Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Zucchini Walnut Cake

I have found one more great zucchini recipe - this one actually came from our local paper, the Tribune. It was a pleasant surprise....in general I don't have the highest opinion of this newspaper, although we continue to get it, because I like to know what is going on around here. I just often find things in there that make me wonder about the editors, and make me dislike spellcheck, and our dependence on it. On Sunday, there was an article about the abundance of critters in our local tidepools with the headline "Tidepools Teaming With Life". Ouch. And about a month ago, for example, a headline on the second page read "Opera to get Award" (I am not making this up!!). When I started reading the article, I quickly realized that Oprah Winfrey was getting the award, not an opera. That seems like the kind of thing that should be caught and fixed before it goes to print. Otherwise it makes snobby people like me think that the nice people at the paper are really, really dumb. And that might not be true.
Anyway, every summer the food section will print a few zucchini recipes - because using up the squash from the garden is apparently a state-wide pursuit ; and since our garden provides us with both zucchini and walnuts (it calls for pecans, but I have a walnut tree, so I always use walnuts), I decided to try it out (once again, baking it early in the morning to avoid heating up our tiny house in the summer!). It is delicious! Actually, I've decided that cream cheese frosting can make many things delicious, and it's on this cake, which is an added bonus.
Note the glass of wine behind the cake in the photo. Wine is not part of the recipe, but I had just purchased a bottle and was trying it out (it's not very good - I suppose that's what happens when you get wine because the label has a cute picture of an old truck on it. But it's okay, now we have some cooking wine and a lovely bottle as well).

Recipe: Zucchini-pecan cake with cinnamon cream cheese frosting

Adapted from Bon Appetit, August 2010

Nonstick vegetable oil spray

1½ cups all-purpose flour

1½ teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground ginger

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¾ cup olive oil (not extra-virgin)

1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar

3 large eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1½ cups coarsely grated zucchini (about 8 ounces)

¾ cup chopped pecans (more for garnish, if desired)

For the frosting:

4 ounces cream cheese (do not use reduced-fat or fat-free), room temperature

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

¾ cup powdered sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Preheat your oven to 350°F. Line a 9-inch round cake pan with parchment paper, and coat it with nonstick cooking spray.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg until well combined. In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, sugar, eggs and vanilla, then fold in flour the mixture. Stir in the grated zucchini and pecans, and pour the batter into the prepared pan.

3. Bake until a cake tester inserted into center comes out clean — the original recipe said this would take about 45 minutes, but my cake was done after 35 minutes, so keep an eye on it. Once the cake is done, let it cool completely in the pan on a rack. When it’s cool, turn the cake out onto a platter and carefully peel off the parchment paper.

4. To make the frosting, beat the cream cheese and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer until smooth. Add the sugar, vanilla and cinnamon, and mix until combined. Slather the frosting on the cake, and top with toasted pecans, if desired.

I will absolutely be making this one again.....after the heat wave is over.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Boys and Girls and School....

Yesterday was the first day of school for the kiddos....Jason's first day of high school and Grace's first day of her LAST year of high school (there are 178 days until graduation - her count, not mine!). I know I've mentioned before that I really think, with all due respect to Gloria Steinem, that boys and girls are just vastly inherently different, and 'back-to-school' was more proof of this. Grace made a list of clothes and school supplies that she needed, and we went shopping a couple of times. She set her alarm for 5:30 a.m. yesterday to ensure enough time to get ready without rushing. When I asked Jason what clothes he needed for school, he replied, "None." Actually, I lie - he said at one point that he wanted a new wallet, and he and Jamey got one when they were in our local surf store. And when we made him go with us to Staples last week to get a binder, pencils, paper, etc, he chose his stuff, and when we were checking out, he said, "I really didn't have to come....I don't care what I get." He really hates shopping. His wake-up time yesterday was determined by asking Grace what time they would be leaving, and then counting backwards so that he could get up at the last possible minute. And I'm not sure, but I think he chose his clothes by simply grabbing whatever his hand touched first - fortunately good ol' Mom had done laundry.
So I took the above two photos as they were leaving the house. The first is a classic. I said, "Smile!", counted to three, Grace smiled (she is wearing her 'senior' shirt that she made - it's a tradition that all of the seniors wear these on the first day, to rub it in), and Jason made a face (note the wet hair - just out of the shower!). I made Jason smile for another, so in the second you can see Grace in the background, heading for the car. Again, a classic. How can they be so different and yet both be so cool? It is a wonder! I suppose the main thing is that they both had a good day and are looking forward to the year. And, Jamey and I got to enjoy another back-to-school celebration breakfast at the Cowgirl Cafe, of course.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Zucchini Pickles

These zucchini pickles were SO EASY to make and they were very good to eat! Even though they are kept in a Ball Jar, fear not - there is no boiling of the lids or canning in the way that frightens me and keeps me from doing it regularly (although I am proud to say I have made some really good apricot and plum jam when we have a bumper crop on the trees).
The suggested method of eating them was to put them on some toasted wheat bread along with some goat cheese. I bought some herb-chevre spread from Happy Acres Farm (our local goat dairy....what can I say, we are extremely spoiled) and we had it on crackers and topped it with the pickles. Not to mention all of the pickles I just ate right out of the jar. Yum yum! I was even bold enough to pawn some off on one of my farmgirl friends, and her family liked them as well.
Here's the recipe - I used two pretty big zucchini from the garden and one jalapeno, also from the garden.


1 lb zucchini, thinly sliced
1 medium white onion, thinly sliced
3 shallots, thinly sliced
1 1/2 TB sea salt
1/4 cup fresh dill sprigs
1 small fresh red chili pepper, very thinly sliced
1/2 TB yellow mustard seeds

3/4 cup cider vinegar
3/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/3 cup natural cane sugar

Toss the zucchini, onion, shallots and salt in a colander and set it over a bowl to catch the liquid. Cover and refrigerate a couple of hours, tossing a couple of times along the way. Dry the veggies on a layer of paper towels or a dishcloth, then place in a 1-quart canning jar along with the dill, chili pepper and mustard seeds (I used a large jar and a small one to give a sample to my friends. You could also do a few smaller jars instead of one large jar if you want to).
Combine the sugar and vinegars in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil and stir to dissolve the sugar. Continue to boil for a few minutes, then pour the liquid over the veggies and seal the jar. Let them cool a bit, then put them in the fridge.
The pickles will stay good for a week or so, kept in the fridge.