Actually, it began a few weeks ago, but I'm only feeling its full force now. It is the coming of the zucchini, that most prolific of summer fruits. I always know it will come, yet, I always manage to fall behind, or perhaps under, its bounty. I get my zucchini from a CSA*, but if you grow your own, or have a friend who oh-so-generously forces upon you a large part of what has taken over her garden, you're probably finding yourself in a similar situation.
Don't get me wrong. I love that there's so much zucchini in the world. Since people have been trying to use it up for generations, many and various uses have been developed. It's good raw, stir-fried, stuffed. It's good with just about any herbs and with cheese. But my favorite zucchini applications tend to involve shredding it and mixing into some form of sweet baked good.
I've had muffins, cookies, and, of course quick bread made with zucchini. Zucchini quick bread recipes are perhaps as prolific as zucchini itself, so you probably have an old family recipe that you enjoy (especially if you live or were raised in the Midwest). I adapted this one from a baking book I've had forever. The addition of buttermilk makes it almost cake-like, and I love it with pecans. I also like lots of cinnamon as well as cloves and nutmeg. I usually grind whole cloves with a coffee grinder that I use just for spices, and I really recommend using whole nutmeg. It's really not that big of a deal. It can be easily grated with a Microplane grater, which are really easy to find these days. Freshly-grated nutmeg is just so much more fragrant and flavorful. It has a spiciness that I had never noticed when I would buy the ground stuff, and the "nuts" last practically forever without losing their flavor.
This recipe makes two eight-inch loaves of zucchini bread, although you could use 9-inch bread pans if that's what you have. It freezes well, and I usually cut about a loaf and a half into either slices or chunks, wrap the pieces in plastic wrap and then in zip-top freezer bags. I'm sure you could make muffins with this batter as well, although I haven't tested that for baking times. If you are finding yourself in the midst of a pile of this thin-skinned green squash with the funny name, however, there is one problem with this recipe: it probably doesn't use up enough zucchini. I guess I'll have to come to your rescue with some more zucchini recipes in the days ahead!
Zucchini Buttermilk Bread with Pecans
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly-grated nutmeg
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
2/3 cup buttermilk
2 cups shredded zucchini
1 cup chopped pecans
Preheat oven to 350 F
1. In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Stir well with a whisk to combine. Set aside.
2. Beat the eggs in a large bowl (I use a heavy-duty stand mixer with the paddle attachment at medium speed) until they are thick and pale in color. Gradually add the sugar and beat until well-blended.
3. Stir in the oil, buttermilk, and zucchini. Gradually add the flour mixture and stir until almost completely combined. Add the pecans and stir until all ingredients are well-combined.
4. Grease or spray with cooking spray 2 8 x 4-inch bread pans. Spoon half the batter into each pan.
Bake at 350F for 45-50 minutes. When the bread is done, a wooden skewer or pick inserted in the center will come out with just a few crumbs sticking to it, not a glob of wet batter.
5. Cool the bread in the pans on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Remove from the pans and cool completely on a wire rack. (Okay, so I cut into it while it's still warm. It's a weakness.)
*CSA: Community Supported Agriculture. Ours is here.