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Harvest time in the garden is baking time in the kitchen

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This time of summer is almost too good to be true. We have all kinds of local produce blossoming and blooming their way to our table. Perhaps some of you have your own gardens, or maybe you are lucky enough to live next to those who have gardens. It generally seems that those who are growing their own produce have an excess beyond what they consume themselves. Being a neighbor or friend has its blessings. 

One of the most popular of these vegetables is zucchini. Zucchini has a wonderful delicate texture and flavor that is suitable for many types of cooking and baking. Quite simply, you can cut your zucchini in quarters lengthwise, then into half-inch pieces, lightly sauté in some garlic infused extra virgin olive oil, add a little thyme, or other fresh herb, some salt and pepper and it's on the table. Fabulous!

Those of you who are growing your own zucchini have a ready supply of zucchini flowers. These are considered quite a delicacy in many European countries. Here's a recipe for zucchini flowers tempura. 

Zucchini Flowers Tempura

1 cup all purpose flour

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

5 tablespoons dry white wine

1 egg, separated

Vegetable oil for deep frying

12 zucchini flowers, stuffed if desired (if stuffed, secure with a toothpick)

Salt and pepper

Combine flour, olive oil, egg yolk, pinch of salt and wine in a small bowl; add 2/3 to ¾ cup warm water to make a runny batter. Let stand for 1 hour.

Whisk the egg white in a grease free bowl to firm peaks and stir ¼ of the beaten egg white into the flour mixture. Now, gently fold the remaining egg white into the flour mixture, one half at a time.

Heat the vegetable oil to prepare for deep frying. Dip the flowers into the batter and gently shake off the excess. Fry to a light golden brown and remove to paper towel.

Season immediately with salt and pepper and serve. Perhaps you might use a couple of these to garnish a beautifully grilled steak or some chicken.

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But not everyone has access to those prized zucchini flowers. So another popular use for zucchini is a quick bread. Zucchini Bread seems to be almost as American as apple pie. If zucchini bread is not made in our own home we all know several people who make it.

There are three basic methods to making quick breads. The biscuit method, which uses cold, hard saturated fats, such as butter or lard, to make flaky buttermilk biscuits. The creaming method which uses solid, but soft, fats such as butter at room temperature. The last is the muffin method which uses a liquid fat such as corn oil, canola oil or melted butter to produce a moist and tender product.

Zucchini Bread uses the muffin method, with liquid fat. Be careful, it is easy to overwork your batter. This would result in a product that is tough in texture and can have an effect called tunneling. Tunneling causes holes throughout the baked product. 

Zucchini Bread

Yield: 2 loaves, 9 x 5 x 3

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/4 cups sugar

1 cup light brown sugar

3 eggs

1 cup corn oil

1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

2 cups coarsely grated zucchini

4 ounces toasted pecan pieces

Prepare two 9 x 5 x 3 loaf pans, greasing and dusting the insides with flour, or use an already floured pan spray.

Preheat oven to 350.

Sift together all the dry ingredients and set aside. Put eggs, corn oil and vanilla together in a large bowl, beat lightly. Add the grated zucchini and pecan's to the dry ingredients and gently toss to coat. Fold all of this into the liquid ingredients, being sure to blend thoroughly, but do not overwork the batter.

Divide evenly between the two loaf pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. About 50 to 60 minutes.

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