I like to cook. Sometimes my daughter likes to eat.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Zucchini Bread (sweet) and Zucchini Muffins (savory)

I know it's summer when I'm desperate to find a good zucchini recipe. All through my childhood, summer meant lots and lots of squash, there was always more than most of us wanted to eat. I remember my mom's zucchini bread, zucchini soup, zucchini cake, zucchini in tomato sauce and a whole lot of steamed zucchini. So much of it that not a single one of those recipes holds any appeal.

Fast forward to adult me, an urban non-farmer but CSA subscriber. And yes, there is plenty of zucchini. None of us are that partial to it, but since I don't have pigs to feed, find a recipe I must. Here are two that are outstanding, thanks to the brilliant Heidi Swanson at 101 Cookbooks.

The first is her "My Special Zucchini Bread" and it is without a doubt the best zucchini bread I've ever had. Gone is the cloying cinnamon dullness, replaced by curry powder and ginger, with poppy seeds, chopped nuts and whole wheat pastry flour for texture. It makes two loaves, so 1 stick of butter is pretty moderate in the fat department. I used almonds instead of walnuts and would half the amount of crystalized ginger next time, as MZ and others loved it for a few bites and then had enough. It's strongly flavored. With those few changes, I will happily make this recipe for as long as the zucchini lasts. This isn't a super-moist quick bread, but it goes down easy with a cup of coffee or a glass of milk. Delicious!

The second is a riff on two of Heidi's recipes, the Zucchini Ricotta Cheese Cake and the Cottage Cheese Muffins. I'm not fond of dill, and muffins work better for the quick meals we require around here. I'm also not as much of an ingredients purist. I've made this hybrid with almond meal, but since nuts aren't allowed at MZ's preschool, I use flax meal instead, hoping she'll warm to them as they would be perfect in her lunch box. These light, quiche-like muffins make a great breakfast, and an even better lunch lightly warmed with a crisp green salad.

Zucchini Ricotta Muffins
2 cups zucchini, unpeeled & grated
1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 15 oz. container part-skim ricotta cheese
1/2 cup lowfat cottage cheese
1/2 cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese
2 shallots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
4 large eggs, well beaten
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup ground flax seeds
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 T water

Preheat oven to 400F degrees, place racks in the middle of the oven. Line a muffin pan or two (this makes 18 muffins) with medium-sized silicon or paper baking cups.

In a strainer, toss the shredded zucchini with the salt and let sit for ten minutes. Wrap the zucchini in a clean cotton kitchen towel and wring out as much moisture as possible. Fluff lightly and set aside.

In the meantime, combine the ricotta cheese, cottage cheese, Parmesan cheese, shallots, garlic and basil in a medium bowl. Stir in the eggs and continue mixing until well combined. Add the flour, flax seed meal and baking powder and stir lightly to combine, then add the shredded zucchini.

Fill the muffin cups with the mixture and place in the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until set, slightly risen, and golden brown. Serve as hot or at room temperature. Makes 18 muffins.

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