Monday, August 23, 2010

Zucchini Banana Bread

What would you do if you had staffed bananas getting frost bite in the freezer and a baseball bat of a zucchini you grew threatening to go soft in the crisper? There are, of course, any number of things you could do given these circumstances. As I have an extreme fondness for both banana and zucchini bread, I decided to make zucchini banana bread.
I didn't have a recipe, but after reading five or six recipes for other types of sweet, quick breads, I cobbled together this one. And then doubled it because do you know how many cups of grated zucchini my baseball bat gave me? Six, two of which I had to put in the fridge for use in something else. The recipe, although a confirmed success, could probably use some tweaking--a little less butter, maybe, or a tad a less sugar (because bananas are sweet!).

Zucchini Banana Bread

makes two 9x5-inch loaves

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cloves
  • a few gratings of nutmeg
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 4 bananas, mashed
  • 4 cups grated zucchini
  • 2 cups walnut halves
  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter and flour two 9x5-inch bread pans and set aside.
  • Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices in a bowl and set aside. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy then add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and banana pulp and mix mell. Gradually add the flour mixture, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the grated zucchini then the walnuts and mix until they are evenly distributed.
  • Pour batter into prepared bread pans and bake for one to one and a quarter hours, or until a skewer inserted into the center of a loaf comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pans for several minutes, then turn out onto wire racks to cool completely.
This bread is good warm out of the oven, though it's best not to cut it hot; it's good the next day at room temperature; but it is especially good sliced and toasted and enjoyed alongside a nice cup of something hot.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Neiman Marcus Cookies

I know I should be making something with all the fresh veg from the garden, or even from the farmers' market, but today I decided to face my chocolate chip foe and it turns out I can make chocolate chip cookies after all. I came across the Neiman Marcus Cookie recipe in the back of the WWD Neiman Marcus issue in the midst of my chocolate chip cookie despondency and it has taken me two months to gather the courage to try it.
I'm glad I finally did, because it was a success and has gone a long way in reducing my chocolate chip cookie making anxiety. The ingredients and proportions aren't that much different from those in other choc chip cookie recipes I have tried, except for the addition of instant espresso, but the oven temperature is considerably lower and the cookies are cooked for longer. I think this made all the difference, although it could just as easily have been the weather or the position of the stars or any other number of things over which I have no control.

Neiman Marcus Cookies

adapted from Women's Wear Daily

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. instant espresso
  • 1/2 cup butter, soft
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 3 Tbs. granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips
  • Combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and instant espresso in a bowl and set aside. Cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy then add the egg and vanilla and beat well to combine. Gradually add the flour mixture, mixing well after each addition. Add the chocolate chips and stir until they are evenly distributed.
  • Preheat oven to 300°F and refrigerate dough while the oven warms up. Drop generous teaspoonfuls of dough onto a parchment lined baking sheet and bake 17-20 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool for a minute or two before transferring to wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining cookie dough.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Peach and Pepita Chutney

In Jan Berry's Art of Preserving, she recommends this chutney as an accompaniment to grilled game hen or chicken. I'm sure peach chutney would be delicious with grilled game hen or chicken. But I like chutney with everything. Of course I like to serve chutney with Indian food, but I also like it on cheese sandwiches; on turkey sandwiches; with eggs: scrambled eggs, boiled eggs, egg salad sandwiches; with meats of all kinds.
You really can't go wrong with chutney. Nor can you go wrong with half-priced, local, organic fruit. When I saw the baskets of peach seconds at the farmers' market on Wednesday, my first thought, having just had success with wild blueberry jam, was peach jam. Y. asked me to make chutney instead and I was easily persuaded. The seconds were not so-called for no reason. They were bitten and bored into and already a bit on the mushy side. I thought if they were puréed they would make an excellent base and then I could get a few firmer peaches to cut into chunks. So that's what I did and I would do it again. The pepitas were not in Ms. Berry's recipe, but they add a nice textural element, and she used raisins where I prefer currants, and she used a red chili and I a habanero. So you can see: there's always room for modification.

Peach and Pepita Chutney

With inspiration from Jan Berry

  • 1 1/2 lb. overripe peaches
  • 1/2-3/4 lb. firm ripe peaches
  • 2 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup currants or raisins
  • 2 generous Tbs. grated ginger
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2-4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 hot pepper, finely chopped
  • 1 1/4 cups white vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2-1 cup roasted salted pumpkin seeds
  • Place enough jars to hold 4 to 5 cups of chutney into a large pot along with their corresponding domes and rings. Cover with water and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and let sit in the hot water.
  • Peel and roughly chop the overripe peaches. Place them in a blender with about 1/4 cup of the vinegar and process until smooth. Set aside. Blanch the firmer peaches to make them easier to work with and then peel, pit, and cut into small wedges.
  • Place peach purée, peach wedges and all remaining ingredients except the pumpkin seeds in a nonreactive saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the mixture comes to a boil, then reduce heat and allow chutney to simmer 30-40 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the pumpkin seeds.
  • Ladle chutney into prepared jars, wipe off the rims, and secure the lids. Re-submerge filled jars in the hot water and boil 10 minutes or so to seal. Remove from the water and allow to cool.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Consider the Oyster Mushroom

This is what I have managed to glean about the oyster mushroom in the past 48 hours: One, they're DELICIOUS. They're a shelf mushroom preferring to grow on maple trees and particularly old and feeble maple trees and usually too high up to be easily reached. That last bit might not actually be a preference of the oyster mushroom, but it seems often to be the fact of the matter. They might look within reach when you see them from the car, but when you get out and walk up to the tree, nine times out of ten (although I've only been car-shrooming for oysters once) you'll either have to attach your knife to a pole, and a long one, or you'll have to shimmy up the tree in order to reach the mushrooms. Or watch your intrepid boyfriend do the same. As the case may be. Other options include using a ladder or standing on top of your car. They're also kind of gross to clean, but remember point number one: they're DELICIOUS.
Guests often like to help out in the kitchen and there are many things they can do: wash lettuce; chop veg; assemble a salad, even; open wine; wash dish. If oyster mushrooms should be on the evening's menu and an enthusiastic guest offers to clean them, however, kindly ask him to make you another cocktail instead. It's not that oyster mushrooms are difficult to clean or even that they're so delicate as to require careful handling. No, it's just that they have developed a special relationship with a certain orange and black bug and when the mushrooms are bathed in salt water, which they should be, these bugs are forced out of their hosts and either float to the surface of the water or become lodged in the mushroom's gills, in which case a finger or a knife is required to permanently evict them from their home. A guest would, of course, be able to perform this duty, but after having done so, he may or (more likely) may not want to eat his dinner. So, please, clean your oyster mushrooms yourself and while so doing, if it helps or becomes necessary, remind yourself: they're DELICIOUS.
What makes them so DELICIOUS? Their inimitable mushroomy texture. Their earthy, woodsy flavor. Y. laughed when I said this, but I definitely detected a pleasant mollusk aroma when they were in the pan. Perhaps that is why they do so well sauteed with garlic and onion and simmered in white wine and when that's cooked down doused with heavy cream, cooked down again and served over pasta. Yes, oyster mushrooms are DELICIOUS.
NB: Please do not eat mushrooms you've gathered yourself unless you are absolutely sure they're what you think they are.