Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Green Monsters

I warned you that it was zucchini season, didn't I? We currently have 10 zucchinis hogging precious real estate in our fridge. Two of them are enormous enough that we could get a game of wiffle ball going out back and the person on deck could have their own zucchini bat to swing around too.

I'm not really amped about backyard baseball though. I'm excited about chocolate cake. Actually, at the moment, I'm mourning my empty plate...but my taste buds are still busy quivering with joy and forgiving me for cutting anything dessert-like out of my life for five months.

A Piece of Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Fun fact: this cake, which just pulled into the lead on my all-time-favorite-cakes list, has 3 cups of zucchini in it. I'll admit I was highly skeptical when my mom announced she was making a chocolate zucchini cake with homemade cream cheese frosting earlier today. The pillow of cream cheese sounded like a winner, but why would you want to add three cups worth of vegetable to an otherwise perfectly good recipe for chocolate cake? Don't get me wrong, I love vegetables...but I like them mixed up in a salad, shoved into a pita, dipped in hummus, or neatly arranged next to my protein and my carbohydrate on my dinner plate.

It didn't take long for my vehement oppositions to change into feeble protests...and when the smell of rich dark chocolate started drifting up the stairs, all pretenses were dropped. I followed my nose into the kitchen and turned on the oven light just to make sure the cake wasn't green or anything suspicious like that. Fun fact: zucchini cake masquerades as a regular chocolate cake (only better). Zucchini is something like 95% water, meaning when it's combined with all the standard baking ingredients it loses its flavor altogether and makes for an incredibly moist cake batter. This is the kind of cake that makes you want to reach back in to rescue the crumbs that cascaded down when you cut your piece. This is the kind of cake that makes you want to run your finger along the edge of the base and lick it clean when nobody is looking.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake, Minus Some Slices

Chocolate Zucchini Cake Recipe:
Serves 8 

4 ounces unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
3 eggs, beaten
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups sifted all-purpose unbleached flour
1/3 cup cocoa
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup buttermilk or sour cream
3 cups coarsely grated zucchini
1/2 cup chopped nuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Melt the chocolate and oil in a small saucepan over very low heat.
Cream the butter until light; add the sugar, eggs, and vanilla.
Beat well. Add the melted chocolate and mix well.
Sift together the dry ingredients and stir them into the batter with the buttermilk.
Mix the zucchini and nuts into the batter.
Grease and flour two 9-inch cake pans.
Divide the batter between pans.
Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean.
Cool the cake completely before frosting with whipped cream or your favorite frosting.

Our Favorite Frosting Recipe: 

3/4 cup butter at room temperature
8 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
4 cups confectioner's sugar

Cream together the butter and cream cheese until the mixture is light and fluffy.
Slowly add the confectioners' sugar until well-blended, using more sugar if necessary to get a spreading consistency.

As if chocolate cake wasn't exciting enough, today Mom and I also discovered a new kitchen appliance that isn't atrociously expensive (unlike the Breville toaster I'm itching to buy for my little condo back at school). A julienne peeler is such fun. It looks a lot like a vegetable peeler, only there's a sharp toothed blade that's ideal for cutting vegetables into skinny strips. Somehow, changing the appearance of even the most unexciting produce (i.e. the carrot) makes a world of difference when it comes to digging in.

Julienne Peeler, Source

With the Julienne peeler in hand, Mom found another easy but tasty recipe to add to my recipe book (only recipes that I can make with confidence and without 500 ingredients make the cut). Zucchini Slaw, from Sara Foster's Fresh Every Day: More Great Recipes from Foster's Market cookbook, is perfect picnic food. We ignored Foster's suggestions for dressings and piled grilled chicken strips (that had been marinated in Greek dressing) on top. This dish was wonderfully fresh, colorful, summery, and light. It also was awarded big points because the recipe itself didn't require any cooking and only took 10 minutes to pull together!

Zucchini Slaw Salad

Zucchini Slaw Recipe (doubles as instructions too):
Serves 4 to 6

2 medium zucchini, ends removed and cut into 2-inch julienne
2 yellow summer squash, ends removed and cut into 2-inch julienne
2 carrots, cut into 2-inch julienne
4 scallions, julienned (white and green parts)
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and julienned (optional)
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Now...what to do with the other green monsters I can already see peeking out from under those comically large green leaves? Perhaps I'll make this zucchini and ricotta galette, this roasted zucchini pesto, this zucchini parmesan, this zucchini carrot cake, or these chocolate chip zucchini brownies

Maybe I should start keeping an eye out for cucumber recipes too...seeing as there's 15 of them cozying up to the bags of zucchini on the produce shelf. I'm a little worried I used up all my creativity on zucchini season...

No comments:

Post a Comment