Cinnamon Swirl Babka French Toast

Cardamom-Caramelized Bananas

Balsamic-Dressed Strawberries

It is often with near surreal serendipity that any first-attempt dishes comes about, much less actually comes together.

It was only as a surprise that I came across an Entenmann's limited edition banana bread at a local supermarket. Buying and bringing it home gave me the idea to use it to make french toast.

But instead I spent two consecutive evenings in a row using it as a compliment to my late night ice cream — and by the time I had bought a banana to caramelize and pour on top of planned French toast, I had scant banana bread left to even make one portion.

A visit to a closer supermarket proved unsuccessful in finding that same banana bread — or any, for that matter — but I did come across a loaf of cinnamon swirl babka, which eventually made for a great substitute, dunked in an egg and heavey cream mixture with a hint of nutmeg, grilled in a hot pan with plenty of butter, placed on top of some sliced strawberries tossed in balsamic vinegar, and topped of with sliced bananas caramelized in butter, sugar, and cardamom.

A likewise somewhat surreal pleasure for the palate, the cinnamon within the babka slices seeped into the custard coating, intensifying its flavor and aroma when heated by the hot butter. The bananas were almost pillowy soft and dreamy sweet yet counter-balanced nicely by the slight earthiness and "coolness" of cardamom. And the fresh berries added firm, juicy bites accentuate by the palate-cleansing balsamic.

I didn't know what exactly to expect with this dish — a dish that kind of evolved on the fly — but was very pleased with the outcome.