Friday, September 16, 2011

Zucchini Zinger

A favorite vegetable around this house is zucchini and there are few times when there isn’t a bag of them in the refrigerator. The mild flavor of this handsome squash is perfect in a dozen or more recipes, and is even good sliced raw and eaten with dips. Or give yourself a surprise with the relish of zucchini flowers plucked from the plant, dipped in flour and fried. Serve the squash with a sweet and sour sauce or make it into a soup or stew. Any recipe for the Provençal vegetable stew, ratatouille will include zucchini and in south Louisiana, especially New Orleans, it adds the green to recipes using the Mardi Gras colors of purple, yellow and green.


We more commonly call the vegetable zucchini, from the Italian zucchina, but in Great Britain, New Zealand and South Africa, it is called courgette, a French loan word. Like all squash zucchini is native to the Americas, but the variety popular in America now is one developed in Italy long after its introduction from the New World. The inhabitants of Central and South America have been eating zucchini for several thousand years. We get the term ‘squash’ from an Indian word, skutasquash which means ‘green thing eaten green.’ Most of us like to call squash a vegetable because we are speaking in a culinary sense, but in botanical terms it is more properly a fruit because of the presence of seeds. Scientists will speak of the zucchini as an immature fruit, as the swollen ovary of the female zucchini flower. A mature zucchini can reach a length of three feet, but most of them are harvested when they are about eight inches long. The season for zucchini is from April through August, but greenhouse agriculture and imports from other climates stretch the season out to practically year round. Some flavors that match well with this flexible vegetable-fruit are: basil, walnuts, dill, tomatoes, lemon, onions, garlic, olive oil and tarragon.


I have cooked zucchini in a variety of ways, but always shied away from trying to make any of the several varieties of zucchini bread, simply because the thought of making bread is intimidating for a cook of my caliber. Yesterday I came across a recipe on NPR that made me reconsider. And since there was time in the day to go about it slowly and carefully…


ZUCCHINI BREAD

What you will need: (for two loaves of about twelve slices each)

3½ cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for dusting

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon grated nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

2¼ cups coarsely grated zucchini, unpeeled

1 cup sugar

4 large eggs lightly beaten

½ cup vegetable oil

2 tablespoons grated orange zest

1 cup coarsely chopped pecans


Putting it together:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and dust with flour two 8½ inch loaf pans. The foil pans available at the market are perfect. Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves into a bowl and set aside. Combine the grated zucchini, sugar, eggs, vegetable oil and orange zest in a large bowl and mix by hand until evenly blended. Add the dry ingredients to the zucchini mixture and stir by hand until the batter is evenly moistened and blended. Fold in the nuts.

Divide the batter between the prepared loaf pans. Bake until the edges are browned and starting to pull away from the pan, and the bread springs back when lightly pressed with a fingertip—about 55 minutes. Remove the loaves from the pans and let cool on wire racks before serving.


Great with afternoon tea or coffee, and a good morning bread when served with cream cheese and your favorite jam. I was lucky enough to have a jar of homemade apricot preserves made by a friend.

2 comments:

  1. Congratulations! You have branched out in your culinary skills and the pictures are beautiful. Your bread looks delicious. I really enjoyed the iso about zucchini.

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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America