Summer’s Silky Marinated Zucchini

Zucchini get blotted of excess moisture, then pan-fried, and finally layered with aromatics.
Zucchini get blotted of excess moisture, then pan-fried, and finally layered with aromatics.

Don’t get me wrong — I do love zucchini bread, that all-American, tender teacake creation.

But it was the Italians who made me love zucchini’s savory side.

They definitely do have a way with this staple summer squash.

Maybe it was making Stanley Tucci’s much ballyhooed take on the classic spaghetti with zucchini alla Nerano last year that sealed the deal on this newfound appreciation for it. In any event, I can’t seem to get enough of zucchini this summer.

Case in point, when I spied the recipe for “Silky Marinated Zucchini,” I knew I had to make this simple dish.

It’s from “Portico” (W.W. Norton & Co.), of which I received a review copy, that explores the Roman Jewish repertoire of cooking.

It’s by Leah Koenig, the Brooklyn-based author of seven cookbooks that have spotlighted the world of Jewish cuisine.

Her newest cookbook includes more than 100 recipes that have traditions in Rome’s Jewish community, the oldest in Europe.

What I especially appreciate is that the recipes take typically modest ingredients, and with no fuss or fanfare, turns them into something homey, delicious, and soulfully satisfying.

You easily get that drift with dishes such as “Garlicky Pumpkin Spread,” “Tomato Rice Pie,” “Fried Fish with Vinegar and Onions,” “Braised Oxtail Stew,” and “Crunchy Chocolate Orange Cookies.”

Romanesco zucchini.
Romanesco zucchini.

As Koenig explains in the book, this dish’s name of “concia” comes from an ancient word in the Roman dialect that refers to hanging clothes out to dry in the sun. While old-school cooks in Rome may leave zucchini out in the sun for half a day to dry, what you do instead in this recipe is slice zucchini and place them on a sheet-pan lined with paper towels for at least an hour to absorb some of their liquid.

Roman Jews use Romanesco zucchini, ribbed and paler green than regular zucchini. But you can use either.

The zucchini are pan-fried on the stove-top in a single layer until golden brown on each side. Remove to a baking dish, placing the softened zucchini in a single layer that gets sprinkled with salt and pepper, and drizzled with red wine vinegar. Continue cooking the zucchini in batches, and stacking them in the baking dish, adding salt, pepper, and vinegar.

Let it sit at room temperature for at least an hour for the flavors to meld.
Let it sit at room temperature for at least an hour for the flavors to meld.

Let the dish of zucchini stand at room temperature for at least an hour, mixing up the zucchini or basting it with its juices, periodically.

When ready to dive in, you’ll find the zucchini silky, indeed, with its naturally nutty taste coming more to the forefront. It will have sucked up some of the olive oil and vinegar, gaining even more flavor. You might even want to sprinkle on some toasted pine nuts to accentuate the nuttiness even more.

Enjoy the zucchini as a side dish, chopped up into a salad, draped over crostini with cheese, or stuffed into a sandwich either alone or stacked on tinned sardines, oil-packed tuna, grilled shrimp or roasted chicken.

Or like me the next day, just eaten straight out of the fridge as a sublime snack.

Arranged over grilled bread with cheese.
Arranged over grilled bread with cheese.

Silky Marinated Zucchini (Concia)

(Serves 4 to 6)

5 medium zucchini (regular or Romanesco; about 2 1/2 pounds), ends trimmed

1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped

1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, chopped

1 medium garlic clove, finely chopped

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more if needed

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more if needed

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Slice the zucchini into 1/4-inch-thick planks or rounds. Lay the zucchini out in a single layer on one or two paper towel-lined baking sheets and top with another layer of paper towels. Let stand for at least 1 hour to draw out some of the moisture.

Meanwhile, stir together the basil, mint, and garlic in a small bowl; set aside.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Working in batches, fry the zucchini, turning once, until softened and lightly browned on both sides, 3 to 5 minutes per side; if the pan begins to look dry, add more oil as needed. As each batch of zucchini is done, transfer to a small baking dish, sprinkle with a bit of the herb mixture and some of the vinegar, salt, and pepper, and gently toss to combine. Continue layering the fried zucchini and the remaining ingredients until everything is used up.

Let the zucchini sit at room temperature, basting it occasionally with the juices in the baking dish, for at least 30 minutes (ideally, an hour or more) to allow the garlic to soften and the flavors to meld.

Just before serving, taste and add more salt if needed. Store leftovers, covered, in the fridge for up to 3 days.

From “Portico” by Leah Koenig

More Zucchini Recipes to Enjoy: Cheesy Zucchini and Olive Bread

And: Chicken or Turkey Zucchini Meatballs with Feta

And: Zucchini, Carrot, and Cranberry Muffins

And: Ultra Creamy Spaghetti with Zucchini

And: Spaghetti con Zucchine alla Nerano by Stanley Tucci

And: Pan-Fried Zucchini and Yellow Squash with Cumin

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