There are some things you don’t question or plan for. They’re the things that just happen, that unfold throughout the day or week or month. The things we don’t always document or discuss because they don’t really seem important enough, but that — all the same — so often bring us together in one way or another. Patterns or obsessions or phases. Late-night online shoe shopping. Permission to nap at odd hours. Spontaneous cell-phone photo exchanges. Maybe you can relate. Maybe lately you’ve been doing something similar. As you do. As we do.Maybe you’ve spent into the double-digits (ouch) for 4 heirloom tomatoes because they’re beautiful and it’s summer and they taste like August and it seemed like a good idea at the time.
Maybe you make friends with the mailman. Learn his name. Admit that you stalk him and then sheepishly take it back when he looks at you funny. You didn’t mean it that way. You just like mail. Regardless, he will, undoubtedly, take very good care of your outgoing letters. This is always a good thing.
Maybe you find creative ways to feel close to loved ones who live far away. This could involve exchanging frequent foot photos. Somehow, this makes you both feel much closer.
Maybe you brave sunburns and play hooky for a dear friend’s mid-week birthday.
Or try to pretend you don’t have an addiction to a certain brand of shoes (I love you, Tom’s).
You admit to yourself that you’re getting old and can no longer drink four glasses of wine and feel like a perky cheerleader the next morning. Heck, perhaps you admit to yourself that you never really felt much like a perky cheerleader in the first place.
Sometimes you may sit and admire the early evening light inside your apartment. Then before you know it, you’ll begin taking early evening naps in said apartment.
Maybe you write lists of restaurants you want to try. Like this one in San Francisco for brunch. Or this one in Oakland. Or this one, too. Also remind yourself to go see this museum exhibit before it leaves.
And if you’re anything like me, you make zucchini bread when you simply have too much zucchini to stare at. Maybe you like adding chocolate to a recipe whenever you can. Maybe you like to have a guarantee that there is something special waiting in the kitchen to accompany your morning coffee. Because as the week goes on, things can get harried. Good breakfast intentions are replaced, in my case, with no breakfast at all or handfuls of granola on the way out the door. But this week is different. I got into the kitchen. As you do. And for this recipe you’re going to want to as well. Let’s.
This bread is a mish-mash of inspiration from a family recipe I often make along with a smidge of Lottie + Doof’s Zucchini Cake and Seven Spoons’ Chocolate Zucchini Bread. There are bits I like from each of these recipes, so I ultimately joined them to make a rather perfect, not-too-sweet zucchini bread with a very likeable, craggy top. It’s lightly scented with good cocoa, studded with toasty walnuts and cocoa nibs, and strewn throughout are bits of summer zucchini. With your favorite icing or a light glaze, this could even tread lightly into cake territory. For now though, I’m keeping mine for the mornings.
This recipe’s perfect for summer baking because you don’t need a mixer or electric beaters; you can do everything with a good, old-fashioned wooden spoon. Do use a nice dark cocoa powder–it’ll make a difference in flavor here. And if you’d rather use chunks of chocolate or chocolate chips instead of cocoa nibs, go right ahead. Or just leave them out altogether.
Preheat the oven to 350° F. Generously grease two loaf pans (9 inches by 5 inches) with butter (or cooking spray, if you’d prefer).
Toast the walnuts: on a baking sheet, spread them out and bake until golden brown and fragrant, 10-12 minutes. Cool and then chop finely.
In a medium bowl, combine the flours, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices into a medium bowl. Add the cocoa nibs and chopped walnuts at the end and set aside. In a large bowl, stir together the eggs, olive oil, sugar, and vanilla. Add the grated zucchini at the end and stir until just combined with a wooden spoon or spatula.
Combine the wet and dry ingredients, divide the batter into two prepared bread pans and bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick or tester comes out clean. Cool for 20 minutes. Slice and serve.
Early Fall Baking
Last weekend we went apple picking up near Yakima, a good three hours east of Seattle. We drove over to Harmony Orchards with our friends Brandi and John and met up with many other groups and families to amble about the rows and rows of apples in the unusually warm sun. We missed the annual picking last year as we were on our honeymoon, but the previous year was the one in which we made the colossal mistake of picking over 70 pounds of apples. I've never made so much applesauce in my life. This year we practiced restraint in bringing home a cool 38 pounds and after getting them all situated in the basement, I started to leaf through a few cookbooks looking for a great apple recipe -- something, preferably, that used quite a few apples, wasn't too sweet and could double as breakfast or dessert (really, the best kind of recipe). And that's exactly what we have in these Custardy Apple Squares.
It turns out that returning from a sunny honeymoon to a rather rainy, dark stretch of Seattle fall hasn't been the easiest transition. Sam and I have been struggling a little to find our groove with work projects and even simple routines like cooking meals for one another and getting out of the easy daily ruts that can happen to us all. When we were traveling, we made some new vows to each other -- ways we can keep the fall and winter from feeling a bit gloomy, as tends to happen at a certain point living in the Pacific Northwest (for me, at least): from weekly wine tastings at our neighborhood wine shop to going on more lake walks. And I suppose that's one of the most energizing and invigorating parts about travel, isn't it? The opposite of the daily rut: the constant newness and discovery around every corner. One of my favorite small moments in Italy took place at a cafe in Naples when I accidentally ordered the wrong pastry and, instead, was brought this funny looking cousin of a croissant. We had a wonderfully sunny little table with strong cappuccino, and, disappointed by my lack of ordering prowess, I tried the ugly pastry only to discover my new favorite treat of all time (and the only one I can't pronounce): the sfogliatelle. I couldn't stop talking about this pastry, its thick flaky layers wrapped around a light, citrus-flecked sweet ricotta filling. It was like nothing I'd ever tried -- the perfect marriage of interesting textures and flavors. I became a woman obsessed. I began to see them displayed on every street corner; I researched their origin back at the hotel room, and started to look up recipes for how to recreate them at home. And the reason for the fascination was obviously that they were delicious. But even more: I'm so immersed in the food writing world that I rarely get a chance to discover a dish or a restaurant on my own without hearing tell of it first. And while a long way away from that Italian cafe, I had a similar feeling this week as I scanned the pages of Alice Medrich's new book, Flavor Flours, and baked up a loaf of her beautiful fall pumpkin loaf: Discovery, newness, delight!
I am writing this on Saturday afternoon on a day when we had big plans to conquer pre-baby chore lists, but Sam's not feeling great and my energy's a little low so it hasn't been quite what we'd envisioned. My goals for the morning were to repot a house plant and make some soup and I've done neither. I will say that the sweet potato and fennel are still sitting on the counter eagerly awaiting their Big Moment -- it just hasn't come about quite yet. Sam and I were both going to attempt to install the carseat, but it started to look really daunting so we abandoned ship; it's now sitting proudly in the basement, also eagerly awaiting its Big Moment. So it's been one of those weekends -- the kind you look back on and wonder what it is you actually accomplished. At the very least, I get the chance to tell you about this hearty cranberry cornbread. I know maybe it feels premature in the season for cranberry recipes, but hang with me here: slathered with a little soft butter and runny honey, there's nothing I'd rather eat right now on the cool, crisp Seattle mornings we've been having lately.
I rarely make muffins at home and never order one when I'm out and about as I find they're often far too sweet and never truly that satisfying. I realize, too, in looking back at my cookbook that there's only one muffin recipe throughout. Case in point: I'm tentative on muffins. But not these. We've been pretty thrilled to have this healthier version of Morning Glory muffins on the counter this week; they have little bits of apple, raisins, walnuts, and grated carrot and are cloaked in a buttery oat crumble topping -- quite the opposite of your boring coffeeshop fare. I thought long and hard about doing a Valentine's post, some festive cookie or confection that would be share-worthy this weekend, but the more we talked about what our weekend would really look like, it involved something special for breakfast instead. I don't remember the last time a Valentine's Day fell on a Saturday, so we have big plans to have breakfast in bed and if your plans are even remotely similar, these muffins would be a fine inclusion.
I generally work on weekends. It's something I've come to terms with only because I know it won't last forever. I write. I bake. But those two things don't always pay the bills, so I work retail on the weekends and dream of the day when I'll have a Sunday like this one: