one zucchini, two directions

We’ve never been able to grow zucchini, which is ironic as zukes are vegetables that grow in abundance. I’m sure there’s some sort of soil fix we could do, but I’m just as happy to receive zucchini from family and friends or buy it at the farmers’ market. My mother-in-law recently handed over a monster zuke. While I love to slice and roast or chop and sauté, these preps are best suited for the younger, sweeter, more tender zucchini. The zucchini giants of this world are best shredded and used in baking or pancakes. Which meant I had some shredding to do.

shredded zucchini–so pretty with the green flecks

My food processor made quick work of it and I soon had eight cups shredded zucchini. I wanted to use as much of it fresh as possible (though frozen shredded zucchini is fine for baked goods) and zucchini bread seemed the obvious choice. My hunt turned up a recipe for Chocolate Zucchini Bread (thanks, Mac!) that looked simple enough, so I baked up a batch. Short on granulated sugar, I made up the 1/2 cup difference with muscovado sugar, a deeper, darker, richer brown sugar. I wanted to stir in something yummy and though mini chocolate chips were tempting, I reached instead for cacao nibs thinking they’d add a hint of darkness to an otherwise sweet bread. I enjoyed the final zucchini bread very much, even more so with a light topping of crème fraîche.

chocolate zucchini bread with cacao nibs

Two cups shredded zucchini down, six to go. We needed a veggie side for supper and I remembered a simple gratin recipe I’d once enjoyed from a local paper. Having lost the clipped recipe, I guessed on amounts and came up with a pretty, savory, and flavorful side dish.

gratin before baking

gratin after baking

gratin after serving

The final two cups shredded zucchini are in the refrigerator and I’ll throw part of it in a scramble or omelet for breakfast tomorrow. The rest? Who knows? It’s true what they say about zucchini, even if you don’t grow it yourself: It’s a gift that keeps on giving.

Chocolate Zucchini Bread

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 6 tablespoons baking cocoa
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 1/2 cup cacao nibs

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease two 8- or 9-inch loaf pans.

In bowl, mix flour, cocoa, salt, baking soda and cinnamon. In separate bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs, oil and vanilla. Stir into dry ingredients just to mix. Add zucchini and cacao nibs; mix gently. Divide batter evenly between pans. Bake 1 hour or until knife inserted into center of loaf comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.

Zucchini Gratin

Gratin

  • 4 cups shredded zucchini, pressed to dry
  • 1/4 cup grated or shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon dried bread crumbs
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt, to taste

Topping

  • 2 tablespoons dried bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon grated or shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

Heat oven to 425°F. Coat pie plate with cooking spray.

In bowl, stir together gratin ingredients. Spread into pie plate. In small bowl, stir together topping ingredients. Sprinkle over gratin. Bake 20 minutes or until topping is browned. Makes 8 servings.

peanut butter, banana, chocolate

Having recently received a large bag of dried banana chips, I wanted to find a use for them outside of eating as-is or tossing with granola. An online search got me thinking about using them for baking. A few recipes included them in banana bread, which intrigued me. Because peanut butter and chocolate seem a good fit with banana, I wanted to build a quick bread that incorporated all three flavors.

Banana chips in banana bread seemed redundant and chocolate bread was more indulgence than I needed. This left me looking for a peanut butter bread recipe. My cookbook collection includes a 1970s-esque Jif Peanut Butter recipe booklet (complete with ’70s-style food photos), which was where I found a simple and delicious peanut butter bread recipe. I tossed a large handful of coarsely chopped dried banana chips and a slightly smaller amount of coarsely chopped chocolate (mix of semisweet and dark) into the batter and was thrilled with the result.

The bread itself is rich and peanutty, but adding chocolate (always a good idea) and banana chips elevated it to another level of yum. The banana flavor is only there when you bite into a chip, but it’s a lovely subtle hit when you do. And the slight chew of these chips–they don’t get squishy like raisins do–adds texture contrast.

I find myself having a slice (or two) for breakfast, munching on it between meals, then considering it a dessert at the end of the day. It needs no embellishment, but a small bit of grape jelly bumps up the sweetness and if I’m really wanting to gild lilies, a touch of butter rounds out the flavor very nicely. It’s been a fun bread to discover and am happy to have found a use for my bag of banana chips.

Peanut Butter Bread with Banana Chips and Chocolate

Based on a recipe found in Jif® Choosy Mothers’ Peanut Butter Cookbook (1979)

  • 2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup peanut butter (Jif’s recipe called for creamy, but I used chunky)
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup coarsely chopped dried banana chips
  • 1/2 cup chopped chocolate bar

Heat oven to 350°F. Grease 9-inch loaf pan.

In bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Add peanut butter; cut in with fork or two knives until crumbly. Add egg and milk; stir just until dry ingredients are incorporated. Gently stir in banana chips and chocolate. Pour batter into pan; bake 1 hour or until wooden pick inserted near center of loaf comes out clean. Cool on wire rack.

out-of-this-world peanut butter bread