15 August 2010

Ninth Street House Zucchini Bread


Zucchini Season

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

In the dining room the tables were dressed in casual southern style. Cane backed chairs were pulled up to cloth draped tables. Soft lights and candles cast a warm glow on place settings of bright china. Wine was generously poured in large casual stemware. Guests were put at ease and made to feel at home.

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

What does this have to do with Zucchini Bread? Well, one thing I clearly remember about dinner at the Ninth Street House was the bread basket that was brought to the table once guests were seated. Wrapped in a napkin were small slices of breads, both sweet and savory. A favorite was a sweet nut studded bread that everyone seemed to enjoy. As a first taste it set expectations for a satisfying meal while smoothing the edge off of an afternoon’s hunger.

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.

Without even looking I can tell you that around page 75 of "Cooking With Curtis Grace" is a recipe fpr Zucchini Bread that produces a delightfully moist and nutty quick bread. It is the best and possibly the only Zucchini Bread recipe I have ever used. It will suffer variation with little complaint but has never needed much adapting. It makes two big loaves and uses a good quantity of zucchini for those whose harvest basket is overflowing with the stuff. For my part I will still need to make a trip to the market for my zucchini this season but it will be worth it.


Ninth Street House Zucchini Bread
From “Cooking with Curtis Grace”

3 eggs
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:

  • 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.

Enjoy!

11 comments:

NYC, Style and a little Cannoli said...

zucchini bread is just such a tasty treat! thanx for this recipe!!

Lisa@The Cutting Edge of Ordinary said...

Hey my company has a plant in Paducah...Amtrol. Has your hubby heard of it? Small world. I'm trying to use up zucchini too! Your bread looks wonderful!

grace said...

i always eagerly anticipate the glut of zucchini, and for me, there's no better way to prepare it than to combine it with chocolate in some form. this bread looks amazingly moist--bravo!

Susan said...

What a charming story and a delicious sounding recipe. Thank you for the inspiration.

Cathy said...

Your zucchini bread recipe is similar to mine but I've never thought to add chocolate chips. I've frozen the little bags of grated zucchini and it works great for bread during the winter.

Thanks for the shout out, Lisa. I'm on my way to check out the other blogs too. I'm loving the cooler weather.

Alanna Kellogg said...

I still hang onto my own copy of Cooking with Grace, if only for the chicken salad recipe though because as I recall it calls for a stick of butter, no wonder it's good and no wonder I haven't made it in awhile!

Melissa said...

Thank you so much for posting this recipe. I found it while searching for a zucchini bread recipe to use up our garden zucchinis and this is AMAZING. We love eating it for breakfast! (And lunch, snacks, dessert...)

selle and amy said...

Oh My!! What memories. I found your blog while searching for The Ninth Street House of which I have fond memories. I was a newlywed living broke in Paducah and what a TREAT it was to eat at The Ninth Street House. I have a few copies of recipes from the above cookbooks,(from the broke days) and would love to get my hands on a whole copy now! It was a fabulous restaurant. I would love to add your blog link to my blog if that's ok with you. Thanks for the memories!!

Lisa said...

Thanks for the comments! Finally I have a few zucchini in my garden and zucchini bread in the freezer.

Lisa - I don't know of Amtrol but Paducah is a great place to visit. I love the history, the heat and the inspiration.

Alanna - A stick of butter? lol! Maybe that salad could benefit from a a little adapting. I've never made it but I hear about it whenever I start asking about the Ninth Street House.

Selle and Amy - Thanks for sharing your memories! And thanks for the link.

Deborah Summers said...

Lisa, I ran across your blog while looking for Curtis' zucchini bread recipe. Thanks for posting it; I thought I'd try my hand at it. My husband and I lived just a few blocks from Ninth Street House and it was always our favorite place to eat! Thought you might like to know that his son, Tim has a restaurant in Paducah. He serves lunch only M-F and all his recipes are his dad's originals (California Chicken Salad, Curtis' Chicken Salad, Monte Cristo sandwich, strawberry shortcake, and of course that wonderful house tea). Curtis originally had a catering business called House of Grace and that's the name of Tim's business. I do miss the ambience of that beautiful Victorian mansion, especially dining by the fireplace on wintery nights!

Lisa said...

Hi Deborah! Thanks for the information about House of Grace. I think I have seen a sign for it but I am usually in Paducah on a weekend and haven't had a chance to eat there.
I hope you enjoy the Zucchini Bread, and thanks for sharing your comments!