It's difficult to determine whether or not this has been a successful summer for our zucchini plants. On the one hand, my early bug smooshing efforts paid off with a bounty of blossoms for stuffing and frying. On the other hand, the squash bug nymphs that emerged from the eggs that I missed appear to have won the battle for plant-dominating supremacy, and one by one, my squash - all types, in fact - are being cut down in their prime by those nymphs. This is the winter, I think, that I become well-versed in organic ointments for my garden, rather than continuing with the entirely holistic, companion-planting, bug-squashing, egg-destroying approach I've embraced thus far.
Still, we have more than enough zucchini for two people, and my secret zucchini plant - shhhh, don't tell anyone, those horrendous nymphs and their friends the squash borers might hear you - is still producing in its clandestine location behind the asparagus patch, which is fortunate, because as soon as I tasted this zucchini bread, I wanted to make another. Just to be sure we had enough. There appears to be a trend here, first, the secret zucchini plant, then, a secret zucchini-pesto loaf. And a good thing that I made that second loaf, for the first was devoured in a mere three days. We had it with sliced tomatoes and fresh mozzarella that we had for dinner in the garden last night - it's far too hot to cook dinner, yet, somehow, I found myself baking bread during our first-of-the-year heatwave - and also makes a mean grilled cheese and capicola sandwich. It is so good with summer snacks, in fact, that I might try zucchini-pesto crackers next. I'm making myself hungry just thinking about it, so without further ado, I present to you, a zucchini bread of the very highest order,
Zucchini Pesto Bread:
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup fresh ricotta
1/2 cup basil pesto (approximately two-thirds of a 6.5 ounce jar if you're using purchased pesto)
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, divided
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup grated zucchini (from approximately 1/2 pound, which is half of a large, but not enormous, zucchini)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 9 by 13-inch rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil, and grease a 9 by 5 by 3-inch loaf pan with butter.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the eggs, ricotta, pesto, and 4 tablespoons of the melted butter. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt, and stir well to combine. Add the zucchini to the flour mixture and give it a good stir to coat the zucchini.
Add the flour-and-zucchini mixture to the egg-cheese-pesto concoction, and stir diligently to combine. I say diligently because this is not a runny dough, and therefore requires a little extra elbow grease (or stand mixer stirring) to thoroughly blend the dry with the wet.
Transfer the dough to the loaf pan and top with the remaining 4 tablespoons of melted butter. Place the loaf pan on the foil-lined baking sheet to protect against butter-steam should your butter runneth over during the baking process. Bake until the loaf is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle of the loaf emerges clean, 55 minutes to 1 hour. Allow the bread to cool in the loaf pan, set on a cooling rack, for 10 to 15 minutes, then turn the bread out of the pan onto the cooling rack and let cool until ready to serve.
Remove from the oven and cool on a cooling rack for at least 10 minutes before cutting into it. If you are so inclined, make a sandwich with two thin slices of mild provolone and four thin slices of sweet capicola per each, and grill as you would any grilled cheese.