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Mussels, wine, and an excuse to eat whipped cream

Everything I said about her is true, and more. Kate is dreamy, and so are her mussels—so tender! So sweet! So cheap! So full of crabs!

It was a crisp Sunday late afternoon, and my grumpiness was no match for the sun, shining persistently even as it set. I arrived chez Kate just in time to savor the spectacular view of Elliott Bay from her eighteenth-floor sublet before we rushed down to the market, slipping in just fifteen minutes before closing time. Strolling the wet brick streets under the Christmas lights, we collected our wares: big cans of whole stewed Italian tomatoes from DeLaurenti’s, a half-pint of cream and a shiny glass bottle of milk from the Pike Place Creamery, a baguette from Le Panier, and Italian parsley from the helpful guys at Frank’s Produce. At City Fish, the fishmongers—bundled in hooded sweatshirts and thick rubber aprons and knee-high boots—enthusiastically greeted Kate, a loyal customer, and we got “V.I.P.” treatment, paying only $3.00 for a generous bagful of clean, shiny Penn Cove mussels.

Back at home, we found a bottle of Chardonnay in the bottom of her fridge door, and I poured us each a glass as Kate began sautéing onions and garlic, making a broth with the dregs of a huge bottle of cheap white she’d been saving for just such occasions. To this she added most of a can of tomatoes and a touch of cream, and the mussels were put in to steam. They peeked open nearly instantly, and Kate ladled out big servings for each of us, scattering them with Italian parsley. The feasting began.

The empty shells clattered cheerily as we tossed them into the bowl in the center of the table, and we talked with our mouths full, alternating bites of meaty mussel with drippy chunks of broth-soaked bread. I’d tried to talk Kate out of buying bread at Le Panier, preferring a baguette with more chew and a thicker, more rustic crust, but she was right—this soft, fine-crumbed version was perfect for salty Plugra and for sopping up the winy, tomatoey juice. Best of all, lucky Kate found an unexpected bonus in one of her mussels: a very tiny but very scary baby crab, which she, shrieking in excitement and horror, proceeded to plunk onto her bread plate and who quickly became the evening’s third (albeit very still, very unresponsive, very cooked) participant.

But mussels and mini crabs are no match for my sweet tooth. Fortunately, earlier in the day, Kate had been given a very beautiful loaf of chocolate ginger banana bread. Under the watchful eye of the crab, we whipped a bowlful of cream with her wooden-handled whisk—in Kate’s family, everything is an excuse to eat whipped cream—and spooned it atop slices of the moist, cake-like bread.

Being generous, she didn’t say a word when I ate three slices, although I think she nearly matched me at two and a half and may have outdone me in cream consumption.

Ships floated by on the dark water, and we were very full.

Glenn’s Banana Bread with Chocolate Chips and Candied Ginger

Kate’s friend Glenn has been experimenting with candied ginger, and he had the wisdom to fold a handful of the stuff—along with chocolate chips—into a loaf of banana bread. The result is nearly impossible to stop eating, its dense richness cut by piquant studs of translucent golden ginger. He recommends using Trader Joe’s candied organic baby ginger, and he also makes a vegan version of this bread, for which the necessary substitutions appear below in parentheses.

1 cup granulated sugar (for vegan version, use raw sugar)
1 large egg (or 1 ½ tsp Ener-G Egg Replacer plus 2 Tbs warm water, says Glenn)
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter (or ½ c non-hydrogenated margarine), at room temperature
2 ripe medium-size bananas
3 Tbs milk (or soy milk)
2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 cup chocolate chips
Small chunks of candied ginger, to taste
½ cup chopped walnuts, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a 9- by 5-inch loaf pan with butter or cooking spray, and set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream sugar, egg, and butter.
In a separate bowl, mash bananas; then mix with milk.
In another separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Add flour mixture to butter mixture in three parts, alternating with banana-milk mixture in two parts, stirring by hand until just combined. Stir in chocolate chips, ginger, and optional nuts.

Turn batter into loaf pan, smoothing top with the back of a spoon, and bake for one hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool for a few minutes; then remove bread from pan and cool on a wire rack.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Molly...you have a wonderful blog. I should be working, but found myself fascinated and can't tear myself away. I think it's so cool that you wrote about my banana/chocolate/ginger bread! Keep taking photos...for me, a photo of the finished product inspires me to try a recipe even more.


ps I concur, Kate is the best!!!

7:54 AM, December 21, 2004  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glenn's chocolate banana ginger bread sounds fantastic. Thank you for such a tantalizing description.

1:33 PM, December 21, 2004  
Blogger Pusekatt said...

Mussels, cream, wine...and banana bread!
It is official, reading this blog is like eating my second breakfast.
BTW, the photographs look great!

2:57 PM, December 21, 2004  
Blogger Dr.Hank said...

Oh, I knew Julia! She was all that you saw and more. Thank you for your rememberance of her. Nigela is one of her angels as are so many of us. When her husband's ashes were thrown into the water, she whispered "so long my friend". Julia was a delight, a wonder, full rich, authentic, spectacular, brave and love.

3:59 PM, December 21, 2004  
Blogger Molly said...

Thanks for coming to visit, Dr. Hank! Julia Child has been a terrific inspiration to me in so many ways.

When I was about eight, I used to do an imitation of her misting water into the oven for her baguettes, crying “Water! Water! Water!” I think of it nearly every time I put a loaf in the oven. And after her death, I read in the newspaper that she and her husband Paul sent out Valentine’s Day cards one year with a picture of the two of them in their bathtub in Paris. It made me ridiculously happy. That woman knew how to live.

4:09 PM, December 21, 2004  
Blogger Aileen said...

I read your blog every week, and have for a very long time now, but I just found this recipe via a link on Wise...craft. I wanted to write and say how much my fiance and I loved it and I can't wait to try the version in your book! Meanwhile, we will continue to enjoy this treat! Who would have thought that the candied ginger that has lingered so long in my pantry has such a deliciously destined use!

9:40 AM, May 31, 2007  
Blogger Molly said...

I'm so glad you liked it, Aileen! Banana bread with chocolate and ginger has become one of my hard-and-fast favorites. I wouldn't dream of leaving it out of the book! I've tweaked the recipe quite a bit to get a bread that's a little more moist and even-crumbed, and I think you'll like it even better...

9:32 AM, June 01, 2007  
Blogger kangaroogrrrl said...

Hi Molly, just to say that at the prompting (some might almost say nagging ;-) of my husband, I made this in the form of muffins. (I'd made the bread version before, and since he's a big fan of ginger, he'd been clamouring for more.)

The mix came out at one six-muffin tin and two extra dollops in a baking tin, though I could probably have divided the leftovers among the muffin moulds with no major problems.

The baking time was about 25-30 minutes, covering the tins with aluminium foil for the last few minutes.

The end result was much appreciated by my husband and his parents, so I thought I'd share!

8:58 PM, October 04, 2007  
Blogger Lisa said...

Hi Molly, just wanted to tell you that I made this luscious banana bread today and loved it. There's a post about it on my blog here if you want to see how it turned out. Thanks for the great recipe!

4:08 AM, March 20, 2008  
Anonymous merryn said...

Hi Molly

I am a few years out of the loop having only just discovered your blog and now frantically trying to catch up (when I should be working...). I wanted to share with you that I have had the same experience with mussels re: little crab action, and I have since found out that they are called pea crabs. They are a harmless little parasite that live inside mussels and can be seasonal. We get them all they way over here in Australia too.

9:27 PM, August 20, 2009  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My love for banana bread in any shape or form shall expand with my waist line....these recipes are brilliant, I never thought of adding ginger but it really works!

Really enjoying your blog,
Donna in Ireland :)

7:49 PM, October 15, 2009  
Anonymous Kely said...

So here I am, thinking I have the best ever banana/choc chip muffins... I hang my head in shame. This bread is so wonderful. The spicy ginger with the sweet chocolate. And the denseness of the bread itself - I just want to gush and gush about it. Thank you a million times over for the recipe. It's the most intensely delicious banana bread I've ever had.

2:27 PM, March 15, 2010  
Blogger Renai said...

Hi Molly-

My mom shared this recipe with me a few months ago and I have made it many times since! It is my absolute most favorite banana bread recipe- and I'm actually thawing out bananas to make it right now. Yes, at 9pm on a Saturday night. Hah! The wild life that I lead.

9:15 PM, April 24, 2010  
Anonymous Heena said...

Hi Molly,
I was wondering - is there any chance you are looking for a new banana bread recipe? : )
Because I started with this one from your blog (my friend has borrowed the book and refuses to give it back) and adapted it so much that what I got was a new recipe. I figure with banana bread you can never have too many. I recently posted about it in case you're curious to check it out.

8:14 AM, June 09, 2010  
OpenID muchmorewherethatcamefrom said...

Molly, I finally had a chance to make my first recipe of yours, and being the chocoholic I am, I chose this banana bread ... and its remnants are cooling deliciously on my kitchen counter as we speak! I was a tad skeptical, as I'm not a big fan of ginger (it's supposed to be a home cure for nausea, and when I was pregnant, I almost decided the nausea was better than the cure) but it gets an A+. Yum! Next up from your book ... either the roasted tomatoes or your chocolate wedding cake. Thanks for sharing!

12:30 PM, October 12, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi, Molly!

I loved your book, and am now loving your blog. After reading your book, my first thought was I have to make this banana bread!! But I was wondering, could you or another reader tell me if I wanted to make small loaves for gifts, what would be the temperature and the baking time? I think this would make a good friend/coworker Christmas gift. Thanks!! Mandy in Alabama

11:42 AM, November 20, 2011  
Blogger Molly said...

Mandy, I've baked mini loaves of this banana bread, and they came out very well! You'll want to use the same oven temperature, and hmmm, I can't remember exactly how long they took to bake, but I would start checking around 20 minutes? When they're done, they should be golden brown on top, and if you stick a toothpick in the center, it should come out clean...

2:01 PM, November 21, 2011  
Blogger Sue said...

Molly, I'm cleaning out my freezer here in Arizona before heading east for the summer and found some of the dreaded frozen bananas. I had just a cup of chocolate chips on hand and a little bit of candied ginger so was inspired to make your banana bread instead of my go to Gourmet banana cake with coconut frosting. It's in the oven and if it tastes half as good as it smells we're in for a delicious treat. Thanks! Sue

12:30 PM, April 15, 2012  
Blogger Cannella Vita said...

Dear Molly,
I made this banana bread and I am obsessed! I eat it straight out of the freezer like you said and it is so delicious!


2:45 PM, August 29, 2012  
Blogger Rachel Page said...

I've had mussels on the brain lately. Your post is yet another sign that it's time to satisfy the craving!

9:40 PM, February 01, 2015  
Blogger Unknown said...

I'm new to your blog and am just now reading your book "A Homemade Life." I just made your banana bread with Chocolate and Crystallized Ginger - amazing! I shared it warm with my mother, my aunt, and my fiance. Perfect with a little creme fraiche spread on it. Thank you for sharing this recipe!!

5:09 PM, June 26, 2015  

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