Last summer my world was in disarray. We had recently moved into a new house, the kids were still very young and demanding, the cookbook had recently been released, and I told myself I just had too much going on to deal with a garden. It may have been a less-than-wise decision because I mourned my lost garden for the next cycle of seasons. So when spring came around this year, I was determined to find a little plot in my tiny yard where I could have a small garden.
We dug out a little 6’x4’ rectangle and I planted a few herbs, a cucumber vine, a yellow squash, and the monster of them all: a single zucchini plant.
I learned the year of my first garden in my first house that more than one zucchini plant will make you the scourge of the neighborhood as you stealthily ditch green batons on your neighbors’ porches in the dead of night. Just one healthy zucchini plant can land a family of four up to their ears in the green squash for a month or more, and send a dogged cook running to find creative ways to serve and preserve the bounty.
Another summer I was heavily pregnant with my first child. Maybe it was hormonal, I don’t know, but I completely surrendered to some heretofore hidden Martha Stewart gene and went a little out of control. Probably the lunacy began with the ambitious garden, which led to the bountiful harvest.
Let me see if I remember correctly… the numbers were along the lines of 75 loaves of zucchini bread baked, wrapped, and frozen; 25 jars of peach butter, prepared, canned and labeled; uncounted pounds of fresh tomatoes, parboiled, skinned, and frozen in ziptop baggies; 15 jars of fresh salsa, mixed, canned and labeled, 13 jars of fresh pesto, prepared, canned and labeled.
It was a pre-natal frenzy. The last of the tomatoes, picked green before an autumn freeze, ripened on the windowsills as the weather turned. I remember boiling water and dropping in tomatoes until their skin peeled while my mother sat in my kitchen holding my new baby.
I think that was the last time I actually bothered to skin a tomato, come to think of it.
Today I set my 2- and 4-year olds up on stools at the counter and they helped me face the beginning of the zucchini stampede with our first batch of zucchini bread for the season.
Here’s my mother’s zucchini bread recipe from the 1970s, adapted to make it a both little healthier and a little more decadent at the same time. I doubled the recipe and made 24 mini-muffins, 3 mini-loaves, and three 9×5 loaves.
My Mother’s Zucchini Bread
2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. baking powder
3 organic eggs, well beaten
2 1/2 cup unbleached, unrefined organic sugar
1 cup vegetable oil, or 1/2 cup oil and 1/2 cup applesauce
1 tsp. real vanilla (not artificially-flavored vanilla extract)
2 cups shredded zucchini
1 cup organic chocolate chips, nuts
Preheat oven to 350F. Grease and flour two 9×5 loaf pans or equivalents. In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients of flours, cinnamon, salt, baking soda and baking powder.
In the bowl of a mixer, if you have one, beat eggs until light and fluffy. Add sugar, vanilla, oil and blend well. Add dry ingredients. Add zucchini and blend well. Fold in chocolate chips, nuts, etc.
Bake at 350F for one hour or until it tests done with a toothpick.