Last week I had the pleasure of taking a food tour here in Rome led by food historian and food journalist, Katie Parla. Though I have known Katie for quite a while, I’ve never taken one of her tours, instead relying on her blog (which has been nominated this year in the best culinary travel blogs category in Saveur’s Best Food Blog awards) and Rome food app for the newest places to eat in Rome. The tour started in the Jewish quarter of the city, and prompted me to ask Katie if she had a recipe from there to share. Her first idea was for a very simple and seasonal recipe, referred to as concia, which refers to a method to preserve produce longer by first frying then marinating it in vinegar. Katie’s recipe uses zucchini, which have just started to show up in fine form in the local markets here. My advice, you can marinate this for a few hours, but it gets so much better the longer it sits. –Kristina
About Katie: Katie Parla is a Rome-based food historian and enogastronomic journalist. She is the author of the blog Parla Food , and the mobile dining apps “Katie Parla’s Rome” and “Katie Parla’s Istanbul.”
Learn the origins of concia and see how easy it is to make after the jump!
Concia, which is quite similar to the southern Italian dish zucchine alla scapece, is typical of the city’s Jewish tradition. Although fully adopted by Rome’s historical Jewish community, the simple preparation of frying vegetables and marinating them in vinegar arrived in town in 1492, with Jews fleeing Spanish territory, which at the time included all of Southern Italy and Sicily. These Sephardic Jews brought their recipes with them and some elements of the close-knit Spanish community passed recipes down from generation to generation. When zucchini were imported from the New World, they were given the “concia treatment.” In Rome, the local zucchini, called zucchine romanesche, a pale green, fluted variety, is used, but feel free to substitute with conventional zucchini or even other squash. These would have been fried in extra virgin olive oil originally, but I recommend using a less expensive, more stable frying oil, such as corn, sunflower or rapeseed.
Serves Four to Six
- 6.5 cups (750g) zucchine, sliced into 1/4 inch (1/2 cm) thick rounds or length-wise
- 9 cups (2 liters) oil for frying
- 2 large cloves of garlic
- 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
- 2/3 cup (160ml) white wine vinegar, or more to taste
- 2 teaspoons salt
In a colander, place the zucchini rounds and sprinkle salt over them, mix well to distribute the salt. Allow them to sit in the colander over a bowl or in the sink for two hours to remove excess water. Pat them dry and set aside while you heat the oil. As the oil heats, cover a wire rack with paper towels and set aside.
Fill a large cast iron pot with 2 liters of oil, and heat until an oil thermometer reads 350-365 degrees fahrenheit or between 160-180 celsius. Fry the zucchini in small batches. Remove the zucchini from the oil with a mesh strainer and allow to drain on the paper towels. When done frying, place a layer of zucchini in a shallow bowl, scatter with a bit of the garlic and mint, and repeat the layers until you’ve used up the ingredients. In a glass, mix the vinegar and 1/3 cup (160ml) + 1 tablespoon water (100ml). If you prefer a more (or less) acidic mix, taste the mixture before pouring over the zucchini. The mixture used here is two parts water per three parts vinegar. Pour the liquid over the zucchini, then a bit of extra virgin olive oil, making sure the zucchini are covered but not swimming, and allow to marinate for two hours to overnight.
Serve with more fresh mint and a liberal drizzle of olive oil.
Why Katie loves this recipe
I love the tanginess the white wine vinegar brings to this fried dish, which renders it light and perfect for spring when the local pale green fluted zucchini are in season.