January's Recipe of the Month: Chocobanola

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Someday I'd love to see a few hands of bananas put an Iron Chef through the ringer. A banana is definitely not a piece of cake. Sure, there's that old reliable workhorse, banana bread, in which even the most pathetically abused banana will do it's job. But how about sliced on crème pie or in a fruit salad? Great—at least for those few seconds before the whole dish self-destructs into a soggy mess. Or those greasy tooth-cracking banana chips? Not to mention that laboratory-concocted horror known as "artificial banana flavor?" Still there are inspirations—like Chunky Monkey.

When I made up my mind to attempt a banana granola, I knew we needed to stick with dried bananas (no chips) and scoured the internet for samples. Bad—I'm sad to say. Terrible, most of them. Plus expensive. I always came back to Trader Joe's simple flattened bananas. From the beginning, I was sure we should pair them with an earthy, dark chocolate. And cashews, though not at the expense of the whole almond crunch. Some of the challenges involved dicing both the bananas and the chocolate to a size which prevented their taking over or losing their distinction (or breaking the food processor). We added a little molasses and cut back on the raisins to counter the sweetness. Then, just last week, we happened on a stash of the earthiest organic chocolate imaginable—Dagoba chocolate with raw hemp, pumpkin and sunflower seeds. Wow! This is a find and will probably never happen again, at least at this price, making this a once-in-a lifetime granola of the month. So order up while supplies last! We're in production now and can probably have it in the mail within the week. You've got about three weeks left.