Zucchini alla Scapece

Last summer it was these peppers; the summer before, rice-stuffed tomatoes. This year, I can already tell that the season’s MVP ~ the one dish I make more than any other ~ is going to be these zesty fried zucchini coins marinated in garlic- and herb-spiked vinegar.

In Italian it is known as zucchine alla scapece, borrowed from the Spanish term ‘escabeche,’ meaning food (usually fish, but not always) marinated in an acidic mixture. It’s one of those classic contorni (side dishes) you see on the display table in old trattorias in the south, along with marinated eggplant and roasted peppers. But the dish is also popular in Rome, especially in the Jewish quarter, where it is called concia. The word means “tanned” or “cured.” And it is, in fact, a “cured” dish, one that has to be made ahead of time and given a period of rest in order for the flavors to fully develop, for the oil from the fried zucchini to temper the tart vinegar, and for the herbs to release their bright essence.

It was the recipe for concia in the book “Tasting Rome,” by Katie Parla and Kristina Gill, that reminded me how much I love this unfussy summer classic. I used to make it often years ago when my husband and I lived in Michigan. But like so many erstwhile favorites, it fell out of rotation.

Well, it’s back on and not likely to go anywhere soon. I can’t remember which recipe I used to use ~ or if I even used a recipe. So this one is adapted from the one in “Tasting Rome,” which, BTW, if you don’t already own you should buy. It’s a wonderful, evocative look at the Eternal City through its food. It makes me happy and homesick whenever I flip through it.

A couple of things to point out: Concia is best made with young, firm zucchini ~ the kind that are at the farmers’ market ~ or maybe in your garden ~ right now. If you make it later in the summer with large ones, you may need to salt them to release some of the bitter liquid. Use a good quality vegetable oil for frying the zucchini (I like sunflower oil). And be sure to let the marinated zucchini rest for at least a couple of hours at room temperature, or overnight in the fridge.

Do you have a favorite old recipe that you need to bring back into rotation? I’d love to know what it is…

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FOOD WRITING WORKSHOP IN FRANCE: There are still a few spots open for the food writing workshop I am co-hosting in December with Jamie Schler of Life’s a Feast, in Chinon, France. Sharpen your food writing skills and learn how to pitch and write freelance food stories. Details here.

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Makes about 4 servings

Zucchini alla ScapeceProcessed with VSCO with f2 preset

Give fried zucchini a bath in vinegar and you get this trattoria classic ~ zucchini alla scapece, known in Rome's Jewish quarter as 'concia.' Use young, firm zucchini and fresh-tasting sunflower to do this dish justice. By the way, you can use this same technique for eggplant. I sometimes mix the two together. This recipe is slightly adapted from Tasting Rome, by Katie Parla and Kristina Gill.

Ingredients

  • 1 large or 2 small garlic cloves, sliced paper-thin
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh mint (or a mix of mint and basil), plus more for garnish
  • 1/2 to 2/3 cup white wine vinegar
  • Sunflower oil for frying
  • 1 1/2 pounds firm small-to-medium zucchini, about 6
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • Extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling

Instructions

Combine the garlic, mint, and vinegar in a bowl (I use a glass measuring cup) and set aside.

Trim the ends off the zucchini and slice into rounds about 1/4 inch thick or slightly thicker.

Line a wire rack or baking sheet with paper towels. Pour 1 to 1 1/2 inches of oil into a deep skillet or heavy-bottomed saucepan and heat to 350F. Fry the zucchini in small batches until golden brown. I use a wire skimmer to turn them and move them around in the oil as they fry. When nicely browned, transfer them to the rack or baking sheet to drain. Sprinkle with sea salt.

Place the zucchini in a shallow bowl and pour the vinegar marinade over them. Toss gently with a spoon to coat well. Let the zucchini sit at room temperature for 2 hours; otherwise, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

To serve, scatter some mint or basil over the zucchini and drizzle with a little olive oil.

These zucchini make a great accompaniment to grilled chicken or sausages. The recipe in Tasting Rome suggests using leftovers as a sandwich filling on ciabatta rolls. I recommend also adding sliced mozzarella and prosciutto or mortadella.

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17 Responses to Zucchini alla Scapece

  1. Rosa Jeanne Mayland June 15, 2017 at 9:10 am #

    Really scrumptious and wonderfully summery.

    Wish I could take part in that workshop…

    Cheers,

    Rosa

    • Domenica Marchetti June 15, 2017 at 1:35 pm #

      Thank you, Rosa. It would be lovely to meet one day. I hope you are enjoying summer.

  2. David June 15, 2017 at 4:24 pm #

    I love my copy of Tasting Rome – I use it quite often! Thanks fro the reminder of this wonderful dish.

  3. familystylefoodkaren June 15, 2017 at 5:11 pm #

    Oh, I love fried zucchini! I cheat a little when I make it though – by lightly dusting the slices with rice flour before shallow frying in olive oil.

    • Domenica Marchetti June 15, 2017 at 7:13 pm #

      Interesting…is that to reduce the amount of oil? Or does the rice flour add texture? I use rice flour in my shortbread ~ it makes the cookies delicately crispy.

  4. Peggy June 15, 2017 at 5:38 pm #

    Oh yum! I are these all the time when I lived in Naples. And my neighbor would cook them. She also cooked something I love & in translation it was zucchini shoes. I recall a zucchini or maybe it was baby eggplant cut horizontal and the cut flesh side a knife going about 1/4 inch scoring a diamond pattern & then a mixture of garlic, olive oil and I can’t recall what else. Would you know what I mean? Or maybe it was a family recipe? It was scrumptious!

    • Domenica Marchetti June 15, 2017 at 7:18 pm #

      There is a dish called “melanzane a scarpetta,” which does mean “eggplant in the style of shoes.” The eggplant is halved lengthwise, salted and left to release liquid. Then you score it and fill with a mixture of bread crumbs, anchovies, tomatoes, pecorino, and basil, and bake in the oven. Maybe this is what you’re thinking of?

      • Peggy June 15, 2017 at 9:21 pm #

        Yes! That is it. And I think she baked it with sauce in the pan.

      • stefano June 16, 2017 at 10:15 am #

        … sounds wonderful!

  5. stefano June 16, 2017 at 10:14 am #

    courgettes: one of the tastes of summer. I make this one by roasting the courgette slices (previously lightly salted). I must try yr suggestion of mixing aubergines and courgettes. thanks. ciao dom. stefano

    • Domenica Marchetti June 18, 2017 at 12:44 pm #

      Ciao Stefano, I also love the rich, nutty flavor of roasted courgettes. Delicious!

  6. ciaochowlinda June 17, 2017 at 10:43 pm #

    For some reason, I never make this dish, though I’ve eaten it countless times in Italy. I’m planning to remedy that this summer with this wonderful recipe.

  7. Jonell Galloway June 18, 2017 at 10:02 am #

    Zucchini alla Scapece is one of my favorite summertime dishes.

  8. Frank Fariello June 30, 2017 at 7:29 am #

    This one’s fallen out of my rotation, too, the past couple of summers. Time to get back to it.

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