Before we get down to business, a reminder: You’ve got six days left to enter this year’s Top Tomato contest. Home cooks’ great original recipes will go head to head for 2012 bragging rights; shouldn’t yours be in there, too? Follow this link for the specifics. And watch for the results in our special tomato issue on Aug. 15.

So, anyway, good morning! Hope you’ve had a chance to take in the great stuff in today’s Food section: Tamar Haspel’s story about her experiment in raising three piglets that eventually will end up on her table; Tim Carman’s exploration of seviche, Peru’s signature dish; and Joe Yonan’s Cooking for One Column about summer sandwiches.

And (some of ) the best is yet to come: today’s Free Range chat. It’s our weeky hour to share information and ideas about all things culinary. Be there at noon, and bring your questions. Like this one, a leftover from last week’s chat:

I often have ripe bananas that I want to use a few days later for banana bread. My usual storage method is to peel them and put them in a freezer bag (in the freezer). The problem is that when I thaw them, they are sort of spongy and almost liquefied. Is there any way to preserve the texture? Should I be using the fridge instead if it’s only going to be for a week or less?

Two things:

First, for banana bread, the sort of soft, wet, custardy texture that happens to bananas after you freeze them really doesn’t matter. The bananas are going to be mashed up anyway, right? If you were going to be making banana splits out of them, it’d be another story.

Second, if you ARE making banana splits out of them, then yes, there is something you can do to preserve the texture. Chiquita Banana’s old admonition to the contrary, you *can* put bananas in the refrigerator. The peel will get dark, but the ripening of the fruit will slow and the texture will be preserved. I’m not sure you can do it for as long as a week, but a few days should be fine.

Meanwhile, here’s a wonderful bread you can make with your mushy frozen bananas. Don’t worry about serving it with the mango and cream; it’s pretty terrific just by itself.

Sticky Banana Bread With Fresh Mango and Muscovado Cream (Deb Lindsey )

MAKE AHEAD: The muscovado cream can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.

Makes one 9-by-5-inch loaf (10 servings)

For the bread
  • 2 large eggs, preferably free-range
  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar, preferably Muscovado sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups very ripe and soft bananas, mashed (from about 4 large bananas)
  • 2 tablespoons creme fraiche or low-fat plain Greek-style yogurt
  • 1 1/3 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 heaping cup chopped, toasted macadamia nuts, about 5 ounces (optional; see NOTE)
  • 1 ripe mango, peeled, pitted and cut into slices
For the cream
  • 2 tablespoons light or dark brown sugar, preferably Muscovado sugar
  • 1 cup creme fraiche or plain Greek-style yogurt
  • Finely grated zest and freshly squeezed juice of 1 lime (2 teaspoons zest and 1 tablespoon juice)

For the bread: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with parchment paper.

Combine the eggs, melted butter, sugar, salt and vanilla extract in the bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer; beat on low speed to blend, then on medium-high speed for 3 to 4 minutes, until airy.

Add the bananas and creme fraiche or yogurt, beating on medium speed to incorporate. Remove the bowl from the mixer.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and cinnamon over the top of the batter; fold in thoroughly. Fold in two-thirds of the nuts, if using.

Pour the batter into the lined pan, smooth the top and sprinkle it with the remaining nuts, if using. Bake for 60 minutes or until a skewer poked into the center comes out clean. Unmold, and cool on a wire rack before cutting into slices.

For the cream: Stir together the sugar, creme fraiche or yogurt and the lime zest and juice in a medium bowl until the sugar has dissolved. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use (and for up to 2 days).

Serve portions of the banana bread in bowls with slices of ripe mango and generous spoonfuls of the muscovado cream.

NOTE: Toast the macadamia nuts in a small nonstick skillet over medium-low heat until fragrant and lightly browned. Cool slightly, then coarsely chop.

Adapted from "Alice's Cook Book," by Alice Hart (Lyons Press, 2011).