Thursday, August 28, 2008

Zucchini Angst

If, like me, you have been making your way around FoodBlogLand lately, you've probably noticed a proliferation of recipes designed to "use up" excess zucchini.

The most popular of these is the infamous zucchini bread. Reading zucchini bread recipes presents several problems that I find a bit annoying. Aside from the general ubiquity of zucchini bread at the end of the summer, the general attitude towards the pastry is what I find bothersome.

I'll explain. First of all, there is the "wow, I made a cake with ZUCCHINI, and people still liked it!" reaction to making zucchini bread. I hate to burst any bubbles, but let's be serious here. Most zucchini breads are filled with butter, sugar, eggs, and cinnamon, and are merely confetti-ed with little bits of shredded zucchini. This isn't to say that zucchini doesn't play an important role in zucchini bread (it adds nice texture and moistness, for example), but let's not pretend that we're shocked that something filled with the regular cast of cake characters (despite the fact that it contains a VEGETABLE!) can taste yummy and sweet and delicious.

Besides, who hasn't heard of or tasted zucchini bread before? It's not like it was invented yesterday, people.

My second complaint is that people often act like they are forced to make zucchini bread because they have excess/leftover zucchini. I have no problem with making zucchini bread for the sake of making zucchini bread - it is delicious, after all. Honestly, though, a loaf of zucchini bread uses up two zucchini at most (and often less), which, in the grand zucchini scheme, isn't all that much. Besides, you could easily use up that much zucchini in a far less labor-intensive preparation, like steaming or sauteing, or tossing a diced zucchini into pasta sauce, grains, or an omelette. My theory is that most zucchini bread makers want to eat cake first, and zucchini second.

And finally, what really bothers me the most is that all recipes for zucchini bread seem to come with a complaint about how dreadfully fertile and prolific somebody's garden is. How awful to have fresh produce all summer long, then, to top it all off, be forced to make....zucchini bread!

Ok, I'm being sarcastic here. The root of my zucchini bread angst might be that I'm a bit jealous of everyone who has a summer garden full of things like zucchini, tomatoes, peppers, and herbs. Zucchini is not something to be "used up," but rather something to be emphatically enjoyed. Even in zucchini bread.

Despite my complaints, I can't deny that zucchini bread is just so tasty, and the little green flecks that freckle the bread are just so appealing. So here is a little riff on an old summer favorite, which I don't make to "use up" anything, but rather to enjoy the bounty of late summer produce. And yes, I am one of the few people who buys zucchini to use for baking!

This is more of a snack/breakfast version of zucchini bread, as opposed to the more dessert-y and cake-y kinds. I love the intermingling of ginger and lemon here, with the tang of the lemon playing off of the slight spice of freshly-grated ginger. I used this recipe to make two mini-loaves and nine mini-muffins, but it would also be the right size for one regular loaf. Enjoy!

Buy My Zucchini Bread (or, Lemon-Ginger Zucchini Bread)

1 1/2 c. whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 c. oat bran
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. dried ginger
pinch each cloves and nutmeg
1/4 c. turbinado sugar
2 medium zucchini, grated and squeezed dry
2 eggs, separated
3/4 c. buttermilk
2 tbs. honey
1 tbs. molasses
1 tsp. vanilla extract
zest from half of a lemon
1 tbs. freshly-grated ginger


In a large bowl, mix flour, oat bran, baking soda, baking powder, salt, spices, and sugar. In a smaller bowl, mix buttermilk, honey, molasses, egg yolks, vanilla, lemon zest, and ginger. Keep egg whites separate and whisk until they are frothy. Make sure zucchini is squeezed dry, then add it along with the buttermilk mixture to the dry ingredients. Stir until just barely mixed, then fold in the frothy egg whites until just incorporated. Pour batter into greased mini-loaf pans, a regular loaf pan, or muffin tins. Bake at 375 F for about 15-20 minutes for mini-loaves, and adjust baking times for smaller or larger vessels.


Christina said...

Wow, the crowns of the muffins and loaf are incredible! I love the green color you got, it's just really pretty.

Tom Aarons said...

Looks like it was well worth buying zucchini for! Yum!

Kevin said...

Those look good. I like the flecks of green in them!

Traci said...

Woo - a new zucchini bread recipe to try! I love that it isn't oil and refined white flower based. This is the first time I've seen a ZBread recipe ask to squeeze out the moisture from the zucchini.. does it get too soggy if you do not?

I experimented earlier this year and found great success with Cardamom as the solo spice in Z bread - so I know the ginger-lemon will be fantastic!

Mia said...

Traci - I like to squeeze out the liquid because there isn't a lot of fat or sugar in this recipe, and I like the liquid in the batter to be more flavorful (hence the buttermilk). If the batter is too liquid-y, the bread will be gummy. And yes, it is nice to make a zucchini bread that doesn't call for a cup of oil and a cup (or more) of sugar!