The photos of the big zucchini in this article aren’t from my garden. I wish they were. On Wednesday, I picked them up from the farmer’s market at Anchorage’s Northway Mall. The zucchini in my garden are much smaller — actually, about the size of my little finger. I’m not giving up hope yet, though. I know there is a warm and sunny remainder of July and all of August in there somewhere, and perhaps my garden will flourish yet.
I bought way too much zucchini at the market — which is exactly what happens with a good summer garden harvest. Usually people start too many zucchini plants in the first place, because the seeds are so big and rewarding when they sprout. One plant – maybe two – is all a typical home garden needs. So I have somehow replicated a bumper crop and brought home a basketful of zucchini and yellow squash.
For the most part, in my kitchen, we use any summer squash interchangeably. Usually green zucchini (summer squash) holds up better to bumpy airplane rides and transport into the backcountry than yellow squash, but we use it all.
We have been making a Spanish ratatouille-like dish called samfaina all summer with squash, eggplant, onion, bell pepper, smoked paprika, and saffron that I could perhaps eat for every meal the rest of the year. In that dish, we grate fresh tomatoes with a hand grater into the pot of simmering vegetables and we add in a nice rich olive oil. We’ve been grilling zucchini, and slicing it raw into thin long strips with a vegetable peeler to wrap up smoked salmon mousse. I have a secret favorite zucchini dish I remember from my childhood — hollowed out zucchini filled with tomato-dense ground beef, spices and melted cheese.
When I flew home a cooler filled with ice packs, bubble-wrap, and zucchini on the airplane yesterday, Mandy looked at me a little sideways. She started grating zucchini for morning breakfast breads. Her commercial-kitchen zucchini bread recipe is this: 1 pound, 2-1/2 ounces all-purpose flour, 1/4-ounce baking powder, 1/4-ounce baking soda, 1/2-ounce salt, 1/2-ounce cinnamon, 1/2-ounce nutmeg, 12 ounces sugar, 12 ounces brown sugar, 12 ounces vegetable oil, 9 ounces egg, 1 pound, 2 ounces zucchini and 3-1/2 ounces whole wheat flour. Add in as many chopped pecans as you like. Mix the dry ingredients with the wet ingredients and bake as instructed below.
I like a little bit different style of zucchini bread. I am not a big cinnamon fan so I often exclude this in baking recipes. I love a little bit of sour cream, lemon and cardamom in zucchini bread, so here is my recipe. Maybe you can try both and see which you prefer. Add in a bit of chocolate, blueberries, dried cherries, pineapple and other interesting ingredients into your zucchini bread batter — it is adaptable.
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- ½ teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup chopped toasted walnuts
- 3 large eggs, beaten
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2-1/2 cups grated zucchini
- ½ cup sour cream
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-inch x 5-inch x 3-inch loaf pans. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cardamom, and salt. (I listed the cardamom as optional only because it is so expensive. But a little goes a long way and it compliments the flavors in this bread perfectly.) Add in the nuts.
- In a separate bowl (or in a bowl of a heavy-duty electric mixer), add in the eggs, oil, brown sugar, granulated sugar, vanilla extract, and lemon juice. Whisk the sugar mixture until it is light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Fold in the zucchini gently. Add the flour into the batter, alternating with some of the sour cream, folding gently to retain some of that fluffiness. This is where you could add in blueberries or dried fruit or other signature additions.
- Divide the batter into the two loaf pans. Bake for about 1 hour, until the tops of the loaves are firm and dry. The breads shouldn’t “jiggle” at all. Let the breads cool before taking them out of the pans. We usually slice the loaf and cut the pieces in half for bite-sized servings. Zucchini bread is lovely served hot with whipped honey butter, homemade jams, and other fruit-based breakfast spreads.