because of its stubby, rounded shape. It has a green skin, pinkish flesh, a tart taste and is most often used for cooking.

MANZANO OR APPLE BANANA:

As the name suggests, this sweet, dry-fleshed fruit has an apple flavor, although some also report strawberry characteristics. The manzano is best when the outer peel is completely black.

PLANTAIN:

Often called "cooking bananas", plantains are a staple of Latin American and African cooking. Inedible when raw, plantains are starchy, bland and green when unripe, and increasingly sweet, tender and pink-skinned as they ripen.

RED OR JAMAICAN BANANA:

A relatively short banana with light pink, creamy flesh and a brownish-red peel. Widely cultivated in Ecuador, Mexico and the West Indies.

CITY-BORN, BRASSERIE-BRED

JULIAN ALONZO

BRASSERIE 8 1/2 NEW YORK, New York

THANKS TO THE CITY AS School (CAS) program, New York native Julian Alonzo spent his daytime hours as a teenager peeling potatoes and carrots at Montrachet, under chef David Bouley, while his peers languished in math classes and study halls.

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"I chose a restaurant internship because I thought it would be fun," says Alonzo, executive chef of Brasserie 8 1/2, in midtown Manhattan. "I was one of those kids who didn't like school much." As for getting the opportunity to work at one of New York's best restaurants at the age of 16, he says, "It was just good luck. Bouley was one of the first chefs to allow students into the kitchen. The thing about CAS is that you get out what you put in. I could have cruised, but I loved it. I asked a million questions. It was my awakening to the possibilities of the business." Once he completed the program, Alonzo took a garde manger job at Metro, under chef Patrick Clark.

"That was my first paid job, and he started me at $375 a week, which seemed like a fortune," says Alonzo. He went on to cook at La Caravelle under chef David Ruggerio, whom Alonzo calls "a great supporter." With Ruggerio's encouragement, Alonzo attended the French Culinary Institute by day and continued to work at La Caravelle in the evenings. After graduation, Alonzo followed his mentor to Maxim's and Le Chantilly, at one point dividing his days between the two restaurants before heading to Paris for a year. Calling on a connection he'd made back at Metro, Alonzo got a job at Guy Savoy's Bistro de l'Etoile, speaking not a word of French, and after three months was promoted to the chef's eponymous Michelin-starred restaurant.

"It was one of my best kitchen experiences," says Alonzo. "Not only for the cooking, but for the discipline. It's a different approach in Europe. Over there, the cooks clean the kitchen three times a day, whereas in New York the porters do that. For the first month I picked chervil and cleaned spinach and watercress for the amuse-bouche station. Then I was the commis for the sauciers, just passing their sauces. I worked 16-hour days and didn't see the Eiffel Tower until I'd been there almost a year." Alonzo returned to New York, proficient in French but not cured of his wanderlust. He spent the next several years working for Club Med properties in Martinique, Florida, Turks & Caicos, Punta Cana, Cancun and Ixtapa.

Alonzo says, "I went from cooking for 50 people a day [at Guy Savoy] to doing buffets for 1,000. Everything came in on containers--frozen fish and lots of canned products--but for the volume, the quality was pretty good. The beauty is that part of the job is to mingle with the guests, and we had access to all of the facilities. In the properties that attracted singles, I got a chance to really party and hang out."

When he returned again to New York, Alonzo took a sous chef position at The Sea Grill, with chef Ed Brown. He stayed five years, eventually becoming chef de cuisine, then moved to Cafe Centro, part of the Restaurant Associates collection that also includes The Sea Grill, as executive chef. After a year spent preparing brasserie fare with Mediterranean touches, Alonzo was tapped by Restaurant Associates management to open Brasserie 8 1/2.

"I went to check out the site, and the only thing that had been built was this massive winding staircase. I fell in love with it right then," he says. The company sent him back to Europe while construction continued, and after an eating tour of Paris, Alonzo continued on to San Sebastian.

"What a complete eye-opener that was," says Alonzo. "I had always thought that French food was the absolute best of the best, but when I went to Spain, I saw things I'd never seen before. It blew my mind."

Alonzo is well into his fifth year at Brasserie 8 1/2, practicing what the New York Times called "a sensual but focused modernism in his kitchen." His banana recipes on the following pages were inspired in equal parts by his Latin heritage and by the elegant presentations he's become known for. "I grew up with my mother cooking plantains," he explains. "She'd use them in empanadas or mofongo stew. Now, every time I do a new menu item, I look for a way to sneak them in."

FEAR, BEER, A WING AND A PRAYER: A Q & A WITH AURIGA'S CHEF DOUG FLICKER AND CO-OWNER MELINDA VAN EECKHOUT

DOUG FLICKER

AURIGA

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA

AC: Doug, how did you start cooking?

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DF: I was 18 or 19 years old and going nowhere fast. I fell in love with restaurants before I fell in love with food--sex, drugs, rock and roll, cute waitresses, late nights. D'Amico Cucina was my first kitchen. The chef told me to grab some portobello mushrooms and I grabbed sausages. He just kind of looked at me and I realized that I never wanted someone to look at me like that again. I started seeking as much information as possible. That was 1986. I also worked at Kapoochi, Loring Cafe and Table of Contents, all in Minneapolis.

AC: Where did you grow up?

DF: Rochester, Minnesota.

AC: What's the history of Auriga?

DF: Auriga opened in 1997, on a wing and a prayer, after some late nights of drinking. It's the same story for every restaurant that's ever opened. You work for someone but you want to do things your way, and you think you can do it better. You think you're going to change the world. Our corporate name is "Friends of the Revolution."

MV: At Loring Cafe we would make the waitstaff salute us to get family meal. We were such assholes. (laughing)

DF: Once we got the lease, we pieced everything together as quickly and inexpensively as possible. It was five weeks from getting the lease to opening.

AC: Did you initially have investors?

DF: We had a small business loan and a few people who invested five thousand dollars apiece. Adrenaline, beer and fear just drove it for a number of years.

MV: The day we opened, Doug said, 'Oh my God, we have reservations! Does anyone have a bread recipe?' I looked into the dining room and we were packed, and I was like, 'Holy crap, Doug. We have to do this.' Since we got a serious investor, Jim Andrus, Auriga has grown up in a lot of respects.

AC: Did you seek Jim out, or did he come to you?

DF: We had a five-year renewable lease. At year four we put it on the market, just to see, before we signed the lease again, if somebody wanted to buy it. Everything's for sale.

MV: Until Jim offered us what we wanted and we were like, 'No!!' (laughing) We realized we weren't ready to give it up.

DF: Be careful what you wish for.

MV: Yeah. So we decided we needed to keep at least 60% and he could buy the rest, and we'd still run it.

DF: It works out well for everyone. He bought the building and he bought a share of the restaurant. It was very fairy tale-ish.

AC: Does he have input into the way you do things?

MV: He has input into everything. He's become our friend. Before, it had always been me and Doug against everyone we were ever involved with. When you're in such close proximity, it can be really hard, especially if there's money involved.

AC: Auriga is the name of a constellation. Why did you choose it for your restaurant?

MV: Because we were stupid. (laughing)

DF: I wanted to name it "Monkeyfish" so bad. (laughing)

MV: It's associated with the cornucopia, so it had a food story, and in restaurant listings, our name is always first.

AC: I noticed that you have pizza on your menu, which is not generally associated with fine dining.

DF: I think a good pizza made with good ingredients is a beautiful thing. When we remodeled, we talked about getting rid of the pizza, to make the place seem more elegant, but there are certain things that touch the soul, like good pasta or soup or a really good pizza. So it's still on the menu.

MV: It also reduces the intimidation factor for some of our guests. You can come in and access and enjoy a pizza, and it makes you trust what the next thing might be, even if you don't understand the words on the menu.

AC: How has Minneapolis' restaurant scene changed since you opened Auriga?

DF: There's a pendulum that swings back and forth between the food being the most important thing, as opposed to the room and the service. When we started, it was all about the quality of the food. Everybody flocked to that, but they were bitching about the chairs and the lack of formality. Before the renovation, our chairs used to creak, we had a bare floor. It was kind of "ghetto posh."

MV: There are more good restaurants in this town than there's ever been, which inevitably creates competition, which in turn makes the whole scene a lot better because we're all vying for the same dollar.

AC: If you've got a line cook position open at Auriga, how do you fill it?

DF: I've never looked at a resume. It can be useful, but people lie. You can turn anything into anything else. They come to the kitchen and we see if it fits. You can show anybody how to make a dish but it takes a certain kind of person to do it correctly. That feeling, it doesn't come out on paper.

MV: There's the entrepreneurial formula that says that the lowest-paid person must be able to reproduce your product. We've bucked that. We've given in to the fact that this is a talent-based restaurant, and we can include other people and other styles and it will still be Auriga.

DF: Letting go of some of the control? Is that what you're saying? (laughing)

MV: Maybe, yeah.

--Interview by Laurie Woolever

Conducted July 10, 2005

CONFIDENTLY YOURS IN HOBOKEN

JAMES GEORGE SARKAR

VENUE HOBOKEN, NEW JERSEY

"I DON'T WANT TO CHANGE for people. I want people to change for me," says James George Sarkar, whose savory sodas, cheese-flavored fondants and pipettes filled with the likes of soy caramel aren't exactly typical Hoboken fare. In 2004, Sarkar put two million dollars into creating Venue, in a space that once housed a pizzeria called II Cantuccio. "I put everything I have on the line to get this building and finance the construction," he says, "so I'm gonna do whatever I want with my menu. If I want to serve basil soda, I'll do it. I don't care what people think. Everyone told me that my food wouldn't work in Hoboken, that I'd have to serve Italian food. If I wanted to change my menu to satisfy the people of Hoboken, I might as well make the place into a steakhouse."

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Sarkar is a 1999 graduate of The New York Restaurant School (now known as The Art Institute of New York City), although he'd been cooking for years at lobster shacks and Italian joints at the Jersey shore before beginning his formal education. "I breezed through [school]," says Sarkar, who was awarded the school President's Gold Medal for Culinary Excellence and graduated with a perfect GPA. He externed at March, under fellow Restaurant School alum Wayne Nish, and returned a few months after graduation to take a line cook position.

"I was never fulfilled over there," says Sarkar. "I was a better cook than everyone that was above me, but in order to move up the ladder, someone else had to quit. I was in limbo." The young cook approached the owners of The Grand Victorian Hotel in Spring Lake, New Jersey and declared his intention to become their executive chef, telling the couple, "Let me go into your kitchen for an hour and see what I come up with." He prepared butter-poached lobster with lemon coconut foam and sweet pea risotto and was hired on the spot, replacing the existing executive chef, who hadn't yet arrived that fateful morning. "I didn't demand as much money as the guy I replaced, and the owners liked the way I was talking, telling them what I would change and how I would organize the kitchen." Sarkar stayed for two years, eventually leaving in pursuit of greater creative freedom. He considered seeking a job back in Manhattan, then decided to take a gamble on Hoboken.

"If I had it my way, Venue would be in New York. If this place were in New York, we'd already be well-known. That's the ultimate goal. I want to compete with the big boys. Do you know how hard it is to get someone to take the [train] from Manhattan to Hoboken? The only way to compete is to be in the same vicinity," he says. Sarkar is slowly building a reputation in New Jersey, largely through word-of-mouth and some positive local press. "I knew coming into this that we wouldn't open up and instantly be sold out," he says. "It's an uphill battle, being in Hoboken. One Tuesday we'll do 30 or 40 covers, then the next week we'll do six. It's hard to tell." Venue supplements its a la carte revenue with corporate functions, weddings, dinner parties and cooking lessons. "I'm a fairly good teacher," he says. "Most of the people who came to work for me, they had little or no experience. I find that the ones who have a lot of experience, they don't like to change. They don't want a 27-year old guy telling them what to do."

In his official biography, Sarkar states that he wants to make Venue "... not only the top restaurant in the state, but one of the top restaurants in the country." When asked how he intends to achieve that goal, he pauses a moment, then says, "By just doing what I'm doing. By trying to do cutting-edge food, using new ideas, new flavor combinations. I'm not going to change. I'm going to stick it out and do what I'm capable of doing, and eventually people are going to take notice. It's just a matter of time."

RELATED ARTICLE: Four Tartares (Serves 4)

JULIAN ALONZO

Gewurztraminer

Hugel & Fils

Alsace, France 2003

ingredients

For the braised veal cheeks:
1 1/2 tablespoons canola oil
2 veal cheeks, trimmed
1/2 white onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/2 leek, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/2 head garlic, cloves separated and peeled
1 cup red wine
1 cup veal stock
Salt and pepper to taste


For the mackerel tartare:
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 tablespoon Szechuan peppercorns
6 egg yolks
1/4 cup plus 1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar
1/2 tablespoon ice cream stabilizer*
1 tablespoon glucose
3 ripe fingerling bananas, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/4 cup finely grated horseradish
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup grapeseed oil
1 teaspoon salt
8 ounces sushi grade Spanish mackerel, cut in 1/4-inch pieces
1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon finely chopped chives, plus more for garnish
1 banana, thinly sliced crosswise
American paddlefish caviar, for garnish**
Chive oil, for garnish
Salt and pepper to taste


For the hamachi tartare:
1 cup grapeseed oil
1/4 cup dried Thai chilis
1/4 Granny Smith apple, cored and thinly sliced
1/2 cup thinly sliced fennel
1/2 cup pea shoots
1/4 cup candied yuzu
1/4 cup yuzu juice
4 ounces sushi grade hamachi loin, thinly sliced
Micro herbs, for garnish
Sea salt to taste


For the tuna tartare:
1 cup heavy cream
5 sheets gelatin, softened in cold water
1/4 cup passionfruit puree
1 tablespoon wasabi tobikko caviar***
8 ounces sushi grade bluefin tuna, cut in 1/4-inch pieces
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon peeled and finely chopped ginger
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped chives
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped mint leaves
1 teaspoon kecap manis****
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Dash of Tabasco[R] sauce
1/2 cucumber, thinly sliced
1/2 cup sesame seaweed salad*****
Chili oil, from above
Dill sprigs, for garnish
Salt and pepper to taste


For the steak tartare:
1/2 cup beef gelee
1 tablespoon butter
1/2 cup finely chopped leeks
4 ounces braised veal cheeks, from above
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 ripe plantains, thinly sliced lengthwise and cut in half crosswise
2 tablespoons clarified butter
8 ounces prime beef filet, finely chopped
1 teaspoon finely chopped capers
1 teaspoon finely chopped cornichons
1 teaspoon peeled and finely chopped shallots
1 small clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped mint leaves
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon ketchup
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons kecap manis****
1 quail egg
Parsley leaves, for garnish
Fried plaintain chips, for garnish
Salt and pepper to taste


Note: Immersion circulator is a device that maintains desired water temperature for long periods of time. Available through Julabo, (800) 458-5226 or www.julabo.com.

*Available through Pastry Chef Central, (561) 999-9483 or www.pastrychef.com.

**Available through Paramount Caviar, (800) 992-2842 or www.paramountcaviar.com.

***Capelin caviar mixed with wasabi. Available through 911 Caviar, (818) 508-1220 or www.911caviar.com.

****Available at Asian markets.

*****Available at Japanese markets.

RELATED ARTICLE: Banana and Apple Braised Pork Belly with Banana Vanilla Gel (Serves 4)

JULIAN ALONZO

Pinot Noir Premier Cuvee

Archery Summit Winery

Dayton, Oregon 2002

directions

For the banana and apple puree: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place bananas and apples on sheet pan lined with parchment paper and roast 45 minutes. Transfer to bowl and puree with immersion blender. Stir in honey and set aside at room temperature.

For the pork belly: Set up immersion circulator according to manufacturer's instructions and heat water to 150 degrees. Vacuum seal belly with banana and apple puree in Cryovac[R] bag and cook for 18 hours. Remove bag and chill in ice water bath. Remove pork from bag, remove excess puree and refrigerate, covered, until ready for use.

For the banana vanilla gel: In bowl, combine bananas and vanilla bean seeds and puree with immersion blender. Slowly add Micri until mixture has gel consistency. Blend in xanthan gum and adjust consistency with water. Place in squeeze bottle and set aside at room temperature.

To finish: Heat saute pan over medium-low heat. Season pork with salt and pepper and place in pan, fat side down. Cook slowly until browned. In separate saute pan, heat butter until it foams and subsides. Add greens, cook until wilted and season with salt and pepper. Place greens on plate and top with belly. Squeeze banana-vanilla gel to one side with dandelion jam, garnish with micro greens and serve.

ingredients

For the banana and apple puree:
2 medium ripe bananas, peeled
2 medium Macintosh apples, peeled and cored
Honey to taste


For the pork belly:
1 pound pork belly, skinned, scored on fat side and cut into 4 pieces
2 cups banana-apple puree, from above


For the banana vanilla gel:
1 1/2 medium ripe bananas, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped
2 tablespoons Micri[R]*
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum**
Water, as needed


To finish:
Pork belly, from above
1/4 cup butter
1 pound dandelion greens
Salt and pepper to taste


For the garnish:
Dandelion jam***
Micro dandelion greens


Note: Immersion circulator is a device that maintains desired water temperature for long periods of time. Available through Julabo, (800) 458-5226 or www.julabo.com.

*A natural, flavorless sauce base made mostly of cassava, used as an emulsifier and stabilizer. Available through Harry Wils & Co. (201) 770-1180.

**A powder derived from a dried microorganism called Xanthonomonas campestris. Has binding and emulsifying properties. Available at health food stores.

***Available through Chef's Garden, (800) 289-4644 or www.chefs-garden.com.

RELATED ARTICLE: Bacon and Skirt Steak "Filet" with Plantain Gnocchi (Serves 4)

JULIAN ALONZO

Chateauneuf-du-Pape

Domaine Jean Deydier et Fils

Chateauneuf-du-Pape, France 1999

directions

For the filet: Stack steak and bacon, beginning and ending with steak, sprinkling transglutaminase between each layer. Vacuum seal stack in Cryovac[R] bag, and refrigerate overnight under 10-pound weight.

For the roasted garlic: Set up immersion circulator according to manufacturer's instructions and bring water to 170 degrees. Vacuum seal garlic and fat in Cryovac[R] bag and cook in water three hours. Remove garlic and fat from bag. Heat saute pan over medium heat and add garlic and fat, cooking until garlic is golden brown. Remove from heat and keep warm.

For the plantain gnocchi: Bring large pot of salted water to boil and add taro and plantains. Cook until very soft and drain, reserving cooking liquid. Process taro and plantains through food mill. Place taro and plantains on floured work surface and form well in center. Add cheese and 1/4 cup flour to well and season with salt and pepper. Gradually mix, adding more flour as necessary until dough is not sticky and is slightly elastic. Roll into 1/2-inch thick logs and cut each into 1-inch lengths. Cook in boiling, salted water until gnocchi float. Drain and chill in ice water bath. Drain and place on sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Cover and freeze until ready to cook.

For the tomato jam: Combine 1/4 cup sugar and pectin and set aside. Place remaining ingredients in saucepan and bring to boil. Whisk in pectin mixture and simmer 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour into glass jar and let cool to room temperature.

To finish: Heat large pot of water to 150 degrees, add filet and cook five minutes. Heat oil in saute pan over high heat. Remove steak from bag, season with salt and pepper and sear until browned on all sides. In separate saute pan, heat four tablespoons butter until it foams and subsides. Add frozen gnocchi in batches, cooking until tender. Remove from pan, drain on paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Continue cooking gnocchi, adding butter to pan as necessary. Slice filet across grain and place three slices on plate with several garlic cloves. Arrange gnocchi and tomato jam on plate, garnish with chamomile and serve.

ingredients

For the filet:
2 pounds skirt steak, trimmed, cut into 6-inch lengths and pounded flat
4 strips bacon
3 ounces transglutaminase*


For the roasted garlic:
1 head garlic, cloves separated
4 tablespoons goose fat


For the plantain gnocchi:
1 pound taro root, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 green plantains, peeled and coarsely chopped
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
1/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
Salt and pepper to taste


For the tomato jam:
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons powdered pectin
1 cup canned peeled tomatoes
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon salt


To finish:
Filet, from above
2 tablespoons canola oil
8 tablespoons butter
Gnocchi, from above
Salt and pepper to taste


For the garnish:
Chamomile


*An enzyme with the ability to cross-link proteins, produced by the microbial fermentation of naturally occurring organisms. Available through Ajinomoto Food Ingredients, www.ajiusafood.com.

Note: Immersion circulator is a device that maintains desired water temperature for long periods of time. Available through Julabo, (800) 458-5226 or www.julabo.com.

RELATED ARTICLE: Diver Sea Scallops in Tobikko Crust with Sea Urchin-Avocado Hand Rolls (Serves 4)

JULIAN ALONZO

Chablis ler Cru "Montee de Tonnerre"

Domaine Vocoretet Fils

Burgundy, France 2003

directions

For the coconut and kalamansi froth: In saucepan, combine first seven ingredients and bring to simmer. Remove from heat and let sit one hour. Strain and season with salt and pepper. In separate saucepan, bring water to boil and whisk in methyl cellulose. Add water mixture to coconut mixture and mix with immersion blender until frothy.

For the sumac butter: Slowly add panko and sumac to softened butter until completely incorporated. On parchment paper, roll butter into cylinder the diameter of the scallops and refrigerate until firm.

For the sea urchin-avocado hand rolls: Cut avocado halves into very thin slices lengthwise. Overlap four slices on plastic, season with salt, place 1/2-ounce sea urchin in center, and carefully roll into cone shape in plastic. Repeat process with remaining avocado and sea urchin. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

For the candied bananas: Sprinkle bananas with sugar and caramelize with torch.

For the scallops: Heat oil in saute pan over high heat. Season scallops with salt and pepper and sear two minutes per side. Add butter to pan and baste until scallops are golden brown. Top each scallop with caviar and 1/8-inch thick slice sumac butter. Place pan under broiler until butter melts and forms crust. Remove scallops from pan and drain on paper towels.

To serve: Unwrap handrolls and place on plate with scallops and bananas. Spoon froth around, garnish with greens and serve.

ingredients

For the coconut and kalamansi froth:
3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 1/2 cups kalamansi concentrate*
6 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 teaspoon coconut essence
1 teaspoon lime juice
1 scotch bonnet pepper
1 Kaffir lime leaf
1/4 cup water
Pinch of methyl cellulose A15**
Salt and pepper to taste


For the sumac butter:
2 ounces powdered sumac***
1/2 pound butter, softened
4 ounces panko breadcrumbs


For the sea urchin-avocado hand rolls:
2 almost ripe avocados, halved lengthwise, pitted and peeled
4 ounces sea urchin
Maldon[R] sea salt to taste


For the candied bananas:
4 semi-ripe fingerling bananas, peeled and halved lengthwise
1/4 cup turbinado sugar


For the scallops:
2 tablespoons canola oil
8 diver sea scallops
2 tablespoons butter
2 ounces red tobikko caviar
Sumac butter, from above
Salt and pepper to taste


For the garnish:
Micro greens


*Concentrated juice of a lime indigenous to the Philippines. Available through Pilipino Mart, (866) 627-4956 or www.pilipinomart.com.

**Food gum used as stabilizer. Available through Dow Pharmaceuticals, www.methocelfoodgums.com.

***The dried, ground berries of a bush native to the Middle East, with an astringent, lemon-like flavor. Available through Savory Spice Shop Inc., (888) 677-3322 or www.savoryspiceshop.com.

RELATED ARTICLE: John Dory "Steak" with Barley and Pea Risotto and Banana Papaya Chutney (Serves 4)

JULIAN ALONZO

Sauvignon Blanc

Mount Riley Wines

Marlborough, New Zealand 2003

directions

For the John Dory: Sprinkle transglutaminase on one fillet, and top with another fillet. Place one thyme sprig on fillet and wrap in caul fat. Repeat with remaining fillets, cover and refrigerate at least six hours.

For the banana papaya chutney: In saucepan over medium heat, combine sugar and water and cook until caramelized. Stir in vinegar, juice and vanilla seeds and continue cooking until sugar dissolves. Add peppers, bananas and papaya and simmer, stirring constantly, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and curry powder, remove from heat and set aside at room temperature.

For the barley and pea risotto: In medium saucepan, heat butter until it foams and subsides. Add ramps and cook until translucent. Stir in barley, then add two cups of stock, stirring constantly until stock is absorbed. Repeat with remaining stock. Add remaining ingredients and cook until barley is tender. Season with salt and pepper and keep warm.

For the plantain cylinder: Heat four tablespoons oil in saute pan, and cook plantain slices until soft enough to bend. Heat remaining oil in deep-fryer or tall sided pot to 350 degrees. Wrap a plantain slice around 1 1/2-inch diameter metal cylinder and deep-fry until browned. Drain on paper towels, season with salt and pepper and remove cylinder. Repeat with remaining slices of plantain.

To finish: Heat oil in large saute pan on high heat. Season fillets with salt and pepper and sear three minutes per side. Add butter to pan and baste fillets. Remove from pan and drain on paper towels. Slice fillets in half and arrange on plate with chutney. Fill plaintain with risotto and transfer to plate. Garnish with micro greens and serve immediately.

ingredients

For the John Dory:
8 4-ounce fillets John Dory, skinned and trimmed
3 ounces transglutaminase*
4 sprigs thyme
Caul fat, as needed


For the banana papaya chutney:
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
3 tablespoons water
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup pineapple juice
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1/4 cup finely chopped piquillo peppers
1 medium ripe banana, peeled and finely chopped
1 medium papaya, grilled, peeled and finely chopped
Salt and curry powder, to taste


For the barley and pea risotto:
2 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup pickled ramps
8 ounces cooked barley
4 cups chicken stock
4 ounces English peas
3 ounces water spinach
2 ounces puffed rice
4 ounces grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
2 ounces fines herbes
Salt and pepper to taste


For the plantain cylinder:
2 quarts canola oil
2 green plantains, thinly sliced lengthwise


To finish:
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper to taste


For the garnish:
Micro greens


*An enzyme with the ability to cross-link proteins, produced by the microbial fermentation of naturally occurring organisms. Available through Ajinomoto Food Ingredients, www.ajiusafood.com.

RELATED ARTICLE: Pork Tenderloin with Banana Vindaloo and Mandan Bride Corn-Banana Fritters (Serves 4)

DOUG FLICKER & MELINDA VAN EECKHOUT

Shiraz "The Struie"

Torbreck Winery

Barossa Valley, Australia 2002

directions

For the banana vindaloo: In saucepan over high heat, cook onions and bananas until caramelized, about five minutes. Stir in remaining ingredients and cook five minutes more. Puree in blender, adding water as necessary until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

For the fritters: In deep-fryer or tall sided pot, heat oil to 350 degrees. Mix dry ingredients in bowl. In separate bowl, beat egg and add banana. Stir egg mixture into dry ingredients, adding just enough milk to make stiff batter. Drop in oil by tablespoonful and fry until golden brown. Drain on paper towels and season with salt immediately.

For the pork tenderloin: Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Season pork with salt and pepper. Heat oil in saute pan until very hot. Sear pork on all sides until golden brown. Transfer to oven and roast to desired doneness.

To serve: Spoon vindaloo onto plate. Cut pork into 1-inch thick slices and arrange atop vindaloo. Place fritters and chanterelles beside pork. Garnish with star anise, sprinkle with sea salt and serve immediately.

ingredients

For the banana vindaloo:
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 ripe bananas, peeled and coarsely chopped
6-8 Guajillo peppers, soaked, seeds removed
6 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 tablespoons peeled, grated ginger
1 tablespoon tamarind paste
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 star anise
1 teaspoon poppy seeds
1 black cardamom pod
Salt and pepper to taste


For the fritters:
1 quart canola oil
1 cup Mandan Bride cornmeal*
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
1 egg
1 banana, peeled and mashed
Milk, as needed


For the pork tenderloin:
2 pounds pork tenderloin, trimmed
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste


For the garnish:
Golden chanterelle mushrooms, sauteed
Star anise
Sea salt


*Mandan Bride corn has soft, multi-colored kernels and is most often used for flour and meal. Named for the Mandan Indians of the U.S. northern plains. Seeds available through Seed Savers, www.seedsavers.org or (563) 382-5990.

RELATED ARTICLE: Banana Consomme with Basted Lobster, Lovage and Black Cardamom (Serves 4)

DOUG FLICKER

Pinot Gris "Reserve Personnelle"

Trimbach

Alsace, France 1997

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

directions

For the banana consomme: In food processor fitted with metal blade, puree 1 1/2 pounds bananas with water, sugar and cardamom, then transfer to heavy-bottomed saucepan. In bowl, coarsely mash remaining bananas with egg whites and shells. Heat consomme mixture to 140 degrees and stir in egg white mixture. Continue heating, stirring occasionally, until raft floats to top and starts to solidify. Turn heat to low and simmer 15 minutes. Strain through cheesecloth-lined fine-mesh sieve. Season with salt and keep warm.

For the lobster: Add claws to pot of boiling salted water and cook 1 1/2 minutes, then add tail and cook together 2 1/2 more minutes. Chill claws and tail in ice water bath. Remove meat from shells and halve tails lengthwise.

To finish: In saute pan, melt butter with consomme. Add lovage leaves and lobster, basting with large spoon to reheat.

To serve: Place one claw small bowl and ladle banana consomme over. On plate, arrange lobster tail half next to bowl and top with lovage leaves. Drizzle a small amount of basting butter over lobster and sprinkle with sea salt. Garnish with cardamom pods, micro greens and banana balls. Serve immediately.

ingredients

For the banana consomme:
2 pounds ripe bananas, peeled
1 quart water
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
8 egg whites, with shells


For the lobster:
Claws and tail from two 1-pound lobsters


To finish:
8 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons banana consomme, from above
2 ounces lovage leaves
Lobster, from above


For the garnish:
Coarse sea salt
Black cardamom pods
Micro greens
Bananas, made into balls with Parisian scoop


RELATED ARTICLE: Squab Breast with Dates, Chorizo and Banana Foam (Serves 4)

DOUG FLICKER & MICHAEL FITZGERALD

Syrah Toscana Podere Il Bosco

Fattoria di Manzano

Tuscany, Italy 1997

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

directions

For the Chardonnay gelee: Bring wine to boil, cook two minutes, then remove from heat. Squeeze excess water from gelatin and place in saucepan with Chardonnay. Warm over medium heat until gelatin dissolves. Transfer to small bowl and set bowl in ice bath. Stir occasionally until mixture reaches cream consistency. Stir in chive flowers, transfer to half sheet pan and place in refrigerator until set. Cut circles from gelee using 1/2-inch, 1-inch and 1 1/2-inch round cutters. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

For the banana foam: Combine bananas, cream and milk in saucepan. Bring to low simmer, remove from heat and steep one hour. Strain through fine-mesh sieve.

For the chorizo: Heat saute pan on medium-high. Place chorizo in pan in single layer. Cook one to two minutes, turn over, and cook another two to three minutes. Place each slice between two cannoli molds to form an S-shape. Let drain, reserving oil for garnish.

For the dates: Heat oil in saute pan over medium heat. Add dates, cut side down, and cook just until crust forms. Set aside at room temperature.

For the squab: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat oil in saute pan over medium-high heat. Season breasts with salt and pepper and sear, skin side down, until crispy, about two minutes. Turn breast and transfer to oven for three more minutes. Remove from oven and let rest.

To finish: Return foam to heat and bring to gentle simmer. Remove from heat, add butter and, using immersion blender, mix until frothy.

To serve: Cut breasts into 1/4-inch thick slices. On plate, arrange squab, three date halves, three slices chorizo, gelee and foam. Drizzle with chorizo oil and serve.

ingredients

For the Chardonnay gelee:
1 cup Chardonnay
2 sheets gelatin, softened in cold water
3 chive blossoms, separated into individual flowers


For the banana foam:
2 ripe bananas, peeled and finely chopped
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups milk


For the chorizo:
12 thin, bias-cut slices chorizo


For the dates:
1 tablespoon canola oil
6 dates, halved lengthwise


For the squab:
1 tablespoon canola oil
4 squab breasts
Salt and pepper to taste


To finish:
2 tablespoons butter


For the garnish:
Chorizo oil, from above


RELATED ARTICLE: Preserved Banana Pancakes with Maple Parfait and Candied Walnuts (Serves 6)

DOUG FLICKER & JULIETTE LELCHUK

Graham's Vintage Port 1985

directions

For the preserved bananas: Combine sugar and salt and divide into two equal portions. Place bananas in small bowl and cover completely with one portion salt mixture. Set second portion aside. Cover bananas and refrigerate five days. Remove bananas, discarding used mixture. Repeat with remaining mixture. Brush off excess. Preheat oven to 150 degrees. Place bananas on sheet pan and dry in oven, eight to ten hours. Before use, soak banana in cold water for eight hours or until soft.

For the maple parfait: Using parchment paper or stiff cake wrappers, line insides of six 2-inch ring molds so that paper rises 3 inches above mold. Whip eight ounces cream to medium-soft peaks and keep cold. Bring 3 ounces maple sugar, corn syrup and water to boil. Cook until mixture is deep brown, then remove from heat and stir in remaining cream. Cool slightly. Whisk yolks with remaining sugar. Temper yolk mixture by adding one-third of hot sugar mixture to yolk mixture, while whisking constantly. Return tempered yolk mixture to sugar mixture and place over medium-low heat, stirring constantly until it reaches 185 degrees. Strain through fine-mesh sieve into bowl of electric mixer fitted with whisk, and whip until cooled. Fold in rum, then whipped cream. Fill molds and freeze until firm.

For the candied walnuts: In saucepan, bring sugar, salt and water to boil. Cook until caramel is amber color, remove from heat and let cool until thickened, but still flowing. Using toothpicks, dip walnuts in caramel and let cool on silicone mat. When set, remove toothpicks.

For the orange brown butter: In saucepan, cook butter over medium heat until solids brown. Remove from heat and stir in zest and juice. Keep warm.

For the pancakes: Combine flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in bowl. In small saucepan, melt one tablespoons butter. In separate bowl, whisk together yolk, butter and milk. Stir flour mixture into yolk mixture until just combined. In separate bowl, whip egg white to soft peaks and fold into batter. Heat non-stick pan over medium-high heat with two teaspoons butter. Cook pancakes in batches, using two tablespoons batter for each. When first side is golden brown, place preserved banana slice on uncooked side before flipping. Use remaining butter as necessary for each batch.

To serve: Unmold parfait, quickly roll in maple sugar and walnuts and place on plate. Arrange three pancakes next to parfait and drizzle with orange brown butter. Garnish with two walnut halves per plate, orange zest and slices of preserved banana. Serve immediately.

ingredients

For the preserved bananas:
8 ounces granulated sugar
12 ounces kosher salt
2 ripe bananas, peeled


For the maple parfait:
10 ounces heavy cream
4 ounces maple sugar
1/2 tablespoon corn syrup
2 ounces water
2 egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon rum


For the candied walnuts:
1 pound granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 ounces water
12 walnut halves


For the orange brown butter:
3 ounces butter
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 ounce orange juice


For the pancakes:
3 ounces all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 ounce granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 ounces butter, melted
1 egg yolk
4 ounces milk
1 egg white
18 thin slices preserved banana, from above


For the garnish:
Coarse maple sugar
Coarsely chopped walnuts
Orange zest
Preserved bananas


RELATED ARTICLE: Grilled Banana Salad with Coquitos, Mint Sherbet and Coffee Jus (Serves 4)

JAMES GEORGE SARKAR

Gruner Veltliner, "M"

F. X. Pichler

Wachau, Austria 1999

directions

For the mint sherbet: In medium saucepan, bring water, sugar and juice to boil. Remove from heat and stir in mint. Let steep 20 minutes, then strain through fine-mesh sieve. Place in refrigerator at least three hours, or until completely chilled. Whisk in egg white and process in ice cream machine according to manufacturer's instructions. Store in freezer.

For the coconut aspic: In medium saucepan over low heat, warm coconut milk; do not bring to simmer. Squeeze excess water from gelatin. Add to coconut milk, stirring to dissolve. Season with salt to taste. Pour mixture into small jelly roll pan and let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate uncovered two hours. When aspic is set, cover with plastic and refrigerate.

For the pickled canary melon: Trim melon slices into 1 1/2 X 3-inch rectangles and place in shallow dish. In small saucepan, combine vinegar, water, sugar and salt and heat just enough to dissolve sugar and salt. Pour over melon slices and refrigerate.

For the coffee jus: In small saucepan, bring coffee and sugar to boil, then simmer over medium heat until mixture coats back of spoon, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in butter.

For the grilled bananas: Prepare grill or heat grill pan over high heat. Brush bananas with clarified butter, season with salt to taste and grill flesh side down, two to three minutes. Remove skin and cut each into six 1-inch pieces.

To serve: Arrange melon slices, three 3/4-inch rounds of coconut aspic and Parisian scoop of sherbet on plate. Place banana pieces on plate, drizzle with coffee just and top with six coquito halves and micro greens.

ingredients

For the mint sherbet:
16 ounces water
8 ounces superfine sugar
1/2 ounce lemon juice
25 mint leaves
1 egg white


For the coconut aspic:
8 ounces coconut milk
4 sheets gelatin, softened five minutes in cold water
Salt to taste


For the pickled canary melon:
1 canary melon, rind removed, sliced paper thin
2 ounces rice wine vinegar
4 ounces distilled water
3 1/2 ounces granulated sugar
1 ounce salt


For the coffee jus:
10 ounces freshly brewed Sumatra coffee
3 1/2 ounces granulated sugar
1/2 ounce butter


For the grilled bananas:
2 ripe bananas, unpeeled, halved lengthwise
Clarified butter, as needed
Salt to taste


For the garnish:
12 coquitos*, halved
Micro greens


*Coquitos are baby coconuts. Available through Sid Wainer & Son, (800) 423-8333 or www.sidwainer.com.

RELATED ARTICLE: Banana Carpaccio with Sevruga Caviar and Banana Sesame Milk (Serves 4)

JAMES GEORGE SARKAR

Saumur Blanc

Caves de Grenelle

Saumur, France NV

directions

For the banana sesame milk: Combine all ingredients in blender and puree. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve and refrigerate.

For the banana carpaccio: Using a mandoline, slice bananas lengthwise to 1/16-inch thickness. Trim ends of each slice to yield 4 1/4-inch length.

To serve: Using an offset spatula, arrange banana slices on plate. Drizzle with sesame oil and soy sauce. Place a quenelle of caviar on bananas and garnish with toasted sesame seeds. Lightly coat rim of 2-ounce glass with ground sesame mixture and fill with banana sesame milk. Serve immediately.

ingredients

For the banana sesame milk:
1 ripe banana, peeled
10 ounces milk
2 ounces sesame seeds, toasted
1 teaspoon granulated sugar


For the banana carpaccio:
4 green bananas, peeled


For garnish:
Toasted sesame oil
White soy sauce
Sevruga caviar
Toasted sesame seeds
Ground toasted sesame seeds with sugar and salt to taste


RELATED ARTICLE: Banana Gnocchi with Molasses Jus and Vanilla Foam (Serves 6)

JAMES GEORGE SARKAR

Pinot Noir "Olivet Lane"

Merry Edwards Wines

Russian River Valley, California 1999

directions

For the banana gnocchi: In food processor fitted with metal blade, process bananas until smooth. Add egg and pulse briefly. Add flour one ounce at a time, pulsing after each addition. Add salt and sugar and process until dough forms. Transfer mixture to chilled pastry bag fitted with large tip, and refrigerate at least one hour or until well-chilled.

For the molasses jus: In medium saucepan over medium heat, reduce veal stock by two-thirds. Stir in molasses, honey and salt. Remove from heat and whisk in butter. Keep warm.

For the vanilla foam: In saucepan, bring cream and water to simmer. Stir in butter, sugar and vanilla seeds, discarding pods. Pour into tall-sided container. Froth sauce with immersion blender.

To finish: Bring large pot of salted water to boil. Remove gnocchi mixture from refrigerator and squeeze one inch of mixture from bag, cutting with knife and dropping into boiling water. Repeat with remaining mixture. Cook until gnocchi float to surface, about one to two minutes. Cook 30 seconds more and drain immediately. Heat clarified butter in saute pan and sear gnocchi on one side only until golden brown.

To serve: Spoon small amount of molasses jus onto plate. Arrange gnocchi browned side up, on jus. Top each gnoccho with roasted pecan half, vanilla foam and popcorn shoots.

ingredients

For the banana gnocchi:
2 ripe bananas, peeled
1 egg
8 ounces bread flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar


For the molasses jus:
12 ounces veal stock
1 tablespoon molasses
1 1/2 teaspoons honey
2 ounces butter
Salt to taste


For the vanilla foam:
4 ounces heavy cream
6 ounces water
3 ounces butter
1 ounce granulated sugar
1 Madagascar vanilla bean, split and scraped


To finish:
Gnocchi mixture, from above
Clarified butter, as needed


For the garnish:
Roasted pecan halves
Micro popcorn shoots*


*Micro popcorn shoots are the sprouts of dried corn kernels. Available through Sid Wainer & Son, (800) 423-8333, or wwwsidwainer.com.

RELATED ARTICLE: Green Plantain and Bacon Wrapped Pork Tenderloin (Serves 4)

JAMES GEORGE SARKAR

Cheval des Andes

Chateau Cheval Blanc

Mendoza, Argentina 2002

directions

For the pork loin: Divide bacon and plantains into four portions. On four half sheets of parchment paper, arrange each portion of bacon and plantains in overlapping slices. Refrigerate one hour. Season tenderloins with salt and pepper, wrap with one portion of bacon and plantains, then in single layer of caul fat, and refrigerate. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In large saute pan, heat clarified butter on high heat and sear tenderloins until golden brown on all sides. Place on sheet pan and roast in oven 10 to 15 minutes, or until medium. Let rest 5 to 10 minutes.

For the sauce: In small saucepan, reduce stock by two-thirds. Whisk in butter and add Stilton. Season with salt and pepper.

To serve: Spoon two ounces of sauce into center of bowl. Cut each tenderloin into two equal pieces and position side by side in middle. Toss banana chips and micro greens together and place atop pork. Garnish with banana flowers and serve immediately.

ingredients

For the pork loin:
12 ounces bacon, thinly sliced
4 green plantains, peeled and sliced thinly lengthwise
4 8-ounce pork tenderloins
Caul fat, as needed
Clarified butter, as needed
Salt and pepper to taste


For the sauce:
2 cups real stock
1/4 cup butter
2 ounces Stilton cheese
Salt and pepper to taste


For the garnish:
Banana chips
Rainbow micro greens
Banana flowers*


*Banana flowers available from Mitsuwa Marketplace, (201) 941-9113.

RELATED ARTICLE: Duck Confit Plantain Ravioli with Chocolate Ganache (Serves 4)

JAMES GEORGE SARKAR

Pinot Noir

Two Paddocks

Central Otago, New Zealand 2001

directions

For the duck confit filling: Preheat oven to 200 degrees. In large saucepan, melt duck fat over medium heat. In deep nine-inch ovenproof pot with lid, layer duck legs, herbs, pepper and garlic. Pour fat over duck to cover completely. Cover and cook over medium-low heat for 10 hours. Let cool in fat. Lift legs from fat, remove skin, and shred meat. Refrigerate until chilled. Stir in mascarpone, brown sugar, and salt to taste. Refrigerate two hours.

For the ganache: Scald cream in small saucepan. Remove from heat and add chocolate, stirring until smooth. Warm gently if necessary to melt chocolate.

For the ravioli: Using meat slicer, have plantain into 24 thin sheets. Cut each sheet into two 3/4 X 2 1/2-inch rectangles. Heat 1/2 tablespoon butter in saute pan until it foams and subsides. Working in batches, saute plantains until softened and golden brown, about one minute per side. Season with salt to taste. Repeat with remaining plantains and butter. Cross two plaintain slices and place two teaspoons of filling in center. Fold each end over filling and invert.

To serve: Sprinkle ravioli with sugar and brown with torch. Place three ravioli in a row on plate. Spoon small amount of ganache on each and top with slice of pepper and plantain strip. Arrange mache around ravioli and serve.

ingredients

For the duck confit filling:
6 cups duck fat
4 8-ounce duck legs
2 tablespoons thyme, finely chopped
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
6 cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 cup mascarpone cheese
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Salt to taste


For the ganache:
6 ounces heavy cream
8 ounces dark chocolate, coarsely chopped


For the ravioli:
1 ripe plantain, peeled
2 tablespoons butter
Duck confit filling, from above
Salt to taste


For the garnish:
1 tablespoon superfine sugar
Red Thai chili pepper, sliced
Deep-fried plantain strips
Mache


RELATED ARTICLE: Banana Tempura (Serves 10)

JAMES GEORGE SARKAR

Vouvray, Cuvee Constance

Domaine Huet

Vouvray, France 1989

directions

For the brown sugar caramel: In small saucepan, bring water to boil. Stir in sugar to dissolve. Add honey and reduce by half over low flame. Keep warm.

For the cinnamon creme anglaise: Over high heat, scald cream in small saucepan. In small bowl, whisk together yolks and sugar. Temper yolks with cream, then carefully pour mixture into cream. On low heat, stir slowly with wooden spoon until slightly thickened. Strain through fine-mesh sieve. Finely grate cinnamon into cream and keep warm.

For the banana tempura: In deep-fryer or large, tall-sided pot, heat oil to 360 degrees. In large bowl, sift flour, cornstarch, salt and baking powder together. Stir in egg white and sparkling water until thoroughly combined. Dip bananas in batter and fry until golden. Drain on paper towels.

To serve: Place two banana halves on plate. While squeezing bulb of transfer pipette**, dip end into brown sugar caramel and release bulb just enough to fill halfway. Then place end in cinnamon creme anglaise and release bulb all the way to fill other half. Skewer one banana half with pipette and serve immediately.

ingredients

For the brown sugar caramel:
16 ounces water
5 ounces brown sugar, packed
3 ounces honey


For the cinnamon creme anglaise:
8 ounces heavy cream
2 egg yolks
2 ounces granulated sugar
1/4 cinnamon stick


For the banana tempura:
1 quart soybean oil
4 ounces all-purpose flour
1 1/2 ounces cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 egg white
8 ounces sparkling water
10 nino bananas, peeled and halved lengthwise*


*Nino bananas are also known as baby, ladyfinger or finger bananas. Available through Sid Wainer & Son, (800) 423-8333 or www.sidwainer.com.

**Transfer pipettes are flexible plastic tubes for drawing small amounts of liquid. Available at (888) 299-9907 or www.greenwoodenvironmental.com.

RELATED ARTICLE: Peanut Butter, Banana and Prosciutto Monte Cristo with Peanut Butter and Jelly Soda (Serves 4)

JAMES GEORGE SARKAR

Black Muscat

Loel

Limassal, Cyprus 1998

directions

For the soda: In blender, combine jam and 1/2 cup water. Strain through fine-mesh sieve and refrigerate. Repeat procedure with peanut butter and remaining water. When chilled, pour grape mixture into one 1-liter carbonating bottle, and peanut butter mixture into another 1-liter carbonating bottle. Carbonate according to manufacturer's instructions and refrigerate until ready to serve.

For the banana foam: In food processor fitted with metal blade, puree banana with water and strain through fine-mesh sieve. In medium saucepan, combine banana mixture with remaining ingredients and bring to simmer. Pour into tall-sided container and froth with immersion blender.

For the Monte Cristo: Preheat oil in deep fryer or tall-sided pot to 325 degrees. In medium bowl, whisk together eggs and cream. On each of four slices bread, layer peanut butter, bananas and prosciutto. Top each with another slice of bread. Dip sandwiches in egg mixture and fry until golden brown.

To serve: Trim crusts from sandwiches. Cut each sandwich into two triangles. Place two triangles on plate and dust with confectioners' sugar. Pour grape soda into small, narrow glass. Carefully pour peanut butter soda on top of grape to create separate layers. Spoon banana foam on top and serve immediately.

ingredients

For the soda:
1 cup grape jam
2 1/2 cups water
1 cup peanut butter
Soda carbonator*


For the banana foam:
1 ripe banana, peeled
16 ounces water
8 ounces heavy cream
6 ounces butter
1 ounce granulated sugar


For the Monte Cristo:
1 quart soybean oil, for frying
2 eggs
2 tablespoons heavy cream
8 slices white bread
1 cup peanut butter
2 ripe bananas, peeled and sliced thinly crosswise
12 slices prosciutto


For the garnish:
Confectioners' sugar, for dusting


*Available through Soda Club, (800) 763-2258 or www.sodaclub.com
COPYRIGHT 2006 Culinaire, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Title Annotation:Back to Basics
Publication:Art Culinaire
Article Type:Interview
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2006
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