Chilly mornings and blistering hot afternoons: I love these August days. It’s time to get out and enjoy the weather and also celebrate the fruits/vegetables of our labours (or those of our farmers, growers and gardeners).
This morning on CBC Edmonton A.M., I talked about beets, zucchini and a lesser known, vegetable, kohlrabi, featured in the cover shot above. (Listen to the segment here.)
Beets are common, and people either love ’em or hate ’em. Up until I was in my 30s, the only way I liked beets was if they were pickled (Mom’s recipe was the best, of course) but then I started making borscht, and came to really appreciate it. Of course, this is using purple, or Detroit beets, as they’re called. They taste earthy because they contain a compound called geosmin (meaning dirt smell). That compound is also responsible for the scent in the air after a rainstorm. Detroit beets stain everything they come in contact with, so be careful. Their juice can be used to dye Easter eggs though, so that’s a good thing, and it does well in blended fresh fruit drinks, too—if you like the taste of dirt.
Golden beets are milder and sweeter and fantastic when roasted. Simply peel them, cut them in chunks, coat them in olive oil and fresh herbs, add a bit of salt and pepper and roast at 375 F for about 35 minutes. You can even add a splash of maple syrup. They’re often finished with goat cheese dollops on top, but any soft cheese would work. Use “roasted golden beets goat cheese” as your web search term, and you’ll get plenty of results.
Kohlrabi is an alienish looking thing sometimes called a cabbage turnip. It does taste a bit like a turnip, but also a combination of an apple and a mild radish, too. Melissa at Reclaim Farms is a great kohlrabi resource! The type they grow get to be the size of cantaloupes. They’re crispy and slightly sweet and are wonderful simply peeled and eaten raw. She says raw kohlrabi is always on their Thanksgiving table, and I love that because that holiday meal can tend to be quite heavy, so a raw, lighter offering would be a welcome addition.
I sliced one up and ate it with hummus, which was great. The remainder of the head was cut into sticks and quick-pickled. I have a feeling you can find 1,001 ways to prepare kohlrabi. Using it in coleslaw would work well as would roasting and using it in stews like you would parsnips.
Zucchini is the summer squash everyone grows and then gives away because it produces like crazy. In 2014, a fellow in Ontario set the world record with a zucchini he grew to 2.52 metres (8.3 ft) long. Picture two baseball bats placed end to end. That’s a big zucchini! You could make about 140 muffins with that one.
Using zucchini in baking is wonderful. You see the greenish flecks in the end result, but whatever it is (cake, muffins, bread), it doesn’t have a heavy zucchini flavour, rather it takes on whatever you put into ti like cinnamon and nutmeg.
I made a zucchini loaf in a Bundt cake pan using unsweetened apple juice instead of oil. This is something my mom taught me and it always works. Not sure why; it just does. What didn’t work was my glaze: I put it on before the cake had cooled which made the cake just soak it up immediately. So, don’t do what I did. It tasted fine, it just didn’t look that great. The bottom right photo is of the slices after I dry-grilled them in a pan the next day as a type of a zucchini-cake-French Toast. Now, that turned out fantastic! You don’t need to add syrup or anything, just dig in. It’s already sweet enough.
Let me know how you like to work with these vegetables. If you have a favourite recipe, I’d love to hear about it!
Spiced Zucchini Bundt Cake
- Bundt pan
- 2 cups grated zucchini Remove seeds before grating.
- 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
- 3/4 cup white sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1.5 tsp vanilla
- 1.5 cups all purpose flour
- 3/4 tsp baking soda
- 3/4 tsp baking powder
- 1 1/4 tsp allspice
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 3 cups icing sugar
- 2 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 cup milk
- Preheat oven to 350 F.
- Prepare the pan with butter (or cooking spray)
- Cut zucchini into manageable lengths and scoop out seeds. Use a box grater to grate 2 cups. Set aside.
- In a large bowl, whisk together apple sauce, sugars, vanilla and egg. Set aside.
- In a medium bowl, mix together flour, baking soda, baking powder, spices, and salt. Add to wet ingredients. Mix together and fold in grated zucchini.
- Pour mixture into prepared pan. Bake for 55 - 60 minutes. At the the 45 minute mark, insert a toothpick to check for doneness.
- Remove from oven and let cool 15 minutes before inverting onto a plate.
- Let the cake completely cool before glazing.
- Glaze: Mix all ingredients together and drizzle over cake. The leftover amount can be used to pour over individual pieces after serving.