By Nancy Pollard
After owning one of the best cooking stores in the US for 47 years, Nancy Pollard writes Kitchen Detail, a blog about food in all its aspects—recipes, film, books, travel, superior sources and food-related issues.
Just Trying To Help (with a Zucchini Recipe)
No, don’t thank me for rescuing that pile of unwanted zucchini squash from your counter or front porch. I am only doing my neighborly part and suggesting a delicious zucchini dessert recipe. August has become synonymous with bloated zucchini humor; this veg even has its own nationally recognized day (August 8), complete with seasonally appropriate T-shirts. Despite an obvious abundance of zucchini plants, it’s a mystery to me why gardeners rarely take advantage of the blossoms, which are delicious fried, steamed or marinated in salads. There are even rice dishes dedicated to zucchini blossoms. If more of us took advantage of the floral phase, it would act like zucchini birth control. That would mean fewer overgrown squash, and possibly an end to such desperate measures as using an oversized zucchino in your toilet tank as a water saver. Or making it a summer snack for your dog.
Tried & True
The farm stands around the DC area abound with squash blossoms, and if you have never tried them, take a look at this KD post for inspiration. While you are at it, make a red bell pepper sauce to accompany them—the Internet is littered with recipes (see left). The Italian sformati are another lovely format for the Z word (see right). They will also benefit from a red bell pepper sauce of your choice. I am surprised that there aren’t any bell pepper jokes, even though they topple over their baskets at all the farmers markets, and I see loads of them in a community garden I pass on my walk.
And for Dessert
While reading through Rick Rodgers’s superlative book on desserts from Austrian, Czech, and Hungarian cafés and bakeries (Kaffeehaus), I discovered a Viennese zucchini recipe for cake (not another bread!) with an apricot glaze and chocolate ganache topping. It is a recipe from one of the owners of Cafe Dommayer in Vienna, where Johann Strauss II first played his daring waltz compositions. According to the author, Dommayer had at one time the only organic certification from the Austrian government for its total use of organic ingredients in all of its products.
Rodgers suggests an 11×8 inch (28x20cm) glass baking dish, but not having that on hand, mine was baked in a 9×2 inch (23x5cm) round cake pan by USA Pan. This company produces excellent bakeware. Also, it is important to use the best-quality apricot jam for your glaze. It will make such a difference in the taste, as the lightly spiced and not too moist cake, the bright acidity of the apricots, and the chocolate ganache each contribute to the cake’s success. Subtle, lush in flavor and texture, this cake deserves to be the coda of the zucchini season.
Dommayer Cafe Zucchini Cake
Softened butter and bread crumbs to prepare the pan (I used almond powder)
1 1/3 cups (167gr) white all purpose flour
1/2 cup (a bit over118ml) coarsely chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon (5ml) baking powder
1 teaspoon (5ml) baking soda
1 teaspoon (5ml)ground cinnamon (I use Vietnamese cinnamon)
Pinch fine sea salt
3/4 cup (170gr) white granulated sugar (I use India Tree caster sugar)
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon (15ml) golden rum
1 tablespoon (15ml) wildflower or clover honey
1 teaspoon (5ml) vanilla extract
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I use walnut oil)
1/2 cup (a bit over 118ml) coarsely chopped walnuts
Scant 2 cups (473ml) shredded zucchini
1/2 cup (118ml) apricot glaze made from apricot preserves
2 tablespoons (30ml) golden rum
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon (120ml) heavy cream
3 ounces (85gr) good-quality bittersweet chocolate (I use Valrhona Oriado disks, but you can roughly chop solid chocolate)
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F/180ºC.
Lightly butter an 11½x8-inch (29×20-cm) baking pan. (I used a 9-inch (23cm) round cake pan.) Line the bottom with parchment or waxed paper or use a Silpat liner. Dust with bread crumbs, flour, or, my preference, almond flour, and tap out the excess.
In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, process the flour, walnuts, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt until the nuts are very finely chopped, almost into flour. Set aside.
Whisk the sugar, eggs, rum, honey, and vanilla in a large bowl until foamy and combined. Gradually whisk in the vegetable oil or walnut oil.
Fold the flour mixture into the eggs but stop before the flour is completely absorbed. Stir in the zucchini and mix until combined.
Pour into the prepared pan and spread evenly. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. (I use a Thermapen and remove from the oven at 205F (96C).) Cool for 5 minutes on a wire cake rack.
After 5 minutes, invert and unmold the cake onto the rack, leaving the cake upside-down to cool completely.
Finishing with glaze and ganache:
Meanwhile, bring the apricot preserves to a boil over medium heat, stirring often, and cook for 1 minute, then add the rum. Strain through a wire sieve, pressing hard on the solids.
Pour the glaze onto the center of the cake.Using an offset metal spatula, thinly spread the glaze over the top and sides of the cake. Let cool until set, about 15 minutes. (You can refrigerate to speed cooling.)
In a small saucepan, bring the heavy cream to a boil over high heat. Remove from the heat and add the chinks of chocolate. Let stand 1 minute, then whisk until the chocolate is completely melted.
Place the cake on the rack on a jelly-roll pan. Pour the chocolate mixture on top of the cake. Using an offset metal spatula, spread the icing evenly over the top of the cake, letting any excess drip down the sides. Refrigerate until the chocolate glaze sets, about 20 minutes.
This cake can be made a day ahead of serving. I keep it at room temperature for 3 days in a covered cake stand. It can be refrigerated, covered, for a longer time.
Technically, almond flour is not a flour, hence the term almond powder.