Friday, June 3, 2011

Zucchini Bread Glorified

My friend, Bruce Efferson,  recently gave me some zucchini squash.  We have enjoyed vegetables from my husband's garden this year, but we had no zucchini.  We really appreciated the gift that was among several other squashes and cucumbers!

I never ate zucchini as a child.  My mom and dad never grew it and now I know why.  According to www.about.com this combination squash/melon was introduced to America only about 30 years ago.  The article I read went on to state that Columbus brought zucchini seeds from the Mediterranean area to the New World, but that the food was eaten for thousands of year in Central and South America.  American cooks have learned to love it because of its versatility and ease of growing.  The green elongated vegetable gets its name from the Italian word, zucchino, that interprets to "squash."  I love to prepare it along with yellow crookneck squash in a "medley" seasoned with butter and cheese, but I also love zucchini bread.

Several years ago I received a gift from my son.  It was Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything.  Mark is a television chef and is also the author of "The Minimalist," a food column in the New York Times.  The book is huge....I am talking almost 1000 pages.  It has received awards including Julia Child Cookbook and James Beard Foundation honors.  I like the simplicity of it and the numerous appendices including menu ideas, a glossary, and a list of "Fifty Cookbooks I'd Rather Not Live Without."  The Washington Times reviewed this book and named it "The hip Joy of Cooking." When searching for the perfect zucchini bread recipe, I consulted Mark.  After all, the book cover proclaims that it contains "Simple Recipes for Great Food!"

The recipe is basically a quick bread.  That's one that doesn't require yeast and is composed by combining all the dry ingredients and then pouring in all the liquid ingredients.  I tweaked it a little to suit my preferences.  I am sorry that I did not take a snapshot when it came out of the oven.  When I got up this morning to take a picture of it, I found that someone at our house had made a midnight snack of my creation!   I am so glad he liked it.  To me, that is the real pleasure of cooking....to see someone enjoy eating it!  The menu for the evening  included roasted pork tenderloin, green beans, rice and fresh tomatoes.  I did use the oven, so it was a little hot in the kitchen, but multitasked by baking the bread alongside the pork roast.  Here is the recipe (with a few of my own touches)

Ingredients:
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour (didn't have so used more all purpose flour)
1/2 cup corn meal
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon baking powder
Pinch of each: cinnamon, ground cloves, ground nutmeg, ground ginger
1 (or so) cup grated raw zucchini with green left on
1/2 cup nuts (used walnuts, but pecans would work, too)
1/4 cup melted butter
1 1/2 cups milk (skim used)
2 eggs

Method:
1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter a loaf pan. (or spray with vegetable spray as I did.)
2.  Combine all the dry ingredients.  Beat the egg with the butter and milk.  Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into it along with the zucchini and nuts.
3.  Using a large spoon or rubber spatula, combine the ingredients swiftly, stirring and folding rather than beating and stopping a soon as all the dry ingredients are moistened.  The batter should be lumpy, not smooth.
4.  Pour into the prepared loaf pan and bake about an hour or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out dry (clean)  Cool on a rack for at least 10 minutes before removing from the pan.

Note from me:  The premise of a quick bread is that the baking powder starts to react when the wet ingredients and combined with the dry.  Therefore, you must have everything ready before beginning to produce the ultimate product.  Mark's book also includes many variations of quick bread.  He has suggestions using apples, pumpkin and carrots.

My sous chef, Olive, wasn't much help today.  She has begun to crawl and has found our dog door.  I have visions of her toppling out the back door, so had to quickly snatch her up before she had a head injury.