…Which is to say, “Sun-Dried Zucchini”!
Calabrians preserve their abundant zucchini harvest in several clever ways. One method is to slice and dry them under the hot summer sun. If you visit Calabria in midsummer, you will see the drying trays set up wherever people have a little space behind their house. The relentless sun evaporates all the moisture, shriveling the zucchini slices until they look like pale dried porcini. Once dried, zucchini will keep for a year in the pantry.
In winter, we reconstitute them in water, then sauté them in olive oil with garlic and ground hot red pepper. After cooking, the dried zucchini have a springy texture and concentrated flavor reminiscent of mushrooms. Calabrians eat them as a side dish or add them to pasta with tomato sauce, but you could spoon them over sliced bread for a warm antipasto. They are a surprise to many Americans who know only about sun-dried tomatoes.
Save your biggest garden zucchini for sun drying, or ask a farmer at the farmers’ market to supply you with the oversize ones that most shoppers don’t want.
- Large unblemished zucchini (10 pounds fresh zucchini yields approximately 10 ounces dried zucchini)
- Sheets of heavy cardboard
- Cut the zucchini crosswise into 4- to 5-inch chunks, then cut each chunk in half lengthwise. If the zucchini have obvious seed cavities with noticeable seeds, use a small spoon to hollow out the seed cavity. Slice all the zucchini crosswise about 1/4 inch thick.
- Top the cardboard sheets with clean kitchen towels. Place the zucchini slices on the towels so that the slices aren’t touching. Put the cardboard sheets on a table in a sunny spot outdoors.
- Let dry for 24 hours, then turn the slices over and let dry for another 24 hours. Turn again and let dry for a third day. In hot, sunny weather, the zucchini should be completely dry in three days. If not, keep them under the sun, turning daily, until fully dry and slightly leathery.
- Transfer to a paper bag or plastic food-storage bag and keep in a cool, dark area or in the freezer.
Recipe courtesy of Rosetta Costantino. From My Calabria: Rustic Family Cooking from Italy’s Undiscovered South by Rosetta Costantino with Janet Fletcher, W.W. Norton & Company, 2010