Today is an historic day for No Gluten, No Problem. For the first time in the history of the blog, we’re sharing a recipe whose main ingredient is something we grew ourselves, in our garden, from seed. You see, two days ago our organic 400-square-foot community garden plot – a humble space with great aspirations – yielded its first fruit: a pair of gorgeous zucchini. And so it was that on July 6 we reaped our first harvest.
I imagine that every gardener goes through a similar climax moment, the time when your garden has paid its first dividend, and you go home and proudly prepare and eat whatever it is you’ve been trying to grow. It is a magical moment. Though I have a firm grasp of the biology of it all, I remain in awe that we began with a 20×20 square of weed-choked earth, and that – through the inputs of nutrients, water, sunlight, and tender loving care (usually 3 or 4 nights a week spent at the garden lately) – seeds sown weeks or months ago have grown, almost before our very eyes, into robust plants that are now beginning to feed our family.
It has been a roller coaster of a ride thus far. Part of that must certainly be due to our status as novice gardeners. We both grew up with very modest gardens out our childhood homes, but it’s been many years since either of us has put our proverbial green thumbs to any real use. In past seasons we’ve purchased a single basil plant that served us well through pestos and margherita pizzas. And there was the one summer I tried to surprise Kelli with a culinary herb garden. (Of 5 pots, only 4 germinated, and none grew into anything usable.)
I suppose it’s true to our artisanal, from-scratch style of cooking and baking, but we’ve grown everything from seed, rather than purchased starter* plants from a local nursery. And as newbies, we’ve inevitably made some mistakes doing so along the way. We left our peppers (bell and jalapeno) in the seed starter trays much too long, stunting their growth. We didn’t give the tomatillos enough sunlight, causing them to grow tall and leggy in search of solar radiation. We failed to sufficiently harden off our three varieties of tomatoes before transplanting them to the field. (24 hours later, they had withered and yellowed, and we were sure we’d lose the whole lot of them…) Some seeds sown directly into the field seemingly failed to germinate after weeks, and we gave up on them, assuming we’d need to start again.
And yet, the plants and the garden have surprised us with their resiliency. The corn, which the folk saying says should be “knee high by the Fourth of July,” is instead approaching eye level. The stunted, yellowed basil and peppers have regained their vibrant deep green hues and are growing well. The tomatoes have genuinely shocked us – from the brink of death they have made an astounding comeback, and we should be harvesting tomatoes in the not too distant future. Cilantro, Brussels sprouts, and lettuce – which all failed to germinate, or so we thought – are now growing well. Meanwhile, the beets, Swiss chard, onions, carrots, broccoli, winter squash and zucchini are all exceeding our expectations.
The garden has been an emotional roller coaster ride, taking us from high to low and back to high.
The garden has also been therapeutic. There’s something about time spent doing physical labor under the glaring late-day sun. We disconnect from our phones, and emails, and television. We instead immerse ourselves in heat and humidity and dirt and bugs and the occasional thunderstorm, and best of all, family. Our garden – just one mile, almost exactly, from our house – has become an integral part of our weekly ritual.
I sense that the ritual of the garden is reaping some sort of spiritual earnings. My soul benefits from the time spent there. I look forward to gardening each week, not just for the tangible growth, the cultivation, the expectation of a harvest to come, but also simply for the process.
Of course, the garden is now also paying real dividends, and those two zucchini are our first withdrawal. The larger zucchini we set aside for a fresh preparation with dinner tonight. But the smaller zucchini we earmarked for something a little more indulgent, a little more celebratory – a cupcake.
We contemplated including a zucchini cupcake in our new cookbook, Artisanal Gluten-Free Cupcakes. It ultimately didn’t make the cut. Not for lack of merit, mind you. Many cupcakes failed to make the cut, simply for lack of space. We were committed and bound to 50 cupcake flavors, and our brainstormed list of potential flavors easily doubled that number. In the end, our Carrot Cake Cupcake got the nod for a shredded vegetable cupcake.
But that’s okay. Instead, we share a zucchini cupcake recipe with you today. It’s loosely based on our zucchini cake recipe from 2008, though with some modifications here or there. It’s moist and tender, sweet but not overly so, with a cream cheese frosting whose mild tang provides a perfect counterpoint to the subtly sweet zucchini cupcake.
Makes 24 cupcakes
2 cups shredded unpeeled zucchini (about 2 medium)
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
1 tbsp GF pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups (about 310g) Artisan Gluten-Free Flour Blend
2 tsp xanthan gum
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp GF baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1. Preheat the oven to 350 deg F. Line standard cupcake tins with paper liners.
2. Combine the zucchini, sugar, oil, eggs and vanilla in a mixing bowl. (We like a stand mixer, but it’s not required.)
3. Add the flour and all remaining ingredients, mixing just until combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and mix at high speed for 5 seconds.
4. Divide the batter evenly between the paper-lined cups. Make the tops of the batter as smooth as you can.
5. Bake for 25 minutes.
6. Let cool in the tins for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.
7. Finish the cupcakes with some cream cheese frosting (recipe follows).
This recipe is: gluten-free, dairy-free, peanut-free, tree-nut-free, fish-free, shellfish-free
Cream Cheese Frosting
12 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup salted butter (2 sticks), room temperature
3 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 1/2 tsp GF pure vanilla extract
1. With an electric mixer, cream together the cream cheese and butter until completely incorporated.
2. Add the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla, and mix until smooth and of spreading consistency. (Use additional confectioners’ sugar to make a thicker frosting, if needed.)
This recipe is: gluten-free, egg-free, peanut-free, tree-nut-free, fish-free, shellfish-free
This recipe can be easily made dairy-free and vegan by substituting vegan butter and vegan cream cheese.