Suddenly summer

And the garden is abruptly in full swing. You know how it is, if you’re lucky: those first tomatoes dropping warm and velvety into your hand, the prick as you forget about the spines on an eggplant, the taste of a green bean right out there in the garden. I always find myself moving toward vegetarian cooking at this time of year, just trying to keep up!

I’m trying to think of everything I’ve made in the past week or so. There was the potato-pea-carrot curry in coconut milk, that was good. You know how you can make potato pancakes? You can make veggie pancakes, too, with shredded potatoes, zucchini, carrots, green onions, and (if you’re me) a generous spoonful of hot chili paste with mustard seeds. Those were good. I have a lot of Thai chilies, so I need to find the recipe for that chili paste again.

Green beans are excellent just cooked crisp-tender and drizzled with sesame oil and sprinkled with sea salt. I only use sea salt for very plain preparations; in other words, not that often. But it makes a real difference for something like this.

Let’s see.

Jalapenos stuffed with cream cheese, wrapped with bacon, and baked. Those are great. I haven’t made them yet, but I have a lot of jalapenos I need to use, so maybe tomorrow. Cauliflower soup with artichokes and bacon. I didn’t grow the cauliflower, cauliflower is a pain. I got it from a guy at the farmer’s market, who was selling these beautiful heads. I didn’t grow the artichokes, either. Or, for that matter, the bacon.

On the other hand, I did grow the lovely pink eggplant I used to make eggplant with spicy tomato sauce. Also the tomatoes. This year I’m growing almost no kinds of tomatoes but Principe Borghese and Old Brooks. Those varieties are extraordinarily resistant to cracking and catfacing, which is a quality I put right behind flavor and way ahead of color or shape.

I have exactly one zucchini plant. It’s doing a little better than seems strictly required. The whole-wheat zucchini chocolate chip bread I made was good, but you know what turned out to be actually fabulous? The zucchini coconut muffins. These are, not to put too fine a point on it, the best zucchini quick bread I’ve ever made.

If you, too, love coconut, and if you either grow zucchini or expect a friend or neighbor to force zucchini upon you, then you might want to try this recipe.

Zucchini-Coconut Muffins

2 eggs
1/3 C honey
½ C vegetable oil
1/3 C brown sugar
½ tsp coconut extract
1 C all-purpose flour
1 C white whole wheat flour
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp salt
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
8 oz grated zucchini (about one small-medium; if it takes a third of one zucchini, then you know you let the zucchini get way too big before you picked it). There is no need to squeeze the zucchini dry after grating it; you actually want the moisture in the batter.
4 oz shredded sweetened coconut

Combine the eggs, honey, oil, brown sugar and coconut extract in a large bowl. Beat or whisk to combine. Combine the flour, white whole wheat flour, ginger, salt, baking powder and baking soda in a smaller bowl. Add to the sugar mixture and stir until partly combined. Add the zucchini and coconut and stir until pretty well combined; the batter will be a bit lumpy, especially with the zucchini in it.

Spray a 12-cup muffin pan with cooking spray. Spoon the batter into the muffin cups. Don’t worry if they are pretty full. The muffins rise some, but not so much that they will be a problem.

Bake at 350 degrees for 24-32 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in a muffin comes out clean and the tops are a shade of golden-brown that pleases you. Cool the whole pan on a rack for eight minutes, then gently lift out the muffins. I only had one muffin rip in half out of 24, so they’re not too hard to handle.

Okay, as a bonus, and because these zucchini muffins are very good but not the very best quickbread I’ve made this year:

King Arthur’s Flour’s Broonie

This recipe is from the King Arthur’s Flour WHOLE GRAIN BAKING. I made it almost like the recipe says, and it is just wonderful. It is like an oatmeal muffin crossed with gingerbread, and I don’t know if that sounds good to you, but trust me, it is great.

1 ½ C old-fashioned rolled oats
1 C barley flour — which I have handy, but if you don’t, you could probably substitute white whole wheat flour or whatever you have.
1 C all-purpose flour
½ C brown sugar
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda – which the recipe didn’t call for, but with buttermilk, it seemed like a good idea.
1 ½ tsp ground ginger – I used a generous 2 tsp
½ tsp salt
½ C butter
3 eggs
1 C buttermilk
¼ C molasses
½ C diced crystallized ginger

Combine the dry ingredients in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter, in pieces, and pulse to cut in. (The recipe suggests a pastry cutter, which is fine, and I have a very nice pastry cutter, but there’s no question that cutting butter into flour is much, much easier with a food processor.)

Whisk or beat together the eggs, buttermilk, and molasses. Pour in the flour-butter mixture and stir until evenly moistened. Stir in the crystallized ginger.

Pour into a greased loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 50-55 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool eight minutes on a rack. Turn out of pan and cool completely. King Arthur’s Flour recommends that you cool this bread, wrap it well, and slice it the next day. Good for you if you have enough self-control to wait! I promise you, it is excellent sliced while still slightly warm.


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2 thoughts on “Suddenly summer”

  1. We’ve had one (1) ripe tomato so far. An Early Girl. The San Francisco Fog is working on two, the Celebrity and Brandywine aren’t doing anything but blossom, as far as I can tell. I don’t really want a repeat of the summer of canning 22 gallons of tomatoes (guess what we gave for Christmas presents that year?), but I would like a few more than we’ve gotten.

    I haven’t heard of the Borghese and Old Brooks varieties. I wonder if the semi-local specialty tomato plant source would have them… [wanders off making a note to look into it next year.]

    Should you have any brussel sprouts my sister swears that they’re best with maple syrup. Not something I’d think of – I avoid the little things – but I pass this on for others to mull over.

    Just finished Florand’s A CHOCOLATE KISS. She’s excellent. I would have liked to know what Aja’s tea would do to either protaganist.

  2. Hopefully you’ll have more than one tomato this summer! Last year the drought was so bad, we let everything die but some of my most cherished baby trees and shrubs. This year so far is much better!

    I can’t say that I really think Brussels sprouts are very edible no matter what you do with them.

    I’m curious about the tea, too!

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