Monday, June 28, 2010

Zucchini, Take One

The oppressive heat of a Washington summer arrived early this year. The District has been a sticky, sweaty, humid, hot mess on and off since May. The only added bonus of all this early heat and humidity is that it’s pushing a lot of my favorite summer crops onto an earlier timetable. And apparently into a supersized realm.

1660 Hobart got its first monstrous zucchini of the season from our fabulous CSA the week before I headed out on vacation in Costa Rica (more on that at a later date). It rivaled some of the late summer fruit from last year, longer than my forearm and almost twice as wide. Big honking zucchini always spell zucchini bread for me. It’s delicious, and freezes well. And knocks out a large zucchini that might be past it’s flavor prime. My favorite recipe is an Epicurious standby for spiced zucchini bread, lots of cinnamon and allspice and tweaked to add chocolate chips. Delicious. The loaves that came from last year’s steroidal zucchini lasted us well into the epic blizzard last winter. And made a lovely breakfast pre-sledding if I do say so myself.

Under a time crunch from my impending vacation departure and AK's bday at all you can eat Korean BBQ (clearly not to be missed) I chose to bake my first batch of zucchini bread on an unbearably hot night. Ugh. But had to be done. The heat addled my brain however and one whole batch of bread made it into the oven missing one crucial ingredient (oil) and with significantly less than was called for of another (sugar). There’s a reason Liza doesn’t bake very often people, being easily distracted is a hard problem to fix in finicky baking recipes.

On JB’s suggestion I decided to call it an experiment since inadvertently I’d made a healthier version. The final result needs some significant tweaks to improve the texture, but all in all the verdict was it wasn’t half bad. Worth playing with if the zucchini keep rolling in. The second batch was spot on: dense, gooey, chocolate-y zucchini goodness. And with a truly frightening amount of vegetable oil in it, anything but healthy.

Six loaves later there was still a massive quantity of shredded zucchini so JB and I had a zucchini pancake showdown the next night. We tried two competing recipes: one with mint and feta, the other with curry. Both were super easy and delicious, although it was agreed that some texture issues needed to be ironed out. In an effort to retain the health benefits of the zucchini we tried to minimize the oil used which meant the crispness they would’ve had from being deep fried wasn’t there. But the flavor was. A fair trade off in my mind. If we keep getting zucchini the size of baseball bats we’ll need some healthier options to dispose of the bounty-even I can't eat that much zucchini bread.

Curried Zucchini Pancakes
1 large zucchini, shredded with a grater or food processor
1 sm. Onion, shredded with a grater or food processor
¼ C egg white
¼ C cottage cheese
¼ C matzoh meal or bread crumbs (more if the mixture seems impossibly wet)
1t curry powder (choose your favorite)
Salt and pepper to taste
Mix all the ingredients together and use a quarter cup measure to make the pancakes. Cook until brown on both sides, pushing down on the pancakes to flatten them. Benefits greatly from the addition of Greek yogurt to balance out the curry. (A yogurt sauce of some kind with some cool mint or cilantro, maybe tzatziki style might also work here.) Also the addition of shredded carrots might give it a little more flavor depth.