It’s officially autumn and my culinary heart should be turning away from tomatoes and zucchini toward squash and kale, but there might still be a touch of summer in the air. I know, a touch. Vines are laden with green tomatoes, some will yet ripen, and zucchini, gangs of their cadmium blossoms tell me they’ll be around for a while.
Three weeks ago I came off a two-week trip on the Colorado River, floating through the Grand Canyon on a raft. I must have seen that canyon and its river, the sky, and myself in a thousand new ways. Grand is an understatement.
Our zucchinis too. We came home to an overflowing garden with zucchinis on the vine that were grand and not in a good way. There should be a zucchini weight watchers. While we were gone we offered our garden fare to anyone interested, but this pair escaped notice and went ballistic. I could have entered them in the state fair. Footballs, Sumo wrestlers. There must be other opinions about this, but mine is that zucchinis are pleasant vegetables when they’re on the smallish side, 6 – 12 inches long give or take, more than that and they become a nuisance. Maybe it’s gardener’s guilt. These overwrought vegetables are food, still edible and, in theory, shouldn’t go to waste.
Since then there have been more zukes and now more on the way. I got to thinking about zucchini cakes and found recipes for a savory pancake and chocolate zucchini cake. Both winners I think. Well, what’s not to like about a chocolate cake and a pancake drizzled with basil chive cream?
As good as carrot cake in its own way. The moistness zucchini brings to a cake, like carrots, is spectacular.
Chocolate & Zucchini Cake Recipe
From Chocolate and Zucchini by Clotilde Dusoulier
Ingredients: 1/2 C (one stick) unsalted butter at room temp/ 2 C all-purpose flour/ 1/2 C unsweetened cocoa powder/ 1 t baking soda/ 1/2 t baking powder/ 1/2 t fine sea salt/ 1 C (packed) light brown sugar/ 1 t pure vanilla extract/ 1 t instant coffee granules/ 3 large eggs/ 2 C unpeeled grated zucchini/ 1 C semi- or bittersweet chocolate chips/ Confectioner’s sugar or melted chocolate for topping (optional).
Preheat oven to 350º/ Grease a 10-inch springform pan with butter or vegetable oil/ Or use a bundt or bread pans (call it chocolate & zucchini bread) and adjust baking times.
Directions: In a large mixing bowl, whisk together dry ingredients (excluding the coffee) and reserve 1 cup/ Mix sugar and butter until creamy/ Add eggs, vanilla and coffee granules, mixing well after each addition/ Add half the dry ingredients and mix/ Stir together the reserved 1 C dry ingredients, the grated zucchini, chocolate chips and stir to coat/ Add this zucchini mixture and fold into batter just until mixed/ Batter is thick/ Pour into prepared pan – I think bread pans would be fine too – spread with a spatula until even/ Ovens vary. Bake at 350º for 35 – 50 minutes, or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. I cooked mine a few minutes too long – 35 minutes would have been enough in my convection oven.
Frosting: Melt 1 C of chocolate chips, 1/4 C cream or whole milk in the microwave or on the stove top – either way, do it slowly. Stir to mix, add more liquid if needed, allow to cool a bit and drizzle over the top of mostly cooled cake. Next time: I’ll try bread pans.
This is a rich, dense, delicious chocolate cake – the infamous zucchini deserves a little respect for this one.
And, the savory zucchini pancakes.
Zucchini Pancakes with Basil Chive Cream Recipe
The inspiration for these cakes came from Gourmet, 2002. I made my own version of the pancake, but the herb cream I made pretty much as suggested. The basil chive cream takes only a few minutes to make and is the perfect syrup for this savory pancake.
Place ingredients for the cream in a blender: 3/4 C sour cream/ 2 T water (or milk)/ 1/4 C chopped fresh basil/ 2 T chopped fresh chives/ 1/2 t salt or to taste/ Blend until smooth and refrigerate until needed.
Ingredients for pancakes: 4 C unpeeled, medium or finely grated zucchini (about 1 pound)/ 1 C finely grated potato/ 1 1/4 t salt/ 1/4 C all-purpose flour/ 1/4 t black pepper/ 1 extra large or 2 smaller eggs, beaten/ 1/4 C (or a little more) grated parmesan/ Butter for sautéing pancakes.
Directions: Place grated zucchini and potatoes in a colander over a larger bowl, toss with salt. Let stand at room temperature for at least 20 minutes. Place in a light towel – I used muslin – and squeeze out as much liquid as possible. I sometimes feel such steps are an unnecessary bother, but this is worth it. I squeezed out at least 3 cups of liquid which is why the zucchini pancakes were golden and crisp on the outside, creamy soft in the middle.
After zucchini and potatoes have been drained mix with dry ingredients. Add eggs and mix thoroughly. Form 4 -6 cakes with this batter – it’s messy. Melt plenty of butter in a frying pan until it sizzles, carefully place cakes in the pan and saute’ on medium heat for about 15 minutes, 7 or 8 minutes per side.
Drizzle with the basil chive cream and devour. These are good!
Zucchini are abundant, alive and well. We might as well invite them in for supper.
Speaking of abundant local harvest. Remember the Eat Local Now! dinner next week, September 30th.