I've mentioned previously that I'm not the biggest fan of zucchini. In fact, I sort of shamefully admit that the only reason I planted them in my garden is for their coveted squash blossoms, and not so much for the palid, water-y vegetables. The best I can do most of the time is just to grill them. But this all changed about a year ago when we met some neighbors upstate who brought this dish to a potluck. I was floored by how delicious and flavorful this was. Immediately, I asked for the recipe, but much to my dismay, it calls for 8-10 lbs of zucchini. Yes, POUNDS. I've sat on the recipe since, and was excited this past weekend to finally be able to use it now that my zucchini plants are producing. For those who don't know, zucchinis are extremely prolific. Like, there's no way you can keep up with it, and it grows into monstrous sizes if you're not diligent about harvesting. We've been giving the stuff away, eating it at every meal, and I still had enough for this recipe! It's hard to believe but by some force of magic or sorcery, this entire recipe only produced 1 quart jar of this marinated zucchini, so good riddance I say, and thank goodness for Franca.
Though the process is pretty simple, Franca did include lots of detailed notes, which I've included below because it is important to read through a few times before embarking on the process as to make it go smoothly.
Zucchini 'A la Bocce', adopted slightly from our neighbor Franca:
- 8-10 lbs of smallish-sized zucchini*
- 2 heads of garlic, cloves finely chopped
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons dried oregano
- 2 cups good balsamic vinegar
- salt and pepper, about 1 tsp of each
- approximately 2 cups canola or vegetable oil, for frying
Because this recipe does involve a bit of work and the zucchini keep for some time, It makes sense to cook a decent batch, about 8-10 lbs which will reduce to a smallish quantity. The best zucchini are the smaller ones, as they have no or few seeds, but if you neglected to harvest your zucchiniand they ballooned to a giant size, just slice lengthwise, and with the tip of a spoon scoop out seeds in the core of the zucchini, then slice.
Wash and dry the zucchini of any debris. Using a mandolin, slice the zucchini into 1/8 inch rounds. Set aside. Prep your workspace by laying out a cookie sheet with paper towels layered on top to absorb excess oil. Mix up the chopped garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, dried oregano, salt and pepper in a large shallow mixing bowl. Set aside.
In a large cast iron or frying pan, heat up the vegetable oil over high heat. When the zucchini sizzles when immersed, add the first batch. The oil must be hot or you will get mushy zucchini. Working in batches, fry the slices until golden brown, flipping the zucchini slices so that each side browns evenly, about 2 minutes on each side. As they cook, scoop them out with a slotted spoon and lay the on the paper towels to strain excess oil off. Continue to fry in small batches until all the zucchini has been fried.
When the zucchini on the paper towels have cooled to room temperature, place them in the balsamic vinegar mixture, and toss gently with a spoon to coat. Then, transfer it to a glass jar or container with a lid. Continue working in batches, slicing, frying, drying, and tossing in the marinade. The zucchini will continue to shrink in the jar as you add. Refrigerate if not eating immediately. The jar will keep for several weeks.
Serve on fresh ricotta and toast or sprinkled on top of a ball of burrata or fresh mozzarella.