Saturday, December 24, 2016

When Bad Produce Happens to Good People - Bananas

New Yorkers of a certain vintage fondly remember the commercials of Crazy Eddie, a discount electronics store, whose tagline was "His prices are insaaane!" Perhaps the most memorable were those touting Christmas in August! discounts with a compelling manic energy. 

These bananas have inspired August in Christmastime.

Bananas aren’t my favorite fruit, but I am a favorite customer of many fruit vendors. How better to express appreciation for my regular $20 purchases than by throwing in a couple of maybe-not-so-saleable-in-the-first-place bananas? I'm happy to share good bananas with friends, then take the baddies home. When no banana enthusiasts spoke up, I've taken all of them all home. Transport isn't kind to bananas. Even those that start out in decent shape can acquire quite a bit of dinging en route home.

I had gotten into the habit of peeling the dubious bananas, cutting off the worst bits - braver souls probably use them too, unflinchingly - dicing what remained and putting the banana survivors in Ziplock bags.

And off to the frozen graveyard they inevitably go.

For years I would freeze overripe bananas, or parts of damaged bananas, with the thought that one day I’d use them for banana bread. Truth be told, I had a somewhat spotty history as a banana bread baker: a couple of nice breads for brunches and gifts, offset by the time I agreed to make a loaf for the birthday of a much-disliked boss. (I noticed that I had 2 bananas instead of the 4 required by the recipe, but couldn't be arsed to buy another 2. I went ahead with my banana-deficient banana bread and fielded compliments for the freshly baked, “Um, is that honey cake?” the next day. Co-workers eating free, sweet food: not the most discerning diners on earth.)

The banana bags, which in time would grow brown and covered with ice crystals, piled up in the freezer. “Does this banana spark joy?” I’d ask myself would fall on me during a rummaging. Of course it didn’t – and it was competing for primo real estate in the freezer. So out it would go, to compost or garbage. To avoid playing this game in perpetuity, I’d try to rebuff the generous gifts of my vendor friends but my refusals were never successful.

Hot weather - a distant memory now in December - inspired a new idea when I pondered the banana gift conundrum: coffee smoothies. Most commercial coffee smoothies are way too sweet for my taste (for good reason - this one has 105 grams of sugar, plus 8 grams of fat and 610 calories) so I liked the idea of experimenting with making my own. Besides, I needed a use for my colony of frozen bananas.

I knew that using brewed coffee or even coffee syrup would be a problem - it'd make the smoothie too watery. I needed concentrated coffee flavor! A trip to a 99-cents store in Brighton Beach, where I spied this hitherto unsung brand, "Pampa," gave me the solution.

Instant coffee, a mainstay of my childhood utterly forgotten in my coffee-centric adulthood, would give me the flavor bomb I needed.

Coffee Smoothies

Making good smoothies is a craft, not a science. Fiddle around with proportions based upon your taste and what you have on hand. Here is my basic working recipe.


2 bananas, peeled, diced and frozen (dicing before freezing makes preparation easier on the blade of your food processor)
1/2 cup milk, or more to taste (skim, lowfat, whole, nondairy = all good)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 - 2 Tablespoons instant coffee

Place the bananas, milk and cinnamon in a food processor fitted with a chopping blade. Pulse until creamy.

Add instant coffee and pulse until mixed thoroughly. (Yes, you could add the coffee at the same as the other ingredients, but I find this way more fun.)

Serve in a tall glass. Garnish with a dusting of more coffee. I can't recommend this final touch enough - the crunchy, intense coffee crystals are a great counterpoint to the creaminess of the smoothie.

I've become sufficiently enchanted with this coffee smoothie to think of it as bananas' best use, even when the bananas are perfect and in no need of rehab.

After all, a creamy and icy smoothie can be delightful - even with ice on the ground.


  1. Intriguing.

    You should try Yonanas for your frozen bananas.

  2. Good idea for a soft-serve ice cream version or semi-freddo version of the coffee smoothie.