Dark Chocolate Chunk Zucchini Bread

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Happy stormy Wednesday, friends! Can you believe this weather? The cool(er) temps were a nice reprieve for a day, but two days (or three, per the forecast) is just too much! Although it’s hard to complain about the weather when (a) we’ve had such a gorgeous summer so far, and (b) we have way more important things to talk about, like zucchini bread with chocolate chunks, or my new baby nephew.

When we last met, I was impatiently waiting for Baby P’s arrival.  Anticipating that things might be a little busy once he got here, I had a week’s worth of blog posts drafted and ready to go – all I had to do was hit publish.  But then he was born, and I fell head over heels in love and forgot I had a blog. Or a gym membership, or a blow dryer, for that matter.  All I want to do is hang out with Cooper. But since I would hate for those blog posts to go to waste, there are a lot of B&B treats heading to your inbox in the coming weeks: lentil salad, tomato tart, peach pie…..get excited.

First, though, zucchini bread.  August is the month for zucchini, and when you buy five at the farmers market and it turns out you only need one or two (for a galette or a tart or perhaps even something that doesn’t involve pie crust), zucchini bread is the perfect way to use up the rest. I had developed a nasty banana bread habit before zucchini season rolled around, but luckily this recipe has cured me of it.

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Zucchini bread always makes me think of two people, my uncle Rich and my friend Courteney. We have a “family cookbook” in my family, and the zucchini bread recipe in the cookbook is called “Uncle Rich’s Zucchini Bread.” I can’t remember if Uncle Rich actually makes zucchini bread, or if the cookbook publisher (yours truly) was in a rush to assign everyone a recipe and just put his name on something random (I’m pretty sure it’s the former, but I couldn’t swear to it). Regardless, zucchini bread now makes me think of Uncle Rich. And it also makes me think of Courteney, who is always asking me for the recipe for “Uncle Rich’s Zucchini Bread.”

This is one of those great recipes where you can literally just dump everything in one bowl and stir. Counting your food processor or grater, that’s only two dishes to wash. The cake comes out of the oven crunchy at the edges but with a delicate and not-too-sweet crumb, and then of course the dark chocolate chunks.  I had intended for this to be chocolate chip banana bread, but the Whole Foods baking aisle leaves a lot to be desired and I couldn’t find the chips I wanted – so I went with chunks and I’m so glad I did. It’s still a cake-y type bread, but the zucchini does a lot to alleviate the guilt (and there isn’t that much chocolate). The recipe yields two loaves (or in my case, one regular loaf and two mini loaves) and freezes well, so you can have one now and save one for later. I divided mine between a cousin who has a new baby and a friend recovering from surgery, and it was the perfect treat to wrap in foil and store in their freezers. But it would also be the perfect thing to make and eat yourself on a gray and thunderstorm-y August Wednesday, or to bring over as an excuse to visit your new baby nephew.  Lots of options for us. 

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Zucchini, previously: ricotta galette, carrot muffinssummer squash tart

One year ago: peach dumplings with bourbon hard sauce (one of my top two most popular B&B recipes, at least in terms of how many people told me they made them and loved them), and can we just relive for a moment the best party I ever threw?

Dark Chocolate Chunk Zucchini Bread (adapted from a variety of zucchini bread recipes)

Yield: two loaves, or four mini loaves (or in this case, one regular loaf and two mini)

Ingredients:
3 eggs
1 cup oil (vegetable, olive, or coconut)
2 cups dark brown sugar, packed
2 heaping cups grated, raw, unpeeled zucchini
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1 cup dark chocolate chunks (or any chocolate chunk or chip of your choice)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans, optional

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two loaf pans or four mini loaf pans (I like to spray with “PAM for baking“). Crack your eggs into a large bowl and whisk until smooth. Add oil, sugar, and zucchini; mix well. Add vanilla. Stir in flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and spices. Fold in chocolate chunks (and nuts if using). Pour into loaf pans and bake for one hour (mini loaf pans will take about 45 minutes). Remove from pans and cool on wire rack.

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Summer Squash and Zucchini Tart

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Happy Monday! I hope everyone had a wonderful weekend. And now we’re back to the grind (blah). In an effort to make our Monday morning a little less painful, let’s talk about tarts.  And by “tarts” I don’t mean the fruit kind – which feel like dessert – I mean the cheese and veggie kind, which feel like something you can eat for/before dinner rather than having to wait until after.

I made this tart for the first time a few years ago, pre-blog.  Pre-Instagram, even, which is tragic, because it makes for really pretty pictures (and we all know I love me some Instagram food pics). It’s the perfect thing to make if you have a pile of squash and/or zucchini laying around from an overly ambitious farmers market splurge, or puff pastry icing over in the back of your freezer.  I had both, which is what inspired me to throw this together the other night.

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Your zucchini/squash slices will look prettier if you slice them with a mandoline, but if you don’t have one just slice them as thin as possible by hand. I suspect you could also use a food processor with the slicing blade here, but your squash would have to be skinny enough to feed through the top so I’m not sure how it would work out (if you don’t have a mandoline and want to try it this way, let me know how it goes). You could always cut your squash in half lengthwise and it would still look gorgeous. Sometimes I go to a lot of effort (i.e. getting out my food processor, clearing off a space on the counter, cleaning it afterwards) to get out of even a little bit of work (slicing a zucchini). The advantage here, though, is that the squash will cook better the thinner it’s sliced.

The ricotta filling is simple and delicious, and can be tweaked any way you like. You could use more parmesan, or omit it all together. You could add the feta in here in addition to the topping, or in lieu of. Same with the parsley and lemon – leave it in or leave it out. I might have added the basil here too if I had thought of it (yum).  I love the parsley and lemon, though, as they really brighten up the filling and work well the the zucchini and squash.

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If you haven’t used puff pastry a lot before, this part might look a little daunting, but I promise you it’s really not. The best tip I can give you for working with puff pastry is to allow yourself enough time for it to defrost (either overnight in the fridge or for at least an hour on the counter – the package will give you more detailed instructions). The few times I’ve had issues with it, it’s been due to either pastry that’s still frozen, or pastry I let sit out too long that’s gotten gummy.

Once it’s (properly, and not overly) defrosted, simply unfold the square of pastry onto parchment and roll it into whatever shape you’d like (rectangle or bigger square). I find it’s easiest to roll it directly onto the parchment, but you can always roll it out on the counter and then slide it onto your cookie sheet if you think you can manage. Mine looks deformed regardless, but I’d like to think that had I not been rushing I could have rolled it into a perfect rectangle and it would have stayed that way.

Once you have your pastry rolled out into the shape you want, fold over the edges to form a crust and then “score” the pastry.  You technically don’t have to fold over the edges, but I like to as it gives the tart more of a crust (since mine never turn out quite as pretty as they do in the video!). Poke holes over the inside crust with a fork, line with more parchment, and fill with pie weights to keep it from rising.

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After twenty minutes in the oven, take the pastry out, remove the parchment and pie weights, and press down the inside crust if necessary (it will still rise a bit). Cover with the ricotta mixture and arrange your squash and zucchini slices on top. I like to alternate between the zucchini and summer squash, but you can do it any way you like. Twenty more minutes in the oven (longer if your squash slices are thicker or don’t look a little shriveled), then remove the tart and brush with butter (or olive oil), sprinkle with salt and pepper, and cook for five minutes more, until toasty. Garnish with feta, parmesan, basil, and/or whatever else you like. I like to serve this as an appetizer, but it’s perfect with a salad as a light lunch or dinner too.  It’s great warm or room temperature, but I love it cold. 

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Zucchini/summer squash, previously: Summer Squash and White Bean SautéZucchini and Ricotta GaletteCarrot Zucchini Muffins 

Tarts, previously: Leek and Swiss Chard

One year ago: Black Bean and Couscous Salad

Summer Squash Tart

Serves 6 a side, 8-10 as an appetizer 

1 sheet frozen puff pastry
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 small zucchini
2 small yellow squash
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup finely grated parmesan cheese (plus more for garnish)
1 egg, lightly beaten
Small handful chopped parsley
Zest of one small lemon
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
Small handful basil, torn or julienned

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F.  Cut a piece of parchment paper into a rectangle that will fit on your cookie sheet and sprinkle it with flour (you could use a silpat sheet here if you had one). Roll your pastry out on the floured parchment into a rectangle just smaller than the parchment. Fold the edges of the pastry over to form a thicker crust, and then with a small paring knife score a one-inch border within the crust (being careful to not cut through the pastry). Carefully transfer your pastry crust, on the parchment, onto the baking sheet.  Use a fork to prick small holes all over the bottom of the pastry, line with another sheet of parchment paper, and cover with pie weights.  Bake for 20 minutes, or until the edges are puffed and golden brown.  Remove the pastry from the oven and let cool.  Remove pie weights and top parchment.

Thinly slice the zucchini and squash (ideally with a mandoline, but by hand is fine if you don’t have one).

In a small bowl, mix together the ricotta, 1/4 cup parmesan, egg, parsley, and lemon zest.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Spread mixture over the pastry shell and arrange the zucchini and squash slices over the top. Return to the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes.  Remove and brush the tart with the melted butter.  Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper and return to the oven for 5-10 minutes, until the crust and veggies are golden brown. Remove from oven and sprinkle with the feta cheese and additional parmesan.

Let tart cool at least 10-15 minutes.  It can be served immediately after cooling, or later at room temperature or cold.  Garnish with basil before serving.

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Zucchini and Ricotta Galette

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I realize I just did a galette posting a couple weeks ago, but I’m doing another one for a few reasons: (1) it’s the only mildly interesting thing I’ve cooked in the past few weeks, (2) it was delicious, and (3) when I brought it to a girlfriend’s house for dinner last week everyone asked for the recipe, which I think means its worth sharing with all of you as well.

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Can we talk about my mandoline for a minute? I love it so much, and only wish I had more excuses/opportunities to use it in day to day life. I added it to my birthday gift wish list after seeing this blog posting last November, but so far I’ve only used it for potatoes, and now zucchini. Definitely look for my salted caramel apple tart this fall (I also want to make this one, and possibly this version this summer – although not sure how well the mandoline works on softer fruit, if anyone has any insight please advise).

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I was inspired to make this upon finding pie crust dough in my freezer, but I’ve made Smitten Kitchen’s sour cream crust in the past and its divine. If you wanted to use a store-bought crust, however, this would be a really easy dinner to throw together (especially if you use a mandoline).

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Yummy cheese filling – this is ricotta with parmesan and fresh mozzarella, but I think feta or chèvre would be really good here too.

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Top with sliced zucchini and drizzle with a little garlic-infused olive oil.

The recipe says to leave a two inch border when filling the crust with cheese and veggies, but I think next time I’ll roll out a larger crust so that I can have a bit more of a border and my galette might look a little prettier. The crust shrinks so much when it bakes that I think you need at least 3-4 inches to make it look as pretty as it does in Deb’s pics.

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Shower with basil chiffonade and voila! Good friends, great conversation, hip cocktails (thanks Sarah!!) and a pastry crust filled with cheese and fresh summer produce, what more could you ever want on a gorgeous (albeit not as warm as it was supposed to be) Seattle evening?   If you want to try this at home, you can find the recipe here – and let me know if your crust turns out a lot prettier than mine did!

 

Summer Squash and White Bean Sauté {and a new source for recipe inspiration}

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I’ve been on a roll lately with grocery shopping on Sunday nights and then prepping lots of healthy meals and snacks for the week (this is exciting because there are times where I can go for weeks without setting foot in a grocery store, and end up eating most meals at Starbucks and/or the wine bar in my building). No matter how exhausted I am after a busy weekend, it’s so worth it to drag myself to the grocery store – I love waking up on Monday knowing that I have everything I need for my green smoothie, a lunch already packed, and dinner when I come home – so I’m that much less likely to go to happy hour (or at least, less likely to order a pizza at happy hour).

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My cousin Clare sent me this recipe on Friday, along with the suggestion to sign up for kitchendaily.com. They send you an email with recipe ideas every morning, and you can customize your account so that the recipes are based on your food preferences/dietary needs/number of people you’re cooking for. Perfect for those of us who are always on the lookout for fun new recipes or inspiration.

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I modified the recipe a little – I have a hard time buying regular tomatoes these days, when grape tomatoes are so much easier to cut (or to pop into your mouth).

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Yum, cheese. This might be a little more than the recipe called for.

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Onions and garlic. If you were my friend Scott, now is the time where you would comment on my knife skills (or lack thereof). But in my defense, I was trying to hurry to get dinner on the table.

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I had to switch from my frying pan to a soup pot, which I think means I need to get a larger saute pan soon – this should be a one-dish meal.

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Summer Squash and White Bean Saute, from Kitchen Daily – their version here

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, halved and sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced
1 medium yellow summer squash, halved lengthwise and sliced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 15-ounce can white beans, rinsed well, or 1 1/2 – 2 cups dried beans, soaked overnight
2 medium tomatoes, chopped, or a couple handfuls grape tomatoes, cut in half
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/3 cup finely grated parmesan cheese

Directions:

1. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until onions begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add zucchini, squash, oregano, salt, and pepper and stir to combine. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook until the vegetables are crisp-tender, about 3-5 minutes.

2. Stir in beans, tomatoes and vinegar; increase heat to medium and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in parmesan. Serve on top of pasta, rice, quinoa, cous cous, or any grain you like – I used barley, and then just stirred the leftover barley into the leftover beans and veggies for easy one-pot leftovers.

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Nutrition Information:

195 calories (54 calories from fat)
6 g fat (2 g saturated, 4 g monounsaturated)
600 mg sodium
25 g carbs
11 g protein
8 g fiber
5 mg cholesterol