This past Wednesday, I was invited into the city for a press event for Simply Orange held at the Institute of Culinary Education. To be honest, at first, I had no idea what Simply Orange was. But when I walked into the room, I saw this giant umbrella with a parked green cart and two giant stacked boxes of oranges. Two guys were handing out OJ like they do on the streets, and I thought to myself, “Ohhhh! THAT Simply!”
But then I became even more confused. Why was this orange juice company sponsoring this “Brunch for Dinner” event? Turns out that Simply recognized that they need to ride the social media marketing wave, and hence is reaching out to bloggers. They set up this event where they invited all of these bloggers for a brunch course. Only one dish on the menu used the Simply juice and none of us were in any way obligated to blog about Simply.
I had a couple of minutes to chat with the marketing representative from Simply. She was an intern from Australia. Here were some key takeaway points:
- Simply’s concept is farm to table. In other words, freshly squeezed orange juice. Because there are no preservatives, the recommended shelf life is only 7-10 days. The orange juice is “gently pasteurized.” I’m not sure what that means.
- The company was founded by MinuteMaid (hm… interesting)
- No concentrate or water added. Simply orange.
While the OJ is delicious, my favorite flavor had to have been the Limeade. It was a bit tangier than the lemonade. The mango was too mango-y and the pineapple was nothing to write home about. I ended up buying another 59oz and while Mark and I both loved the OJ, we really couldn’t tell the difference between Simply and Tropicana. However, it’s sold at BJ’s so for the minimal incremental extra cost, I think I’ll stick to the one that has less preservatives (aka Simply).
Now onto the stuff that you came for- Banana Stuffed French Toast with Streusel Topping! The recipe is from Zoe’s in NYC which has unfortunately closed down.
This french toast is sweet and hearty. No extra maple syrup required. What it does require is a stretcher and a few EMTs to haul you out of the place. Since the french toast is made with thick challah bread, I think that for most people, one is more than sufficient to fill up your stomach and for your daily heart attack simulator (just kidding). All joking aside, this was one of my favorite dishes of the night. The french toast came out light, airy, and so flavorsome.
A recipe like this is reserved for special occasions. Because its so easy to make in mass quantities, it’s an easy dish to entertain with if you’re having a group of people over for brunch. It’s also super easy and quick to make (well relative to Osso Bucco). The best thing about the recipe is that you just pop the french toast into an oven and move on with life. What I also love is how the french toast keeps dry. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not dry to the point where it lacks moisture. It’s just not soggy. Amazingly, the filling is reminiscent of a cream cheese filling but it’s actually not! (surprisingly, it’s actually healthier!)
Banana-Stuffed French Toast with Streusel Topping
Recipe from Restaurant: Zoe, NYC (serves 6)
- 1/2 stick of butter
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2 tablespoons water
- 2 large ripe bananas, peeled, cut into 1/2 inch thick rounds
- 1 loaf of challah bread (or brioche), sliced into 6 slices (1 1/2 inches thick)
- 2 cups WHOLE milk
- 6 large eggs
- 2 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1/3 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 cups thinly slices almonds, toasted
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- 1/3 cup quick cooking oats
- 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F
Melt 2 tablespoons of butter into a large skillet over medium heat. Add 2 tablespoons of sugar and 2 tablespoons of water and stir until the sugar dissolves. You want to stir until the mixture is foamy, for about 2 minutes. Add in the bananas and cook until tender. Stir occasionally for about 5 minutes. Then, transfer to a small bowl and let it cool. This can be prepared 4 hours ahead. Cover and chill.
Now we’re going to create the “pockets’ for the french toast for the filling. Using a small sharp knife, cut 2 inch long slit in one side of each bread slice, cutting 3/4th the way through the bread and creating a pocket that leaves 3 sides of the bread intact.
Divide the banana mixture equally among the pockets. Then, whisk milk, eggs, 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, vanilla, and 1/2 cup sugar in large bowl to blend. Pour into a large glass baking dish. Place the bread in the egg mixture and let it soak 10 minutes, turning occasionally.
Place almonds in a shallow bowl. Carefully remove bread from the egg mixture and coat both sides with almonds. Then, place the bread on a heavy large baking sheet. Mix the brown sugar, oats, flour, and remaining 2 teaspoons of cinnamon in a medium bowl. Add the remaining 1/3 stick of butter and rub in, using fingertips, until moist clumps form. This would be the struesel filling that you sprinkle over the bread.
Bake until bread topping is golden brown and filling is hot. Should take about 25 minutes. You can serve with maple syrup, but totally unnecessary!