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.
On Monday our little family of three is headed to the airport at 6 am to board our first with-baby cross-country trip. We'll be visiting Sam's family in New Jersey for a few days, then renting a car and driving over to meet up with my family at my mom's lake house in the Adirondacks. Sam's younger sister and her kids have yet to meet Oliver; my grandpa has yet to meet him, and Oliver has yet to take a dunk in a lake, see a firefly, or spend quality time with energetic dogs -- of which there will be three. A lot of firsts. This week my family has been madly texting, volunteering to make certain meals or sweets on assigned days while we're at the cabin and it got me thinking about really simple, effortless summer desserts -- in particular, ones that you can make while staying in a house with an unfamiliar kitchen and unfamiliar equipment and still do a pretty bang-up job. I think fruit crisp is just that thing.
In a few short weeks, we're headed to New York, Vermont and New Jersey to visit family and see my sister Zoe get married. In starting to think through the trip and do a little planning, I found Oliver the cutest tiny-person dress shoes I've ever seen (and he's quite smitten with them), sussed out childcare options for the night of the wedding, and found what feels like the most expensive (and last) rental car in the state of New Jersey. I try very hard not to be one of Those People that begins lamenting the loss of a season before it's remotely appropriate to do so, but this year, as we'll be gone much of September, I've felt a bit of a 'hurry, make all the summery things!' feeling set in. So we've been managing increasingly busy days punctuated with zucchini noodle salads, gazpacho, corn on the cob and homemade popsicles (preferably eaten shirtless outside followed by a good, solid sprinkler run for one small person in particular. Not naming any names).
Somehow, in what seems to have been a blink of an eye, we have a six month old baby. In some ways I can't remember a time we didn't have an Oliver, and in other ways it's all a blur broken up by a few holidays (a Thanksgiving thanks to grocery store takeout, and our very first Christmas in Seattle), a few family visits, a one-day road trip to Portland, a birthday dinner out, a birthday cake, weekend drives to nowhere in particular, swimming at the pool with Oliver, weekly get-togethers with our parent's group, doctor's visits, hundreds of walks around the neighborhood, hundreds of cups of coffee, dozens (or more?) of scoops of ice cream. Most of the worrying about keeping a baby alive has made way for other concerns, and Oliver's need for constant stimulation or soothing walks and car rides has been traded for stretches of time playing with a new toy or checking out his surroundings. In truth, it's thanks to that tiny bit of baby independence that this humble, summery cake came to be in the first place. So we've all got an Oliver to thank for that. Or, really, we have a Yossi Arefi to thank, as it's from her beautiful new cookbook that I've bookmarked heavily and am eager to continue exploring.
A triple berry summer crisp made with oats, quinoa flakes and hazelnuts. Summer in a skillet.
I had a weak moment on our honeymoon in Italy when I decided that I should be making gelato for a living. My enthusiasm for Italian gelato wasn't surprising to anyone. I'd done extensive research, made lists, had Sam map out cities in terms of where the best gelaterias were. I took notes and photos and hemmed and hawed over flavor choices: Sicilian Pistachio! Chestnut Honey! Sweet Cheese, Almond and Fig! In truth, on that particular trip, I cared far more about treats, sunshine, and cobblestone walks than I cared about famous landmarks or tourist attractions, often leaving the camera back at the hotel in favor of my small black notebook which housed detailed jottings on dessert discoveries in each city we visited. Our friends Matteo and Jessica happened to be in Naples on the one night we were there, and we all went out for pizza together followed by a long stroll around the city. At some point the conversation turned to gelato (as it's bound to) and Matteo brought up the famous school in Bologna where many renowned gelato artisans study. My wheels were spinning. Maybe we should visit Bologna. I should see this school! I should talk to these students! I could make Sicilian Pistachio; Chestnut Honey; and Sweet Cheese, Almond and Fig each and every day of our lives. Or at the very least, travel to Bologna to learn how and then come back to Seattle to take our Northwest city by storm. Well here we are six months later, back to reality, and the impetus to pack up my bags and head for Bologna has subsided for the time being ... but not the unwavering gusto to sample. That part will always be with me. It's been awhile since I mixed up a batch of ice cream at home, but the other day a beautiful new cookbook landed on my doorstep and I flipped right to a recipe for dark chocolate sorbet with toasty, salty almonds. I didn't need much convincing.