Thursday, May 8, 2008

One Zucchini, Two Zucchini...

I had a little break at work today and decided to head to the kitchen to save a large pack of zucchinis we bought at Trader Joes.

First, i made zucchini bread - something i've been dying to try making - adapted from Mary's recipe from Alpineberry. When i mixed the batter i thought i must've misread the directions - it was so dry. So i was a bit worried if it was going to turn out. But turn out it did and nicely! It is more dense than pumpkin bread that i am so used to baking, but it was loaded with zucchini and walnuts and not too sweet, because of the light brown sugar that i used. I think next time, I will add even more zucchini and walnuts and make it with whole wheat flour.

Zucchini Bread
(Makes one 8.5 x 4.5 inch loaf)

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup grated zucchini (on a large hole grater)
1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly butter an 8.5 by 4.5 inch loaf pan (sometimes referred to as a 1-pound loaf pan).
Sift together flour, cinnamon, cloves, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside dry ingredients.
In large bowl, whisk together oil, sugar, and vanilla. Stir in zucchini and walnuts. Add dry ingredients and mix until flour is just incorporated. It will be very thick.

Bake at 350F until cake tester comes out clean, about 40-50 minutes.

Cool in pan for about 20 minutes before removing loaf from pan to cool completely on a rack.

Then, it was time for lunch. Remembering my childhood in Russia, I decided to make zucchini "oladushki." I remember long summers making just that for lunch for my mom and brother, but out of squash. We don't have zucchinis in Russia and our squash is about 10 times the size of the yellow squash here. So i thought it might be a bit different. But not really. The only difference between making these out of squash is that squash releases a lot of liquid when shredded and needs to be squeezed out. Zucchini is a lot drier. These came out yummy and were supereasy and superfast. My "no-recipe" recipe for you follows.

Zucchini "Oladushki"
(makes about 8 small oladushki)

2 small zucchinis
1 egg
1/3 cup flour
salt to taste
olive oil

Grate zucchinis on a large hole grater. Transfer to a medium mixing bowl. Sprinkle with salt. Break an egg into the bowl. Stir. Add half the flour and check the consistency of the batter. It shouldn't be too runny or too thick, but it is also a matter of preference. Add all the flour that you are going to add and heat some olive oil in the frying pan.

Use a soup spoon to drop mounds of the batter onto the heated frying pan. They don't have to be perfectly round or the edges to be smooth. Some like them more "fuzzy."
Brown on both sides.

Enjoy plain or with sour cream or tzadziki.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Coffee and cake

The weather has been stormy here lately, making one's heart wish for a good cup of coffee and, of course, the coffee cake. We had some good coffee, from Intelligentsia roasters in Chicago, compliments of my good friend Dina, who just visited us. I absolutely love their beans for drip coffee. The one we were having is called Zirikana, from Rwanda - smooth, very mild acidity, goes great with half and half in the morning, and of course, goes great with cake.

I've been promising my husband to make his favorite coffee cake again, but since i get bored using the same recipes, i decided to experiment a bit. I tried a buttermilk coffee cake before and that was very tasty, but for some reason i decided that sour cream would make it even more tasty. (We're ignoring the calories at this point.) I found a recipe online for blueberry sour cream coffee cake and decided to modify it a bit. I got "Canadian" sour cream, which is just thicker than the regular American sour cream. And, apparently, blueberries are not in season now, because the only store that had them was selling them for a crazy price. But i was set on blueberries, blackberries wouldn't do.

The result was very moist and lightly crumbly cake with perfect little blueberry dots. The consistency was more like a cross between the cheesecake and a regular pound cake. Delicious! But i think i will make it with buttermilk next time.

Blueberry Sour Cream Coffee Cake
(borrowed and modified from Allrecipes)

1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 eggs
1 1/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 5/8 cups white unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup fresh blueberries (more might be better)

1/2 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped pecans


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour a 9 inch spring form pan.

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then stir in the sour cream and vanilla. Combine the flour, baking powder, and salt; stir into the batter just until blended. Fold in blueberries.

Spoon half of the batter into the prepared pan. In a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar, cinnamon and pecans. Sprinkle half of this mixture over the batter in the pan. Spoon remaining batter over the top, and then sprinkle the remaining pecan mixture over. Use a knife or thin spatula to swirl the sugar layer into the cake.

Bake for 70-80 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a knife inserted into the crown of the cake comes out clean. Cool in the pan over a wire rack. Remove from the pan and enjoy.