Cardamom Coffee Zucchini Bread

Cardamom Coffee Zucchini Bread

We were quite a boring family when I grew up in North Platte, Nebraska. There just weren’t very many super exciting things for a Chinese immigrant family to do in the small town and we lived on a dirt road, across from the empty field lot, next to the traffic light in the middle of nowhere. Usually on weekends, we’d stay at home. But once every couple of months, when we were feeling a bit frisky and itchin’ for some variety, we’d all pack in our puke green Chevrolet Impala station wagon (complete with the lovely wood paneled sides) and drive to the nearest Asian market – Denver, Colorado, which was four and half hours away and four and a half hours back. It was good to be near our peeps, stock up on Asian ingredients and pick up a Chinese newspaper, our only link to what was happening back home. Oh, those were wild times.

My parents kept themselves occupied at home by building and tending to a ginormous backyard garden where we grew a bunch of Chinese vegetables and also all the normal Midwest garden stuff like corn, raspberries, watermelon and zucchini.

I hated the garden. No, hate is not a strong enough word. I’d rather spend my day picking rabid gnats off a monkey’s back than to tend to the half-acre of time sucking, weed wrestling, no-good garden. Oh, I’m sure my family enjoyed the fresh fruits and vegetables that we grew…but I don’t really remember that. All I remember were the weeds and zucchini. I don’t know what kind of ancient Chinese squid brain fertilizer my dad used, but damn, that stuff was potent, particularly favoring the zucchini.

My job was to go out into the garden every day, pull them stupid ‘ol weeds and then haul back the day’s squash harvest. We’d pile them up on our picnic table in the patio, stuff them in the refrigerator, canned them for the pantry (gross) and offer basketfuls to our neighbors. Pretty soon I was running out of room and ended up chucking them down the basement stairs just to temporarily have a place to store them. But then I’d forget and rotting zucchini smelled quite awful.

Mom made batches and batches of zucchini bread and would send me to school with loaves of zucchini bread to bribe my school teacher with. Very quickly, it became clear that the bribe was beginning to have adverse effects, especially after third loaf of zucchini bread in seven days, so I started chucking the zucchini bread into random, unlocked parked cars on my way to school. But then, I think people were tired of sitting down into their car seats and “squish” finding freshly squashed squash bread. They started locking their doors.

Well, I’ll tell you what. After all those years of making zucchini bread, I swear, my mom has perfected the recipe. So, when I challenged Chef Greg Howe of the Ritz Carlton to a Iron Chef-like competition and found out that the not-so-secret secret ingredient was zucchini, I called my mom for her recipe. And then I tweaked it ever so slightly to include two of my latest obsessions – coffee and cardamom.

By the way, Chef Greg kicked my butt in the competition. If you are ever in Sarasota, treat yourself to an exquisite dinner at the Ritz Carlton. Chef Greg is a master of packing bursts of fresh flavors in the most delicate, light textures. His unique Popcorn Bisque is a must-try. Just don’t order their zucchini bread dessert…I think mom’s was better!  😉

So, here’s my version of Cardamom Coffee Zucchini Bread.

Cardamom Coffee Zucchini Bread

3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1 tablespoon finely ground coffee beans
3 eggs
1 cup canola oil
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 cups shredded zucchini
One 8.5oz can crushed pineapple

Preheat your oven to 350F.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder, ground cardamom and espresso.

In your mixer, beat the eggs with the canola oil, sugar and the brown sugar. Add the zucchini and crushed pineapple. Turn the mixer to low and add in the flour mixture, half at a time, letting it mix in between. Do not over mix.

Spray 2 loaf pans with nonstick cooking spray. Divide the batter in half and fill. Bake for 1 hour or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

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Comments 51

  1. keropokman

    LOL. I remember pulling out weeds too! Oh, you get cut by grass too sometimes. Granny used to plant all kinds of vegetables and we were sometimes like, oh no… not that vegetable again, when we see her pick the veg for mum to cook.

    Mum makes something similar looking at your mum’s and mine. She replaces the zucchini with chinese pears and sometimes carrots. Depending on which one’s in season and on sale 🙂

  2. brilynn

    Your post sounds all too familiar, (minus the Chinese part… :p). When my parents had a dinner party in the summer I was snuck zucchinis, and enormous ones at that, into everyone’s cars while they were inside eating. I was determined to get rid of them so that I wouldn’t have to eat zucchini for breakfast, lunch and dinner. People can’t refuse the zucchini if you don’t ask if they want some and just force it into their cars for them to find later. For the ones that were locked I just left it on the windshield, all 8 pounds of it.

  3. Chez US

    Okay, I just read rest of the story between slaving at the stove and the convention on TV (yawn) … this pulling weeds story is all too familiar. Again, thank you not only for a great recipe but for rekindling a very familiar childhood recipe!

  4. Chinamatt

    Sounds like an interesting recipe. Too bad my oven only works on broil.

    The story made me laugh. You have a great way with words. Just where exactly would you find rabid gnats?

  5. [eatingclub] vancouver || js

    How did you guys end up in Nebraska? Squid-brains fertilizer? That sounds like what I need for our garden!

    I love the combination of coffee and cardamom. Now, I have to find some zucchini. Thanks for sharing the recipe, perfected over the years.

  6. Kirsten

    Your childhood in Nebraska sounds boring – poor Jaden. Although I cannot imagine, that you can be bored by anything or anyone… I think you always had and have great ideas.
    Your bread sounds great. Just some time ago I baked an African Banana Bread – I love breads like that. So I will taste yours definitely, too!

  7. Wendy

    Oh this sounds fantastic, especially with the cardamon. I’m going to have to play with it a bit to use some wheat-free flour. Do you ever bake with agave nectar? So many of my clients (and me too) are cutting down on sugar.

    By the way, I agree with others, I have some serious childhood memories of weed picking, one of my least favorite tasks. Keep posting these great stories Jaden!

  8. Sam F

    Mmmm, this sounds great. The only problem is that I can’t eat pineapple. Would you recommend anything as a substitute? I wouldnt want to change the texture by leaving it out completely!

    Thanks for the recipe Jaden

  9. SteamyKitchen

    Raisins or even applesauce, though I haven’t tried omitting the pineapples. Look for a recipe online for zucchini bread (I think Epicurious, Allrecipes have good recipes) and then just add the amounts of cardamom and coffee as per my recipe. Good luck!

  10. Elle

    Oh, I love the idea if chucking stuff into people’s parked cars! hehe.
    Not only does the bread sound delicious, but it is gorgeous. And I’ve got everything but the zucchini on hand, believe it or not. I have to go out and buy some. What kind of gardener am I??

  11. chunky

    i really, really enjoy reading your stories…i could imagine your antics and just smile while quietly sitting here in front of the computer. thanks for the great read and making my day!

  12. City Girl DC

    I can’t believe you grew up in Nebraska and ended up so fabulous! My mom grew up on a farm and she could definitely relate to your childhood plight. I, on the other hand, am a true city girl but I love zucchini bread!

  13. Cakebrain

    Where are all these people with all this zucchini when you need them? As a matter of fact, I have a brown thumb. On my first attempt at growing zucchini, the 6 cute,tiny zucchini I was so caringly tending to, were ravaged by the stupid neighbourhood squirrel. No, he didn’t eat all the zucchini. He just took one little bite out of all 6 zucchini. I could even make out his little teeth marks!

  14. RecipeGirl

    It’s funny… we didn’t have a garden, but my uncle did. Whenever I was visiting my cousins, we were sent out to weed their garden. As a result, I grew up hating chard and zucchini!

    I have a small obsession with cardamom too. I recently tried to make some Cardamom Butter Cookies that had *literally* about 4 tsps. of cardamom in them. They were so gross that we tossed them out. I think 1/4 tsp. in your bread is a good call 🙂

  15. Hlne

    You reminded me so much of my young years. I was raised on a farm and every night, after dinner, we were outside in the garden. I just hate it. But I can appreciated now a good tomatoes or a good cucumber. I have a love affair with Cardamom and would love to taste that lovely bread

  16. Paula

    Your woe-filled childhood stories had me rolling in laughter. Your description of what you’d rather do than working in the garden is the new standard for yuckiness … rabid gnat picking! Love the description of the family station wagon, our neighbors had one just like it in washed out yellow with the same colored vinyl interior that stuck to your legs. Hard to believe that in the design rooms at the factory, there were groups of people who approved that color scheme. There was someone who actually said, “Here’s a great idea, let’s put paneling on the OUTSIDE of the vehicle!”. And then all the other folks nodding in agreement, “Yeah, let’s do that!” And let’s have a moment of silence for all the chucked loaves of the past. Your food is sooo amazing, I can’t imagine any chef kicking your butt. Love the recipe … I’ll take any extra loaves!

  17. Kelly

    The recipe is printed out, I’m making the bread this weekend. When I was in elementary school we lived in a giant, multi-ethnic, university housing complex (my mom was in school there…not me) which had this huge garden that was all sub-plotted out for all the renters…I remember these incredible gardens grown by homesick grad students from all over the world, growing their veggies from back home. I hated gardening our plot since ours sucked compared to most of theirs and it was hot as hell. How is it that our childhood garden memories generally are of us out working in the garden BY OURSELVES? Unfair then, unfair now… Hey, if you had lived next door to me back then in Maplewood G-9, we could’ve really wreaked some havoc with those zuc’s.

  18. Toni

    Oh, Jaden, how I wish I knew you when I lived in New Mexico! We had zucchinis up the wazoo……and especially the ones that “got away”. You know those ones – the 5 pounders which weren’t there yesterday, I swear they weren’t? Zucchini bread, zucchini relish, zucchini everything! But adding coffee and cardamom – wow!

    Next time I’m in Sarasota, I will happily talk my brother into going to the Ritz Carlton. But I’m with Paula on this one – I can’t imagine any chef kicking your butt.

  19. Marie

    Jaden, I spent part of my childhood/teenhood living in Nebraska, too! I lived in Lincoln, though and my parents did not have any sort of garden. 😛

  20. Carolyn Jung

    I love cardamom and coffee as a pair. I never would have thought of the pineapple as a third wheel in all of this. But it sounds intriguing. Will have to see how it tastes. Mmmm.

  21. Lynn

    The worst part of the garden for me was not the produce, it was the bugs. Bleh!

    Your zucchini bread sounds terrific – adding cardamom sounds tantalizing. But it still wouldn’t slip past my husband’s vigilant “no zucchini” zone.

  22. Nicole

    Why on earth does anyone even plant zucchini anymore? I don’t even bother wasting the space in my garden. I know that I will always be given more than I could possibly eat. Just tonight we went to return some tools we borrowed from the neighbors and they gave us two huge zucchinis. Why is it that we can’t say no to zucchini? I’m glad I found this recipe though.

  23. janet

    Wiping the tears of laughter from my eyes… I’m sure your zucchini bread is delicious but it doesn’t really matter… you should be doing stand-up. Seriously, wonderfully funny. Thank you. PS – thank God my mother’s reaction to the garden that came with our childhood home was to put up a badminton net!!!

  24. amii

    Just made your bread, with a few substitutions to make it vegan, and also with agave nectar instead of granulated sugar. I love it!!!

  25. Tracy

    Your memories of gardening were hilarious. I have a similar tale, but it involved the Japanese garden we had in our front yard, using worthless hand clippers to clip all the way around the bridge and stream and beds — these were the days before weed whackers. Ugh.

    The zucchini bread looks great. I have a huge honking zucchini but alas no canned pineapple…

  26. sahmiam

    Jaden – I’m getting in late on this so I don’t know if you’ll see the question or not. I’m back in active cancer treatment and trying to adapt some recipes. I am no longer able to eat white flour – wheat works fine. But its the sugar thing that is driving me batty – cannot have it. Oncologist does not want me using the fake stuff either (Aspartane or Splenda either one. I can do honey, maple syrup (grade B). But that really changes things texture wise. Do you have any suggestions? This looks like a great recipe if I can find a way to adapt it.

    In His peace – Cindy
    MoM(Mom of Many)

  27. Lael

    I think you just hit on three of my favorite ingredients! My mom also has a great zucchini bread recipe with pineapple in it, but this addition of cardamom and coffee sounds delicious. Thanks for sharing. So glad I found your fabulous blog.

  28. Lorraine E

    LOL I like your trick of throwing the zucchini bread into the car windows. I for one would have been happy that the “food gods” had rained on me!

  29. Julie

    This looks great. I love to grind up cardamom with my coffee beans for my morning coffee. I don’t have a zucchini but I have a summer squash. Do you think that would work?

  30. PAMZ

    Has anyone tried this recipe? I’d like some feedback.
    I’m from Nebraska – I did ‘escape’ in my 20’s and haven’t gone back to live but now I appreciate it in a new, grownup kind of way. In so many ways, it really IS the “Good Life” and I’m proud of the integrity and good sportsmanship of our NE football team (overall!). There is no place like Nebraska, afterall! But I did see Paris and have been a gypsy ever since.

  31. Shirley Filer

    Thank you for this phenomenal zucchini bread recipe. It is now my favorite one of all the others I’ve tried. Perfect moist texture and I love the coffee and cardamon additions.

  32. Amber Northrop

    How long does the bread keep at room temperature? Could I make it 2 days ahead?

    1. Post

      Hi Amber – yes, 2 days ahead is fine. Wrap well with plastic wrap. Generally, after 2 days out on the counter, I refrigerate the loaf.

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