Silky Marinated Zucchini
Serves 4 to 6
“If you keep a jar of concia in the refrigerator during the summer, you will always have something delicious for making sandwiches and pasta,” said Daniela Gean, a restaurateur in Rome’s Monteverde neighborhood. She’s right. This dish of fried zucchini marinated in vinegar, garlic, and fresh herbs is ubiquitous in Roman Jewish homes because it is equal parts tasty and useful. What’s not ubiquitous, however, is the way home cooks choose to slice their zucchini. Some insist it must be cut into long planks, while others argue that thin coins are the only option. (Call me a peacemaker, but I like both methods!)
The dish’s name stems from a word in the ancient Roman dialect for hanging clothes out to dry in the sun, the same way the sliced zucchini is dried before it is fried. Some cooks leave the zucchini in the sun for half a day or more! But an hour or so stacked between paper towels will also do the trick. Roman Jews exclusively use zucchine romanesche for their concia—a prominently ribbed, light green variation of the squash. It tends to be available at
farmers’ markets during the summer months, but if you cannot find it, regular zucchini makes a fine substitute. Serve concia as an appetizer or side dish, toss it with cooked pasta, or layer it with sliced fresh mozzarella in a satisfying sandwich.
5 medium zucchini (about 2½ pounds / 1 kg), ends trimmed
¼ cup (5 g) fresh basil leaves, chopped
¼ cup (5 g) fresh mint leaves, chopped
1 medium garlic clove, finely chopped
⅓ cup (80 ml) extra-virgin olive oil, plus more if needed
¼ cup (60 ml) red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more if needed
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Slice the zucchini into ¼-inch- (6 mm) thick planks or rounds. Lay the zucchini out in a single layer on one or two paper towel–lined baking sheets and top with another layer of paper towels. Let stand for at least 1 hour to draw out some of the moisture.
Meanwhile, stir together the basil, mint, and garlic in a small bowl; set aside.
Heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Working in batches, fry the zucchini, turning once, until softened and lightly browned on both sides, 3 to 5 minutes per side; if the pan begins to look dry, add more oil as needed. As each batch of zucchini is done, transfer to a small baking dish, sprinkle with a bit of the herb mixture and some of the vinegar, salt, and pepper, and gently toss to combine. Continue layering the fried zucchini and the remaining ingredients until everything is used up.
Let the zucchini sit at room temperature, basting it occasionally with the juices in the baking dish, for at least 30 minutes (ideally, an hour or more) to allow the garlic to soften and the flavors to meld.
Just before serving, taste and add more salt if needed. Store leftovers, covered, in the fridge for up to 3 days.
Excerpted from ‘Portico: Cooking and Feasting in Rome's Jewish Kitchen’. Copyright © 2023 by Leah Koenig. Used with permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc. All rights reserved.
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