Celebrating the Jewish food of Italy – New Day NW
Italian cooking is as varied as the regions in Italy. There’s also a centuries-long but little-known tradition of Jewish cooking in Italy.
In her new book, “Cooking alla Giudia,” Benedetta Jasmine Guetta pays tribute to the culinary heritage of Jews in Italy.
She joined the show to share a few recipes from the book!
Concia di zucchini / Fried Zucchini in a Garlic-Herb Marinade
Starting in the spring and then all the way to the end of summer, fried zucchini is a staple recipe on every Roman Jewish family’s Shabbat menu. Any type of zucchini will work, but in Rome, concia is made with the special Italian zucchini called zucchine romanesche; they are small and light green with thin, pale stripes and have beautiful flowers. If you can’t find them, try Persian zucchini or Mexican squash.
This marinated fried zucchini dish is generally made ahead, to ensure that the flavors blend well, and is served as a starter or a side, but it also makes the best snack on top of crusty pizza bianca, or sandwiched between two slices of crunchy bread such as ossi.
Serves 4 to 6 as a starter or side dish
-2¼ pounds (1 kg) zucchini
-Sunflower or peanut oil for deep-frying
-3 garlic cloves, finely minced
-A handful of parsley or basil leaves, or both, finely chopped (see Variations)
-¼ teaspoon kosher salt
-Freshly ground black pepper
-½ cup (120 ml) white wine vinegar
-3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1. Slice the zucchini lengthwise into ¼-inch-thick (6 mm) strips. People debate the best way to slice the zucchini for this dish; some like to cut the slices at an angle to obtain wide ovals instead of strips. Any shape will do as long as your slices are even in thickness.
2. If you are not pressed for time, let the zucchini slices dry on a baking sheet lined with paper towels for a couple of hours, so they lose some of their moisture. If you are in a hurry, go straight to frying.
3. Pour about 2 inches (5 cm) of sunflower or peanut oil into a large saucepan and heat over medium heat until a deep-fry thermometer reads 350°F (180°C). (You could use a deep skillet for frying if you prefer, but I find that a saucepan helps contain the oil if it bubbles up too much.) You can test the oil by dropping a small piece of zucchini into it: if it sizzles nicely but doesn’t bubble up too wildly, the oil is ready.
4. Working in batches to avoid crowding, gently place some zucchini slices into the pan, making sure that they all lie flat and do not overlap. Fry, turning once, for about 5 minutes, until deeply golden, almost brown. Transfer the slices to a tray lined with paper towels to drain and continue frying the zucchini in batches.
5. Place one-third of the fried zucchini in one layer in a deep rectangular dish. Sprinkle with some of the minced garlic, herbs, and salt and season with pepper to taste. Repeat with two more layers, finishing with one last sprinkle of minced garlic, herbs, salt, and pepper.
6. Cover the zucchini with the vinegar, top with the olive oil, and refrigerate for at least 5 hours, and up to 24 hours. Bring to room temperature to serve.
7. Leftovers keep well in the fridge, covered with plastic wrap or in an airtight container, for a couple of days.
You can swap eggplant for the zucchini to make concia di melanzane.
Some concia recipes feature parsley, some basil, some both parsley and basil, and some mint. Find your favorite combination!
Excerpted from “Cooking alla Giudia” by Benedetta Jasmine Guetta (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2022.
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