Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Zucchini Bread

I recognize that some of you (if more than one person is reading this) may be tired of all the gardening blog posts. Probably just as tired as everyone within my circle of friends is of zucchini. But I will not rest until the last blossom has come and gone and I have pulled the plants from the earth with my bare hands, which should probably be in the next few weeks. Honestly I'm probably projecting my feelings about zucchini on to you. It's almost embarrassing to have this much of it. But I am poor enough and close enough to the college experience to be physically incapable of turning down free food, which this zucchini essentially is.
So, here it is from me to you: zucchini bread! This recipe is easy to use and pretty much fool proof. I don't bake much, so my confidence when attempting this was so-so, but it turned out beautifully and used up a giant zucchini. 

What you're gonna need:
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 1/4 cups white sugar
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups grated zucchini
  • 1 cup chocolate chips 
In a moment of honesty I need to share with you, that the original recipe called for walnuts and I thought "I don't want walnuts. Who the hell would want walnuts in this? I'm gonna put in chocolate chips instead" as if that is a reasonable substitute. It turns out, it was, but just so you know you can put walnuts, or raisins, or whatever you want in this bread.

So first you need to grease and flour two 8 x 4 inch pans. I double the recipe and got 3 large loaves, so maybe I was off with my pouring into the pans. Do whatever you want, I trust your judgment on this one. Then preheat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). 

Next, sift flour, salt, baking powder, soda, nutmeg and cinnamon together in a bowl. 
Like so...
Beat eggs, oil, vanilla, and sugar together in a large bowl. Add sifted ingredients to the creamed mixture, and beat well. I did this by hand for two reasons. One, I don't like to make more dishes and involving the mixer would have added to my dish count by a large number. And two, I thought, "Well this can count as a work out for the day, right?" And I stand my that assertion. Stir in zucchini and chocolate chips until well combined. Pour batter into prepared pans.

Bake for 40 to 60 minutes, or until tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack for 20 minutes. Remove bread from pan, and completely cool. 

Super-easy and delicious. Also, it is a good way to get rid of zucchini, and people appreciate baked goods as gifts. I believe that if you have zucchini in your garden and you try this recipe you will become more popular, if only in your own household. Of the 3 loaves that I made I gave one away and we've eaten the other two within a week.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Pork Tenderloin Over A Bed of Apples

It feels like Fall. I know it's not actually Fall yet, but kids are heading back to school and we've had a sudden shift in the weather here in Northern California. It sprinkled a bit yesterday and today. Just enough to remind us that Summer is short and, in the words of the Starks, "Winter is coming...".

I love Fall, the crispness in the air, the excitement of new beginnings, and the shortening of days. In all honesty I love all changes in weather, which is interesting since other changes seem to be a bit of a problem. But I'm sure that's true for everyone, right?

In honor this imagined change of seasons and the 4 pork loin roasts my mom bought at Costco, I made Julia Child and Jacques Pepin's "Pork Tenderloin Over A Bed of Apples". Really the whole recipe thing is a sham, no one really needs a recipe for this. It is as easy as it sounds. If you don't count spices or butter there are two ingredients in this recipe: pork loin and apples. That's it. Really! Now, the recipe part can be helpful in learning timing and temperature for roasting pork tenderloin, but other than that the whole thing is crazily intuitive.

First, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Then, you cut the apples. A simple step. You even get to leave the peels on. Just think apple slices like for a school lunch (you see how perfectly this fits into the season :o) ). You can use any apples, but Gala are the suggested variety.

Then you add some butter and olive oil to a oven-safe baking dish (a dutch oven works great) and put it on the stove. Next season your meat rubbing pepper, salt, and herbs de provence onto it. Herbs de provence consists of marjoram, thyme, basil, rosemary, sage, and fennel seeds generally, but in a pinch you can use whatever of those you have on hand.

Once you've seasoned you loin, brown the meat on all sides in the butter. After the meat is brown, remove it from the dish, add the apples to the bottom, and give it a quick stir. Sprinkle 2 tsp of salt, 1 Tbsp of sugar, and 1/2 tsp of pepper onto the apples (or season to taste as Julia was fond of saying). Then put the roast onto the bed of apples and place in the oven.

The roast will take 40-60 minutes to cook. Baste with it's own juices throughout the cooking time. I timed it to about every 20 minutes and had beautiful results. Start checking the temperature of the meat at around 40 minutes-- you'll want it to be 150 degrees-- and you should be good.

Once you've hit that sweet spot, take the roast out of the oven place of the rack to cool for 10 minutes before slicing. 

This was beautiful and delicious! The most tender pork I've had in ages. There's a tendency in my family to overcook pork and it ends up dry and needs a lot of help with sauces and things to work well. All this needed was the apples. So good! Buon Appetit!