I have a confession: I think smoothie and shake “recipes” are absurd. When I see one, I tend to point and laugh at it until it skulks away in shame and dies. Smoothie “cookbooks”? Please—they deserve to end up remaindered and unsaleable at $1.50. I can’t wrap my head around not being able to take some basic ingredients like fruit and/or ice cream and/or milk in some form, blending them, and ending up with something at least semi-palatable.
I am normally an understanding person when it comes to being lost and frightened in the kitchen—I didn’t know what garlic was until I was 23, after all—but this is just too much. If you’ve ever had a milkshake in your life, the basic principle must be clear. Or maybe it mustn’t. I used to own a bookstore, and in that bookstore were many Olde Time-y cookbooks; most assumed a baseline of knowledge that almost no one has anymore, while others assumed total, mouth-breathing incompetence—including one that unironically boasted a recipe for boiled water.
It might be remorse or late-flowering open-mindedness, but it occurs to me that Donald Rumsfeld was on to something with his famous epistemological throw-down: “There are known knowns; there are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns; that is to say, there are things that we now know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns—there are things we do not know we don’t know.” Maybe some people really don’t know how to make a smoothie, and I’m just a terrible person.
Look at how I back-peddle; this rhetorical workout is being fueled by the greatest shake in the world, and yes, I got it from a cookbook—a cookbook I have maximum respect for. In The Joy of Vegan Baking there is a recipe for a Chocolate Banana Shake. When I got this book in 2007, I rejoiced, for it contained a recipe for cinnamon buns—one of the only things my husband missed in a really painful way after going vegan. It taught me how to make a stellar flaky pie crust. It contains my most favorite apple crumble recipe. It showed me that blueberry banana muffins are the best kind of muffins to start the day with. I was in love, but when I saw Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s short chapter on frozen treats, I looked away in embarrassment.
Then, one very hot day in the summer of 2011, as I sat in my darkened apartment with cold packs strapped all over my body, weeping quietly over this book’s beautiful baked goods which it would be months before I could safely make again, I found this recipe. I had frozen bananas, so I threw it together it in a spirit of exploration that occurs only when there’s really nothing left to lose. And everything changed. I’m not sure anything has made me quite so happy, either before or since—except, maybe, going to the local milkshake joint when I was a littl’un to get an old-school vanilla milkshake served in a humongous metal glass.
This recipe is so simple it is beyond genius. It is genius reduced to four ingredients you’ve probably combined in other ways before, but trust me: this is real magic. And now that summer has made a surprisingly sweaty encore, it seems only fair that I share this with those either unlucky enough not to have this cookbook or who, like me, are super-annoying smoothie snobs in need of some schooling.
For one person, combine:
–1 cup milk (Either soy or almond work; any milk without too much flavor of its own should be fine.)
–1 ripe banana, cut into chunks and frozen (DO NOT skip this step; this is the source of all the good voodoo. After you make this, you’ll keep bananas in the freezer for all future chocolate shake emergencies. And there will be plenty of those.)
–2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
–pure maple syrup to taste (CPG suggests 1-2 tsp of granulated sugar, which is crazy. In any situation where maple syrup can be used instead of anything else at all, I don’t know why you wouldn’t—unless you’re mad at yourself; in which case, carry on.)
Right then, you’d better go set up that blender then, hadn’t you?
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