Ingredients

¾ cup (185ml) white wine vinegar (nothing fancy)
¾ cup (185ml) water
2 teaspoons fine sea salt, plus extra to season
4 zucchinis (courgettes), sliced into rounds 2mm thick on a mandolin (or with a very sharp knife)
½ cup (125ml) extra-virgin olive oil
5 garlic cloves, sliced thinly on a mandolin (or with a very sharp knife)
2 long red chillies, roughly chopped
¼ cup (5g) mint leaves, torn

Zucchini alla scapece is a classic preparation where zucchini (courgette) is first fried then tossed with vinegar, garlic, chilli and mint. I like to do this in reverse, where I first blanch the zucchini in a vinegar-water mix, then fry them with garlic, chilli and lots of olive oil. I would serve this at room temperature with fresh mozzarella, or as a side dish.

The word scapece is a derivation of the classic escabeche, an ancient yet simple method of preservation in vinegar. The origin of this word (and method) is a little more complex. Is it a derivation of esca Apicii (Apicius’ dish), a nod to the famed and rather wonderful Roman cookbook author of the 1st century? Or is it a derivation of the Arabic sikbaj (sik meaning “vinegar” and baj “stew”)? This second suggestion makes good culinary sense; the agrodolce flavours that the Ottomans brought with them particularly coloured the cooking of Southern Spain and Italy. Whatever its roots, this escabeche is thought to have been the cucina povera version of the fancier fish versions. Here it is, elevated to its rightful place among the best of them.

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Instructions

1.Combine the vinegar and water with 2 teaspoons of salt in a medium-sized pot and bring to a boil.
2.When boiling, add the zucchini in 3 separate batches, cooking each batch for 30 seconds once the water has returned to a simmer.
3.Scoop the zucchini out of the water and set aside until all the zucchini is cooked.
4.Place a wide sauté pan over a medium-high heat and add the olive oil, garlic and chilli.
5.When hot, add in the boiled zucchini slices. Fry until soft and beginning to fall apart.
6.Top with the mint leaves and check for seasoning, adding more salt if needed.
7.Serve warm or at room temperature.

Images and text from
Recipes for a Lifetime of
Beautiful Cooking by Danielle
Alvarez with Libby Travers,
photography by Alan Benson.
Murdoch Books RRP $55.