Nothing to see here! If I'm being honest, or at least empathetic, I should at least mention as much at the outset. I'm knee-deep in the domestic, haircuts and sink snaking and tucking flowers into every vase I can lay my hands on. If it's any indication, the highlight of my week was pulling two bags full of poison ivy from my back yard. I had help, hired help (and worth every dime). But still, exciting as dirt. So long hubbub, hello humdrum.
It's pretty exquisite.
Because in a year like this year, when change has been the only constant and novelty my closest neighbor, the ordinary feels awfully good. A little exotic, even. I finished going through all the drawers, unpacking boxes and airing out wrinkly britches. I cleaned closets that smacked of many years' neglect, though their contents were only a few months' out of moving cartons. (Better make that two constants, if you include my abiding inner slob.) I made headway in the garage and order in the pantry and successful repairs to a deadbeat dresser. Last year, I would have called it all drudgery. This year, almost normal.
It wasn't all housework. If anything, chores played second fiddle to the thrum and blur of a summer suddenly in the swing. Friday I'm tracking down two shaggy puppies in need of a trim, Saturday I'm keeping up with two flower beds gone wild. I've been working hard to re-claim this common commotion for nearly nine months now, so I wasn't exactly caught unawares. But the almost-every-day-appointments and constant care blindsided me a little anyway. And left me more than a little giddy. We'll manage the vortex later. Right now, it's just nice to have a seat at the swirl.
Or maybe third fiddle, if it's dust I'm talking. I dissed crumby rugs for days, because the sun just wouldn't quit. I walked at the feeblest excuse, to check out the new neighbor's landscaping, just to gawk. Gardens are pretty gawk-worthy right now.
Everyday accomplishments snuck in. I made ten minutes to rip a sweet dreams CD for my troubled sleep. Finally, I have the means to muffle the demons stampeding tiptoeing across the oak floor right outside my door. And a swell means at that, plump with Mingulay's aching harmonies and the best lullabies ever. Absolutely trivial. Deeply satisfying.
And at week's end, I hit the Farmer's market, the way I have most weeks here this year, the way I have most weeks for years now. I piled my cart high with slender leeks and pounds of greens and summer's last gasps, peppers and eggplants and tiny zucchini. Then I went back for more. Not a lot more, just a few stragglers too awkward or large for the first pass, like a glowing wreath of bittersweet. And an enormous cauliflower.
I began a novel! So far, recipes were the only fiction I've read all year, and I really have no complaints. Ingredients are perfectly scaled to the reading time snippets I find here and there. Like People, but so much better. And Zucchini Marmalade Olive Oil Cake has more plot and pathos than many books I've read. Still, it feels significant to make it to page 12. It feels almost normal.
Zucchini Marmalade Olive Oil Cake
adapted from Tartine
A few ingredient notes: This doesn't need a fancy marmalade, but it does need a serious one. Something more about bitter peel than orange jam, a marmalade with a stiff upper lip. I love Dundee, classic and reasonable. If you use a particularly large zucchini, wring the grated shreds in a clean kitchen towel, or drain in a colander, half an hour before using. The original called for toasted walnuts and cinnamon; I omitted the first and swapped in nutmeg for the second, and like it this way, very much. Finally, I used all white flour, but imagine this would be a fine place for half and half, wheat and white. Or all wheat. Or a bit of buckwheat. Be playful.
Also. Thick slices, toasted golden and buttered. Make a note.
1 3/4 cups + 2 Tbs unbleached all-purpose flour (or mix of white and wheat)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp nutmeg, freshly ground
2 large eggs
1/2 cup + 2 Tbs mild extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup orange marmalade
2 1/2 cups grated zucchini
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2-3 Tbs demerrera (raw) sugar, for topping
Place oven rack one rung down from middle position, and preheat oven to 350°. Butter and flour (or oil) a 9 x 5" loaf pan, and line the wide side with a strip of parchment paper.
In a small bowl, add flour, baking soda, baking powder and nutmeg, and whisk to combine. Set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, olive oil, sugar and marmalade until combined. Add zucchini and salt, and stir well with a spatula or wooden spoon, until combined. Add flour mixture and fold into egg mixture, until just combined.
Pour batter into the prepared pan, smoothing surface with your spatula, and sprinkling top with demerrara sugar to cover. Bake 60-70 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean. This cake is difficult to over-bake, so moist it is; err on the long end of the recommended time. Let cool in the pan on a rack for 20 minutes, then run knife along short sides to loosen and remove with the parchment "ears" to a rack. Let cool completely, 1-2 hours, if you can manage. Keeps beautifully, well-wrapped, at room temperature, several days.