Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Sleeping Giant: Zucchini Trilogy Part 2

Okay, I am going a little out of order here. I planned to take you on a zucchini filled journey, sequentially from the babiest to the biggest. But last week, in the heat wave, I missed my window for mid-sized harvesting and was left with the big guys, the baseball bats, the sleeping giants.

There isn't anything wrong with a giant zucchini. They are still nutritious and if anything the flavor gets even milder. The challenge with the bigger fruit is coming up with a way to deal with the change in texture. As the zucchini grows the flesh becomes pithy (not concise so much as abundant-in-pith). It acts as a sponge if you throw it in a sautee pan making the resulting meal too soggy and it is too dry and chewy to enjoy raw. The solution? Shred and bake. I love traditional zucchini bread, in the same sweet breakfast style as a banana bread. But in the name of exploration and experimentation I chose a zucchini corn bread this time around. It flirts with both the sweet and the savory and has enough heft from the cornmeal to stand up to soup dunking or as a side for a lobster bake.

I cut into the zucchini and discard the seeds before shredding the flesh. 
You can grate the zucchini with a cheese grater, or, to make faster work of it, use the grating blade of a food processor.

To make my bread I used a combination of fresh grated and frozen grated zucchini. If you use frozen grated you will need to squeeze a lot of water out of the vegetable before adding it to any baked good.
 First, I use my hand to press the zucchini against the side of the sieve, removing the easily expelled water.

For round two of water removal I place the mushy mound of zucchini in the center of a clean, strong dish towel, fold the corners up, and twist and squeeze until all the water has drained through the cloth.
If you use all fresh grated zucchini you won't need to squeeze any water out. We ate our bread with Vermont Creamery cultured butter. I all but insist you do the same.
Brown Butter Zucchini Corn Bread
adapted from Epicurious
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter plus some for the bread pan
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup buttermilk (I used regular milk & it was still delicious)
1 t vanilla extract
10 oz of shredded zucchini 
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour (I used whole wheat pastry flour)
1/2 cup sugar
1 t baking powder
1/2 t baking soda
1 t fine sea salt
3/4 cup medium grind cornmeal
1 t cinnamon, nutmeg, or ginger (or 1 t of each)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter the bottoms and sides of a 9x5x3 loaf pan.

In a small sauce pan over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Remove from heat when the solids at the bottom of the pan have turned golden brown but not burned (3-4 minutes). Scrape the butter and solids into a bowl and set aside to cool. Once cool, whisk in eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla.

Add the shredded zucchini to the butter mixture and stir until well mixed.

Sift the flours, baking soda, baking powder, sugar, salt and spices into a large bowl and whisk in cornmeal. Add the zucchini mixture and fold until just mixed. It should be very thick. Transfer the mixture into the prepared loaf pan and even out the top with a rubber spatula.

Bake until the bread is a golden color and a toothpick or tester inserted in the center comes out completely clean. Mine took about 50 minutes, and if your oven is like mine, you may want to turn your bread pan mid-way through to evenly cook.

Let the bread cool in the pan for 10 minutes. Remove the bread and let it cool completely on a wire rack. (or cut it open and slather it with butter like we did!)

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