Fun and festive dessert: Bananas flambe

Bananas Flambé with Chocolate and Pistachios
Serves 6

This is fun to cook right at the table if you have a chafing dish and brave guests. The dish is very fast, so have all your ingredients ready before you turn on the heat.

2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon Cointreau or other orange-based liqueur
3 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 large ripe but firm bananas
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
6 dried figs, stems removed
2 tablespoons brown sugar
Zest of 1 washed orange
2 tablespoons brandy
3 tablespoons chopped pistachios

1. In a small heatproof bowl, combine the milk and Cointreau, and set over a saucepan of simmering water. Stir until the chocolate is completely melted, then remove from heat.

2. Cut the bananas in half lengthwise and cut the halves into 6 equal pieces.

3. In a 10-inch sauté pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Lay the banana pieces, cut-side down, in the butter. Add the figs, brown sugar, and orange zest. Cook over medium heat until the bananas brown on one side.

4. Turn the bananas over and raise the heat to high. Remove the pan from the heat and pour the brandy over the bananas. Set the pan back on the heat and tilt the pan away from yourself so that it flames. If the brandy does not flame, the sauce will still taste fine. Continue to cook, shaking gently, until the flame dies, about 1 minute.

5. Divide the bananas and figs among 6 plates. Top with a scoop of Banana-Rum Sorbet and a sprinkling of toasted pistachios.

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Makes 1 gallon

During the Posada in December, a pot of ponche is always simmering on the stove to warm up chilly guests. The punch is usually served with a few bits of fruit but may be strained if you prefer. Serve in heatproof cups or mugs, with sticks of cinnamon. Adults may enjoy the addition of a drop of tequila or rum.

2 green apples, cored and cut into 8 pieces each
1 orange, cut into 8 pieces
1 lemon, cut into 8 pieces
3 thick slices fresh pineapple, peeled, cored, and cut into large chunks
Two 6-inch pieces sugarcane, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup seedless raisins
1 cup sugar, or more to taste
4 large cinnamon sticks
2 pieces star anise
8 tejocote (Mexican hawthorn apples) or dried apple rings
10 cups cold water

In a large pot, combine all of the ingredients and bring to a simmer over low heat. Cover and simmer for about 1 hour or until the punch is flavorful. Taste and add more sugar if you prefer.

Aztec Guacamole
Makes 2 cups

This terrific guacamole is probably the Ranch's most enduringly popular recipe. Adding green vegetables to the avo¬cado boosts the nutritional value of the guacamole and reduces the fat content. Most importantly, it tastes great.

If you are not using it to top tacos, serve with an assortment of raw vegetables and tostaditas .

1 cup frozen peas, slightly thawed
1 medium Hass avocado, peeled and pitted
2 tablespoons fresh lime or lemon juice, or to taste
1 medium tomato, seeded and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1/2 red or sweet onion, cut into 1/8-inch dice
1 jalapeño or serrano chile, seeded and minced
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 teaspoon minced fresh garlic
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1. In a blender or in the bowl of a food processor, process the peas until smooth.

2. In a medium bowl, mash the avocado with a fork or potato masher. Add the juice, tomato, onion, jalapeño, cilantro, garlic, salt, and black pepper. Add the peas and mix well.

3. If the guacamole won't be served immediately, press a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface to prevent browning.


  • Instead of peas, use 1 cup of well-cooked broccoli, edamame, or cooked asparagus tips.

    Sangria La Puerta
    Serves 6

    Fresh juices make all the difference here. If you can't find or make fresh grape juice, white grape juice from con¬centrate may be substituted.

    1 orange, thinly sliced
    1 lemon, thinly sliced
    1 bottle (750 ml) light-bodied red wine, such as pinot noir or Beaujolais
    1 cup fresh grape juice
    1 cup unfiltered fresh apple juice
    1/2 cup agave syrup
    5 whole star anise
    3 cinnamon sticks

    1. Wash the orange and lemon and slice thinly from end to end. Place the orange and lemon slices in a large glass pitcher, add the remaining ingredients, and stir. Chill for at least 2 hours before serving.

    2. Strain the sangria and serve in tall glasses over Herb Lemon Ice Cubes (recipe follows) if you like, and garnish with a piece of soaked fruit.


  • Substitute fresh pink grapefruit juice for the grape juice.
  • Substitute sparkling water for the apple juice.
  • Add ¼ cup brandy just before serving.
  • Add a few pieces of nectarine and green apple to each glass.

    About Deborah M. Schneider
    Deborah M. Schneider is a chef and food writer with more than 25 years of culinary experience. Dubbed by Bon Appetit as "The reigning queen of San Diego chefs," Deborah Schneider, has a lot on her plate these days. She has co-authored Rancho La Puerta's glorious new cookbook, Cooking with the Seasons at Rancho La Puerta, with spa founder Deborah Szekely. Her first cookbook, "Baja! Cooking on the Edge" was published in spring of 2006. She lives in San Diego

    On December 11th Deborah will demonstrate a selection of winter recipes from Rancho La Puerta's cookbook at Macy's Union Square: Quinoa Cranberry Salad, Saffron Vegetable Stew with Lemon Zest Aioli, and Mayan Chocolate Sorbet. She will be available to answer questions on essential cooking tips and techniques, and will show ways to transform favorite recipes into healthy meals. Copies of the cookbook will be available for $35.00 and she will be present for book signings after the class.

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