Monday, October 1, 2012

Zucchini Bread

There is a brief moment in time, usually the middle to end of September, where the last of the summer produce sits alongside the first harvest of winter squash, pumpkins and apples.  The days still creep up into the upper 70’s, but the mornings and evenings are cooling down, for sure.  A warming corn chowder starts to sound a little more appealing than corn on the cob.  A salad of fresh picked tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella doesn’t sound nearly as appetizing as some hearty bitter greens saut√©ed with garlic and white beans served with a nice hunk of garlic bread.           

As much as I’m craving kabocha squash, apple cider donuts and roasted Brussels sprouts, I’m trying to cram as much zucchini, eggplant, cucumbers and bell peppers in my mouth as possible.  In a couple more weeks, it’s gonna be squash season until April, so I’m enjoying what I can get until it’s gone.

Luckily, I have several friends that know what the hell they are doing in a garden (unlike myself)and always have an excess of basil, cherry tomatoes, summer squash and zucchini that they are more than willing to give away.

Unfortunately, once I am given all these free vegetables I sometimes have a difficult time using them up before they make their way into the compost bin.  Basil is a no brainer. Freeze it or make an ass ton of pesto and eat it all week long.  Cherry tomatoes can be roasted and thrown into a quick pasta with some of that fresh basil.  Zucchini is one of those vegetables that can be grilled, stuffed or grated and made into fritters. Really, favorite way to eat the stuff is in the form of bread.

I’ve been on the quest to find a tasty, zucchini bread that has SOME redeeming nutritional benefits.  That way when I eat over a half a loaf in a day (breakfast, afternoon snack and as an after dinner treat) I feel no gulit or remorse whatsoever.

Whole wheat flour, walnuts, zucchini, eggs... healthy, right?

Whatever...It could be worse.

Zucchini Bread (makes 2 loaves)
Slightly adapted from 101 cookbooks

1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts, plus a few to sprinkle on top
1/3 cup poppy seeds
zest of two lemons
1/2 cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped

1/2 cup unsalted butter, slightly softened
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 cups grated zucchini (about 3 medium), skins on, squeeze some of the moisture out and then fluff it up again before using
3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Butter the two loaf pans, dust them with a bit of flour and set aside. In a small bowl combine the walnuts, poppy seeds, lemon zest, and ginger. Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the butter until fluffy. Add the sugars and beat again until mixture comes together and is no longer crumbly. Add the eggs one at a time mixing well and scraping down the sides of the bowl between each addition. Stir in the vanilla and then the zucchini.

In a separate bowl, combine the whole wheat pastry flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Add these dry ingredients to the wet ingredients in two batches, stirring between each addition.

By hand, fold in the walnut, poppy seed, lemon zest, and crystalized ginger mixture. Save a bit of this to sprinkle on the tops of the zucchini loaves before baking for a bit of texture. Avoid over mixing the batter.

Divide the batter equally between the two loaf pans. Make sure it is level in the pans, by running a spatula over the top of each loaf. Bake for about 40-45 minutes on a middle oven rack. Remove from the oven and cool the zucchini bread in pan for about ten minutes, then turn out onto wire racks to finish cooling.

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