Blogger’s Confession: This recipe has languished in my file since August. I finally found time to post when Hurricane Sandy hit and I got a day off work. Sorry. I know your summer zucchini is long gone. But not to worry: With seasonal additions, this recipe easily transforms into Moist Apple, Pumpkin or Carrot Tea Bread, see below. Here’s how I learned about the recipe…
Back in the 70s, my mother—like a lot of boho parents in our San Francisco Bay Area community—was enamored of native culture. She read everything she could get her hands on about Native American family life, cooking and planting.
Somewhere between Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and The Tassajara Cookbook, Mom discovered “Three Sister” planting.
Mom’s 1970s experiments with “Three Sister” planting
Three Sister planting, Mom explained, was an ancient method of growing squash, corn and beans. The veggies supposedly worked symbiotically: The corn shot up to support the climbing beans. And the squash spread along the ground, conserving moisture and deterring weeds.
Three Sister planting yielded astounding harvests with no maintenance.
Three Sister planting was ecological, holistic and cooperative.
Three Sister planting carried the halo of Native Americanism.
We had to try it, Mom decided. And by “we,” she meant “me.”
Child labor circa 1974
Hoe in hand, I was soon out in our back one-quarter acre hacking away at the dusty Northern California soil. I scratched an 8’ x 3’ garden strip and planted corn, zucchini and green bean seeds.
I watered and waited.
But the Three Sisters didn’t like our yard.
Despite my sweaty efforts to “train” the indifferent beanstalks with sandwich bag ties, most of the green beans refused to climb up the corn. The handful of beans that cooperated wound up choking the cornstalk like a python.
And the stunted corn never grew “knee high by the fourth of July,” as the old farmer’s adage promised. It didn’t grow knee high by August or September either.
Out of the three veggies, only the zucchini was a success. But what a success.
We were amazed to see how fast and bountifully the stripey green squash grew. In just a day or two, an itty zuch could balloon into a five-pound wonder. Even when we forgot to water and weed them, the zucchini kept on producing.
Home-grown zucchini: Too much of a good thing
Given our pitiful Three Sister yield, we were delighted with the summer squash bumper crop.
Up to a point.
Soon we had more zucchini than we knew what to do with. For Mom, waste was a bourgeois evil—right up there with watching network television or voting Republican. So we had to find ways to use the harvest. All of it.
We rifled through cookbooks, magazines and recipe files looking for ways to cook the mild flavored squash.
We sautéed zucchini. We stuffed and baked them. We grated them into meatloaf. We added them to casseroles. We stewed them with tomatoes.
But by far, our favorite recipe was zucchini tea bread. This tender, sweet bread was easy to whip together, stayed moist for days and—best of all—used up tons of zucchini.
The recipe, below, has evolved over 30+ years. Unlike Diet For a Small Planet-era versions, this Moist Zucchini Tea Bread is light and delicate, not sodden with oil.
Little details make it especially tasty: You toast the nuts to bring out their full flavor and crunch. And you wring the grated zucchini to rid it off excess water.
I vary flavor with different combinations of “pumpkin pie” spices—cinnamon, cloves, allspice, nutmeg, ginger. Since I love cardamom’s heady, perfumed flavor, I add a generous teaspoon of this spice, freshly ground, in my version.
Moist Zucchini Tea Bread Recipe
½ cup walnuts, toasted and chopped
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons “pumpkin pie spices”—any combo you like: cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, ginger, allspice, cardamom
¾ teaspoon salt
2 cups grated raw zucchini, wrung our with dish towels—about 3 cups before wringing
6 tablespoons butter, melted
½ cup white granulated sugar
½ cup Demerara sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup sour cream or plain yogurt (not fat-free)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Place walnuts in a single layer in the center of a cookie sheet. Slide sheet into oven and toast nuts for 8-10 minutes, turning once. Remove from oven, cool and chop walnuts. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl or large measuring cup, blend flour, baking soda, baking powder, spices and salt.
- Using the largest side of grater, grate about 3 cups of zucchini. Dump grated zucchini into the center of a clean, dry dishtowel. Roll sides of towel over the zucchini and twist ends of the towel. Continue to twist the towel, squeezing the zucchini until all excess water is removed. (You may need a second towel.) Set aside zucchini.
- Pour melted butter into a large bowl. Using a mixer set on medium speed, mix in white sugar, then Demerara or brown sugar, beating until blended. Add eggs, beating well after each addition. Add sour cream or yogurt and vanilla and beat until well blended.
- With a wooden spoon, stir grated zucchini into the butter/sugar/egg mixture.
- Dump the flour and nuts into the butter/sugar/egg/zucchini mixture, folding gently with a wooden spoon until just blended—do not over beat.
- Spoon batter into greased loaf pan.
- Slide loaf pan into oven and bake for 50-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into center of loaf comes out clean.
- Allow bread to cool for 10-12 minutes, run a knife around sides of pan and invert onto cooling rack. Cool until firm enough to cut—or be a little piggy like me and cut the loaf while it’s steaming hot, slather the slice with sweet butter and eat, burning the roof of your mouth.
Moist Tea Bread variations
Photo of zucchini bread slice courtesy of Maggie Jane
Photo of zucchini courtesy of kewl