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There’s a joke of which a coworker reminded me recently that goes something along the lines of how everyone makes sure to keep their cars and homes locked up in July and August, not out of fear of crime but out of fear of zucchini: everyone grows it because it’s easy to grow but then they have too much and will give it to anyone they can.  She told me this joke as I handed her two giant zucchini from our garden, which she claimed to have wanted and seemed to have been very appreciative of!

So one thing to do with all that zucchini is make zucchini bread.  Here’s the recipe I used, which is shown in the photos in the post below.  Zucchini is already pretty sweet, and of course when you finely grate it and mix it 3 cups of sugar (3 cups!!)…this is basically a sweet and slightly spicy cake-like bread with a hint of a greenish tint.  Not for any zucchini purists.  Although at this point you’re probably begging for ways to use up that zucchini without having it rubbed in your face that you are indeed eating zucchini yet again.

Adapted from Paula Deen (with uncharacteristic little use of butter)

3 1/4 cups flour

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 tsp ground nutmeg

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

3 cups sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

4 eggs, beaten

1/3 cup water

2 cups grated zucchini (which is about 4-6 small-medium zucchini)

1 tsp lemon juice

Preheat the oven to 350.  In a large bowl, combine flour, salt, nutmeg, baking soda, cinnamon and sugar.  In a separate bowl combine oil, eggs, water, zucchini (I grated this very finely by hand, using a grater with very small holes; a coarser grate, which if course could be done much more easily in a food processor, would probably impart a more obvious zucchini flavor and texture), and lemon juice.  Mix wet ingredients into dry.  Spray two standard loaf pans with cooking spray and pour the batter in evenly.  Bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

I made this in one regular and two mini loaf pans, and gave one of the mini loaves to a friend of Chris’s who happened to have stopped by and who is always very admiring of anything I bake and has the fortuitous timing to always come over when I happened to have just baked something.  Anyway, he reportedly ate the entire loaf that evening while sitting in traffic.  And it has vegetables, so it’s obviously good for you!

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These are the kinds of mountains I am happy to climb.   Immediately upon returning home from Ecuador two of my best friends had birthdays so I had to get to baking pretty quick.  I made these for Stephanie–chocolate cookies with chocolate chunks and walnuts.  Yum.  These were soft and chewy and the chunks stayed melty because it’s so humid and warm here and the walnuts were nice and crunchy.  My only complaint was that the flavor was somehow a little…flat.  dull.  I know, it just lacked pop–maybe it needed more coffee, more vanilla, more chocolate?  Of course, I’m the only one who thought this (as far as I know) and Chris and I definitely had absolutely no trouble polishing off the extras…neither did my coworkers or Stephanie’s, whom she said inhaled them in about five minutes and then were dying to know where the heck they came from!  I’ll play around with them a bit next time I make them, though that won’t be for a while since I still have 26 recipes from this book to make before I’ve made them all, which is my goal.

Chunky Chocolate Mountains

adapted from Big Fat Cookies

3 ounces unsweetened or baking chocolate, chopped

2 3/4 cups flour

2 tsp cream of tartar

1 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 stick unsalted butter at room temperature

1/2 cup vegetable shortening

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tsp instant coffee dissolved in 2 tsp water

1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

3 cups semisweet chocolate chunks

Preheat the oven to 350, with a rack in the middle.

Put the unsweetened chocolate in the top of a double boiler over barely simmering water and stir until melted and smooth.  Set aside.

Sift the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt into a medium bowl and set aside.  In the bowl of an electric mixer on low speed, beat the butter, vegetable shortening, sugar, and brown sugar until well blended and smooth, about 1 minute.  Mix in the melted chocolate.  Add the eggs, vanilla and dissolved coffee and mix until smoothly blended, about 1 minute.  Add the flour mixture, mixing until just incorporated.  Mix in the nuts and chocolate chunks.

Using a small to medium ice cream scoop, scoop out balls of dough and place them 2 inches apart on baking sheets lined with parchment paper.  Bake one sheet at a time for 10 minutes.  The outside will turn dull and the interiors of the cookies will still be quite soft.

Cool the cookies for 15 minutes on the baking sheets then transfer to wire racks to cool completely–it will take at least 4 hours for the chocolate to firm up (or, never, if it’s July in Boston).  They can be stored in an airtight container for up to 4 days (and will be better microwaved for a few seconds the longer they hang around).

A frittata is essentially the Italian version of an omelet and yet, of course like most things the Italians do, it’s somehow way better than any regular American omelet I’ve had.  It’s one of those dished you can clean out the fridge with–just throw whatever you have in the pan and it always comes out delicious.  Since we first discovered these through the Everyday Italian cookbook, we make them regularly and especially when we have a bunch of little bits of random things and are hungry and lazy.

Last night, we had to use up some zucchini.  As you know we have a monstrous zucchini plant in our garden that finally had some veggies we could pick.

We harvested five zucchinis, a cucmber, some beans and peas, and a couple teeny tiny carrots, just because we didn’t believe real carrots were actually growing under the ground (they are!).  And we will now be eating zucchini every night this week.

We’d had a zucchini pizza the night before, but that didn’t use up the whole large one, which I’d sliced.  So I threw the remainder into a big skillet with some onions, four two-week-old baby new potatoes, some prosciutto I’d bought for pasta later this week, and the rest of an old jar of sun-dried tomatoes.

You let that get all sizzly, then pour over some scrambled eggs mixed with a little cream (or half and half or milk) and whatever cheese you want–I had some feta that needed a home.  It’s best to use six eggs for this size pan, although if you had seven and didn’t want to leave one lonely you could use seven, and if you only had five you could just add a bit more cream.  It’s all good in the hood.  And, actually, with this much other stuff in the pan, it was even slightly less egg-y with six eggs than I prefer.

mmm...

mmm...

That’s the thing about it though, it’s not heavy in the sense that eggs often are.  You let it all cook in the skillet, covered, a few minutes, then remove the cover and stick it under the broiler a few minutes more to cook through.  It gets all browned and crispy on the outside, but it is so light and fluffy and just freaking delicious when you slide it out of the pan and slice it!  It’s satisfying and pretty irresistible.  Yes, we ate all but one small slice of this for dinner last night.  And that last slice was just for show–it didn’t last long.

It seems to be that you either love Irish soda bread or you hate it.  It can be very dry and dense and not very flavorful.  Not being a fan of breads that are only good when slathered in butter I’ve never liked it much but having married into an Irish Catholic family (and in particular someone who would eat all bread products all the time if it were socially acceptable) that doesn’t really fly.

Ingredients for Irish soda bread

This recipe is a bit dense but that’s one of the necessary characteristics, and it only gets dry after sitting around for several days (which rarely happens in our house) and it’s definitely not lacking in flavor.  The orange zest is what really sets this apart.

Flour/sugar/baking soda/salt/butter mixtureButtermilk/egg/orange zest mixture

Chris and I made this Wednesday night before heading down to stay with his family on the Cape the next day.  Even my mother-in-law who doesn’t like raisins ate several slices, and my father-in-law kept asking questions about the recipe which is always a good sign!

Kneading

Irish Soda Bread

Adapted from Barefoot Contessa at Home

Makes 1 loaf

4 cups plus 1 tbs all-purpose flour

4 tbs sugar

1 tsp basking soda

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

4 tbs (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced

1 3/4 cups buttermilk

1 egg

zest of 1 orange

1 cup golden raisins

Preheat oven to 375.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Combine the 4 cups flour, sugar, baking soda and salt in a bowl with an electric mixer.  Add the butter and mix on low speed until the mixture has the consistency of soft sand.

With a fork, lightly beat the buttermilk, egg and orange zest.  Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients with the mixer on low speed.  Stir the 1 tbs flour into the raisins (this is to suspend them in the dough so they’re not all clumped together) and then mix in with the dough, which will be very sticky.

Dump the dough onto a (very) well floured surface and knead it a few times into a round loaf.  Place it on the cookie sheet and cut an X into the top with a sharp knife.  Bake for 45-55 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean.  It should have a hollow sound when you tap it.

Cool on a baking rack.  This is especially delicious warm and make the house smell amazing.  It can sit at room temperature in an airtight container for a few days, and is great toasted if it starts to get a little stale.  It should always be topped with butter, and strawberry/raspberry/orange jam if you’re feeling extra generous!

beforeAfter!

I threw my little brother a going-away party this weekend in honor of his year-long round-the-world trip (which he clearly didn’t appreciate, even though it was tons of fun).   We did indeed have lots of yummy food.

June 22 004Of course, I had to bake something, so I made cookies for ice cream sandwiches.  There’s nothing worse than a crunchy cookie that smooshes out all your ice cream when you bite into your ice cream sandwich, so these fudge brownie cookies were perfect because they stay soft but are firm enough to hold the ice cream.  They’re pretty delicious just own their own, too.

ice cream sandwhiches

Fudge brownie ice cream sandwich cookies

Adapted from Big, Fat Cookies

1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces

1 teaspoon instant coffee, dissolved in 2 teaspoons water

2 large eggs

3/4 cup sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or use a silicone/non-stick baking mat (don’t skip this!).

Put the chocolate chips, butter and dissolved coffee in a bowl on top of a pot with half an inch to an inch of simmering water (make sure the bottom of the bowl does not touch the water).  Stir the mixture until it’s melted and smooth, then remove from the pot and let cool slightly.

Using an electric mixer on medium, beat the eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla until thickened and light yellow (approx. 2 minutes).  On low speed, mix in the chocolate mixture, then the flour until just incorporated, scraping the bowl as needed.  Set aside for 15 minutes to firm up slightly.

Scoop or spoon the batter onto the baking sheets, pressing down to flatten the cookies, and spacing them 2-3 inches apart.  Bake about 13 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with moist crumbs and not wet batter.  Let them cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then move to a wire rack to cool completely.

Once cool, flip one upside down and scoop ice cream onto it, then top it with another.  Eat immediately, or wrap in plastic and freeze for later!