EVELYN CAIRNS • CULINARY CAPERS
I always thought zucchini was a vegetable, and now I learn that it’s a fruit. Yes, a fruit. According to Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, zucchini is a botanical berry called a “pepo,” which is the swollen ovary of the zucchini flower.
Whatever it is, zucchini is the versatile ingredient called for in countless recipes for appetizers, cakes, cookies, muffins, pies, casseroles, soups, salads, pancakes, jams and more. It can be chopped, grated, stuffed, baked, boiled, broiled, fried, sautéed, grilled or pickled. Plus, the “berry” is low in calories and loaded with vitamins A, C and K and minerals calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium.
I’d like to share a recipe for an extraordinary zucchini bread I came across recently in a vintage 1977 Sunset Cookbook.
After I provided a sample for my neighbor — and chief culinary critic —Melva Bonis, she sent me the following email:
“Looks good, tastes great! I think it’s my favorite of all the breads you’ve made. Nice and moist, tender, yet nice denseness, subtle fruity tones with discernible but gentle spice notes. Very good, indeed!”
I hope you will agree if you bake it. I’m also sharing two appetizer recipes that have received thumbs-ups from tasters and are really easy to make. The crisps have been served by Italian cooks for generations, and the zucchini bites are addictive.
SPICY PINEAPPLE ZUCCHINI BREAD
1 cup cooking oil
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups coarsely shredded unpeeled zucchini
8-ounce can crushed pineapple, well drained
3 cups unsifted all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1½ teaspoons cinnamon
¾ teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup finely chopped walnuts
1 cup currants
Set oven at 350 degrees. In a large bowl, beat eggs until frothy; add oil, sugar and vanilla. Continue beating until mixture is thick and foamy. Stir in zucchini and pineapple. In a separate bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, walnuts and currants until thoroughly blended. Stir gently into zucchini mixture just until blended. Spoon batter equally into 2 greased and floured, or sprayed with baking spray, 9×5-inch loaf pans. Bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes, then turn out on a rack to finish cooling.
ZUCCHINI PARMESAN CRISPS
2 medium zucchini
1 tablespoon olive oil
¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
¼ cup Italian-style bread crumbs
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Coat a baking sheet with cooking spray. Slice the zucchini into 1/4- inch rounds. In a medium bowl, toss the zucchini with the oil. In a small bowl, combine the cheese, bread crumbs and a few twists of pepper. Dip each round into the cheese mixture, coating evenly on both sides and pressing down for the coating to stick. Place in a single layer on the baking sheet. Bake until browned and crisp, 20- 25 minutes. Serve immediately.
QUICK AND EASY ZUCCHINI BITES
2 cups shredded zucchini (squeeze out any excess moisture with paper towels)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 small yellow onion, shredded
½ cup shredded cheddar cheese
¼ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
½ cup Italian-style bread crumbs
1 teaspoon dried parsley
½ teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray 2 12-cup mini-muffin tins with cooking spray. In a large bowl, lightly beat eggs; add zucchini, onion, cheeses, bread crumbs and seasonings. Fill tins with the mixture and bake 15 to 17 minutes or until the tops are a deep golden brown. Serve with marinara sauce or ranch dressing.
(Contact me at Evycairns@aol.com.)