A very, very long winter. We live in an old drafty house, and it was cold. And we were cranky.
And I couldn't get bread to rise. And there was no fruit to find outside of navel oranges and grapes. Frozen fruit is OK, but we all know that it gets mushy as it thaws; and it turns your muffin batter blue if you try to bake with it.
Strawberries show up first around here, usually tart and tasteless, with big green shoulders and completely white interiors. You can find them in one or two grocery stores at a decent price, and if you are a sucker like me, you buy them. But if you can hold out long enough, roadside stands start popping up, and you can get a huge bucket of freshly picked berries from our local farms. This is a great notion, but they are usually ample in bugs and little worms (I HATE worms), and the bottom half of the bucket are smashed and unusable (I still opt for grocery store varieties).
As I peruse our new selection of spring and summer fruits, I of course first think about what I can make with them. The overwhelming abundance of strawberries and a few way overripe bananas reminded me of a dessert that was served at my bridal shower.
At around the time I was married, I was next to friendless. I had some "friends" at work and "friends" at school, but really- I was so dependant on my then fiance that I had no need (in my mind) for other "friends." So when my mother came down to throw for me a surprise bridal shower, she had a time finding people to invite.
Regardless of who came, the food was a site to behold (and consume). My brother's girlfriend at the time was an aspiring pastry chef (and is now in Paris doing exactly that), and she and my mother came up with a spread fit for Kate herself. My dear, sweet husband watched as I downed a huge sandwich before I entered the party, and I was furious to see not only the above, but chicken satay, bruschetta, and an absolutely huge cake from a local bakery. Throwing caution to the wind, I shovelled more food into my mouth at that event than my tiny stomach could hold. And I was happy. And temporarily chubby.
But out of all of the delicacies at the event, these sandwiches reign in my mind as being so very simple, and yet so unique and elegant. Yes, that is banana bread, and the white stuff is cream cheese that has been cut with a few tablespoons of sugar and some vanilla extract. I love this recipe so much, and really, it is the first one that I wanted to keep all to myself.
So as I have a particular fondness for this dish, please don't defile it with store-bought banana bread, or low fat cream cheese, or out-of-season berries. Give care in choosing the bananas (make sure they are fully ripe), toast your walnuts or pecans, and then chop them so that they are teeny-tiny (as the bread will cut more easily). Make it, and when you do, share it with someone you really like.
Banana and Strawberry Sandwiches
one recipe Banana Bread
one block full-fat cream cheese, softened
3 T sugar
1 t vanilla extract
One container of strawberries, sliced
Prepare your banana bread, and let it cool completely. I have used the one shown above many times, and I love it. The key to good quickbread is not to over mix. Gently and methodically fold your mixture until it is just moist. Also, if you choose to make this recipe, it usually takes me more on the 60 minute side of baking. I always rotate my pan at 30 minutes. Remember that bananas are moist, and if at 60 minutes baking you are not sure it is done, leave it in another 3-4 minutes, and then pull it out and let it cool in its pan. I think you will find that it is just finished.
Mix the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla together. Stir vigorously, as you want to thin out the cheese a bit.
Using a serrated knife, cut your completely cooled loaf into very thin slices (about a half inch). Lay out the slices, and spread a decent layer of cream cheese on each of them. Place slices of berries on half of the bread slices, and then sandwich them with the berry-free slices.
Cut in half, and serve within a few hours.
Note, berries lose their "bite" when they are out of the fridge for too long, making this sandwich sort of a drag. However, you don't want to make these, and then shove them in the fridge. No one likes a mouth full of cold cream cheese, so it is important to assemble them right before you indulge.
From a girl reluctant to share,