It’s August and gardens across the country are no doubt filled with an abundance of zucchini and summer squash. I wish I could say the same of my garden. Though we planted early enough, during a bright and promising week in early June, I have only a few small zucchini on my plant and they are taking their own sweet time in maturing to the picking stage.
Though my garden is not yet producing ripe zucchini I still crave Zucchini Bread at this time of year. I remember the summers when my oldest son would make Zucchini Bread several times a week. He and his friends would eat whole loaves of it. Sometimes the friends would help with the grating or mixing. Sometimes the boys took over the kitchen and made it themselves. Sometimes we would forget an ingredient. Sometimes chocolate chips or extra sugar would get scattered on top. For the most part, though, our Zucchini Bread recipe has stayed the same for the past twenty five years or so. It is a recipe from a source that I treasure and has a story of its own...
Where it All Began
When I was first engaged to my husband, and visiting his hometown of Paducah, Ky, he took me out to dinner one evening. The restaurant he chose was a family favorite. It was located in a beautiful Victorian home near what is now the Lowertown Arts District. The house was built in 1886 for the great nephew of William Clark, the explorer who gave his name to the Lewis and Clark Expedition we hear so much about in the part of the country where we now live. The restaurant was called the Ninth Street House.
The Ninth Street House was the epitome of Kentucky style southern hospitality. In the evenings its windows threw veils of warm light out onto the lawn and sidewalks. Piano music could be heard drifting onto the patio. Just inside the front door, at the base of the stairway, Judy, the organist from my husband’s church, played jazz standards, classics and other familiar tunes on a baby grand piano. Occasionally guests would sing along.
Kentucky Style Hospitality
The menu at the Ninth Street House varied. There were several choices of entrées each evening. The menu changed according to what Curtis Grace, owner and chef, found available and created with it. Curtis would chat with you if you stopped by the kitchen and if not he would stop at your table after your meal and ask what you thought of it. He was a master at creating a sense of delicious home cooking executed with imagination and style.
Over the years we found our way back to the Ninth Street House whenever we could. When we were in Paducah we tried to make a date at the Ninth Street House if possible. We also attended a number of family celebrations there. The last was for my sister-in-law’s rehearsal dinner in 1994. That evening, as we walked to our car after dinner, we saw Paducah’s horse drawn carriage pull around the corner and on impulse took a tour of the handsome river town by moonlight. It was a memorable evening.
Recipes from Curtis Grace
The Ninth Street House has been closed for years now. The house itself still stands at the edge of the Lowertown Arts District in Paducah. It appears to be well maintained but is now a private residence. What remains of the restaurant are many fond memories and two wonderful cookbooks my mother-in-law gave me. These books are filled with recipes for southern style home cooking with the slightest upscale twist from Curtis Grace and his Ninth Street House restaurant.
Ninth Street House Zucchini Bread
From “Cooking with Curtis Grace”
1 cup oil
2 cups granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 Tablespoon cinnamon
2 cups zucchini, grated
½ cup pecans (or walnuts), chopped
In a medium bowl, beat together eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla together.
In a large bowl stir together the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and cinnamon.
Add the egg mixture and beat well. Fold in the zucchini and nuts.
Divide the batter between two greased loaf pans. Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour or until the loaves begin to brown and the top springs back when pressed lightly near the center. (I usually bake my loaves a little longer than 1 hour, maybe 1 hour and 10 minutes.)
Notes: I sometimes add another ½ cup of zucchini and often cut the amount of sugar used to 1½ cups.
I also sometimes sprinkle a handful of dark chocolate chips across the top of the batter before baking.
"Cooking with Curtis Grace" suggests that zucchini can be grated and frozen while it is plentiful in late summer. If you freeze it in packages of two cups each it can easily be thawed later to use when baking Zucchini Bread. Or go ahead and bake the bread while the zucchini is plentiful. The bread freezes well too and makes a great treat that can be enjoyed year round.
The cookbook also suggests that this is a delicious bread to serve for breakfast, snacks or to accompany a meal and is especially good spread with cream cheese.
While I have a certain emotional attachment to my Zucchini Bread recipe I know other cooks often feel the same way about their own recipe. A few others I have bookmarked are:
- Lemon Basil has a recipe using whole wheat flour, maple syrup and coconut oil called The Best Zucchini Bread Ever.
- At Kitchen Parade, in an article featuring my daughter Kerrin, Alanna shares her favorite Carrot & Zucchini Bread recipe loaded with whole wheat goodness, colorful flecks of carrot and a smart dose of candied ginger.
- Wives With Knives has a twist on the usual zucchini bread loaves with a recipe for Cheddar Zucchini Scones. These savory scones would be great with a summer dinner salad.