Sunday, August 17, 2014

Zucchini Bread - summer treat perfect for Indian palate

As most of you know we locked up home and went merrily on an India trip recently. While no amount of bribing would have made us trade that trip for something else, 2 things that bothered us were leaving behind Flora in her doggy care for 3 weeks, we had never done that before and the maximum she had stayed out at a stretch had been 4 days of vacation. The completely trusting girl she is, she went in happily with her care taker when BH dropped her off sniffing her food bag we had given, not sure what went on in her mind for the rest of the 3 weeks though. We missed her all the time, hoping and praying she would do alright. She came back home the same day we landed, jumped all over on us and went to sleep in her bed for an entire week getting up only for food :-), she is back to her routine of chasing birds and squirrels all over the back yard now and jumping deftly over my veggie patches to avoid stepping on the tomatoes, zucchinis and cucumbers. All is well!
Ah, those vegetable and flower plants were the second concern, it was summer, basking in the natural flood of light and warmth, the plants were taking shape and sprouting up well as we got ready to leave. The trip was planned last minute and there was not much we could do in terms of preparing, thankfully a cousin who lives in the town offered to come by every few days and make sure the plants were not dry. BH went ahead and put sprinklers for the plants as a backup and cousin P true to his word made his visits and kept the indoor plants thriving, thanks P, we owe you one on this.
We came back 3 weeks later to find 3 big, ready to be picked zucchinis and several tomatoes in different stages of ripening along with a bounty of greens and lettuce that had grown literally crazy :-). There was nothing we could do with the lettuce but pull them out with the roots as the plants were about 4.5 ft tall and flowering, No pictures however as the bad state of backyard didn't give us any time to stop and do the photo shoot. Our friendly neighbor Mr.J swirls his lawn mower into our front yard as he does his yard and BH returns the favor next time around, so while the front looked decent, the fenced backyard resembled a mini unkempt jungle of sorts! All chores taken care of and back to healthy selves, we are enjoying harvesting multiple batches of the veggies. The cucumbers are petite but very tasty, haven't had that taste in a long while, they are almost like the Indian kheera/kakdi, pop them in the refrigerator for a couple of hours, cut and enjoy the cool, crisp bites, it doesn't get more 'locally grown' than this ;-). Not much luck with eggplants though :-(, still waiting.
So, I am not buying any more tomatoes this summer and definitely not any summer squashes or zucchinis :-), I have more than we can eat and distribute, the problem on hand is to find good ways to use them. Dal - done, pachadi - done, stir fry - done, pizza topping - done, veg crab cakes - done, so what else do I make from these really flavorful and yummy zucchinis? With the entire universe at my finger tips (thanks to Google), I searched and found innumerable recipes and sifting through them for vegetarian, egg free, preferably non sugary, the list got considerably small. But I landed on this bread which seemed like a miracle, easy being the middle name and versatile, the tag line of this particular recipe (ignore that completely cheesy talk, I do that sometimes)! But, truth be told this recipe adapts itself in so many different ways that you can create a new taste every time if you wanted and it was a perfect fit as I was looking for a non-sweet version of the recipe. It seemed a tad bit bland for my taste, so I added a little bit of this, pinch of that to personalize it and here it is, a definite keeper especially when it is such a wonderful way to consume those zucchinis.
What do you need to make Zucchini bread? 
Recipe adapted from: http://roxanashomebaking.com/zucchini-bread-vegan-recipe/
1 cup tightly packed grated zucchini (1/2 big zucchini)
2 green chilies - finely chopped
1/2 Tsp grated ginger
1 Tbsp finely chopped cilantro
1 Tblsp pine nuts
1 Tblsp walnuts chopped
3 cups bread flour
1+1/4 Tsp rapid rise yeast
1 Tsp salt
1/2 Tsp fresh ground black pepper
Butter to brush
How do you make Zucchini bread? 
  • Wash, remove the ends of the zucchini. 
  • Grate about 1 cup (along with the green skin (it makes for beautiful color and is nutritious)
  • Set it aside for 10 minutes. 
  • Squeeze handfuls of zucchini and collect the water. 
  • I got about 1/4 cup and 2 Tbsp of zucchini juice. 
  • Warm the zucchini juice for about 15 seconds or until luke warm
  • Take the bread flour in a mixing bowl, make a well in the center, sprinkle yeast and add the warm zucchini juice. 
  • Mix gently and leave it to proof for about 5-7 minutes. See alternative way of proofing yeast in the notes below. 
  • Now add the grated zucchini (squeeze out any additional juice if it looks damp), chopped nuts, salt, green chilies, ginger and chopped cilantro. 
  • Bring everything together and hold off on adding water or zucchini juice. 
  • Start kneading to make a dough and zucchini will continue to leave juice. Add the reserved juice only if needed. 
  • Make a smooth dough and knead it for about 6-8 minutes to make a soft dough. 
  • Cover and keep it to rise until it doubles in volume (mine took about 1.5 hours)
  • Pre heat the oven to 375F.
  • Take the risen dough out, punch it down, knead for a couple of minutes and divide into 2 balls. 
  • Let them rest (provide space between the 2 balls to rise) covered for 20-30 minutes. The balls will look fluffier at that point. 
  • Bake for 30-35 minutes (watch the oven for the last 10 minutes as it may vary) or until the top starts to get a nice golden hue. 
  • Take it out and brush it with butter all over and leave it to cool down. 
  • Once cool, cut into slices and enjoy with a pat of butter. 
  • DD loved eating toasted slices with salted butter and a sprinkle of chutney pudi :-)
Notes: 
  • Replace walnuts and pine nuts with any nuts of choice, I used them since I had them on hand. 
  • You can add finely chopped dill leaves or lightly roasted onion but I liked the fresh zucchini flavor and left it untouched.
  • Proofing yeast: If you are not sure of the yeast, it is better to proof it outside. Add yeast to a cup and add the warmed juice with a pinch of sugar, stir and let it rise for 5-7 minutes, When bubbles form and the mixture becomes frothy, add it to the bowl with flour. 
  • Use the zucchini juice as the liquid in the recipe as much as possible to retain flavor, use water only if you run out of the juice.