I spent yesterday morning freshening the upstairs rooms, making beds, running the vacuum cleaner, sweeping and mopping floors at Aunt Katie’s, in anticipation of company coming. Aunt Margaret, my cousin Gail and others were arriving on the afternoon ferry. I met the boat and stopped back at the farmhouse to visit for a bit. I promised I’d stop back today, before going to work.
We were supposed to – maybe – get a frost last night. In anticipation, I’d gathered all the summer squash, zucchini, beans, peppers, tomatoes and Swiss chard that could be harvested yesterday afternoon. I went out in the evening and covered the tomato plants.
Today was supposed to be my day off, but I was asked to fill in for someone. I’m covering the dinner shift and don’t have to be there until four-thirty, so it still kind of feels like a day off.
I started my morning by checking on the garden. No frost! I took the covers off the tomatoes. Juggling coffee cup and gathering pail, I wandered the perimeter of the yard gathering enough berries for breakfast, then came in to get on with the day.
All of the produce I’d collected yesterday had to be dealt with…except for the Swiss chard, which I’d had with dinner last night.
First the tomatoes, peeled and chopped, go into the big kettle. Peppers next: one hot, one mild. I set aside the young beans for a side dish, but the larger ones, ends nipped off and roughly chopped, get added to the pot. Small squash – whether yellow, light green or dark – go back to the vegetable bin, too. Medium-sized get washed and set aside for grating. The large ones, cut into chunks, go into the kettle. There is still room, so I go back to the garden to cut some kale. I gather purslane, parsley and basil on the way back. All goes in to the soup pot. I add just enough water to prevent sticking and put it on the stove to simmer.
When the whole mix has stewed until it’s tender, I’ll chill it. Tomorrow, I’ll put it through the food mill, and store it, labelled “soup base” in quarts for the freezer. I use it instead of water to cook rice. I use it with other ingredients to make soups or sauces. It makes a great braising liquid. With only a bit of seasoning and a dollop of sour cream or yogurt, it stands on its own as a pureed soup. It’s flavor is always different, based on what ingredients went in, but it’s always good…and always easy.
Now for grated squash. I grow three types of summer squash and – though they all have slightly different flavors and textures – use them interchangeably in recipes. When I put them up, grated, for zucchini pancakes, zucchini-crust pizza or zucchini bread, I just mix them all together. I like the little flecks of yellow or light green, and they are similar enough in taste to work.
This is one of the few jobs I actually like my food processor for. Though I’ve regretted buying it almost from the moment I got it home, hate the amount of cupboard space it takes up, despise the many small pieces to wash and store, and feel I could easily live a full life without it, the food processor does make quick work of grating a mountain of summer squash. Six quarts, labelled and dated, were in the freezer by noon.
There were four cups left over when I ran out of containers. I’d make zucchini bread! My recipe – actually James Beard’s rendition of Carl Goh’s zucchini bread – calls for two cups of peeled, grated zucchini. Who peels zucchini? Not me! Since my mound of unpeeled, mixed squash measured four cups, I’d have to double the recipe. No problem.
I had six eggs broken and beaten before realizing I didn’t have four cups of sugar in the house.
Okay. Two and a half cups of sugar and one half cup of real maple syrup would have to do.
Two cups of oil seemed like a lot. Aunt Margaret, in her baking days, used to substitute applesauce for part of the oil in recipes.
No apple sauce in my house.
But (aha!), one small jar of yams. I ask myself, might mashed yams be – taste and texture-wise – about the same mushy sweetness as apple sauce? Maybe. One cup of oil, one cup of mashed yams.
Three cups of all-purpose flour means that I need six cups in my doubled recipe.
That ended up being two cups of all-purpose flour, three cups of whole wheat flour and one cup of brown rice flour.
Baking powder, baking soda and vanilla caused no issues.
I spilled the cinnamon, so that was a bit more than what the recipe called for.
I had no walnuts or filberts, but a generous cup of slivered almonds went in.
After filling two loaf pans, I decided to add a half-cupful of dried cranberries to the rest of the batter before filling the third loaf pan and the muffin cups.
Bake one hour, except for the muffins which finished sooner.
This was supposed to be Carl Goh’s zucchini bread as interpreted by James Beard.
I’m calling it mine!
Checking messages, I see I am now supposed to be at work by three-thirty or four. I still have to walk the dogs, refrigerate the soup base, wrap the zucchini bread, change clothes and get out of the house in time to stop at the farmhouse. So much for my supposed day off!