My sister and I were talking the other day of the zucchini patch our grandfather had. Many times, I helped plant the seeds for him, pushing 3 to 4 seeds into each mound and looking forward to seeing those beautiful sprawling plants with big yellow blooms spring up. We ate a lot of zucchini growing up and preserved a lot of pickles as well. This day brought back memories of cooking in my mother's kitchen, deciding on a dish to include this wonderful vegetable from the garden for our meals.
Today, I went a little crazy and will show you three ways, starting with a cupcake for dessert. I decided to add zucchini to one of my favorite desserts, English Sticky Toffee Pudding. It's a cake that has some caramel sauce poured over it when nearly done, thus becoming the "sticky" part with additional caramel sauce drizzled over it and a dollop of whip cream. It was invented by a hotel operator by the name of Francis Coulson of the Sharrow Bay Country House in Cumbria, England. I also did a side dish called Torta di Risotto from one of my favorite vegetarian cookbooks~ New Vegetarian by Celia Brooks Brown and an appetizer of crispy zucchini sticks, baked in the oven instead of frying, to show off its versatility.
Zucchini Sticky Toffee Pudding Cupcakes
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut in pieces and softened to room temperature
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
1 1/2 cups chopped dried dates
1 cup boiling water
1 tsp. baking soda
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
2 cups grated zucchini (approximately 2 medium zucchinis)
Preheat oven to 350F-degrees. Line muffin pans with paper liners.
To begin, add boiling water to the dried dates. Add the one teaspoon of baking soda to the mixture and set aside.
Grate two zucchinis into a colander in case any liquid oozes from it.
In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and beat again.
Add the dry ingredients - flour, baking powder and salt and pour the date mixture over it. Beat on medium one minute, scraping down the sides of the bowl, then, beat one minute more.
Add the grated zucchini and mix just until combined.
Scoop the batter into 18 muffin openings.
Bake in preheated oven for 18 to 20 minutes; until golden brown and when lightly touched, springs back.
Let cool completely before proceeding to the filling and frosting.
Since typically Sticky Toffee Pudding has a caramel sauce, I used some of the remaining caramel I had made for the Cinnamon Sticky Bun Cake. You can also use a store bought version.
|Use an apple corer to create a "well" for the caramel|
|Pipe in the caramel, then place the cupcake "plug" over the hole before frosting|
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks) at room temperature
2 T meringue powder
5 cups confectioners' sugar
1/3 cup homemade caramel (or you can use a store bought)
3 to 4 T milk
In a stand mixer, cream the butter until fluffy. Add the confectioners' sugar and meringue powder and blend (mixture will be stiff). Add the caramel and 3 tablespoons of milk and beat to combine. If needed, add an additional tablespoon of milk to give a light a fluffy frosting.
Pipe on the cupcakes.
To decorate, I added some edible pearls...in honor of the Queen, of course!
Next, was my side dish...
Torta di Risotto
1 cup arborio risotto rice
4 oz. mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
4 oz. Fontina cheese, cut into 1/4 cubes
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
|The 3 cheeses: Mozzarella, Fontina & Parmesan|
1 zucchini, sliced into 1/4-inch long slices (I used my mandolin)
Brush slices with olive oil and place on a hot grill pan to sear.
Brush the top side with additional olive oil and when the grill marks show on the cook side, turn over the slices, using tongs. Repeat grill marks and then remove.
3 to 4 T Olive Oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
16 oz. canned chopped tomatoes
1/2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. dark brown sugar
1 tsp. dried basil or 1/4 cup of fresh basil torn or coarsely chopped
Heat the olive oil. Add the minced garlic, then, the canned chopped tomatoes. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 10 minutes or until the sauce thickens slightly. Stir in the basil.
Add the rice and cheese and stir to mix well. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Oil a 9" x 5" loaf pan. Sprinkle about 2 tablespoons of bread crumbs on the bottom.
Spoon in half of the rice mixture and smooth flat. Layer the zucchini (corgettes) in a single layer over the rice.
Spoon remaining rice mixture over the zucchini, then sprinkle with another 2 tablespoons of bread crumbs.
At this point, you could wrap the mixture with aluminum foil and refrigerate and cooked later.
Preheat oven to 425F-degrees and bake for 30 to 40 minutes. Run a long-bladed knife around the edges, then turn our onto a serving platter. Cut the torta into slices and serve.
Finally, I did an appetizer...
Breaded Zucchini Spears with Lemon/Chive Dipping Sauce
Preheat oven to 425F-degrees. Once the oven has come up to temperature, heat a baking sheet with 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Prepare zucchini.
2 zucchini (washed and ends trimmed)
1/2 cups King Arthur flour
salt and pepper
3 large eggs
1 1/2 cups Panko bread crumbs mixed with 1/2 cup fine bread crumbs
Cut the zucchini in half horizontally, then, cut each section into thirds and each of those sections into half--you should get 12 spears from each zucchini.
Divide the flour with salt & pepper, eggs, and bread crumb mixture into 3 dishes.
To begin: Roll the zucchini spears in the seasoned flour, then into the beaten eggs, and finally roll in the bread crumbs. Open the oven and place the spears on the heated baking sheet.
Bake in the oven, turning once about 15 minutes or until brown and crispy.
Lemon-Chive Dipping Sauce:
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
juice of one half lemon
1/4 cup finely chopped chives
Mix all ingredients together and get refrigerated until ready to use.
So, there you have my tribute to a vegetable that was a big part of my life growing up and remains so today--Happy Zucchini Day. Enjoy!