Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Lemon cardamom zucchini bread

Things have been exploding at my garden. I suppose that's what gardens typically do in the summer, but it never ceases to amaze me. Take the on-the-way-to-monster-but-it-could-be-worse zucchini that I harvested a few days ago. It's beautiful but also a handful when it comes to creative ways of dealing with it. I've seen worse, though, to be sure. Like that week in college when I was on a very tight budget and a friend of mine gave me a MEGA monster zucchini from her garden to help me make ends meet. It worked alright. It took me the entire week to consume that vegetable including two batches of zucchini bread and all the different ways to stuff a zucchini I could think of. Suffice it to say it left some scars, so when I saw the beast in the garden, I had to muster up some courage to pick it and take it home.

little monster! that's my hand in the picture to give some perspective.

It's been easier this time, eating the zucchini. For one thing, there are two of us. For another, it has become standard practice to give friends things like zucchini bread, and they inhale it. Still, I wanted to try something new beyond the traditional cinnamon-y flavor of the bread I grew up with. A friend recently brought back some lemons from her trip to the north of Spain and I love all things lemony, so the foundation was set.

And it somehow just seemed a natural progression to add some freshly-grated nutmeg and green cardamom powder to the mix.

The result?

Light, fluffy (and quickly disappearing) lemon and spice - a beautiful treat if you like your breakfast sweet and a sumptuous addition to your afternoon coffee ritual.

Lemon zucchini bread with nutmeg and cardamom

1 2/3 cups flour, unsifted
1 1/2 cup sugar (use 1/4 cup less sugar if you prefer your bread less sweet)
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
1/4 tsp green cardamom powder (you can pick this up at your local Indian or Asian food market)
2 tsp grated lemon zest
2 eggs, well beaten
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup cool water
1 cup grated zucchini (raw)
1 handful chopped hazelnuts, walnuts, almonds, pecans or other nut of your choice (optional)

Grease and flour a loaf pan and heat your oven to 160C or 350F. Combine the dry ingredients and in a large bowl. Add the lemon zest, eggs, oil, lemon juice, water and zucchini. Stir to combine. Pour batter into loaf pan. Sprinkle chopped nuts on top, if using. Bake 50- 60 minutes or until a toothpick poked into the center comes out clean.

Herbs are all you need

Yesterday's lunch was simple and satisfying. All it took was a handful of herbs, some garlic, pasta, olive oil, a few pea pods and tiny turnips, salt, a dash of pepper and some parmesan cheese to transform those few minutes of my afternoon into an exquisite experience.

The peas pods and turnips are from my garden, hence the miniature size of the turnips. But I like them that way. Their small size gives a more delicate flavor and the purple/pink color is radiant. The herbs are from the patio - thyme, sage, basil, parsley and a little savory for good measure (I planted 4 small plants near the beans in my garden this year because I've heard they keep bean plants healthy - I now have 4 gigantic savory plants and some very healthy beans). The rest - the pasta, olive oil, garlic and parmesan - are things I always have on hand.

Try it yourself with whatever veggies you have in the fridge and whatever combination of fresh herbs you can dig up!

Pasta with turnips, peas, herbs and garlic (for one)

Pasta of your choice
1 tsp olive oil for the veggies and more to drizzle on the pasta
1 small or two very small turnips
6 or 7 young pea pods
1 small clove of garlic, sliced
a handful of various herbs, roughly chopped (e.g., basil, thyme, sage, rosemary, oregano, etc...)
shaved parmesan
salt and pepper

Cook the pasta in boiling, salted water until al dente. While the pasta is cooking chop the herbs and heat 1 tsp of olive oil in a pan. Add the garlic, turnips and pea pods to the pan and until cooked but still slightly crunchy (3 to 4 minutes). (I like to add the garlic about a minute or so into the cooking process. It keeps it from burning and boosts the garlic flavor.) Remove from heat. When the pasta is done, drain it and combine with the herbs and a healthy drizzle of olive oil. Add enough salt to give the dish a flavor boost, keeping in mind that the parmesan will add a little bit of salt as well (start slow and taste as you go). Add the veggies and shave some parmesan on top. Grab a fork and munch your way to bliss!