Tag Archives: dairy

CSA Quandary: Zucchini

For the past two weeks, I’ve received four pounds of zucchini in my CSA share. I like zucchini just fine, but it’s not my favorite vegetable, so (with the help of Facebook and Twitter) I crowd-sourced some ideas of what to do with my bounty. Food writer Leah Koenig linked me to her zucchini post on Saveur’s website.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake piqued my interest because of its seemingly bizarre combination of ingredients. The recipe is good — very easy to follow. I, of course, complicated matters because I was missing a few ingredients and had no interest in schlepping out to the grocery store at 9pm. The missing ingredients: corn oil, one of the two eggs, and buttermilk.

The substitutions:

  • Corn Oil: The only cooking fats in my house last night were virgin coconut oil (I didn’t want to make the cake coco-nutty), butter, ghee, and duck fat. (This is why I need to go grocery shopping sooner rather than later.) I decided to go with melted butter. If I hadn’t just finished all my olive oil, I would have used that as a replacement.
  • One Egg: Having gone to a culinary school with a heavily vegan curriculum, I learned that flax seeds can act as egg replacers in baked goods. 1 egg = 1 tablespoon finely ground flax seeds + 3 tablespoons water
  • Buttermilk: I happened to have whole milk on hand. Generally, 1 cup buttermilk = 7.5 ounces milk + 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar or lemon juice.
The results were good, although I think I overcooked the cake slightly. I’m still figuring out the calibration of my oven. I also omitted powdered sugar because my sweet tooth simply isn’t that strong. Here is the recipe as I have prepared it.
Chocolate Zucchini Bread (tweaked)
Serves 8
  • 1 tablespoon flax seeds, finely ground
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon distilled white vinegar
  • 3 1/2 ounces whole milk
  • 2 medium zucchini, trimmed and grated on large holes of box grater
  • 9 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
  • 2 3/4 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup confectioners sugar
  1. Make Egg Replacer: stir together ground flax seeds and water. Set aside.
  2. Make Buttermilk Substitute: stir together vinegar and whole milk. Set aside.
  3. Working in batches, put a small mound of zucchini in center of large square of double-layer cheesecloth. Gather corners together and squeeze out as much water as possible. Transfer zucchini to a bowl and set aside.
  4. Preheat oven to 325º. Butter a deep 9″ cake pan with 1 tablespoon of the butter. Sift flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt together into a mixing bowl and set aside. Beat together remaining 8 tablespoons of butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy, 3-4 minutes.
  5. Add melted butter, beating well. Beat in egg, then egg replacer. Add vanilla, reduce speed to low, and beat in flour mixture and buttermilk substitute in 3 alternate batches. Stir in reserved zucchini.
  6. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 1 hour and 20 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside to let cool. Invert onto a plate and dust with sugar.

Not the prettiest presentation, but it sure is tasty!

My Beef with Veganism

Full Disclosure: I don’t have a TV at the moment, so I don’t have access to Oprah’s show right now.

I heard about Oprah’s vegan challenge through the grapevine (you know, Twitter). I was immediately skeptical. The last time I saw Michael Pollan on Oprah, his segment was followed by a vegan segment with Alicia Silverstone. Pollan, in case you don’t know, is an advocate of unprocessed, whole-foods, mostly plant-based eating. Ms. Silverstone’s segment was about how and why she became a vegan. The cameras followed her through a shopping trip at Whole Foods Market, and I distinctly remember a number of processed, soy-based meat alternatives going into her shopping cart. And this was after Ms. Silverstone herself spoke of the importance of eating whole foods.

One of my Twitter-folk shared this blog post by food writer Dawn Viola of Wicked Good Dinners:  Oprah’s Vegan Challenge, Not a Vegetable in Site. Turns out I was right to be skeptical: “…Kathy had filled Jill’s entire shopping cart with processed soy and meat substitutes, cheese substitutes, milk, butter and egg substitutes, without one fruit, vegetable, grain, nut, seed or bean represented in its natural form.”

So this is why I get frustrated with some vegans (I definitely know vegans who lead a mostly whole-food, meat-substitute-free lifestyle). I don’t see how processed meat substitutes made of corn and soy are sustainable — they’re certainly not healthy. In an episode of Krista Tippet on Being, Dan Barber talks about New York State’s ecology:

“My ecological conditions are dictating that we eat a lot of meat because we’re grassland. What we grow best… is an amazing diversity of healthful grass for animals. …For me to be a vegetarian, and be a strict advocate of it wouldn’t be listening to the ecology of it that the land is telling us it wants to grow.”

Flock in Winter, Spring Lake Farm, Meredith, NY. Photo: Ulla Kjarval.

Flock in Winter, Spring Lake Farm, Meredith, NY. Photo: Ulla Kjarval.

I simply don’t buy the argument that eating vegan in New York State is the healthful, sustainable choice. Now, if you live in southern California, where the growing season lasts 13 months out of the year (which is weird, I know, since there are only 12 months in the calendar year), going vegan makes a whole lot more sense. Eating a lot of beef and dairy makes very little sense out there since the land is not naturally grassland. There’s a lot of desert, and sustaining livestock involves irrigation and all sorts of finagling with the natural terrain. Dan Barber continues:

“If you want to be in New England, and you want to improve the ecological conditions of where you are, you’re eating meat. There’s no question about it. There is no healthy ecological system that I’ve ever seen that doesn’t include animals. It just doesn’t. Because the manure from the animals is a free ecological resource that amends the soil that gives you better tasting and healthful vegetables. That’s been around since the beginning of time.”

In a future post, I’ll discuss the health benefits of eating grass-fed meat and dairy. Also, the differences in the fat/nutrient profiles of grass-fed versus grain-fed meat.

Cattle Grazing at Spring Lake Farm, Meredith, NY. Photo: Ulla Kjarval

Cattle Grazing at Spring Lake Farm, Meredith, NY. Photo: Ulla Kjarval