The Simple, Humble Zucchini

This versatile vegetable lends itself to sweet and savory preparations.

Delaware’s local farmers markets are a veritable treasure trove of the freshest and finest produce our soil offers. These vibrant markets serve as the heart of our communities, where the countryside’s rustic charm meets the town folks’ inquisitiveness. Southern Delaware farmers bring their best goods, from field beans to juicy tomatoes, ripe peaches to sweet corn, and one of the crowd favorites, our beloved and sometimes overlooked zucchini.

There’s a certain beauty in the simple, humble zucchini that we, in Delaware, are privileged to enjoy. As a Delaware native and chef, I have a unique admiration for the versatile, flavorful produce that our fertile lands generously provide. The diverse selection and the vibrant farmers markets championing our zucchini demonstrate the intersection of our community’s culinary prowess and agricultural heritage.

Raised in Southern Delaware, I was blessed with lush gardens as a constant backdrop to my childhood. The versatile zucchini or summer squash was the constant among the various seasonal offerings. As a child, I took great pleasure in planting the seeds, nurturing them with water and the sun’s warmth as they sprouted into lush zucchini plants. These experiences filled me with joy and accomplishment and have greatly influenced my career as a noted chef today. They ignited a lifelong passion for fresh produce.

The zucchini grown in the Mid-Atlantic region has a distinct charm. The abundant sunlight and excellent soil drainage in our local climate impart the vegetable a different flavor, making it both crisp and tender. However, the marvel of zucchini lies in the myriad shapes, sizes and types it can morph into.

During the balmy summer months, visiting a Delaware farmers market or stand reveals an astonishing array of zucchinis. The sheer variety is astounding, from the small, stripy Cocozelle to the bulbous and pale Cue Ball. Each type brings its own flavor profile and texture, making zucchini a highly adaptable ingredient in any kitchen.

One of my most beloved culinary applications of this vegetable is in zucchini bread, a recipe I have honed to perfection over the years. The zucchini’s natural sweetness harmonizes perfectly with spices like cinnamon and vanilla. At the same time, its moisture guarantees a soft and tender crumb.

But the magic of zucchini doesn’t stop with bread. It’s a food that lends itself beautifully to sweet and savory preparations. Whether grilled or roasted, zucchini develops a pleasing char and an intensified sweetness. Thinly sliced and eaten raw brings a refreshing crunch to salads.

So, revel in the versatility of zucchini, enjoy its flavors and above all, have fun with it. Because cooking is about nurturing, experimenting and finding joy in the journey.

ZUCCHINI BREAD

Makes 4 loaves

INGREDIENTS

4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder (rounded)

½ tablespoon baking soda

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 large eggs

2 ¼ cups granulated sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

3 cups grated zucchini
(about 4 medium zucchinis)

¾ cup chopped nuts (walnuts or pecans), optional

➊ Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour four, 9×5-inch loaf pans or line them with parchment paper.

➋ In a medium saucepan, melt the unsalted butter over medium heat until it turns a light brown color and gives off a nutty aroma. Remove from heat and let it cool for a few minutes.

➌ In a large mixing bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, ground cinnamon and salt until combined.

➍ Whisk together the brown butter, eggs, sugar, vegetable oil and vanilla extract in a separate bowl until the mixture is smooth and well-incorporated.

➎ Gradually add the dry ingredient mixture to the wet ingredients, stirring until combined. Avoid overmixing, as this may result in tough bread.

➏ Gently fold the grated zucchini and chopped nuts (if using) into the batter.

➐ Divide the batter equally among the four prepared loaf pans and bake for about 50 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center of each loaf comes out clean.

➑ Let loaves cool in the pans for about 10 minutes. Carefully transfer the zucchini bread loaves to a
wire rack to cool completely before slicing.

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