Renee taught me how to like smoked trout, she opened my world to octopus and made me a preacher of the wonders of oysters. She did this slowly and without even knowing what she was doing.
She earned my trust at Boat Street, a beautifully casual yet elegant restaurant in Seattle. Year after year I would ask to go there for my birthday. I trusted her pickles, her pork made me a fan and her chicken liver mousse showed me that anything this woman makes is amazing.
So when The Walrus and The Carpenter opened with the premiss of esteeming the mighty oyster I knew I too had to get on board with these sea creatures that had always caused me such angst. Because if Renee says it’s good it has to be good. And she was and is right.
I’ve had her food for so many years across all of her bustling restaurants so when the book arrived I feared it might fall in to the category of so many books penned by chefs; “well, that looks pretty but I’d never actually make that.” But hers is so not like that. It is inspired food done simply, with smart technique and the right ingredients – exactly how I like to cook.
This recipe shows off Renee’s style beautifully. I mean, have you ever seen the humble piece of zucchini bread on a dessert menu before? Most people wouldn’t dare but Renee does and somehow she always knows exactly what we want to eat and how we want to end the meal. She doesn’t just stop at a piece of zucchini bread. She slices it thick then toasts it in an ample supply of butter that has been browned until nutty in color and smell. While still warm it cozies up to generous billowy mounds of cremé fraiche and then – and this how I know Renee and I would make dear, dear friends – she tops it all with flaky salt. It’s the most beautiful and delicious taste of comfort.
A few things to note before you run into the kitchen to start grating your zucchini. First of all I wanted to share this short little video that A & E Studios put together for their new web channel FYI.tv. It’s part of their series, Inspired and I think it is serving it’s purpose well. I’ve watched all the episodes so far and have loved getting a glimpse into the lives of other creatives: What inspires them? What does their day look like? How did they get to where they are at? And what really is important to them?
Anyway, I’ll just go ahead and put this right here and if you have a moment to watch it I’d LOVE it.
The other thing I wanted to say is that my cookies are finding their way all over Seattle and the internet. Meaning, you have several options now as to where you need to get your cookie fix from. Here’s what we have so far:
Bright Coffee (Monterey, CA)
250/flora (Bellingham, WA)
And of course you can still buy them here. Soon we’ll let you know about our holiday flavor! It’s real good. I made sure of that myself.
Olive Oil Zucchini Cake
recipe from A Boat, a Whale & a Walrus: Menus and Stories
This recipe is pretty much exactly as it appears in the book with the exception of two changes. I added salt to the batter and I used turbinado sugar (raw sugar) when she called for demerara sugar – which is more intensely flavor and what I would of used had I not just had turbinado on hand.
makes 1 9-by-5-inch loaf pan
3 cups grated zucchini (from 1 pound zucchini)
2 cups granulated sugar, divided
Unsalted butter, for the pan
2 cups (about 256 grams) all-purpose flour, sifted, plus more for the pan
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon finely grated nutmeg
3 large eggs
Grated zest from 2 large lemons
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon or Jacobsen
Preheat the oven to 350•F.
For the cake: In a mixing bowl, blend the zucchini with 1/4 cup of the granulated sugar. Transfer the mixture to a fine-mesh strainer and set the strainer over the mixing bowl. Fill another bowl, this one just big enough to fit inside the strainer, about halfway with water and carefully set the water bowl directly on top of the zucchini. (This presses the water out of the zucchini.)
Butter and flour a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan, and set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, ginger, baking powder, baking soda, and nutmeg.
In another bowl, whisk together the remaining 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar, eggs, lemon zest and vanilla until well blended. beat in the olive oil in three stages, whisking until it is thoroughly combined each time.
Gently fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until no white spots remain. Working with a handful of zucchini at a time, use your hands to press and wring all excess moisture out of the zucchini. When all the zucchini has been pressed, add it to the batter, and stir it in gently until evenly distributed.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle the top evenly with the turbinado sugar. Bake on the middle rack of the oven for 70 to 75 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.
Cool the bread in the pan for about 20 minutes, then turn it out onto a cooling rack and let it cool completely.
Cut the bread into 1-inch-thick slabs. Melt about 3 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet over medium heat. (Use the same amount of butter for however many pieces of bread will fit into the skillet at once.) When the butter is melted and foamy, add a few slices, and cook for a few minutes on each side, until warm and toasted. Serve the bread over a smear of créme fraiche, sprinkled with sea salt. Repeat with the remaining bread.