We just had some friends over for dinner, and on their way out, as we passed the vegetable garden, I asked them if they liked squash.
“We don’t play,” they responded.
“No, no, I mean the squash you eat. You like it?”
They made noncommittal hmmming noises that could have been interpreted as either tacit assent or demure denial. I chose to take it as an enthusiastic, “Why, you got squash? We LOVE squash. Give us some squash, please. Oh, God, please, please give us your squash before we DIE.”
I raced to the squash patch, sliced off two lovely-looking specimens, and stuffed them in the wife’s backpack before they had a chance to flee into their taxi.
If you have a vegetable garden, you know that this time of year is the time of glut, when you simply can’t eat what your garden is producing fast enough, when you either start giving your produce away to decreasingly appreciative neighbors or start canning tomatoes, pickling everything from beets to beans, freezing everything that can be frozen.
At my house, we are currently in the throes of Squashageddon. I have four plants of Burpee’s Golden Egg Hybrid, which the seed catalogue giant describes as being “exquisite as a Fabergé egg, but so much tastier…boasting delicious creamy flesh with hints of chartreuse.” They do indeed have delicious creamy flesh, although I’d describe the hints as being more citrine than chartreuse. I think my neighbors are fairly sick of these particular Fabergé eggs (and my garden has easily crushed the House of Faberge’s measly production of only 50 imperial eggs). The neighbors don’t even like creamy-fleshed vegetables. Chartreuse or citrine, it doesn’t matter, both are beginning to give them a rash, hives, hemorrhoids the size of pattypans.
So what do you do with this cucurbita conflagration, this surfeit of squash? Relax. Take a deep breath, and make bread. Quick breads, leavened with baking soda rather than yeast and most commonly known in the form of the ubiquitous banana bread, are simple and, as the name clearly indicates, quick to make. So quick and easy that the kids can do much of the work while you sit back, drink a glass of wine, and ponder new recipes involving interesting and innovative combinations of squash, beans, and tomatoes. All of which you have coming out your veg-hole.
Here’s a winning recipe for quick bread with squash. It really doesn’t matter what kind you use – zucchini, yellow squash, pattypans, marrow – as long as it’s what we North Americans call ‘summer squash,’ that is, soft-skinned varieties that are eaten while still young and succulent.
- 3 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- 3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
- 3 eggs
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 3 cups grated zucchini or other summer squash
- 1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
2. Sift together flour, salt, soda, cinnamon, and baking powder.
3. Beat eggs. Add sugar, vanilla, and oil and mix well. Add zucchini to egg mixture. Add dry ingredients, mixing well. Stir in nuts if desired. Pour into 2 ungreased loaf pans.
4. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 1 hour.
Couldn’t be easier. This bread is moist and yummy, and a reasonably healthy breakfast or snack food. You could also substitute shredded carrot for the squash, or try equal parts of both. Try spreading cream cheese on it, or make a frosting with two packages of cream cheese, three tablespoons of powdered sugar, and a tablespoon of vanilla extract.
Quick breads are also perfect for freezing, which is good because you’re going to be pretty damned sick of squash bread as well. I’ve had a bit of a bread factory going, pumping out two loaves every few days and dumping them in the freezer and onto unsuspecting strangers at tram stops.
My younger son likes to measure and mix, which is often messy and always less than helpful, but it’s just something we do together. And when he sits down to breakfast with some freshly-baked squash bread, he’s seen the process from seed to table, learning gardening, cooking, measuring, counting and a bit of nature along the way. And that’s worth a little Squashageddon.