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How to Use Up All That Zucchini!

Every Tuesday on Food52, Italian expat Emiko Davies is taking us on a grand tour of Italy, showing us how to make classic, fiercely regional dishes at home. 

Today: A zingy way to use up summer’s abundant zucchini, direct from Naples.

How to Use Up All That Zucchini!

The Venetians have saor, the Piedmontesi have carpione, the Spanish have escabeche and even the Japanese have nanbanzuke. All of these dishes call for marinating something — usually something fried — in vinegar. 

This technique adds flavor, particularly when spices, herbs, or garlic are added, but its main purpose is to conserve the dish for longer. In fact, it’s always best to eat this at least one day after you prepare it — the flavors have had time to mingle, then settle and become tastier.

This zesty dish, zucchine alla scapece, is a summertime favorite in Naples. Served cold the day after it’s made, it makes a wonderful side dish or antipasto. Atop some crostini or toasted bread, it can be a meal in itself. Don’t be shy to make a big batch of it — conserved in vinegar and kept in the fridge, it does well for about a week.

Traditionally, the zucchini are cut into rounds and dried out in the sun before frying, but patting them with paper towels and leaving them to air dry can do the trick. I also like sprinkling the slices with salt and letting them sit for two hours before rinsing, patting dry, and frying. This way, they absorb less oil during frying, which results in less-soggy zucchini that will better soak up the vinegary marinade.

This is less a strict recipe and more of a technique — adjust it to your tastes, and keep in mind that it’s also delicious with eggplant. Some people prefer to use a mixture of half vinegar, half water; you can even use white wine, boiled to remove the alcohol and then poured, still hot, over the vegetables. 

For a mild, nutty garlic flavor, place the garlic cloves in the oil to infuse as it warms up, then remove it before you add the zucchini. Garlic lovers might enjoy simply slicing and placing the raw slices among the zucchini to be marinated. If you’re not a fan of garlic, leave it out. The mint, however, is a must. It gives the whole dish, along with the vinegar, a wonderfully refreshing lift.

Zucchine alla Scapece

Serves 3 to 4 as a side

5 to 6 medium zucchini, washed and patted dry
2 to 3 pinches salt
Olive oil for frying
1/3 cup red or white wine vinegar
A handful of mint leaves
1 to 2 cloves garlic 

  1. Thinly slice the zucchini in rounds or lengthways and lay them in a baking dish or similar container, sprinkling salt over each layer. Set aside for roughly two hours, then rinse the salt off and pat dry with paper towels.
  2. Fill a wide and deep skillet with olive oil, about 1 to 2 centimeters (3/4 inch) deep. Add the garlic if you’re using it to infuse the oil, and turn the heat to medium. Remove the garlic once golden. Over medium heat, fry the zucchini slices in batches until they are golden and tender. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to absorb any excess oil.
  3. Place the zucchini in a container (preferably with a lid, for keeping in the fridge) and pour the vinegar over it, then add the mint leaves and (if using) the sliced garlic. Combine well and cover. Keep in the fridge for at least a few hours before eating – it’s even better left to sit overnight. This dish keeps well, covered and stored in the fridge, for about a week.

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Photos by Emiko Davies

This article originally appeared on Food52.com: Zucchine alla Scapece