Chocolate + Zucchini

I have procrastinated all week regarding an invitation to a Potluck/Barn Dance. It sounded fun, but the thought of coming up with a recipe for the potluck was where I was stuck. It’s been a long week with lots going on and so the procrastination happily continued until this afternoon when I either had to commit and get on with it, or beg out. I decided to get online and buy my ticket. That was the bait. I hate paying for something I won’t use. Ticket bought (or you could say hook firmly in mouth) I started thinking about what I was going to make. I really wanted to do something with ingredients I have on hand, with one of those ingredients being zucchini. I thought about a squash casserole but only for a minute. Since it is more like a quiche, and folks are a little edgy about eggs right now, I decided to think up something else. And then it came to me; Chocolate Zucchini Cake. Who doesn’t love chocolate cake?

Off to the kitchen to check ingredients. Yes sir eeeee! I have everything. Chocolate Zucchini Cake it is.

This recipe is from a 1974 Sunset Magazine clipping.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, unsifted

½ cup cocoa

2 ½ teaspoons baking powder

1 ½ teaspoons soda

1 teaspoon each salt and cinnamon

¾ cup soft butter

2 cups sugar

3 eggs (mine were from a local grower who’s chickens run loose in his garden by day and sleep in a coop at night so the critters don’t get em)

2 teaspoons each vanilla and grated orange peel (I didn’t have a fresh orange so I omitted the peel)

2 cups coarsely shredded zucchini (any summer squash, yellow or green, will work)

½ cup milk

1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (I used the pecans)

Glaze. Mix together 2 cups powdered sugar, 3 tablespoons milk, and 1 teaspoon vanilla;

Beat until smooth.

Combine the four, cocoa, baking powder, soda, salt, and cinnamon; set aside. With a rotary mixer beat together the butter and sugar until they are smoothly blended.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. With a spoon, stir in the vanilla, orange peel, and zucchini. Alternately stir the dry ingredients and the milk into zucchini mixture, including the nuts with last addition.

Pourbatter into a greased and flour-dusted 10” tube pan or bundt pan. Bake in a 350° oven for about 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 15 minutes; turn out on wire rack to cool thoroughly. Drizzle glaze over cake. Cut in thin slices to serve. Makes 10 to 12 servings.

Annie’s Grilled Vegetable Lasagna

If you have been reading my posts you know that the Ichiban Japanese eggplant I planted in a pot on my patio has been the best producing eggplant I have ever had. It has supplied a neighbor friend and myself with more than enough eggplant. We have made all kinds of dishes with it. A couple of weeks ago I made up a vegetable lasagna that doesn’t use any noodles, just grilled veggies, cheese and some very delicious Trader Joe’s Tuscano Marinara Sauce. This week I decided to grill the extra veggies that have been ripening faster than I can eat them and store them in the refrigerator with the idea that when I had enough variety I would make another vegetable lasagna.

Today was the day that version-two of the lasagna took shape. It is cool and windy outside with the sun popping in and out from behind the clouds. If we were having a normal August it would be hot outside by now and I certainly wouldn’t consider turning on the oven. Not even the small convection oven I used today. But it’s not hot and so the lasagna creation began. I gathered the grilled eggplant, Butterstick zucchini, and red peppers from the refrigerator. Next I sliced a beautiful red onion I had just bought at the Farmers’ Market and sautéed it in a little olive oil until it was beautifully browned and tender. A trip out to the patio yielded fresh basil leaves.

Lasagna is a process of layers; a layer of marinara (which I strained the excess liquid out of since there are no noodles to absorb the liquid), then the eggplant topped with whole basil leaves and mozzarella cheese, another layer of marinara, zucchini, basil leaves, peppers, onions and cheese. I finished it off with the last bit of marinara, mozzarella and some shredded Parmesan. I baked the lasagna at 350° for about 30 minutes, or until the top was browned. I let it sit for about 10 minutes before I cut it into serving size pieces.

This is one of those great recipes that you can modify to fit the ingredients you have. If I had had some ricotta I would have added a layer. Pine nuts might add some nice texture. I might even be tempted to try a pepper that has a little heat in it. I do love the red bells for their sweetness but it might be nice to  add just a little kick to the mix. I also think I’ll add a little fresh parsley next time since I have some in my garden. And, since the eggplant has started a whole new round of flowering and producing, I’m sure there will be a next time.

If you give my grilled vegetable lasagna a try let me know how it turned out for you or how you modified the ingredients to fit your likes and vegetable abundance. There’s more on grilling vegetables here. I’m always looking for new ways to cook vegetables and would love to share your ideas with my readers.

Crane Melon – What a find!

This green and cream speckled, teardrop shaped melon was developed by Oliver Crane in the early 1900s by crossing several varieties of melons, including a Japanese melon, a white melon, a Persian melon and an ambrosia melon among others.

It has everything you'd want in a summer melon. It's exceptionally juicy, flavorful and aromatic. The bad news is that it may be hard to find.

It's tasty dressed up with a nice wrap of Prosciutto or ...

you can eat it plain. However you decide to eat it, I guarantee it will taste delicious.

While roaming through the Davis Farmers Market the other day I stopped by Pacific Star Gardens, a small, family owned and operated organic farm located in Woodland, CA. They had a nice display of melons and this one caught my eye. I asked about it and decided it was definitely something I wanted to try. Once I was home I sat down to do a little research and that’s when I found out that the Crane melon has a very interesting history, it has been marked for preservation under Slow Food’s The Ark project, and is featured in the book Melon\’s For The Passionate Grower. The Ark of Taste project aims to rediscover and catalog forgotten flavors, documenting rare breeds and excellent food products that are in danger of disappearing. In partnership with Slow Food USA, Local Harvest lists growers and producers of these items throughout the US. If you can’t find these wonderful melons at your Farmers’ Market you can buy seeds from Sustainable Seed Company and grow your own next year, which is what I plan to do. If you do find them, let me know what you think of Oliver Crane’s creation.

Homemade Buttermilk Biscuits with Strawberry Freezer Jam


James Beard's buttermilk biscuits

I have been craving homemade buttermilk biscuits for weeks now. It’s one of the things I like making for leisurely Sunday morning breakfasts. Problem is, I haven’t had a leisurely Sunday morning for months now. There always seems to be something going on. Two things came together recently to make my leisurely morning wish come true. The first; I found some organic strawberries. What do organic strawberries have to do with buttermilk biscuits? Well, part of my craving was to have homemade strawberry jam on my biscuits and making jam just doesn’t fit into a leisurely morning.  With the strawberries I made freezer jam. The recipe made about 6 half-pints, which is just enough to share with my family, a few friends and myself. Seeing the jam sitting in the refrigerator each time I opened it became the second motivating factor in satiating my craving.

That Sunday I headed to the Farmers Market early, anxious to get back home and begin a leisurely breakfast. I put together a half recipe of buttermilk biscuits, popped them in the oven and waited what seemed to be a very long 15 minutes, before they were ready. I placed  a cup of hot coffee; a plate of butter, a jar of strawberry jam and some steaming hot biscuits on a tray and headed out to my patio table.

Buttermilk Biscuits

From James Beard’s American Cookery

2 cups unsifted all-purpose flour (I used half oat flour ad half unbleached flour)

2 ½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon baking soda

1/3 cup butter

¾ cup buttermilk

Combine all the dry ingredients and sift into a mixing bowl. Add the butter and blend in well. Stir in the buttermilk and blend till the dough holds together, Turn out on a floured board and flour the top of the dough lightly. Knead about 3 minutes and pat or roll out in a circle about ½ inch thick. Cut the biscuits any size you like, dip them into a little melted butter, and arrange on a baking sheet or in a 9 x 9-inch buttered pan. Bake at 450 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes.

There amongst the backdrop of my flower garden, with the bees buzzing and birds singing I finally had my leisurely breakfast and it was just what I had been dreaming of.

Here are a couple of links to try

if you want to try your hand at  making strawberry freezer jam. The first link 30 Minutes to Homemade Sure.Jell Strawberry Freezer Jam is from the Kraft Foods site and explains how to use their Sure Jell pectin mix to prepare jam. The second is from a blog called Simple Organic, Back to Nature, Back to Basics, written by Katie Fox, it’s simply called Homemade Strawberry Freezer Jam. She uses white grape juice and honey to sweeten the jam and no-sugar pectin to jell it. I didn’t find this recipe until recently and definitely would like to try it. If you do try this one, be sure to leave a comment on Katie’s blog and let her know how you liked it. Oh, and please let me know too.