Posts Tagged ‘Maija Kubasek’

Lock Your Doors!

Friday, September 11th, 2009

zucchini cake web

My neighbor Jack, who read my recent rant about zucchini bashing, shared a zucchini anecdote with me the other day.
He was asked recently where he was living. When replied that he was in our small town of Hawley, he was told:
“Hawley’s a nice town. People don’t lock their doors there–except at this time of year. They’re afraid someone will come in and leave zucchini in the house.”
Here I try once more to redeem zucchini’s sinister reputation with a recipe.
Pam Matthews of Phillips, Maine, was one of my co-thespians (and friends) when she lived in western Massachusetts.
She sent me the moist, flavorful zucchini formula below. She says the recipe was originally meant to make zucchini bread, but she found it cakelike and decided to bake it in a Bundt pan instead of bread pans.
It makes a lovely coffee cake (or yes, sweet bread) on its own. You can also dress it up (as my young friend Maija did) with a little cream-cheese frosting. (The candy corn is not obligatory, although we had a lot of fun with it.)
Maija considers her candy placement.
Maija considers her candy placement.
Pam’s Zucchini Cake
1 cup canola oil (or 1/2 cup oil and 1/2 cup softened butter)
2 cups sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 cups flour
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (I like these so I used a little extra)
1/2 cup raisins (ditto)
1/4 cup finely chopped pineapple (optional: this wasn’t in Pam’s recipe, but I had it in the house so I threw it in, and it worked)
3/4 cup shredded coconut (again you could use a little more; I LOVE COCONUT)
2 cups grated zucchini, drained in a dishtowel
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour a 10-inch Bundt pan.
Cream together the oil and sugar; then beat in the eggs, 1 at a time. Beat in the vanilla, followed by the cinnamon, baking powder, and baking soda.
Stir in all but 1 tablespoon of the flour. Add that tablespoon of flour to the walnuts and raisins and mix well. Stir them into the batter, along with the pineapple (if you are using it) and the coconut. Fold in the zucchini.
Spoon the batter into the prepared pan and bake it until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 55 to 65 minutes. Serves 10 to 12.

Bread and Roses

Monday, September 7th, 2009
My roses have gone by so I had to serve Bread and Roses of Sharon!

My roses have gone by so I had to serve Bread and Roses of Sharon!

I sang “Bread and Roses” in church yesterday in honor of Labor Day.
The words to this song came from a 1911 poem by James Oppenheim, commonly associated with a bitter textile strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts, in the winter of 1912.
Legend has it that women striking in Lawrence carried signs that read, “Give us bread and roses too.”
The poem speaks in the voice of women strikers who long for a more just world in which they will be given not merely enough to eat but also enough to nourish their spirits.
“Bread and Roses” reflects the era in which it was written. It is idealistic about the role of women in society, shot through with the passion of the progressive movement, and mindful of the disparity of wealth that characterized early 20th-century America.
Here is a stanza of the song:
As we go marching, marching, we bring the greater days.
The rising of the women means the rising of the race.
No more the drudge and idler,
Ten that toil where one reposes,
But a sharing of life’s glories:
Bread and roses, bread and roses.
Oppenheim’s words have been set to at least two tunes. The version with which I am more familiar is the newer of the two. It was written in the 1970s by Mimi Farina. Farina started a nonprofit group in San Francisco called Bread and Roses, which brings music to people in institutions like prisons, hospitals, and rest homes.
Her version of “Bread and Roses” is performed every year at my alma mater, Mount Holyoke College, by the graduating seniors. On the day before they graduate they wind their laurel chain around the grave of Mary Lyon, the college’s founder, and sing all four verses of the song.
2009 Seniors with the Laurel Chain (Courtesy of Mount Holyoke College)

2009 Seniors with the Laurel Chain (Courtesy of Mount Holyoke College)

This tradition always touches me. It connects these young women to other Mount Holyoke graduates–some of whom march in the laurel parade with them every year.
It also connects even the most aristocratic of the seniors to working people everywhere. Mount Holyoke has a long tradition of training its students to reach out to others; Washington Monthly recently ranked the college second in the nation at contributing to the good of the country.
Mostly it reminds the seniors (and those who listen to them sing) that college, life, and justice are about more than just making a living–that to be happy, healthy, and good we must enrich the soul as well as the body.
Hearts starve as well as bodies.
Give us bread, but give us roses.
In honor of Labor Day, then, here is a seasonal bread recipe. I’m afraid you’ll have to supply the roses yourself! Read a book. Listen to music. Work in your garden. Walk in the woods. In short, do something that will make you happy….
Pesto Bread
This recipe is very flexible. If you are overwhelmed by your basil crop, double the pesto you add. Use all-basil or all-parsley pesto. (I only mixed them because I ran out of basil!) Use more whole-wheat flour for healthier bread. Use less for more delicate bread.
If you don’t want to braid your bread, put it in traditional loaf pans (greased, please). I braided mine because my friend Anna and her daughter Maija were around to help.
But don’t forget the roses!
for the pesto:
1 generous tablespoon pine nuts (or walnuts or pecans if you’re out of pine nuts)
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup mixed basil and parsley leaves, packed
enough extra-virgin olive oil to moisten the basil (about 1/4 cup)
1/4 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
for the bread:
1 packet active dry yeast
1/4 cup lukewarm water
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup milk
1 cup hot water
6 cups flour (I used 1-1/2 cups King Arthur Flour white whole wheat and the rest KAF all-purpose), plus a bit more for kneading
1 teaspoon salt
1 recipe pesto
a sprinkling of cornmeal
First, prepare your pesto. Place the nuts, garlic, and salt in a small grinder or a blender, along with some of the herb leaves. Add a little bit of olive oil, and pulverize. Continue adding herb leaves and oil until you have transformed all of the leaves into a paste. Stir in the cheese and set aside.
Next, proof the yeast in the lukewarm water in a small bowl, along with the sugar. This will take about 5 minutes.
Combine the milk and hot water and make sure that the combination is lukewarm (if it isn’t heat it briefly on the stove). In a large separate bowl, combine the flour and salt. Briskly stir in the dissolved yeast and the liquids; then stir in the pesto.
Place the dough on a lightly greased or floured surface, put a little oil on your hands, and knead the dough for about 8 minutes, until it feels just right. You may add a little more flour as you knead, but try not to add too much.
Transfer the dough to a greased bowl and cover it with a damp towel. Let it rise until it puffs up and just about doubles in bulk. This will probably take an hour or more.
Gently deflate the dough with your hands, and cut it in two with a serrated knife.
Place each half in turn on an oiled board, and shape it into a rectangle. Cut the rectangle in three at every spot except the very top so that you can braid it (I know I’m not phrasing this very elegantly, but the photo below should help). Braid the bread.
Anna prepares to braid bread.

Anna prepares to braid bread.

Place each braid on a cookie sheet on which you have dusted cornmeal. Allow the braids to rise again until they have doubled in bulk–about an hour.
Bake the braids in a preheated 350-degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes, until they are a light golden brown. Makes 2 braids.
Maija concentrates on braiding.

Maija concentrates on braiding.

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