I took a banana flambé recipe that called for rum, brown sugar and pineapple juice, but I had none of those things. Undeterred, I took stock of what I did have: watermelon (puréed I thought it might substitute for the pineapple juice), red wine (it works for poaching pears, so why not for flambéing bananas?), and dates (fresh, not dried, so they were juicy. If you used dried you’d need to soak them in water until they were soft, probably overnight).
6 fresh dates
1/4 slice (3/4″ thick) of a big watermelon. Use your own judgment.
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 ripe bananas, quartered lengthwise, and halved crosswise, or made into whatever size pieces you want. If the bananas are under-ripe the recipe won’t work since they’ll be too starchy. Over-ripe is fine too as long as they’re not falling apart from being too mushy.
splash of red wine
Long matches or a BBQ lighter…wish I had those things
Basically, you want to purée the watermelon, dates, and spices so you get a fairly liquid consistency, as if you were using brown sugar and pineapple juice. Pour the purée into a skillet (if you have to scrape it in and it doesn’t want to come out of the blender it’s too dry and you should add more watermelon first) and turn the heat to medium-high. When the mixture comes to a boil add the bananas. Cook, turning gently for 3 minutes (you just want the bananas to heat up).
Pour over a splash of wine (about 2-3 tbsp, but more or less is not a big deal, as long as you don’t mind the wine taste). When the mixture starts to boil again (a few seconds later), light a long match or use a BBQ lighter to light the alcohol on fire. If it doesn’t work, try again. After 2 tries, if it doesn’t work, give up. In her cookbook HeartSmart: The Best of HeartSmart Cooking, Bonnie Stern says to “not worry. It will still taste great”. Comforting, Bonnie. All my other flambés have worked but this one wouldn’t. It may have been the fact that I tried to use a regular lighter and charred my thumb. It didn’t burn, but there was a nice bit of black involved.
When it does light there’ll be a big “WHOOSH” of flame, so make sure your head isn’t too close to the pan. I think it works better with liquor, like rum, because of the higher alcohol content. Ah well. It still tasted great, like Bonnie assured me it would. Actually, with a little thick yogurt as a bed for the warm, sweet sauce (you have no idea how amazing dates are until you use them to substitute for other sweet things), and perfect bananas, this was heaven. I hate fruit desserts, but this was smooth and rich and filling. If only flames liked being caught on camera. You’ll have to make the recipe to see the magic for yourself.
Oh, this works perfectly if you’re having friends over because it’s so simple, cheap and makes you look very gourmet. Plus, if you’re a guy, you get to show off your skills with fire. I think flambé came somewhere in the evolution of “cooking with fire” after the open pit with animal on a stick, after the tandoor oven, and before the Foreman Grill. How far we’ve fallen…
Oh (again)! In Quebec you can buy pig-roasting setups for fires! RONA and big home stores carry them. Sure, you can roast lamb, but you know it’s traditional Quebecois families who are buying these things for big pig roasts in the country. Seriously, they sell out. Call ahead.