I have been caring for a very special lemon tree for almost six months now. Before I dive into this baking episode, I would like to tell you its story. The lemon tree used to belong to my former labmate, Evan. Unfortunately, he was never able to harvest any lemons from his tree. Mainly because the squirrels in his neighborhood kept attacking the tree and eating all its fruits.
When Evan finished his Ph.D and moved to North Carolina, he passed on the tree to me. I had recently moved to a house with a small yard space and I was beyond excited to welcome and take care of the lemon tree. I was a bit concerned about my squirrel neighbors (the ones who like to roll on my roof and make their presence known at 6 a.m. every morning), but I was determined to defend the four brave lemons that had managed to grow over the summer. Luckily, I realized that my squirrel neighbors were happily eating the nutty fruits growing on the only big tree planted in my yard. The squirrels really didn’t care about my lemons! Turns out that the nutty fruits they were eating were pecans.
Four months after I adopted the lemon tree, I started seeing the first hints of yellow on my lemons. I was so relieved to finally see some signs of ripening! I was legitimally worried that my lemons were going to stay green forever. In my defense, I had no idea how long it was supposed to take. The lemon tree was looking great and all I had to do was wait for the Thanksgiving Texan warmth to do its things. The first few days of December brought freeze warning days and the temperature dropped (why, Texas, why?!). My lemons had made it this far, I had to save them! With my roommate’s permission, I brought the lemon tree inside and let it have a few sleep overs in our living room. Having averted that crisis, I harvested my first lemon on December 12.
This very special lemon was used to bake my first lemon zucchini bread. I had no idea such combination existed or could even taste good until I tried a lemon zucchini bread that my roommate Jen baked last year. So yes, it was pretty memorable and revolutionary! As a kid, I absolutely hated zucchini. I was never a picky eater and my mom did not encourage such behavior. Her compromise (strategy?) was granting us a veto right on one food item (and one only!). It was the only food we could openly refuse to eat. For me it was an easy choice: zucchini. It was the only food that I disliked so much. Well, aside from the chocolate thing, but my mom was not interested in forcing chocolate down my throat…It wasn’t until recently that I started eating zucchini again. I guess it’s also a sign that I am getting old (more on that when I talk about brussel sprouts in a future post).
I followed a recipe posted on a blog called Two Peas and Their Pod and it was absolutely fantastic! I highly recommend it. The main question I had while making the bread (and a popular question in the comments section) was: how wet does the shredded zucchini have to be? Do I get rid of all the liquid? Some? Do I use a strainer or paper towels? What I ended up doing was removing the excess moisture of the shredded zucchini with paper towels and then transferring them to the measuring cup (the recipe called for 2 cups of zucchini, which was 2 medium zucchinis in this case). Then, I transferred the two cups to a bowl as shown in the picture above. As I prepared the other elements of the recipe, the shredded zucchinis released more liquid. I discovered that one shouldn’t discard that liquid. It will bring moisture to the dough that is otherwise quite dry without the natural zucchini juice. The only wet ingredients in the recipe are one cup of olive oil and lemon juice. Mixing them with the dry ingredients results in a very thick batter, but it came together beautifully when I added the zucchini with the extra liquid. So trust me (see picture below)! By the way it’s not so easy so grate zucchini, it was quite time consuming!
While my lemon zucchini bread was being baked in the oven, I made a cranberry lemon juice glaze replacing the lemon glaze with confectioner’s sugar. Don’t worry, my cranberries are safely frozen now, so I’m pausing my cranberry glaze craze for a bit. What?! I had extra cranberries and left over lemon juice and I couldn’t possibily let them go to waste. I was pretty happy with the result: a delicious and moist bread packed with veggies and one couldn’t even tell (zucchini never tasted so good!).
But, where is the second loaf of bread?! I took it to the office to share with the labmates. I figured it was the proper way to remember Evan and maybe send him a bit of his lemon at least in spirit/symbolically.
P.S: these lemons were so juicy and they smelled amazing. Definitely, so much more aromatic than store bought lemons. Evan, I can’t thank you enough for this magical gift 🙂