Of jazz—a riff

My mother is a profound believer in the power of zucchini. A zucchini patch, she says, is a meal. It can feed a family for breakfast, for lunch, for dinner on the grill. You name the zucchini recipe, she's made it. She has four recipes for zucchini bread alone.

That one you see up there—the one with the thick, moist center and the thin green flecks—is her standby, the one she makes the most. She's had it for so long she can't remember where the recipe came from anymore—only that it's a keeper, and that it's equally good as muffins or loaves.

She makes the others every now and again—Chocolate Zucchini Bread from our friend Maddie, this Special Zucchini Bread from Heidi Swanson, Lynn's Spicy Zucchini Bread from the Victory Garden Cookbook.

But it's the loaf up there that tastes like zucchini season to me—the one that feels like sitting on the forest green stools at the kitchen counter with a knife and a stick of butter, carefully slathering one slice, then another, until the bread is gone. My mother's made a few twists over the years—swapped whole wheat pastry flour for all-purpose, thrown in a handful of poppyseeds, left in or out the nuts depending on who was home—but essentially, it's the same tried and true loaf.

The other day, I tried a version of my own. I found a baseball bat growing out from a vine wrapped around the raspberries in the garden and grated it down. I dug out a bag of rye flour from what we got in our grain CSA and added cinnamon, salt, nutmeg. I dug around in the cupboard until I found the apple cider molasses I bought this spring in a tiny store in New York, and a few minutes later, packed the oven with two loaves.

It wasn't too different from my mother's—but I was thrilled with the way the squash played off the rye. The shift reminded me of jazz—the way the same chord, played over and over, changes each time. It was a zucchini bread riff—an improv of whole wheat, molasses, spice—the same chord that somehow sounded different, new, just right.


Though I usually make it into loaves, this recipe also makes wonderful muffins. Simply scoop the batter into prepared tins, and shorten the cooking time to about 20 minutes. Also, my mother says it's a good idea to wring out your zucchini after you grate it—otherwise the bread can get too wet.

3 large eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 tablespoon molasses or apple cider molasses
3 and 1/2 cups grated zucchini
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups rye flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup poppyseeds
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour two bread tins. Whisk together the eggs, oil, vanilla, and molasses in a large bowl. Add the zucchini and stir well.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours, salt, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, and poppyseeds. Pour these dry ingredients into the zucchini mixture and stir until just combined. Add the nuts if using, then divide the batter evenly between the two loaf pans.

Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, or until the bread is still moist in the center but just cooked through.


fresh365 said...

I love zucchini as well, but I am even more excited to hear about this grain CSA. Off to check this out!

Life At Cobble Hill Farm said...

Although I don't have any apple cider molasses, I'll be trying this wonderful looking recipe tomorrow night with regular molasses. Thanks for sharing!

Elspeth said...


It's so cool, isn't it!? Grains were the one thing we were having a really hard time with, and we feel very lucky to have heard about this from the get-go. Our share has been great—a bit more than we could eat all by ourselves, but we shared a bit with my parents.

and Staci,

Enjoy! It is such an easy and delicious recipe—and with two loaves doesn't disappear in a day like most sweet breads around here. You'll have to let us know how it turns out!

All the best,

Alexandra said...

Thanks for this recipe. My zuke plants are always attacked by the squash vine borer. Any suggestions on how to get rid of it?

Elspeth said...


I have not yet had any run-ins (knock on wood) with the squash borer, so I'm sorry, but no suggestions on that front. As for the bread, it is one of my favorite recipes—enjoy!



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