Winter Means Food: Stovies and Banana Bread

Winter storm warning? What winter storm warning? Yesterday dawned cold but sunny. Bright and crisp.

Snowplows placed themselves strategically around the city while the Asheville blogerati shrugged off the warning and went about their business. I wrote, cooked and baked all day, pleasantly domestic.

Around 9:30 p.m. or so last night, Housemate Don walked in and said it was snowing.

“But the stars are still out,” he said. “It’s weird.”

I had to see snow and stars, or at least next-to-nothing flurries and stars, because it wasn’t really quite snowing but just dusting down the occasional brief sparkling flurry that quickly melted away.

I looked up to see no stars, just Mars shining yellowly and already blurry through cloud cover.

Don said there had been stars just a brief few minutes ago. We talked in the freezing and windy dark front yard, and when I looked up next, Mars was gone, too.

“It’s a snow sky now,” I said. “Look at it.”

My house is four miles from the city center, and the sky was that smoky urban orange. A single horizon-to-horizon sheet of cloud, homogeneous, creamy translucent orange darkness, the bare branches black against it. A sky of snow. From stars to snow in just a few minutes.

It was almost eerie. Time to stop doubting the snow warning. The snow is forming up here, soon to fall, said the sky.

It had already begun to fall before I went to bed, and the household woke up to a white world. Don says the roads are already pretty bad. Snow is still falling lightly.

Today I will feed the birds and squirrels, and eat the banana bread and stovies I made yesterday.

I’m having stovies for breakfast, in fact. (Highly recommended — rewarm in a pan with grilled mushrooms and tomatoes, eat with toast; damn it’s good.)

And my food has a story, actually, the stovies and the bread both:

The Stovies Story

My friend Randee was going to make homemade potato latkes for her book club. And apparently making latkes from scratch for a group is practically an all-day job, involving the spirit-testing labor of peeling and grating several pounds of potatoes, shaping them into patties and frying them up in oil. Hours of work.

She just couldn’t make herself do it this year, so she shamefacedly bought a few boxes of frozen Ore Ida potato cakes or something, and her goyim friends apparently never knew the difference.

But she had like 10 pounds of potatoes. I took three pounds to make stovies and told Ran I would help her find good homes for the rest.

My family said they would take them, so I picked the homeless potatoes up from Randee’s house on Christmas morning. I knocked on the door and said Potato control in a serious voice, which made her laugh.

I don’t know what my family did with the big bag of slightly sprouty taters I brought with me to Tennessee, but mine ended up in the pot last night to make the excellent Scottish leftover-buster called stovies.

One way to make stovies is to wait until you have some leftover meat and veg, and then cook them in a pot with some potato chunks, onion and bouillion. Add garlic, salt and pepper, and serve with buttered and toasted brown bread and milk (or, traditionally, beer).

I made mine with leftover teriyaki stir-fry veggies, a wrinkly pepper, half an old raw onion and a pound of ground turkey. Delicious! It’s outstanding comfort food, perfect for the weather.

Here’s a recipe for stovies. It’s a keeper. It’s a great meal, a creative way to use leftovers, and wonderfully warm and comforting in winter.

Thanks, Scotland! As if providing me with Adam Smith and Steven Moffat were not enough already.

My banana bread has a story too…

The Banana Bread Story

I was at Amazing Savings the other day, the weirdly wonderful local discount grocery specializing in damaged, overstocked and expired organic foods. A nice man who works there asked me out of the blue if I wanted a bag of brown bananas he was about to throw away.

With spotted skins and smelling strongly (though not unpleasantly), they were too far gone even to sell at this shakiest of groceries, one with an uneven dirty floor and carts that still carry the names of other stores.

I took them home, knowing banana bread is just that much better with overripe bananas.

I peeled them to find surprisingly fresh and unblemished fruit, which just goes to show how spoiled American consumers are, that these perfectly good bananas were unsellable even at one of the most low-rent markets in town.

I dug up an old recipe for banana bread that was supposed to be really good, and even found it required sour cream (I had an untouched container over a week past the “best by” date). Don’t worry, “Sell by” and “Best by” dates refer to taste, not safety, and fermented foods like yogurt and sour cream especially are still reasonably good past the dates.

The penny-pincher in me was delighted.

(Am I domestic enough for you yet? It’s the mood and the mode I am in.)

So I got to use a big bag of free bananas as well as get rid of some sour cream going off. Perfect.

Let me tell you, the five-star raves for that banana bread recipe are well deserved. My bread, which I made with whole wheat flour because I am still a little sick of sweets this close to Christmas, was moist, cinnamon-y and the best banana bread I have ever eaten in my life.

The recipe, Banana Sour Cream Bread, makes two loaves; halve it for one loaf. Read the comments for instructions on changing the recipe from 3 small loaves to one or two bread pan-sized loaves.

This banana bread is the bomb. It is outstanding. If you make it, tell me what you think. I wish I could send you a slice over the Internet.

I’m getting in the shower. Back with pics of the white stuff.

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