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Zucchini and Egg Hash on Brioche Toast

6 Sep

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It is a commonly heard joke that, come the end of summer, you can’t safely answer the knocking at your door without running the risk of being met with an enormous bag of zucchini that someone is trying to trust upon you. If you see a neighbor crossing the street and attempting to flag you down while clutching a suspicious bulge of something or other in the hem of his or her shirt, your gut instinct is to run in the other direction. There is zucchini in that shirt! Run away, before you are made to accept it out of sheer politeness! Except if you are me, of course, in which case you will meet your neighbor halfway across the street, arms outstretched in anticipation of getting your hands on more garden fresh zucchini. Zucchini fritters, zucchini spears with Parmesan, grilled zucchini, zucchini in pakoras, and, of course, all varieties of zucchini bread—I wait all year to have enough zucchini at my disposal that I can cook with it nearly every day.

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We always grow zucchini in our garden, but this summer, what with all of the traveling we were going to be doing, we planted a very small, modest, and manageable garden. This garden consisted of a few tomatoes, a pot or two of herbs, and absolutely no zucchini. When we got back from traveling, I fully anticipated at least one person to begin unloading their garden zucchini spoils on us—in fact, I was very much looking forward to it—but it never happened. I briefly considered turning the tables on my neighbors, knocking on their doors and politely inquiring on the status of their zucchini population, but because I did not want my neighbors to begin thinking of me as, how to put this gently, completely nuts, I quickly abandoned the idea. Thus far, the only zucchini I’ve been gifted has come from my in-laws, two people who know how to grow a great garden.

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My in-laws are also avid cooks, so we often take the opportunity to discuss how we like to experiment with different foods and ingredients. My husband’s mother was telling me about a great way to cook zucchini as a sort of hash, shredded, sautéed, then lightly seasoned. I was immediately interested. I can’t remember who brought up the idea of putting an egg on top of the hash, but I do remember that I was the person responsible for immediately wanting to place the concoction on top of a piece of lightly toasted bread. It only took until the next day before I brought all of the ideas for this dish together: shredded, lightly crisped zucchini with a soft-cooked egg nestled within, placed on a piece of thick-cut brioche, and sprinkled with a generous serving of chopped garden tomatoes. Just in time for the end of summer, it’s the perfect way to celebrate your garden’s crop of delightful excess.

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Last Year: Fruit Crisp Made on the Grill, Grill-Roasted Lemon Rosemary Potatoes, and Pane Coi Sante, Bread of Saints

Zucchini and Egg Hash Over Brioche Toast

2 cups shredded zucchini (from 1 large or 2 small zucchini)

¼ cup thinly sliced onion

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

2 or 3 eggs (2 if your eggs are large, 3 if your eggs are rather small)

2 slices of thick-cut brioche, lightly toasted

1 medium tomato, coarsely chopped

Place zucchini in a clean dishtowel, and squeeze tightly until a great deal of the zucchini’s juice is released. Alternately, you can just grab small handfuls of the zucchini in your hands and squeeze until the juice runs out, but some people may find this method a bit too barbaric (but not me—you have my full permission to proceed as you wish).

Heat olive oil in a medium pan set over medium-high heat. Add sliced onions, and sauté briefly, about 30 seconds, while stirring. When the onions have just started to lose some of their stiffness, add the zucchini, and stir to combine. Reduce the heat to medium, and sauté zucchini and onion, stirring occasionally, until dry and slightly browned, anywhere from 5 to 8 minutes. Sprinkle on some salt and pepper, and stir to incorporate. Form two (or three) small nests within the zucchini, then crack an egg into each nest. Cover the pan, reduce heat to low, and allow the eggs to cook until they reach your desired doneness.

Place a piece of brioche toast on a plate, top with half of the zucchini hash (making sure to include an egg, of course), sprinkle over a bit of chopped tomato, and add a touch more salt and pepper.

Serves 2.

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Tangerine Zucchini Bread

19 Jul

Our refrigerator is broken. This is certainly not a good thing, but it is, to be totally glass-half-full about it, certainly an interesting thing. Why? Because while perusing the contents of our warm refrigerator, I came across some long forgotten items that had been, over time, shuffled towards the back regions, never to be seen until disaster struck and I was forced to reckon with them.

But that’s all right! Because if one should make lemonade from lemons, one should also make delicious, moist, toothsome tangerine zucchini bread from freshly picked zucchini and long-lost tangerine marmalade.

The original recipe for this bread called for standard orange marmalade, but I think this tangerine boost really takes the bread over the top. In fact, if you can locate (or, if you are the marmalade-making type, conjure up on your own) different types of marmalade, like mandarin orange, satsumas, or any other citrus fruit, I’d bet this bread would take to it nicely. Even apricot jam, which the original recipe lists as a substitute for marmalade, would be a great addition.

I hate to cut this short, but the contents of the refrigerator and freezer are currently sitting in two coolers that are rapidly becoming no-so-cool, and I now have to figure out what I am going to make with a dozen eggs, half a head of cauliflower, two types of chutney, five bottles of hot sauce, three bunches of lettuce, a bunch of carrots, half an orange bell pepper, a jar of Dijon mustard, four jars of jam, a jar of fish sauce, a huge bottle of soy sauce, and some organic ketchup. And that’s just about half of the stuff from the refrigerator, never mind the freezer. Wish me luck.

Last Year: Highlights from a 1985 copy of Joy of Cooking, in which we learn how to cook muskrat and raccoon

Tangerine Zucchini Bread Recipe

Adapted from Tartine

As usual, I reduced the amount of both sugar and oil in this recipe. The original recipe called for almost a full cup of sugar total (¾ cup in the bread, plus 2 tablespoons sprinkled on top), but I cut the sugar content down to only 1/3 cup, swapped the granulated sugar for light brown sugar, and omitted the dusting of sugar on top. The result is just perfect, and with the marmalade and shredded zucchini to round things out, so moist and flavorful, it’s impossible to detect any loss of either sugar or oil.

1 ¾ cups plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 large eggs, at room temperature

½ cup vegetable oil

1/3 cup light brown sugar

½ cup tangerine marmalade (or any other marmalade of your choice)

2 ½ cups grated, fresh zucchini, lightly squeezed to remove some of the excess juice

½ teaspoon sea salt

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease and flour the bottom and sides of a 9” by 5” loaf pan, knocking out any excess flour.

Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon in a sifter, then set aside on top of a sheet of wax paper or parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, oil, sugar, and marmalade until combined. Add the zucchini and salt, and whisk to combine. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Sift the flour mixture mixture directly into the bowl containing the egg and zucchini mixture. Fold the flour into the zucchini mixture until just combined.

Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan, smoothing the top as much as possible. Bake in the center of the oven until a cake tester comes out clean, about 60 to 65 minutes. Allow to cool in the pan for about 20 minutes, then invert on to a wire rack, turn right side up, and allow to cool completely.

Serve at room temperature.

Butternut Squash Cake with Ginger Cream Cheese Frosting

14 Nov

Isn’t it fantastic how some foods just seem to match a certain season?  Though I would be loathe to turn down a slice of spice cake when it was hot and sunny outside, somehow that very same spice cake ends up feeling so much more right if offered up on a chilly fall afternoon.  Perhaps it is because we have been trained since birth to accept the familiarity of certain foods and flavors during specific seasons and holidays, developing the unwavering sense that gingerbread eaten during the summer is somehow less fitting than gingerbread eaten during the cold and wet months of fall and winter.

I have a different theory, though.  I think our predilection for eating certain types of foods during certain types of the year is based not on seasonal availability or a lifelong development of preference, but rather on something more obvious: color.

Just as the crimson fire of a ripe strawberry signals summer, the mellow orange of a squash speaks of autumn leaves turning and the sun setting low in the sky.  It’s ingrained within us, I think.  When the weather turns cold and the colors around us transform into amber and rust, we reach for ripened apples, golden pears, and the saffron-colored flesh of autumn squash.  Dark clouds call for deeply chocolaty cakes and spicy gingerbread.  The coolness of snow makes us crave a dollop of whipped cream on top of a cup of rich, warm cocoa.  Is it possible that nature is telling us what to eat?  Would nature ever really tell us to eat whipped cream?  I should hope so.

In keeping with my theory of seasonal color eating, I was struck last week by the desire to make a very autumnal cake.  Though most people would think to make a cake of pumpkin when looking for a perfect fall dessert, it just so happened that I had a bit of leftover butternut squash sitting in my refrigerator, courtesy of this dalliance with butternut squash for Portland Farmers Market.  Butternut squash and pumpkin are remarkably similar, and I had a hunch that, spiced up and sweetened, they would behave in a very similar manner.

As it turned out, I think butternut squash turns out even better in a cake than pumpkin, more well-rounded somehow, and with a fuller texture.  Lightly spread with this unbelievably creamy, gently gingery frosting, it’s a fitting dessert for any fall day, as evidenced (in keeping with my theory) not only by its color, but also (somewhat unrelated to my theory, but equally as important), by the fact that it lasted approximately two days in our house before we managed to eat the whole thing.  (We shared a little.  Emphasis on little.)

Butternut Squash Cake with Ginger Cream Cheese Frosting

Butternut Squash Cake

1 ½ cups cake flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground powdered ginger

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/3 cup buttermilk or soured milk

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

2/3 cup white sugar

1/3 cup dark brown sugar

2 large eggs, at room temperature

1 cup butternut squash puree (here I have outlined a shortcut to cooking butternut squash in the microwave)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Grease and flour the bottoms and sides of a 9-inch round cake pan.  Line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, combine the cake flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.  Whisk to combine, then set aside.

In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine buttermilk or soured milk with the vanilla.  Mix to combine, and set aside.

In a large bowl, or in the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter until creamy, about 30-60 seconds.  Gradually add in both the white sugar and dark brown sugar, beating at high speed until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 3-4 minutes.  One at a time, beat in the eggs, mixing well after each addition.  Reduce the mixer speed to low, and add in the butternut squash puree.

Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.  With the mixer on low speed, add in 1/3 of the flour mixture to the butter mixture, mixing until just combined.  Add in ½ of the milk mixture, and mix until just combined.  Continue adding the flour, then milk, in this manner, mixing after each addition until just combined.

Gently stir the batter one last time by hand, making sure to stir in the contents at the very bottom of the bowl.  Pour the batter into the prepared cake pan.  Bake in the center of the oven for 30-35 minutes, until a cake tester inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean, with just a few moist crumbs attached.

Cool the cake in its pan for 5 minutes, then invert onto a cooling rack to continue cooling completely.

Ginger Cream Cheese Frosting

3 ounces cream cheese (about 4 tablespoons), at room temperature

6 tablespoons powdered sugar

2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

3 tablespoons milk or heavy cream

¼ teaspoon grated fresh ginger

pinch of salt

In a small bowl, whisk together the cream cheese, powdered sugar, lemon juice, and milk or heavy cream.  Whisk continually, until the mixture is smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes.  Add in the fresh ginger and pinch of salt, then continue whisking until incorporated, about 30 seconds.

When cake has cooled completely, spread frosting over the top of the cake, coaxing the frosting ever-so-slightly down the sides of the cake.

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