With summer almost upon us, zucchini have begun appearing at our local farmers market. Indeed, seeing them there last week brought back memories of two childhood dishes my aunt would always make throughout the summer. One of these was a zucchini salad with fresh mint and garlic dressed simply with vinegar and olive oil, which I wrote about here last year. The other was zucchini a scapece, which uses the same ingredients but a different preparation that gives the dish its name. The Italian “scapece” is a derivative from the Spanish word, “escabeche,” used for a variety of foods marinated in vinegar after cooking.
I remember how my aunt would hover over the stove, frying heaps of rather thinly sliced zucchini, which had been previously salted, rinsed, and dried to extract their moisture. As the fried discs drained on paper towels, the marinade of wine vinegar, garlic, and water simmered on the stove, as she chopped up a bunch of fresh mint. Boy, how those aromas filled the kitchen and made my mouth water. She then gently tossed everything together and tightly covered the bowl. When I asked for a taste, she firmly said “ Devi aspettare! No, you have to wait until tomorrow.”
It was a long wait, but when she served the zucchini the next night as an antipasto with a thick slice of crusty bread, it was worth it. In fact, they seemed to get even better over the next couple of days. I still remember how both my father and my aunt, who immigrated here from Naples, savored this classic Neapolitan dish, that graced our table throughout the summer. One of the most traditional recipes for it is recorded in Jeanne Carola Francesconi’s La Cucina Napoletana. A far more accessible (and illustrated) version, which stays extremely true to Francesconi’s, can be found here on Diane Darrow’s blog, “Another Year in Recipes.”
Alas, I failed to photograph my preparation of this dish, but I hope the few photos of it here, along with Diane’s excellent posting, will motivate you to try it before the end of summer. While it can serve as an inviting antipasto on its own, it also makes the perfect complement to almost any grilled fish or poultry dish.
Wine Pairing: Lacryma Christi Bianco