4 to 6 servings as a side dish or condiment
Here is another unusual preparation of zucchini that will heighten your appreciation for a wonderful vegetable that is often abundant and undercooked. It’s my simplified version of a traditional method—in escabesce—in which breaded and fried zucchini is marinated in vinegar with fresh mint. Here, zucchini and scallion slices caramelize slowly in a skillet, are quickly coated with sizzling vinegar, and tossed with fresh mint. The resulting layers of flavor are distinct but harmonious.
This is a versatile addition to your repertoire of fresh-from-the-garden recipes. Made ahead and served at room temperature, it’s a lively side dish all summer long, especially good with anything off the grill.
- 2 pounds small tender zucchini (5 or 6)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, approximately
- 1/2 pound scallions
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon red or white wine vinegar or 3 tablespoons reduced wine vinegar
- 8 to 10 small mint leaves, shredded or torn (about 1 teaspoon, packed)
Wash the zucchini well and pat them dry. Trim the ends of the zucchini and slice them crosswise into 1/3-inch thick rounds. Gather all the pieces in a bowl and toss them with 1/4 teaspoon of salt.
Trim the root ends of the scallions remove all the wilted green and loose white layers and cut into 1-inch lengths.
Pour the oil into the skillet and set over medium-high heat. After a couple of minutes, turn the zucchini slices into the hot oil and spread them out evenly to fill the pan. Push down on the top zucchini with a spoon or spatula, pressing the bottom slices against the pan. Scatter the scallion chunks on top of the zucchini and sprinkle them with a pinch or two of salt.
Let the zucchini cook and caramelize on the bottom without disturbing them for 8 minutes or so. Lift some of the bottom slices with a spatula to check: when they’re nicely browned and a bit shriveled, turn the vegetables over so the top pieces can caramelize. Cook for a couple of minutes, turn again, cook a bit more and turn, until all the pieces are golden, sizzling and shrinking.
Drain off the oil. Set a colander or a strainer in a small bowl, tilt the skillet over the strainer and let the vegetables slide in. Quickly scrape the oil out of the pan, shake the colander to drain the zucchini, and then turn the vegetables back in the skillet set on medium-high heat.
Cook briefly, shaking the pan and tossing the vegetables. When they’re sizzling again, push them to one side of the pan, clearing a hot spot. Pour the tablespoon of wine vinegar (or 3 tablespoons of reduced wine vinegar) into the hot spot, let it heat and start to bubble, then level the pan and toss and stir the pieces to coat them with vinegar.
Cook for a minute or so, remove the pan from the heat and taste a piece of zucchini. If you like, salt the vegetables lightly. And if you want a more assertive vinegar taste, return the pan to the heat, heat another spoonful of vinegar and incorporate it into the vegetables.
When it tastes right, turn off the heat, scatter the mint on top, and toss with the vegetables. Let the zucchini cool in the pan and absorb the flavors for a few minutes. Arrange them in a serving dish, scrape in any juices, and cool to room temperature before serving.