A Perfect Spring Meal

I’m a little late on the au courant cookbook scene, having just checked out Ottolenghi and Tamini’s Jerusalem a couple of weeks ago, but I’m so pleased with the first dish I made out of it that I’ve been exploring more recipes ever since. The night I made burgers, we also had homemade bread and butter, as well as a big bowl of fruit, and I thought 1) I wish this meal would magically appear on my table again tomorrow night  and 2) the sunshine, this meal, and my family have made this night perfect. So far, these burgers are still my favorite dish from the book, but there’s still more I’m trying . . .

Turkey & Zucchini Burgers

  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • 1 large zucchini, coarsely grated (scant 2 cups)
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 large egg
  • 2 T. chopped mint
  • 2 T. chopped cilantro
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 t. ground cumin
  • 1 t. salt
  • ½ t. fresh ground pepper
  • ½ t. cayenne pepper
  • 6½ T. sunflower oil, for searing
Yogurt Sauce
  • scant ½ c. sour cream
  • scant ⅔ c. Greek yogurt
  • 1 t. grated lemon zest
  • 1 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 small clove garlic, crushed
  • 1½ t. olive oil
  • 1 T. sumac (I omitted, because I have to search harder to find this here)
  • ½ t. salt
  • ¼ t. ground pepper

    Set oven to 425F. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

    Make the yogurt sauce by combining all the ingredients in a bowl and mixing well, and then place in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

    Place all the burger ingredients, except the oil, in a large bowl. Mix well, using your hands, making sure to get all the ingredients well incorporated, but don’t over-work the meat; fold gently and quickly.

    Make the meat patties: a 1/3 cup measurement will make 9 burgers. (You can make your burgers as large or small as you like, but will need to adjust the cooking time.) Note that the mixture will be quite wet.

    Heat a cast iron skillet over medium heat, adding half of the oil once it is heated up. Once the oil is sizzling, brown the patties on both sides, for about 2 minutes per side, working in batches, and adding more oil as needed.

    Set the browned burgers on the prepared baking sheet and bake for about 7 to 10 minutes, or until an instant thermometer registers 165 degrees F. Serve with yogurt sauce on top. Enjoy this delightful meal!

Zucchini Country Bread

Zucchini Country BreadI’ve been on this kick to bake bread daily (which means it happens about 3-4 times a week, because anything I try to do daily usually only happens 3-4 times a week), so I’ve been going through my bread cookbooks. This recipe comes out of Beth Hensperger’s Bread for All Seasons, which I recently gave to my sister, and I remembered how much I love this book. I was so happy to find a recipe that uses zucchini but isn’t sweet, just to give me another option for all the zucchini that is starting to appear.  This loaf is great to accompany salad or soup, or we had it with a homemade boursin (goat cheese with a little minced garlic, chopped basil, parsley, and rosemary), and an array of fresh fruits and vegetables for dinner. Perfect summer meal. Note that one batch will make two long loaves.

Zucchini Country Bread

1 T. active dry yeast
pinch of sugar
5 to 5 1/2 c. unbleached all-purpose flour (I substituted 1 c. whole wheat)
1 1/4 c. warm water
4 or 5 medium zucchini (or one baseball-sized one!)
1 T. olive oil
1 T. salt

In a standing mixer, sprinkle the yeast, sugar and 1 1/4 cups of the flour over the warm water. Beat well until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until bubbly, about 1 hour. Meanwhile, coarsely grate the zucchini to make 2 packed cups and drain in a colander set over a plate (with a little sprinkle of salt) for 30-60 minutes.

Add 1/2 c. of the remaining flour, oil, salt, and grated squash, and beat until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add the remaining flour, 1/2 c. at a time, until a soft, sticky dough is formed that just clears the sides of the bowl.

Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead vigorously until smooth and springy, about 2 minutes, adding 1 T. flour at a time, if necessary. The dough will be soft and smooth. Place in a greased deep container, turn once to coat the top, and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled in bulk, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Turn the dough onto the work surface and divide into 2 equal portions. Form each portion into a 10-inch cylindrical log with tapered ends, dusting the entire round of dough with a bit of flour, and place seam side down on a greased or parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature, about 45 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 425 degrees.

With kitchen shears, snip the top of each loaf on the diagonal 3 or 4 times. Brush the top of the loaf with olive oil, if desired. Place the loaves in the center of the preheated oven and bake 40-45 minutes or until crusty, brown, and sound hollow when tapped. Remove to a rack to cool completely.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

626-52_choco_zucchini_cake_300This cake has become a favorite this season, after Henry, my son, grew his first zucchini (in our neighbor’s garden, I should add. Our patch did not do so well). He wanted to eat the zucchini, but frankly hates the vegetable, so I made this for him instead. He loved the cake, but suggested we just call it “Chocolate Cake,” because calling it “Zucchini Chocolate Cake” freaks him out. This recipe comes from May 2004 Saveur. It’s not a difficult recipe, even though the first step is a bit unusual (but makes for a great cake), just make sure to allow for quite a long baking time. 

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

2 medium zucchini, trimmed and
grated on large holes of box grater
9 T. butter, at room temperature
2 3/4 c. flour
1/4 c. unsweetened cocoa
1 1/4 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
1 1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. corn oil
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla extract
1/2 c. buttermilk
1/4 c. confectioners’ sugar

1. 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.

2. Preheat oven to 325º. Butter a deep 9″ cake pan with 1 tbsp. of the butter. Sift flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt together into a mixing bowl and set aside. Beat together remaining 8 tbsp. butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy, 3-4 minutes.

3. Add oil, beating well. Beat in one egg at a time, add vanilla, reduce speed to low, and beat in flour mixture and buttermilk in 3 alternate batches. Stir in reserved zucchini.

4. 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.