When one season comes, another one goes. It’s obvious, but we barely pay attention to the end of seasons, while our interest switches to the new one. We welcome new bounties – many of us have already been celebrating Fall flavors with spices, pumpkins, and apple treats – but we forget to pause, to meditate about Summer’s wealth that overflows on our dining tables. That’s one reason why I love to go to the market.
Last week felt like a farewell party. Every farmer I stopped by pointed out that I was holding the last vegetable from Summer’s harvest. It wasn’t sad, but it also wasn’t neutral.
So I would like to share with you my final Summer dish: zucchine alla scapece in Italian, or marinated fried zucchini in English. All you need is 1 cup of vegetable oil (for frying), 3 small zucchinis, 1/3 cup of white wine vinegar, 1/3 cup fresh basil (thinly sliced), 1 garlic clove (sliced), salt and pepper, and red pepper flakes.
I discovered this recipe in Michael White’s cookbook Classico E Moderno. It’s an interpretation of a Spanish way of preparing fish called escabeche, where fish is first fried and then marinated. The idea is that very hot fried fish or zucchini can absorb the flavorful marinade while at the same time keeping its shape, since crispy fried foods don’t easily fall apart, even when placed in liquid.
Zucchine alla scapece is very simple to make. Slice the zucchinis and fry them in the hot oil. Once they turn golden (after about 3 minutes), drain them on paper towels to get rid of excess oil, then transfer them to a bowl. While the fried slices are still hot, drench them in the white wine vinegar, add the basil, garlic, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes, and gently toss everything together. It’s best to let the whole thing sit a few hours or even overnight, if you have the time, before serving.
The last time I made zucchine alla scapece, I used fresh garlic we pulled from our garden just before making the marinade. Garlic is easy to grow and requires no maintenance. You just stick in the ground any garlic cloves that get a bit too old to use in cooking and forget about them. Then one day, when you notice something green growing, you remember!
We tried companion planting this year. We planted garlic close to our rose bush. Companion planting means placing together plants that help one another – in this case, garlic is supposed to protect the rose from pests. A harsh winter last year meant our rose bush hardly blossomed this year, so we missed the beautiful perfumed roses and didn’t witness many benefits of companion planting. We did, however, have a lot of garlic, all fresh and fragrant (hmm… maybe the garlic benefited from the rose after all!).
I use the tops of the garlic’s green stems, which have a milder garlic flavor and are great in salads or as garnish. Another wonderful summer gift we’ve appreciated this year.
In a couple weeks, it will be time to remember to be thankful. I know what I’ll be thankful for. Do you?