Growing up, I thought the normal size for a zucchini was about one and a half feet long, eight inches in diameter—roughly the size of a Duraflame log.
That was the typical girth of the zucchini that emerged from my mother’s vegetable garden and, because there was obviously no need to buy any, I really had no basis for comparison. Moreover, my belief in zucchini gigantism was confirmed each summer by the zucchini “gifts” bestowed on our family from gardening friends and neighbors, all of which were mammoths reviling our own backyard crop.
The zucchini had their uses, though not always culinary. My brother and I used a few for weapons and baseball bats, my sister dressed some of the shapelier varieties as dolls, and I have a distinct memory of my father using several as doorstops at the peak of the summer harvest.
Looking back, I’m thankful my mother never subjected me and my siblings to any overly “creative” zucchini recipes, like magic zucchini balls or zucchini surprise stew. Somehow she suspected, whether by instinct or inherent wisdom, that the hassle-free solution to feeding her children a zucchini bonanza was to shred it, fold it into a brown-sugary batter, and bake it into lumpy-bumpy loaves of zucchini bread.
She was right. No prodding was needed to induce us to gobble crumbly, warm slices fresh from the oven, or nibble from baggies after swim team practice. We ate it as fast as she made it, and she made plenty.
Give my rendition of zucchini bread a try; it closely resembles the one Mom used to make, and, like hers, is packed with good things, including white whole wheat flour and ground flax seeds. Make it now, with zucchini from the grocery store (I picked up a a slew in a discount bag at the grocery store, which inspired this post), or squirrel the recipe away for late summer when you have zucchini up to your knees.
Zucchini bread virgin? Take heart—the zucchini does not impart a squash flavor, but rather lends moistness, texture, and flecks of color. If you like carrot cake, you’ll fall for zucchini bread, too. And in case you’re wondering, the recipe works equally well with summer and yellow squash (my bargain bag had several yellow crooknecks, too). So use what’s on hand, in the garden, or on sale.
Zucchini Bread with Meyer Lemon & Cardamom
This is a convenient breakfast on the go, and it freezes well. I prefer to slice it before freezing, placing 3 or 4 slices in a freezer bag (so I can defrost a little bit at a time, as I need it).
2 cups shredded zucchini (about 2-3 medium zucchini or 1 jumbo zucchini)
2 and 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour (see note below)
1 cup natural cane sugar or packed organic light brown sugar
1/2 cup ground flaxseed
1 tablespoon baking powder
1-1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup plain, fat free or lowfat yogurt
2 large eggs
3 tablespoons coconut oil, warmed until liquid OR vegetable oil
1-1/2 tablespoons finely grated Meyer lemon zest (or regular lemon zest)
1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts, optional
Spread zucchini onto several layers of heavy-duty paper towels; cover with additional paper towels. Press down firmly to remove excess liquid (this is really important—don’t; skip this step
Add zucchini mixture and (optional) walnuts to flour mixture, stirring until well combined. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 55-60 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan 10 minutes on a wire rack. Remove bread from pan; place on wire rack. Makes 1 loaf, 16 servings.