Nosy Neighbor Zucchini-Parmesan Bread

I spent last Saturday channeling Gladys Kravitz. Remember her? She was the annoying neighbor on Bewitched who was the thorn in Samantha’s side, always just about to catch her doing something witchy. The day had started promisingly enough. I reprised my role as freeloading Frieda, lured Friday to my parents weekend house by the good news delivered by Al Roker; it was going to be a beautiful Saturday. I went running, felt virtuous and planned on sitting outside with a pile of magazines and my new book, and should I happen to get a little color, so much the better.

What is it they say about the best laid plans? I settled into the chaise longue with Vanity Fair to learn why I should care about Lady Gaga when the dulcet tones of Van Halen from the house to my left almost blasted me off my chair. So I went back inside, found the window with the best vantage point and stuck my head out trying to assess what the hell was going on over there. Pool party! The teenagers were very busy cannonballing, pushing giggling girls into the water and cooking hamburgers at 10:30am.
The thing was that I started the day with my ears pricked up, waiting for the noise to begin. I knew our neighbors in the house behind us were giving a Cuban themed party that evening and had invited my parents as a sign of good-will. However, I once overheard their pre-teen son say to his pal, referring to my father and our house, “That’s where the mean man lives.” This is probably because of Dad’s tendency to blast Beethoven’s 9th in an attempt to drown out the sounds of the roughhousing produced by that kid and his brother in their pool. As a rule, I hate roughhousing. When I was a child we were always told never to scream in a pool—someone could think you were drowning, a lesson these neighbor children have not been taught.

I went back to my chair accepting that this is what happens with neighbors and tried to tune the mayhem out (which kind of worked when they switched to some old Peter Gabriel, U2, and other hits from the 80’s and 90’s that a woman of my age might better appreciate). Back to Gaga.
That was until I heard an idling car and some muffled voices coming from the street that borders the house on the other side. It sounded like an FBI stake-out so I went to investigate, carrying an empty recycling bag to the driveway, to make it look like I really needed to be there, only to find two Jersey Shore cast-offs (wrong state, boys) just yakking away in their Saab. Windows down, motor on, a/c blowing, clearly they were committed environmentalists. I stared at the car with a telepathic “May I help you? Keep it moving!” They got the hint and moved it along. Okay, just a few feet down the street. I took my empty bag back to the house.
I returned to my chair in time for the sun to decide it was going to take the rest of the day off, thus inflicting another week of pallor onto my sallow face. But it was still warm and I wasn’t going to let the clouds dampen my reading plans.

Except then I heard the familiar racket and “Whoa, dude!” of the village skateboarders who seem to favor the flat, quiet street my parents chose to live on, quietly. I hate skateboarders. I hate the whooshing sound of the wheels, the sound of the silence when the skater takes the board skyward, and the sound of the two of them crashing back to earth. Back out to the street I went, armed with my best nasty lady glare, and the team of 12 year old boys scattered.
I’m beginning to feel a lot like Paul Lynde in Bye Bye Birdie and for some reason I keep muttering, “Kids! I don’t know what’s wrong with these kids today!” And, bringing it full circle, I just remembered that Mr. Lynde played “Uncle Arthur” on Bewitched!
To quote my mother, I was just “not having the kind of day I want to have.” I decided to fully embrace my crabbiness by making myself a dinner of pasta with crab, chili, and lemon (bonus recipe!). It was delicious and certainly put me in a better mood as did the accompanying glass of rosé and the most recent episode of The Real Housewives of New Jersey. And you know, when the Cuban music started it was actually really good. Loud, but good. I guess my invitation got lost in the mail.
I vowed that Sunday would be better than Saturday and when I woke up to dreary clouds I refused to let them phase me. The end of summer is always kind of strange weather-wise; you have that first flirtation with fall followed by 90 degree temps a few days later. Because I was a little jealous of people who have that seasonal “What to do with your zucchini?” dilemma I bought two squashes at the farmers market. Shockingly I wasn’t craving anything sweet (due to the generous sampling of a very nice Lady Baltimore cake from a neighbor I actually like) and searched for a savory zucchini recipe. Martha saved the day with this zucchini parmesan bread, so nice with soup for you soup-eaters or a big salad, cheesy and salty. And I spent a perfect, quiet Sunday indoors minding my own business. Mrs. Kravitz would not have approved.
Nosy Neighbor Zucchini-Parmesan Bread
From Martha Stewart Everyday Food, September 2005
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1/3 cup olive oil, plus more for pan
2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled), plus more for pan
1/3 cup milk
2 large eggs
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese (about 4 ounces)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
1/2 pound (about 1 medium) zucchini, coarsely grated

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan (6-cup capacity) with oil; dust with flour, and tap out excess.
In a small bowl, whisk oil, milk, and eggs.
In a large bowl, whisk flour, Parmesan, baking powder, salt, and pepper.Mix in zucchini, then egg mixture until just moistened (batter will be very thick, like biscuit dough).Transfer batter to prepared pan; press in gently. Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 60 to 70 minutes (tent with foil if loaf starts to brown too quickly).
Cool 15 minutes in pan.
Turn out loaf onto a rack to cool completely.

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