The secret to delicious banana bread

A few weeks ago we had a significant number of very very ripe bananas on our fruit shelves attracting a significant number of very very happy fruit flies. I could have sprayed them in the face with windex or a killed them with a hair dyer (yes, these are both recommended eradication methods listed in the kitchen manager manual…). Instead, I decided to get rid of the little buggers by using the source of their never ending banana feast to make banana bread!

I’ve made a lot of banana bread in my life. It was probably one of the first things I started baking as a kid (besides chocolate chip cookies of course…). So, I’m here to tell you that the secret to awesome banana bread is not butter (sorry Fred) but it is buttermilk!

Below is the recipe. It is based of this recipe from (but with the suger cut in half). I multiplied it by four for Ridge.

Makes 1 loaf pan

  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup smashed bananas
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a loaf pan.

Mix eggs, buttermilk, oil and smashed bananas.

In a separate bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt.

Add wet ingredients and mix.

Pour into pan and bake until a knife stuck in the middle comes out clean (about an 1 hour and 15 min).




The cake isn’t a lie – but the flour is!

In my experience, the essentials of baking are eggs, sugar, butter, and flour. Occasionally some baking soda or baking powder, sometimes cocoa or chocolate, sometimes cream, frosting, berries, nuts, what-have-you. But flour – that’s a definite. Usually.

I was recently faced with the task of making a gluten-free birthday cake. Now, I could have gone the simple route – a dense, delicious, flourless chocolate cake with some whipped cream and a raspberry syrup – or the complex route – potato flour, rice flour, arrowroot starch, or a pre-prepared mix of these in some box labeled “all-purpose ‘flour'” – but a basic flourless chocolate cake wasn’t enough of a challenge and the latter choice too much of one.

Faced with having discounted both of my choices, I did what any reasonable person of my generation would do. I turned to Google. In turn, Google handed me right over to Smitten Kitchen. Smitten Kitchen gave me this and reminded me that whipping egg whites and egg yolks works wonderfully as leavening: It’s the ingredients of a basic flourless chocolate cake – chocolate, sugar, eggs – made light and fluffy.

I baked the cake layers a night prior, allowing ample time for the cake to set and sink before frosting. The recipe makes four layers, but I couldn’t cope with the idea of baking something that Ridgelings and I wouldn’t be able to try that night, so the final cake ended up with three layers.

This fourth layer was served in the extended kitchen on Monday night alongside my first failed batch of whipped cream.  It didn’t fail due to taste or texture; rather, it failed due to presence of cornstarch.  See, the gluten-free man in my life is also sensitive to corn and I remembered immediately after pouring tediously sifted powdered sugar into the mixing bowl with the cream that powdered sugar contains cornstarch.  Why does powdered sugar contain cornstarch?  Take a look into our powdered sugar bin and you’ll see that it can’t possibly be functioning as an anti-caking agent.

Anyway, I simply used granulated sugar in my second batch of whipped cream and it whipped up just fine.  The recipe calls for Grand Marnier as a flavoring in the whipped cream, but there’s that whole having to go to the store issue again.  I substituted some cocoa powder and a splash of vanilla (very specific measurements, I know, but baking by taste is fun!).

The following day, I frosted the three remaining layers with my cocoa whipped cream, resulting in what I decided was too plain a cake.  As a solution, I made some whipped ganache (heated cream poured over an educated guess at the right amount of chocolate, whip until chips are dissolved and ganache is thick) and poured it into a ziplock bag.  No piping tip needed!  I did eventually decide, with the help of Erica and her car, to venture out for raspberries.  Some raspberries filled with ganache later, and I finished with this, the sign on it a necessary part of co-op living.

Baking for foodies (as the birthday-ee is) is a somewhat nerve-wracking process, but all said and done, it was a successful venture into gluten-free baking.  The recipient, having assumed it was a basic flourless chocolate cake prior to cutting, was impressed by the texture and delightfully surprised by the ganache filling in the raspberries.

I’ll reproduce the recipe here, with credits and my thanks to

To make four cake layers:
12 oz fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (not unsweetened), chopped
6 tablespoons water
12 large eggs, separated, at room temperature
1 1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons Dutch-process unsweetened cocoa powder

For filling: 
2 cups heavy cream
6 tablespoons confectioners sugar, sifted
4 tablespoons Grand Marnier*

Make cake layers: Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease four 9-inch circular cake pans and line bottoms of circles with a piece of parchment paper.

Melt chocolate with water in a small heavy saucepan over very low heat, stirring. Cool to lukewarm.

Beat yolks, 2/3 cup sugar, and salt in a large bowl with an electric mixer until thick and pale, about 5 minutes in a standing mixer or about 8 minutes with a hand-held mixer. Fold in melted chocolate until blended. Beat whites with cleaned beaters until they just hold soft peaks (you will need an enormous bowl for 12 egg whites).

Gradually add remaining 2/3 cup sugar and beat until whites just hold stiff peaks. Fold one third of whites into melted-chocolate mixture to lighten, then fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly.

Spread batter evenly over four baking pans and bake until puffed and top is dry to the touch, 15 to 18 minutes, rotating cakes between racks to ensure they bake evenly. Transfer pans to cooling racks and if necessary, loosen edges with a knife.

Sift cocoa powder over top of cake layers and place a piece of waxed paper over the top of the pans. Place a baking sheet over paper and invert cake onto it, gently peeling off wax paper lining. Place layers in the freezer for about an hour, until they are firm enough to be carefully lifted without breaking.

Make filling: Beat cream with powdered sugar and Grand Marnier with cleaned beaters until it just holds stiff peaks.

Fill and stck cake: Bring first cake layer out of the freezer and arrange on platter, cocoa side down. Spread one-quarter of filling evenly over the cake. Bring the next cake layer out of the freezer, placing it gently over the filling, again cocoa side down. Repeat this process until all layers and whipped cream are used.

Keep cake in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve it. Two hours should be more than enough to assure that the layers are no longer frozen.

Dark chocolate grated into curls with a vegetable peeler makes for an excellent garnish.

* You can substitute the following for Grand Marnier: 4 tablespoons Cognac and 1 teaspoon vanilla; 4 tablespoons cocoa and 1 teaspoon vanilla; or 4 teaspoons instant-espresso powder or instant-coffee granules dissolved in 4 teaspoons water plus 1 teaspoon vanilla.


The last few months…

Ever since Corrie and Fred started this blog I’ve been dragging my camera downstairs every once in a while to take some food pictures but I’ve never had the time to actually post or write anything about them. So below are some pictures I’ve taken in the last few months at Ridge.

Toasted coconut chocolate chip cookies (they were supposed to be brown butter toasted coconut chocolate chip cookies but I forgot to brown the butter…) The recipe can be found here.



Cheese souffle made by Fred. I’m guessing he didn’t use a recipe.


Baked tomato sauce

This recipe is from my mom. All the tomatoes were grown in Berkeley (a friend gave them to me)

14 medium tomatoes

1 big bunch basil

10-14 cloves garlic

3/4 c. parsley
1 c. olive oil (I never use that much)
1 pound spaghetti
Cut tomatoes in half and put in pan with seeds showing. Mince basil, not fine, should make 2 cups lightly packed. Mince parsley and garlic (should be heaping 1/3 cup garlic). Mix basil, parsley, garlic and olive oil and pour evenly over tomatoes. Bake at 450 degrees for about 1 hour or until tomatoes look a little shriveled and there is juice in the pan. Remove tomatoes and use 2 knives to slice and dice to edible size. Mix with pasta. Serves 8

Tapioca pudding

The trick is to soak the tapioca pearls for a while in hot water before you use them so you don’t have to stir the pudding for forever. I’m pretty use this is the recipe I used.

Baked Kale (would be kale chips if I hadn’t been impatient…)

before it was baked…

I added a little parmesan cheese at the end…

To make this, de-stem kale leaves, place them on a baking tray, add olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic and bake at 400 until crispy.

Cinnamon Sugar Pull-Apart Bread (a little less healthy than kale chips….)

Sylvan got a little impatient…


You can find the recipe for this here.

And finally, back to something that contains zero butter…

Baked Winter Veggies (acorn squash, brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, potatoes and kale (we ate it all before this picture was taken).

Made by Mary, Ariel and me.

About three minutes later…
To make these: cut veggies. place on baking sheet and add olive oil, garlic, salt, pepper and paprika. Bake at 400 until soft and golden.


burrito hunger

in my opinion, burritos are its own food group. a wonderful american invention that everybody thinks of mexican, all wrapped up in foil. cold burritos, hot burritos, the sad third of burrito leftover from yesterday. it doesn’t matter. i still love them.  the bare essentials: tortilla, rice, beans and salsa. the rest is optional: meat adds flavor, cheese is delicious and goey, lettuce is crunchy, tomatoes are little bursts of juiciness, sour cream is rich and contrasts all the other textures, and of course there is the trump card- guacamole. i love guacamole; i could eat guacamole with a spoon straight and be content. it’s always worth that extra dollar. usually when the choice is between a vegetarian super burrito with guac and burrito with meat, i choose guacamole. anyway, sometimes i get a hungry for a burrito and nothing else will do. however, i never feel like a homemade burrito can reach the deliciousness of a restaurant. maybe it’s my lack of ability to properly wrap a burrito so it stays together. maybe its because my tortilla is over toasted or too cold. maybe it’s because my rice and beans aren’t authentic. i don’t know. i wish i knew the secret. last night’s dinner was attempt to get closer to the burrito that i always want and can only buy. it turned out pretty yummy but it didn’t taste like a restaurant burrito. oh well…

carne asada: carne asada is a very thin cut of beef. i marinated it for about six hours but i’m sure it would be even more delicious overnight. this would probably marinate about 5 lbs. i then cooked it on the grill for about 2-3 minutes on each side on high heat.


4ish red onions quartered

9ish cloves of garlic

cumin (about a tablespoon or so)

oregano (2ish tablespoons)



chipotle powder (2-3 tsps)

chili powder

vegetable oil (probably about a 1.5 cups, keep adding until it blends nicely)

i threw all of the ingredients (without measuring) in a blender and blended until the mixture was the consistency of tomato soup. then i poured it on the meat and massaged it a bit.


roasted corn salsa: this was soooooo good and it was pretty. all the colors together made it like a rainbow

ears of fresh corn, red or orange bell peppers, cilantro, red onion, lime juice, cilantro, salt , pepper, (if you wanted it spicy you could add a small amount of red chili flakes or some type of finely minced chili pepper)

remove most the husks from the ears of corn and then roast in the oven at 450F for about 45- 60 minutes. dice the bell peppers, finely chop the red onion, roughly chop the cilantro. once the corn is ready and toasty, cut it off the cob  and toss into a bowl with the other ingredients. add lime juice and salt and pepper to taste.

roasted corn salsa

rice: cook white or brown rice in a rice cooker following instructions but substitute some of the water for veggie or chicken broth. add chopped cilantro right before serving

black beans: soak beans overnight, dump out soaking water and then fill a pot with the beans and enough water to cover them. bring them to a boil and then turn the heat down to a simmer. cook until soft. add carmelized onions, and salt and pepper to taste.

black beans with caramelized onions

optional condiments: guacamole, sour cream, grated cheese, chopped tomatoes, crunchy shredded lettuce, hot sauce, sauteed vegetables.

heat tortilla, add fillings of choice, attempt to wrap the beast of a burrito you have created, try to eat without all of the fillings exploding out. burrito hunger has been satiated (for now).

below are the photos of the remains of last night’s dinner:

fresh salsa

grilled green bell pepper and summer squash with cumin and chipotle powder

crunchy lettuce

where the mexican wedding cake cookies used to be, next bowl of powdered sugar

where the mexican wedding cake cookies used to be, next bowl of powdered sugar

i promise next time i’ll take the pictures before all the food is devoured. all culinary credit is shared with my lovely co-cook alison 🙂

Pomegranate Chicken Experiment, Trial One

Pomegranate Chicken Experiment, Trial One

Purpose: Find a La Med style pomegranate chicken without the recipe to feed to 100 hungry Ridge Alumni Sunday Morning.

Question? How Delicious will the chicken be. How ridiculous will my protocol be?

Hypothesis: Deliciousness and ridiculousness shall be had.

Materials needed: (All terms are technical and must be precise) 12 drumsticks of chicken, a ton of olive oil, one-ish bottles of Pomegranate Molasses, A handful of Shallots, more garlic then the recipes actually call for, a little bundle of lemons, a handful of sesame seeds, a wallop of Balsamic Vinegar, a shard of Honey, a quarter plant of mint, a small lonely yellow onion, a hand-pinch of coriander, a bowl of cilantro, a sprig of rosemary, a triad of ground cloves, a sprinkle of cinnamon, a huge dash of cumin, a little cup of paprika, fourty-three chilli flakes, a bit o’ salt, a ton o’ pepper, and most important a shit-ton of Sumac!

Methods: I will attempt 5 different Pomegranate Chicken Recipes from online that I tweaked a little to fit the occasion and because I felt like it and one recipe I made up. The recipes I used can be found below:

Each Marinade was made and 2 drumsticks were marinated in it for exactly 24 hours before being cooked in cute little mini-bread pans for 40 minutes at 350°F. The six chickens were then tried by five beautiful volunteers on and scored from 0-5, with 0 being the worst chicken and 5 being the best chicken. These tests were single blind test where the taste testers did not the ingredients that were in each marinade. The results were then tabulated and graphed.


Conclusions: Marinades B and E were the clear Favorites. They were also very similar in taste and seemed to highlight the pomegranate flavor the best. Marinade A was too Lemony, marinade C was too sweet, marinade D tasted too much like cloves, and F though delicious tasted like pumpkin pie chicken not pomegranate chicken. For the dinner I am going to use a modified version of B that includes some of the best parts of Marinade E. These changes will include no cloves, a little bit of cilantro, and a few chilli flakes. Also along the hypothesis I was both ridiculous and made some moderately delicious chicken. Hopefully every one like it on Sunday!

Final Recipe for Emmer: ( Scale by about 10-15?) ½ cup Olive oil, ½ cup Pomegranate syrup, 2 shallots, 3 cloves garlic, 1 lemon, 1 TBLS sesame seeds, ¼ cup Balsamic Vinegar, ½ tsp thyme, ¼ cup honey, 2 tsp rosemary, 1 tsp cumin, ½ tsp paprika, ¼ cup cilantro, ½ tsp chilli flakes, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp pepper

Flour and Water, hold the butter

This started on my way back ironworks with Sarah the other day. As we were driving back, she looked at me and asked: “Wanna grab some post work-out pizza?” My answer? “Of course.” And so began… the quest for more pizza.

The two slices from Gioia (I still don’t know how to pronounce this… joy-a?) were magnificent–bubbly brown cheese and chewy crust in all of its decadent glory. But it left me craving the Roman pizzas I had earlier this summer. (For those of you who don’t know, Roman pizza is a very thin crust pizza unlike Neapolitan pizza which has a thicker, chewier crust.) What I missed was the simple elegance of Roman pizza–don’t get me wrong, I love cheeseboard as much as the next person, but sometimes I miss the devolved pizza– an almost rustic combination of bread, tomatoes, and cheese.What I truly love about this pizza is the balance of all of the components.

The Crust:  
The crust that I used is a Mario Batali pizza crust recipe, which uses a bit more flour than some dough recipes. When rolled out thing enough, it creates a cracker-like crust with a nice crunch to it.
•    1/4 cup light red or white wine
•    3/4 cup warm water
•    3 tablespoons fresh yeast
•    1/2 tablespoon honey
•    1 teaspoon salt
•    1 tablespoon plus 1 tablespoon olive oil
•    3 1/2 cups flour

This recipe is quite simple and can be done both by hand or by machine. I personally think a mixer fitted with a dough hook is really easy a lot more time efficient than doing it by hand, but there definitely is a strange sort of satisfaction doing this all by hand. First mix the wine, water, honey, yeast and half the oil together. Put the flour and salt in a mixing bowl and briefly blend together. With the mixer on medium-low speed, pour in the water in a constant stream.  Keep the mixer on until all of the water has been incorporated and the dough is smooth and not sticky to the touch (add a tiny more water if all of the flour doesn’t get incorporated). Place the dough in a bowl coated with the rest of the oil; cover it loosely and put it in a warm place in the kitchen (in our kitchen, the shelf above the stoves/grill works very well) and let it sit for about 45 minutes or until it has doubled in size.

The Sauce:
While the dough is rising, you can start the sauce. I don’t really have any particular recipe that I use, but I like one that is a bit on the herby and balanced side (as opposed to being more acidic). I’ll list out some generic ingredients for a simple red sauce, but any red sauce you guys make would probably be just as good.

•    1 medium onion, chopped
•    4 cloves of garlic, minced
•    4 1/2 cups of diced tomatoes
•    2-3 tablespoons of tomato paste
•    1/4 cup dry red/white wine (or vodka)
•    herbs, olive oil, salt, pepper, and sugar to taste

Saute the onions on medium heat with a small amount of oil and salt for about 8-10 minutes or until they become slightly translucent and smell sweet. Add the garlic and stir until the garlic becomes fragrant, but not browned. At this point, I usually add a pinch of dry crushed red chili flakes, but that is entirely optional. Add the tomatoes and the alcohol to the pan and let it the mixture come to a simmer. The reason the alcohol is there is to extract alcohol soluble flavors inside the tomatoes; but while we’re at it, we may as well add some nice wine-y flavor to it as well. Let this sauce reduce until the liquids are about half gone. Take the sauce off the stove and blend it until it becomes smooth. Return the puree to the pan and the stove. At this point, add the tomato paste to the sauce (intensifying the tomato flavor), starting with a little bit and more if necessary. At this point, you can add different herb combinations and adjust the seasoning. As for herbs, the most common ones in pizza sauces is oregano, thyme and basil. I personally like tarragon in the sauce, but there are plenty of other herbs that can be used–use your imagination! As for seasoning, the common salt and pepper is something that most of you should know how to do (I would say to over-salt slightly since the toppings themselves do not have any salt in them), but the tricky part is balancing the sauce. What this means for this sauce in particular is that you don’t want it to be too tart. To accomplish this, I tend to add a bit of olive oil to the finished sauce and mix it in (this is useful for making many things, since fats will generally “soften” flavors that are too distinctive, adding it to something that is too acidic or bitter will help smooth out the flavors), but too much oil will form “puddles” in the sauce, which is a bit unsightly; so if adding a bit of olive oil doesn’t make the sauce balanced enough, I add a bit of sugar to counteract the acidity.

By this time, the dough should be finished rising. Preheat the oven to 500F or as high as it goes. For a medium pizza, take about 1/4 of the dough and form a spherical dough ball. Let this ball rest for about 15 minutes (this will make it easier for you to roll it out) and roll it out on a well floured area until very thin (By very thin, I mean maybe about 1/8 to 1/16 of an inch). Transfer this dough to a baking tray lined with parchment paper and on the baking tray, “stretch” the dough some more. By “stretching”, take your fingers and just gently pull on the edges of the dough. Once the dough is prepared, put on a very small amount of sauce, just enough to cover the surface of the dough (the dough should still be mostly visible underneath the sauce). Add any fresh herbs you want to put onto the pizza on top of the sauce (the cheese and toppings protect the herbs from drying out too much).

The Toppings:
Now for the fun part: the toppings. There are a near infinite combination of toppings you can put onto pizza. I personally prefer simpler, more tradition ones (these tend to be on top of a red sauce with mozzarella cheese) to more modern, Californian ones (these tend to not have a traditional red sauce and often tend to have mozzarella cheese mixed with other cheeses). I tend to focus my toppings around a single vegetable (common ones in the house are summer squash, mushrooms, fresh tomatoes, and zucchini) and a mixture of mozzarella and parmesan cheese. I put the cheese on first in a sparse layer (allowing steam from the sauce and dough to be let out so the crust doesn’t become soggy) and then put the vegetables on top of the cheese. Put this into the oven and bake for approximately 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is golden and the crust is crunchy (turn the tray once near the end of baking). Once the pizza comes out of the oven, top with some fresh chopped basil/parsley and serve!

Veggie Fest, Summer 2011

This past summer, Ridge house became a hub for all things foodie as busy schedules began to simmer down and cooking began to fill up free time! The kitchen was definitely the ‘it’ location and each night lots of Ridgelings would gather ’round to make delicious dishes together. On one particular evening, I remember walking into the kitchen with Aspen (the other half of the ‘Jaspen’ unit) and seeing a multi-colored wave of chopped vegetables sitting upon several cutting boards spread out over all available countertop space. Tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, cauliflower, eggplant, mushrooms, asparagus, carrots, potatoes, broccoli–just about every vegetable known to man was present! From homemade Japanese ramen and stir-fry to sandwiches and lasagna, Ridgeling chefs were whipping up all kinds of veggie-licious combinations. Overjoyed with such a beautiful sight, Aspen and I jumped right in and quickly added tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, broccoli, and carrots to this already obscene amount of plant biomass. We decided to make a batch of whole wheat pasta with homemade tomato sauce, mixed vegetables (of course) and cheese, and an appetizer of caprese salad with heirlooms, fresh basil, and chunks of white cheddar.

Obviously it was a great night. VEGGIE FEST OH YES!!

ying and yang- hippie granola and deconstructed cookie granola

Granola is one of my favorite breakfast foods- a nice mix of crunchy oats, nuts and dried fruit covered in honey, brown sugar,  and cinnamon. The permutations are endless- classic walnut, almond raisin,  orange zest-chocolate or flax seed, sunflower seed dried cranberry. In my opinion, granola is much healthier than processed breakfast cereal with high fructose corn syrup, even if you add copious amounts of chocolate chips. Okay, well maybe the nutritional specs take a hit when chocolate is added. But I still would rather start my day with chocolate granola than with Honey Bunches of Oats. Granola-making also happens to be my work-shift. After the candy granola incident of last week, I decided to make a more healthy breakfast version. Here’s the recipe; I tripled it and then divided into two trays- a hippie version and what i call “deconstructed cookie granola”.

Basic Granola


8 cups old fashioned rolled oats

1 cup oil (canola or safflower or similar)

1 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup honey

2 tsp vanilla

3 Tbsp cinnamon ( though more couldn’t hurt)

1 to 2 cups sunflower seeds, shelled

Optional Goodies

1 1/2ish cups chocolate chips

1 to 2 cups assorted nuts

1 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut

3/4 cup ground flax seed


Heat oven to 375 F. Spread the oats on a cookie tray (one with edges so the granola doesn’t fall off) and sprinkle in cinnamon, coconut, flax seed, sunflower seeds and nuts of choice. On the stovetop combine oil, brown sugar and the honey and heat on high. Cook until the mixture is foamy and bubbly and then add the vanilla, let it get foamy again. Warning: this will smell delightful, your housemates will probably come in the kitchen to investigate the yummy smell.  Pour the hot mixture onto the oats and mix all ingredients to be evenly coated and distributed. Note: if crunchy flax clusters are desired make sure to pour some of the mixture directly onto pockets of the flax seed meal. Put in the oven and check every 10-15 minutes to stir. Take the tray out when the oats are looking golden brown and toasted. If you are making cookie granola, sprinkle chocolate chips on the hot granola  and then mix to make heavenly clumps of chocolate granola. If you want your granola to make some serious clumps, perhaps increase the honey by another 1/3 of a cup and let the granola cool in the pan without stirring after it is removed from the oven.

Enjoy with milk or yogurt or by itself!

– Corrie

what's for breakfast!



Hello World!

Hello fellow Ridgelings and readers.

This is Ridge House’s new contribution the world of food blogs, co-op style. Many of us are foodies and all 38+  like to eat. This blog is a way to share ideas about cooking from scratch using fresh ingredients bought in bulk to feed thirty-eight people every day on a budget of 5 dollars and 31 cents per person. Now you may ask, all this was bought and cooked on that budget??!!! That’s impossible! and you’re right. Sometimes we supplement and procure special ingredients and of course we have to occasionally venture out into the culinary offerings of Berkeley. However, the majority of these posts will be things that were cooked and served in this very house by one or many of us. Let the creation of dirty dishes begin!!!!