I have a very small family. It’s just me, my mom and my dad. Extended family hasn’t been a part of my family’s culture since I was about 10, but I have the most vivid memories of the food that was served in my Father’s family’s home.
Holidays have a way of searing memories into your head though. And as a curious 5-year-old, I was completely enamored with the 3D lamb shaped cake my Grandmother would painstakingly assemble each Easter and lovingly coat in a thick swath of coconut flakes. I remember the enormous, thick, caramel colored wood dining table the family would sit around for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners. More importantly I remember my Grandfather would turn the huge lazy Susan that was the middle of the table until he had a clear view of me, sitting opposite him, and declare that it was my turn to do the dishes and that I’d better get to it or else I’d be doing them all night. I would smile, knowing he was joking, but my Grandmother would always cry out, “Johnny! Leave her alone!”
I remember spending a lot of time with my dad’s oldest sister and my Grandmother when I was little. I will always associate my Grandmother with blue corn pancake mix, and my Aunt with zucchini walnut muffins. Sometimes she would come to the house with a white pastry bag in her hand and she’d let me have some of her muffin. I remember thinking they were just about the oddest thing I’d ever tried, but I loved them. The irony of putting a vegetable into a sweet treat was not lost on me, even at a young age.
When I got into baking quite heavily three years ago now, zucchini walnut muffins were one of the first things I tackled. Nowadays, whenever I see the words zucchini and walnut together in a recipe I get giddy, bookmark or tag said recipe and get right to grating zucchini and chopping walnuts as soon as I can.
Martha Stewart’s recent March issue of Living featured what I can only call zucchini walnut whoopie pies. She called them cookie sandwiches or something, but that’s a gross misrepresentation of these chewy, soft, salty-sweet, cream cheesy pies. My respect for Martha only grew when, after making the cream cheese filling, I realized she’d figured out the loveliest ratio of cream cheese to confectioner’s sugar in any icing recipe I’d ever tried.
High five to Martha, this one is for Aunt Miriam.