Sunday, September 15, 2013

Sicilian sun-dried zucchini

Although not lucky enough to have a real house with a garden--yet... fingers crossed I grow up some day--I've been lucky enough to be the recipient of many a delicious home-grown goodies in the past few weeks from friends/family.

After visiting my friend Jeanne, she gave me one of the monstrous zucchini I've ever seen!

 Real photo, artsy workup in Lightroom

I wanted to do something truly special with this giant beast, and remembered a recipe that had caught my eye a while back called Sicilian sun-dried zucchini. Although I cheated and used a food dehydrator, I felt as though I had eaten the most tender and fresh zucchini, whose flavor had slowly concentrated into pure deliciousness under the hot Sicilian sun.

Although this recipe takes a while, it is 99% hands-off, let-it-sit time. The only actual "work" you have do to is slice the zucchini, salt 'em to pull out some of that liquid, dehydrate them to concentrate their flavors, and sautee them up.

The salting process is key. All this liquid beading on the zucchini and 
pooling underneath came from inside the slices!

Literally only a few minutes of prep work will give you the most delicious and tender zucchini you've ever tasted. I can't even fully describe the texture the partly-dehydrated zucchini get, but it's amazing. Much less soft and slimy (which zucchini have a tendency to get), and much more meaty, kinda like a tender mushroom. And because they're drier than regular zucchini, you can get a really nice char on them after sauteing--similar to a grilled zucchini, but even better.

Between the absolutely perfect texture and concentrated flavor, this will be the best way you've ever eaten zucchini. Guaranteed!

Quick trip in a hot pan to caramelize the sugars and you're all done!

Buen Provecho,
Jacqueline

Sicilian sun-dried zucchini, from Hunter Angler Gardener Cook

Once you've dried the zucchini you can either (1) put them in jars covered in olive oil and store them in the fridge for up to a month or (2) sautee them immediately or within the next few days (refrigerate in an airtight container until you're ready to cook them).

Directions below for drying the zucchini using a food dehydrator. Check out the Hunter Angler Gardener Cook website on how you can dry them using skewers in a super hot climate at home. Also check out his photos. They do this final dish much more justice than mine!

Prep time: Less than 10 minutes (active); ~4 hours (inactive)
Cook time: 5 minutes

Ingredients

for drying the zucchini
zucchini (up to 4 pounds for a big batch)
salt

for cooking the zucchini
olive oil
pepper
spices, optional (cayenne, mint, minced garlic, lemon juice etc)

Directions
  1. Slice zucchini into disks about 1/4 inch thick. Sprinkle a hefty amount of salt on a large cookie sheet or two, then lay the zucchini on them. Sprinkle more salt on top. Leave at room temperature for 30 minutes if you are going to eat them in the next couple days, or for up to an hour if you plan on preserving these in jars. 
  2. Pat the slices dry with a towel, and either dehydrate at 120°F. Dehydrate until pliable but leathery, about 3 hours or so. The texture you're looking for is a dry, but pliable zucchini. Think soft dried apricots and leather, not apple chips. 
  3. At this point, you can either cook the zucchini immediately, keep them in the fridge in an airtight container for a few days until you're ready to cook them, or store them long term for ~1 month (covered in olive oil and refrigerated).
  4. When ready to cook, heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over high heat until almost smoking. Add the zucchini rounds and garlic (if using) and toss to coat with oil. Turn the heat down to medium and cook until browned, about 3 minutes. In the final minute, add the cayenne and toss to combine, then do the same with the mint. Turn off the heat. Squeeze lemon juice on the zucchini when you are ready to serve.

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