Sep. 21, 2012 at 9:50 AM ET
Are you a fan of bananas, natures perfectly wrapped candy? You can be loud and proud about the object of your affection, as September 21 marks the International Banana Festival.
Though it seems like the festival would be held in Asia or Central America, where most of the world’s bananas are grown, the truth is that it is held right in…Fulton, Ky? (Cue record scratch.) This tiny town on the Tennessee border has hosted the International Banana Festival since 1962. In the 1960s, 70 percent of the bananas consumed in the U.S. passed through the city. Thus, someone dubbed it the “banana capital of the world.” There was a lapse in the festival from 1992 – 2011, but now, for its 50th anniversary, the festival is back and better than ever.
The events cover all things banana, including a banana fashion show, a banana bake-off and the festival’s mainstay, the 1-ton world’s largest banana pudding.
In case you can’t make in down to Fulton, here are a few unexpected ways to cook with bananas – perfect to get you in the spirit.
Banana and onions
Nina Timm of My Easy Cooking pairs these two unlikely foods together in a savory and aromatic relish that is cooked on the stovetop and served on open-faced meatball sandwiches. Curry powder ties in the sweet aspects of the banana and the pungency of the onion, turmeric gives it a punch of color and a bit of white wine vinegar adds acidity..
Banana Hot Dog
Follow Kath Younger’s example and make a banana dog. Serve it in a hot dog bun with squiggles of almond butter “mustard” and jelly “ketchup.” The kicker is a side of mango “French fries,” making the lunch-for-breakfast theme complete.
In case you want some banana-on-banana action for that banana hot dog, look to Teri Lyn Fisher and Jenny Park, of Fork, Spoon, Bacon. This duo makes grilled banana ketchup, which actually has roots in Filipino culture. The ketchup is made from grilled bananas, sweet fruits such as dates, spices and a good measure of vinegar for the appropriate tang. Grilling the bananas brings out a savory, smoky flavor in the fruit that counteracts with its natural sweetness. Try it on French fries, hamburgers or even fish.
Pork and rice baked in a banana
Did you know banana peels are edible, especially when steamed? Marc Matsumoto, of No Recipes, wanted the flavor of banana mixed with pork without actually using the banana flesh. Thus, his pork-and- rice-stuffed banana peel was born. He puts marinated boneless pork ribs and dry rice in a split and emptied banana rind, binds it with twine, steams the whole thing for an hour, and then serves it with a salsa. Matsumoto says that this pork is moist and that the rice really absorbs the banana flavor. The peel itself tastes similar to an artichoke.
Insanewiches invented the banana burger, a dessert made entirely of mashed bananas and fresh mint. The mashed bananas are molded into a patty, mixed with the mint, and then refrigerated until they turn a brownish-grey and placed over a bun layered with cream cheese.
This pizza not only features bananas, but it also has sweet potatoes and vegan cheese. The blogger behind Vegodactyl got the idea to make this pizza from the 1990s cartoon “Doug.” In one episode, during a cooking contest, banana pudding somehow ends up on pizza. Vegodactyl’s creation involves tomato sauce, cinnamon, sautéed shredded sweet potatoes and sliced ripe bananas.
Banana and salmon blinis
If you want to go beyond serving buckwheat blinis with smoked salmon and crème fraiche at your next soirée, why not try Regal Salmon’s idea of serving banana infused blinis with smoked salmon? These small pancakes are made with sugar, butter and – you guessed it – bananas. They are then fried until golden brown, topped with salty smoked salmon, sweet maple syrup and creamy banana halves. You really can’t call yourself banana-riffic till you have had this Kiwi invention of bananas and smoked salmon.
Tell us, what's your favorite way to cook with bananas?
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Sarah Spirgelman is a freelance writer who has her own slightly weird way of eating bananas - thickly sliced and mixed with brown sugar and - wait for it - sour cream! For more, visit her blog, Fritos and Foie Gras.