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Poor Man’s style zucchini. Photo by Dario Ersetti
- extra virgin olive oil
- vinegar (or lemon)
- salt and pepper
This is a common dish in southern Italy with as many different names as ways of making it, but all inspired by the same basic philosophy, zucchini Poor Man’s style (“alla poverella” in Italian) are fried, and then preserved in many ways very similar to each other. In practice it is the pickling of types of food (vegetables, fish, meat) by means of vinegar, a process used since ancient times (also described by the Roman Apicius) called “scapece” in southern Italy, “saor” in Venetian, “aspic” in France, and “escabeche” in Spain.
The traditional recipe calls for deep frying sliced zucchini in abundant oil, and they are then dried and salted, and placed in a jar, alternating zucchini layers soaked in vinegar with mint leaves and chopped garlic. When the jar is almost full, it is topped off with olive oil to seal. If you want to enjoy them right away, wait at least an hour for the zucchini to absorb the flavors.
For a healthy and fresh alternative, and one also highly suitable in the summer heat, you can cut the zucchini into rounds and place them in a bowl with lemon juice and salt, leaving them to soak for a few hours. After soaking, rinse them and season with fresh mint and chopped garlic, drizzle with olive oil, and add a few twists of freshly ground white pepper and a sprinkling of Hawaiian red sea salt (Alaea Rouge), which has a pleasant, toasted hazelnut flavor.
Whether frying the zucchini or pickling, it is advisable to let them dry out a bit after being sliced by exposing them to sunlight for a few hours. In this way, they cook more quickly and the frying oil will remain “healthier”.
This dish can be used as a condiment for Baresi orecchiette pasta, or as a side dish for flavoring a steamed chicken breast for example. But above all, this dish is an excellent appetizer, especially when accompanied by a slice of fresh cacioricotta cheese.
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