Monday, March 8, 2010

Thai Caramelized Bananas

This week we decided to do a dessert, because, let's face it, nobody doesn't like dessert. We talked about a lot of possibilities, but finally settled on a caramelized banana with nuts dish that sounded scrumptious and seemed pretty simple. I'm not sure what exactly is "Thai" about the dish, but that's what Jhan wanted to call it.

Jhan ended up loving this dish, but I was only so-so on it. The dessert used lime juice and lime zest, which (although the zest provided a nice touch of green to the dish) was not a flavor profile that I felt went well with bananas.

Caramelized Bananas

Food (Jhan)

Tony and I love banana desserts like Bananas Foster and any carmelly kind of sauce, so I thought this recipe with the Carmel sauce and the salty, toasted peanuts would be just the thing.

This is an easy dessert and goes great with a scoop of good quality vanilla ice cream. The bananas are topped with brown sugar, butter, a little lime juice, and some chopped, roasted and salted peanuts and then broiled for about 5 minutes. When the bananas come out of the oven they are dusted with some lime zest. Couldn't be simpler!

I really loved these with ice cream. The Carmel sauce was sweet and gooey, the salty peanuts added a great crunch and the lime zest just slightly offset the sweetness of the bananas and the sauce.

I'm not sure why Tony didn't like the touch of lime but I felt that it added a decidedly Southeast Asian flavor to the dessert; fresh and tropical. Another possibility for this dessert is to substitute spiced rum for the lime juice. The rum would create a richer and sweeter sauce, but with the ice cream, the salted peanuts, and lime zest - it's great. (If using rum instead of the lime juice premix the butter, brown sugar, and rum and heat in a small saucepan to bubbling before pouring over the bananas you have prepared for the broiler.)

One more tip, start with fairly firm bananas as ripe bananas tend to break up once they come out of the broiler.

Caramelized Bananas


Jhan and I talked at length about which plates to use for this shoot. We went though my closet of plates and discussed a number of options. We finally settled on a pair of small square plates, mostly because they really fit the size of the dish. Also, the fact that I had two of them (a lot of the dishes in my 'collection' are one-zies).

I think the simple presentation, white on white, worked well in this case, bringing attention to the food. The glass of semillion dessert wine accented the colors of the dish, and the lime zest provided an interesting color highlight as well. I liked how the syrup on the bananas give them a little glisten so that they don't look too flat.

My only concern about the plating was that from certain angles the slices of bananas looked a bit too much like, uh, like, well, there's no nice way to say it... from certain angles the slices of bananas looked a bit too much like turds. I didn't see this during the shoot, and ended up having to throw out a lot of photos taken from angles that accentuated that unfortunate characteristic too much.

I still ended up with a lot of good shots, but I need to pay a bit more attention during plating to make sure that the food looks good from all angles.

Caramelized Bananas

Lighting and Photography

If you've read this blog, you know I've struggled with lighting bright subjects. But I think I've figured out that it's mostly an issue of under exposure - for whatever reason my system was doing that. For this shoot, I wanted a pretty "surround sound" type of lighting I placed my key light to the right of the dish, behind a reflector. I added a rear fill for reflections and sparkle, and a front fill bounced of the wall behind my position, to bring up the front side of the dish.

Overall, it turned out well. I'm happy with the brightness levels, the angles of the light, and highlights. I consider this a successful shoot.

I forgot to take a photo of the lighting set up, but I think my description outlines the set up pretty well.

Caramelized Bananas

Lessons Learned

The biggest lesson learned in this shoot was that I need to use the flash compensation on the camera more to control the exposure. I still consider myself to be a lighting novice, and I still don't understand how my system makes decisions on flash output, but I do know that it often makes poor decisions, and that using the flash compensation can, well, compensate for that.

I also learned that I need to pay a bit more attention when plating a dish to make sure it looks good from all angles. And I need to slow down a bit during the shoot to make sure that the angle I'm shooting is a good one for the dish.

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