Zucchine alla Scapece

 

Zucchine alla scapece – this traditional Neapolitan dish of fried courgettes marinated in a vinegar solution, where fat slices of garlic and roughly torn mint leaves were added – remains my favourite way to eat courgettes to date.

When in Campania, I always order it when I see it on a restaurant menu, and I have even tried to reproduce it in my tiny apartment. It admittedly took me a little while to gather the guts to do it, but the first good occasion presented itself on an unusually chilly day in June, in the form of many small, crisp, lightly ridged Roman courgettes. Since then, though, frying courgettes have become some sort of celebratory ritual in our home. It is something we save for the odd rainy summer day when the breeze is fresh and flows freely, sweeping away the dreaded cooking odors.


Zucchine alla Scapece

 
This quintessential summer dish is usually served cold, as an appetizer or as part of a starter spread. Plan ahead by preparing it the day before and letting it cool in the fridge overnight – it will taste much better this way. This dish will keep well for about four days in the fridge.

500g small, young courgettes
1 L sunflower oil, for frying
60 ml (1/4 cup) white wine vinegar
60 ml (1/4 cup) water
3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced finely
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
A small handful of fresh mint leaves

Rinse and pat dry the courgettes. Slice them thinly, then arrange them on a kitchen towel and cover with another clean one. Let them rest for at least an hour to drain their excess liquid. Meanwhile, heat the vinegar with the water and the sliced garlic in a small saucepan. Allow to reduce to about half its volume, then remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly.

Heat the oil in a wide, high-edge skillet. Test its temperature by inserting the handle of a wooden spoon: when small but fast bubbles form all around it, the oil is ready. Fry the courgette slices in batches, without crowding them. Fry them on both sides until deep golden and a bit wrinkly. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a large plate covered with kitchen. Season with a pinch of salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Repeat until you have fried them all.

Remove the kitchen paper from underneath the courgettes, then pour over the warm vinegar and garlic marinade. When completely cool, scatter some roughly torn mint leaves over the courgettes, cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest in the fridge for about three hours, or overnight. Serve as a starter or as a side dish with some fresh cheese – I am thinking fiordilatte or ricotta – and plenty of good crusty bread.

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