08 September 2010
When life gives you zucchinis
I've got a couple of housekeeping chores for this little blog to take care of, then I'll get to business with yet another muffin recipe. I swear, you'd think I made nothing else, but I promise this won't disappoint.
As most of you likely know, I'm pregnant. And, as these things go, I'm getting pregnant-er by the day. I am pleased as punch to take doctor's orders and slow things down a bit. Of course, Jasper's memo got lost in translation, so I'm still running after him. But as far as stresses I can control, I'm giving myself a bit of a break for the moment after one crazy August filled with parties, neighborhood picnics and hundreds of deviled eggs.
So I ask for your patience in the coming weeks and months as I try to keep up with my regular posts. The thing is that I truly love this blog, and just when I think no one reads it, I meet a random person who mentions it. So, thank you to those of you who've stuck with me. The problem is that when I give myself a deadline of posting every Monday, I start to get really stressed if I haven't cooked something delicious or stumbled across some new recipe by Sunday. It sounds silly, but anyone else who's got an on-going deadline (albeit self-imposed) knows what I'm talking about.
If you want to be sure to not miss a post, you can friend me on Facebook, where you'll see I provide a link there with each new post, or of course you can do the whole RSS-thingy, too. I will try, though, as much as possible to provide one new recipe a week.
So about the muffins. I had been trying for weeks to come up with a good recipe for zucchini muffins. It sounded simple given that the summer squash is often turned into a sweet quick bread. But it turned out to be a bit more challenging than I thought. Sure, you could just take your quick bread recipe and pop it into muffin tins. I tried it, and just wasn't blown over by the flavor. Then I tried my basic muffin recipe and loaded it with shredded zucchini. It, too, wasn't bad, but it seemed a bit cakey, like the vegetable was crying out for something slightly more substantial, like the way a great carrot cake is delicate and hefty at the same time.
After spending way too much time thinking about these muffins, a very, very simple solution came to mind: I have a fantastic recipe for apple muffins. It's from Marion Cunningham's "The Breakfast Book." Excellent cooks will tell you that any Marion Cunningham recipe is a stand-up, solid recipe that can be trusted for all time. And let me just say in the world where it seems it doesn't take much more than a chipper smile or a dash of celebrity to get a cookbook contract these days, stand-up recipes seem to be harder and harder to find.
Apples and zucchini actually have a lot in common. Both will hold up to a nice, fine dice and then the moment they're cooked, release a ton of moisture. So swapping zucchini for the apples not only made sense, the recipe was so darn good, it would hold up to any number of substitutions. And the brilliant green-sided mini cubes in your muffin make for a pretty fantastic presentation.
So while our gardens continue to pump out zucchini, and our bellies are thinking there's no other use for it we haven't already tried, make these muffins. They freeze well after baking, so even if you're not baking for a crowd, it's well worth the effort.
I follow Cunningham's advice using three mixing bowls despite the fact that it creates more dishes to wash. I also use my hands to mix the batter as she advises. It's very stiff, and this seems to be the best way to get the ingredients well-mixed without overworking the batter.
Adapted from Marion Cunningham's Raw Apple Muffin recipe in "The Breakfast Book"
4 cups diced zucchini (peeled or unpeeled)
1 cup of sugar
2 eggs, slightly beaten
1/2 cup oil (corn oil is very good)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup raisins
1 cup broken walnuts
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease 16 muffin tins.
Put 3 mixing bowls on the counter. Mix the zucchini and sugar in one bowl and set aside. Put the eggs, oil and vanilla in a second bowl and stir to blend well. In the third bowl, put the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt, and stir the mixture with a fork until blended.
Stir the egg mixture in to the apples and sugar, and mix thoroughly. Sprinkle the flour mixture over the zucchini mixture and mix well. (I use my hands because this is a stiff batter.) Sprinkle the raisins and walnuts over the batter and mix until they are evenly distributed. Spoon into the muffin tins.
Bake for about 25 minutes or until a straw comes out clean when inserted into the center of a muffin. Serve warm.
Variations: Substitute chocolate chips, currants or golden raisins for the raisins.