|Fresh from the rice cooker. So excited it's blurry...|
I have often thought the bean the most elusive of garden vegetables. Despite a meticulous methodology of harvest – scour from top to bottom visually once, again while parting leaves to peer under and catch stragglers, never take your eyes from the field (one glance at a passing frog or ducking to avoid a low-flying beetle and you lose your place). It wasn’t easy work, but I relished the challenge and found the bean a worthy opponent. Occasionally, one would get past me – in cahoots, I’m sure with the beetle or the frog – to be found lolling fat and over-stuffed with beans, going to seed as it were – swinging from the vine in the shade of the nearby leaves, mocking me.
|The zucchini plants working on their takeover.|
Yet, the zucchini seems to be another contender for disguise and chicanery. One evening in my garden I case out the plants – a mere three – that have grown from seed to gigantic proportions, causing me to step around their leaves as they encroach on the path as I search for their fruit. It feels a bit rude as I lift and peer around the leaves, and the countless tiny frogs that greet me seem shocked at my behavior.
But search I must, for the zucchini this year is the bane of my garden existence. Invariably, I look and see a small new one, the blossom still attached to the end. “I’ll wait to harvest that one,” I think and choose a slightly larger one instead.
Invariably, I discover my foolishness the next day or worse yet, the day after that. There, under the leaves, sometimes with a frog, sometimes with a blossom still attached, is the zucchini, grown to gigantic proportions. Twice this season I have toted home (deep in my garden bag, of course, away from the prying eyes of my fellow neighbors) zucchinis at least twice the size of my foot. (I wear a size 10 in the US.)
|See? Twice the size of my foot!|
“Oishkunai (Not delicious),” Takashi-san would always say on the farm in Tokyo when I lived there, and I would joke that zucchinis like the one in my bag were American-sized. He would laugh and give me one, tossing the rest into the yellow crate of items destined for the compost heap. I couldn’t save them all, although a more enterprising person might have gathered them up and turned them into pickles, multiple loaves of zucchini bread or at least found a handful of others to share them with. I had not yet mastered the art of bread in the rice cooker nor did I have a wide enough circle of friends. The ones I did have were usually still working on the giant zucchinis I had given them the day before or were avoiding me out of fear I might try to foist another on them. I also didn’t want to appear greedy. I let it go.
But in my own garden here in Kanagawa I have the freedom to do what I like. These zucchini, elusive as they try to be, will be eaten! “Mottaini,” I say as I stuff yet another in my bag and lug it home. So, zucchini bread in the rice cooker was born.
Zucchini Bread Recipe for the Rice Cooker
3 cups flour (I used a mix of whole wheat and regular white)
3 cups shredded zucchini
2 tsp cinnamon (At least. I’m a fan.)
¼ tsp. nutmeg
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup oil
4 tbsp yogurt, heaping (optional)
Mix all the dry ingredients together and make a well in the center. Add the eggs and the zucchini and mix. The trick with zucchini bread in the rice cooker is to have it be dry enough that when it comes time to flip it over it doesn’t flop everywhere. It needs to hold together something like a yeast bread but not quite: : thick and a little goopy but not overly so. The dough needs to be drier than not, but if it's too dry, add the yogurt bit by bit. Be careful, though, as it's easy to overdo and have something far too wet. Flop it into the rice cooker and bake for one cycle. When the rice cooker beeps, take it out, flip it, and bake it again on the other side. Eat.