Thursday, April 12, 2007

Zucchini Breads

With all the crazy talk about zucchini around here, I thought I'd share two zucchini bread recipes with you. Joyce Ashton, my mom's neighbor, compiled a bunch of zucchini recipes for her ward (a ward is an individual church congregation, in Mormon-speak) several years ago. These two recipes are from that compilation, modified to fit my own tastes. Thanks Joyce!

Whole Wheat Zucchini Bread

Ingredients
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
2 cups zucchini, grated
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, pecans, cashews, or whatever you like (optional), toasted
Non-stick cooking spray

Preheat the oven to 325 °F.

Beat together the eggs, oil, and vanilla in a mixing bowl. Mix in the sugar until well combined. In a separate mixing bowl, mix the flour, soda, salt, baking powder, and cinnamon. Add the egg mixture, zucchini, and nuts to the flour mixtures and gently mix the whole thing until well blended.

Spray two 9-inch by 4 1/2-inch bread loaf pans with cooking spray. Divide the batter evenly between the loaf pans, and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.

Bake on the center rack for 50 minutes, or until a toothpick can be inserted, and come out clean.

Place the bread pans on a wire cooling rack and let cool for 10 minutes, in the pans. Remove the bread loaves, and transfer to the cooling rack. Let cool at least 30 minutes before slicing.

This bread can be kept in a freezer, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, and then aluminum foil, for up to six months.


Zucchini Banana Nut Bread

Ingredients
3 eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups grated zucchini
2 bananas,quartered and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
3 cups all purpose flour (alternately you could use 1 1/2 cups all purpose, 1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 cup raisins
3/4 cup chopped walnuts, pecans, cashews, or whatever you like (optional), toasted

Beat the eggs in a mixing bowl along with the oil, and vanilla. Add in the sugar and mix thoroughly. Gently fold in the zucchini and bananas until well blended. In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, baking soda, salt, and baking powder. Mix in the egg mixture, and then fold in the raisins and nuts.

Spray two 9-inch by 4 1/2-inch bread loaf pans with cooking spray. Divide the batter evenly between the loaf pans, and smooth the tops with a rubber spatula.

Bake for 60 minutes, or until a toothpick can be inserted, and come back out clean.

Place the bread pans on a wire cooling rack and let cool for 10 minutes, in the pans. Remove the bread loaves, and transfer to the cooling rack. Let cool at least 30 minutes before slicing.

This bread can be kept in a freezer, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap, and then aluminum foil, for up to six months.



Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Invasion of the Zucchini People

Zucchini has an interesting role in Utah food culture. For normal people, it is a small green summer squash that can be steamed, boiled, grilled, stuffed, baked, grilled, fried, and incorporated into other recipes, such as souffl├ęs and pasta dishes. I've even heard that the flower can be stuffed and eaten. It's considered a delicacy when turned into tempura. Zucchini can also be eaten raw, in a cold salad, although I'm not a fan. In various Thai and Vietnamese hot salad recipes it's featured hot, but barely cooked. I like to fry it up in olive oil with some other veggies and toss it with pasta. My mom makes great zucchini bread.

It turns out that, biologically, Zucchini isn't a vegetable at all. It's the immature fruit of the Zucchini flower. It's usually harvested when it's about 8 inches long. Any larger and it starts to get fibrous.

With Utah Mormons it's a way to alleviate guilt. What we do is grow zucchini to enormous sizes (12 to 20 inches) and then give it away to our neighbors. Like most fruitcake, it's not a gift you want to receive. I think we do it out of a sense of community guilt, coupled with the fact that we don't want to eat it ourselves. "We grew way too much zucchini so, let's give it to the neighbors. That way we can get the blessings of sharing the fruits of our labors with others. Yeah! That's ticket." I'm often suspicious that God looks at this behavior as inflicting pain, not giving good gifts.

The gifting of zucchini is so prevalent that, if you ever visit a Mormon church in Utah during the summer, make sure you lock your car securely. If you don't, when you come out of church it will be filled with zucchini. We call that "fellowshipping."

Utah residents need to be careful when leaving their homes, too. In many cases, when you return (usually from church), your front porch will be covered in zucchini. The person giving it to you likely feels that it was a good gift, given anonymously as any Christian would. The truth is they don't want to be charged with committing a drive-by zucchini-ing, or have you retaliate by giving them an ancient fruitcake dated back to pioneer times.

I believe I've discovered a more sinister truth behind all of this nonsense. Zucchini isn't a vegetable or fruit at all. It's really an alien pod species bent on taking over. Think about it! First, it grows like crazy out here and convinces us to let it grow to enormous sizes. That's when it takes over our brain and makes us spread it around to our neighbors.

“Here, Johnny, take this home. No, it won't hurt you. It's not pod. Trust me. You'll like it.”

The thing the zucchini people didn't count on is that they would land in with a bunch of Utah Mormons. This is where their evil plot fails. We don't give them time to really infect us. We eat them too fast.

*UPDATE*

I was talking with my mom the other day, about zucchini recipes, and she told me, "There's another thing you can do with zucchini. Cut it in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds, and float it down the river. We used to do that with cucumbers when I was kid. I'm sure you can do it with zucchini."

That is so like my mother.