|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 (once 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 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 something akin to looking under a woman’s skirt while searching for cropped car keys, and the countless tiny frogs that greet me seem shocked at my behavior.
But look 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, 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 would have gathered them up and turned them into pickles, multiple loaves of zucchini bread or at least found a handful of fellow ex-pats 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 still working on the giant zucchinis I had given them the other day. I also didn’t want to appear greedy. I let it go.
But in my own garden 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
4 tbsp yogurt, heaping
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 like a yeast bread; hence, there is no oil or melted butter in this recipe. As I mixed the ingredients, I simply added a dollop of yogurt until I achieved the consistency I wanted: thick and a little goopy but not overly so. The dough needs to be drier than not. Flop it in to 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.