Once upon a time my daughter was not a big-shot junior high kid in the know. She was just a toddling moppet – keen on alphabet games, wild for all things A to Z, and this was handy in grocery lines and waiting rooms and 600-mile drives. We played color alphabet (azure), color-animal-alphabet (azure aardvark), color-animal-place-alphabet (azure aardvark in Alabama) and of course, color-animal-place-oh-my-god-please-kill-me alphabet.
But before it came to that we played eating alphabet. All you had to do was name foods from A to Z – simple, but with three people in rotation, some letters could get tough. There are very few “I” foods, for instance, and a notoriously scarce supply of “U’s.” And then there is “Z.” If you had first crack at Z, you were golden – “zucchini” was yours. If you didn’t, there were twenty miles of silence and praying she’d fall asleep.
We never used “zucchini bread,” and – smack! – even now I don’t know why. It’s not my favorite quick bread – easily, banana nut – but it shines as a home-baked savior come the summer garden’s end. Today – true-life, I swear on a stack of candied walnuts – I overheard this conversation at the coffee shop:
(During the busy morning rush, a customer leans on the counter, waiting for her triple soy half-caf, perusing baked goods. There is a line behind her.)
Latte Lady: I don’t know…
Barista Girl: (pulling shots) would you like something else?
LL: I don’t know…I don’t want a scone. (holds up baked good) What’s this?
BG: zucchini bread. Like some?
LL: no….no…I don’t like zucchini. Bread, I don’t like zucchini bread.
BG: really? It’s so good, it’s like the American mom thing, everybody loves it.
LL: um…I don’t know. I’ve never had zucchini bread.
BG: you’ve never had it?
BG: so…how do you know you don’t like it?
(the line is mounting; people are checking watches, shifting feet)
BG: do you like banana bread?
BG: carrot cake?
LL: oh, yes.
BG: then you’ll like zucchini bread.
(Customers shoot laser glances at her head. I am not even in line – I already have my coffee, but I still want to kill her)
LL: you know, I think it’s Z.
LL: I just don’t like foods that begin with Z.
(plunks latte on counter)
Then I guess you won’t like zebra bread.
LL: zebra bread?
BG. oh, yeah – it’s a little chunky, and all that black and white fur. It’s totally an acquired taste.
LL: oh my god.
BG: can I get you a scone?
This fine-textured zucchini bread has a gentle ginger bite. I’d planned to top this with a little lemon icing, but one bite told me it didn’t need it. Cold milk – or a triple soy half-caf whatever – will do just fine.
2 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 tablespoon powdered ginger
1 ounce fresh ginger, peeled and grated fine (about 1 – 1 1/2 tablespoons)*
2 cups finely shredded, unpeeled zucchini, packed*
optional: 1 cup finely chopped nuts
1 tablespoon vanilla
* I use a fine-holed grater to both shred the zucchini and grate the ginger, for the smallest bits possible. When grating the ginger, be sure to use only the “puree” you’ve scraped from under the grater, and discard the fibrous parts left in your hand.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Use baking spray (and parchment paper, if desired) to prepare at 9 x 5 loaf pan or a 10-inch tube pan. If you make the 9 x 5 loaf, you will have a small amount of batter left over: make a mini-loaf or a few zucchini muffins.
Using an electric mixer, beat the sugar, oil and eggs together for a few minutes, until thick and a slight yellow ribbon falls from beaters.
In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and powdered ginger together.
Fold the zucchini, fresh ginger and optional nuts into the sugar-egg mixture. Fold in the flour mixture and vanilla until thoroughly combined.
Pour batter into prepared pan (or pans), filling large loaf pan 2/3 full.