Here’s what you should REALLY do with all that zucchini

OK, I know I teased you by mentioning zucchini in a post last week. But then I took off in another direction, extolling the virtues of fresh tomatoes and cukes, mint and onions and peppers. And poor old zucchini, the orphan of the garden, got left in the dust. (Or mud, if you’ve had the kind of summer we’ve had up here in Vermont.)

But in truth, zucchini is a happy-go-lucky vegetable: you’re happy when you find a recipe that features zucchini, and lucky when it actually works. For example, zucchini takes well to grilling (splash with soy sauce for flavor); and it’s a nice (though potentially mushy) stand-in for eggplant in cannelloni or Parmigiana. And if you’re looking to round out a stir-fry, zucchini’s bulk and mild flavor are just the ticket.

So zucchini, I’m sorry we all malign you. You’re like the bluejay: your ubiquity hides your beauty. But, given the chance, you can shine. So center stage is now yours: let’s see a virtuoso performance out there. Oh, and one more thing: not that I don’t love you, but remind me to plant just ONE zucchini next year…

img_8033.JPGHere they are, the stars of the show. Big fat zucchini. Little skinny zucchini that fell off the vine and started to wrinkle. I’m sure your garden has every possible incarnation of ready-to-pick zucchini right now. Did you ever wonder why there aren’t “u-pick” zucchini farms out there, like there are for strawberries and blueberries? Great concept, huh? NOT.

img_8037.JPGFirst, we’re going to take zucchini and make something completely antithetical out of it: chocolate cake. You’ve heard of zucchini bread, right? Zucchini muffins, and pancakes? Same concept, taking zucchini and mixing it with flour, sugar, eggs, butter… But (my opinion), bringing it to a new level. Let’s start with sugar, butter, baking powder/soda, salt, vanilla, and vegetable oil.

img_8038.JPGBeat till smooth.

img_8039.JPGAdd eggs, and beat again.

img_8040.JPGThen stir in the sour cream (or yogurt), and flour, alternating one with the other to keep the batter light and lump-free.

img_8041.JPGNext comes the cocoa and espresso powder. I lovelovelove our Double Dutch Dark Cocoa, a combination of black cocoa and Dutch process. It honestly makes the BEST cake and brownies. And espresso powder is like vanilla—you can’t taste it, but it heightens chocolate’s flavor. If you’re a dedicated chocoholic, trust me; you should have both of these ingredients in your pantry at all times.

img_8042.JPGNow add chocolate chips, and 3 cups of shredded or grated (not liquefied!) zucchini. Which translates to about 1 medium (10”) zucchini, about 12 ounces. I know, this doesn’t make much of a dent in your crop. But wait—there’s more! Let’s get through the cake first.

img_8043.JPGPour the batter into a greased 9” x 13” pan…

img_8044.JPG…and smooth it into the corners.

img_8045.JPGBake the cake till the top springs back and it seems fairly set, about 30 minutes. Then remove it from the oven, and sprinkle the top with 1 cup of chocolate chips.

img_8046.JPGThis is 1 cups’ worth of chips. For a thicker glaze, feel free to increase the amount of chips.

img_8049.JPG Bake the cake for an additional 5 minutes, then remove it from the oven, and use a spatula to spread the soft chips over the surface of the cake. Instant icing!

img_8050.JPGI thought the icing looked kind of boring, so I sprinkled it with coarse white sugar, my best friend when it comes to instant makeover in the world of beautiful baked goods. Not only did the sugar perk up the cake’s appearance—it added an interesting and enjoyable crunch, a lovely textural contrast to the soft, moist cake and smooth icing.

img_8071.JPGYee-haw! Who knew zucchini could look like this?!

img_8082.JPGBut big deal, right? You used one measly zucchini in the cake. Here’s what to do when you no longer feel comfortable sneaking over to the neighbors’ at midnight and leaving zucchinis on their doorstep.

img_8068.JPGThere’s no written recipe for this, so don’t be looking for it online. What you see here is as formal as it gets. First, heat some olive oil in a big pan. Then add grated zucchini. You can add enough to cover the bottom of the pan to a thickness of about 1/2”, but don’t heap it up too much; it needs to sauté.

img_8075.JPGFry the zucchini till it shrinks and its liquid evaporates, then sprinkle in salt to taste, ground black pepper, and Italian seasoning or your favorite combination of oregano, basil, hot pepper… whatever herbs you like.

img_8077.JPGNow add an egg or two or three. For this 12” skillet’s worth of zucchini, I added 2 eggs.

img_8078.JPGScrape the zucchini and eggs around the pan till well combined, and the egg is cooked.

img_8081.JPGThe egg will make the zucchini hang together. It turns it into something a little fancier than just plain fried zucchini.

img_8087.JPGMy Italian mother-in-law doesn’t add cheese, but I like to shave some Asiago or Parmesan over the top. Mangia! Your zucchini never had it so good…

No bake vs. buy info. this time, folks. I couldn’t find chocolate zucchini cake on any online restaurant menu or bakery listing. And as for the zucchini and egg—that doesn’t even have a name, let alone any fame!

Read, review, and rate (please!) our recipe for Chocolate Zucchini Cake.

PJ Hamel
About

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!

comments

  1. LBL

    Hands down THE best chocolate cake I’ve made to date (and I’ve made a LOT of chocolate cake). Thank you SO MUCH! 🙂

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      We haven’t tried that here Phoebe, but it doesn’t mean it’s off limits. I made parsnip cupcakes once that were better than any carrot cake I ever had! Radishes certainly have a more assertive flavor and are not quite as moist as zucchini, so we bet you’d end up with quite a different product if you made this swap. You may consider adding some honey for extra sweetness and a bit of milk to make up for the lack of moisture. If you give it a go, let us know how it comes out! Happy baking! Kye@KAF

    2. Mary

      There’s a book,I have called “Secrets of Fat-Free Baking” that lists all kinds of things to add moisture instead of fat. Cauliflower, sweet potato, applesauce, apple butter, zucchini, lecithin, prune butter, even sauerkraut… how pronounced do you want it to be? I would think that parsnips would be sweeter and better camouflaged, and radishes have more bite. Do you want to recognize it? I wonder, could radishes be used if you’re also adding chile powder, to give it a Mexican snap? I wouldn’t use radishes, but that just me. Sounds too pronounced.

  2. jtee4short

    I’ll consider making the chocolate zucchini cake later, but for now I’m gonna make the zucchini-egg saute for the second time. That’s tasty!

    Reply
    1. The Baker's Hotline

      That sounds really tasty, way better than my apple and peanut butter “brunch”. Care to share? Jon@KAF

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