5 days after we returned from the West Coast, I set out to make my versions of the best dishes we ate there. Things like steamed clams with roasted tomatoes and slow cooked beans with corn and feta. Most of these recipes were my own interpretations - I didn't have recipes to follow so I trusted my memory and referenced the notes I typed in between bites. Some of the dishes were hits and others were nothing like the original I was emulating. Regardless of the outcome, I enjoy trying. It's fun to bring home a taste of your vacation.
But, sometimes I get lucky and stumble across the recipe for one of these most notable dishes. I fell in love with the Olive Oil Zucchini Bread from The Whale Wins in Seattle so you can only imagine the happy dance I did when I found the recipe online.
I like this zucchini bread a lot because it feels incredibly fall appropriate (it's grilled!) but it also feels like the kind of thing you could serve at the end of a dinner party and no one would bat an eye. Most zucchini bread conjures visions of picnics and afternoon snacks but this one is dignified and very adult-like. Which means it would be perfect for your next dinner party (or just because it's Sunday).
Olive Oil Zucchini Cake
Recipe Adapted from Not Without Salt
I dialed back the sugar because I found the amount of sugar in zucchini breads to be absurdly high. I feel you could cut the sugar back by a couple more tablespoons but haven't tested this yet so I don't want to say you definitely should! Feel free to try and let me know.
Makes 1 9-by-5-inch loaf pan
For the Cake
3 cups grated zucchini (from 1 pound zucchini)
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar, divided
Unsalted butter, for the pan
2 cups (about 256 grams) all-purpose flour, sifted, plus more for the pan
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon finely grated nutmeg
3 large eggs
Grated zest from 2 large lemons
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup minus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon turbinado or demerara sugar
Créme fraiche or if you are like me, thick greek yogurt or labnah
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon or Jacobsen
Preheat the oven to 350•F.
For the cake: In a mixing bowl, blend the zucchini with 1/4 cups of the granulated sugar. Transfer the mixture to a fine-mesh strainer and set the strainer over the mixing bowl. Fill another bowl, this one just big enough to fit inside the strainer, about halfway with water and carefully set the water bowl directly on top of the zucchini. (This presses the water out of the zucchini.)
Butter and flour a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan, and set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, ginger, baking powder, baking soda, and nutmeg.
In another bowl, whisk together the remaining 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar, eggs, lemon zest and vanilla until well blended. beat in the olive oil in three stages, whisking until it is thoroughly combined each time.
Gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until no white spots remain. Working with a handful of zucchini at a time, use your hands to press and wring all excess moisture out of the zucchini. When all the zucchini has been pressed, add it to the batter, and stir it in gently until evenly distributed.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle the top evenly with the turbinado sugar. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 70 to 75 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.
Cool the bread in the pan for about 20 minutes, then turn it out onto a cooling rack and let it cool completely.
To serve: Cut the bread into 1-inch-thick slabs. Melt about 3 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. (Use the same amount of butter for however many pieces of bread will fit into the skillet at once.) When the butter is melted and foamy, add a few slices, and cook for a few minutes on each side, until warm and toasted. Serve the bread over a smear of créme fraiche, sprinkled with sea salt. Repeat with the remaining bread.