Zucchine Sott’aceto

At this time of the year courgettes (zucchine) are in great abundance, I’ve already used some from my orto to make spiced Indian chutney and have a few cubed and stored in the freezer for use later in the year. Two of my favourite things to make with courgettes is courgette and mint soup which is delicious hot or cold and zucchine sott’aceto, which translates as courgettes under vinegar.

I was given this recipe by a lady from Naples and it’s so versatile, it can be served as a condiment, as a side vegetable, (goes really well with griddled pork) or as a part of an antipasti platter and it’s great in a cheese sandwich.

It’s so easy to make and has just three ingredients: 1 medium sized courgette, 6 garlic cloves and white wine vinegar.

First slice the courgette into thin strips, if you have a mandolin this will be easy but if not use a sharp knife and don’t worry if they are not uniform, you’ll be eating them not entering them in a beauty competition.

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Splash them with just a drizzle of olive oil, then rub the oil into the slices.

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Heat a dry griddle pan and once hot add the sliced courgettes but don’t crowd them as the water content needs to evaporate and if there’s too many in the pan they’ll steam.

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Once they’ve been charred on both sides add them to a bowl and add a pinch of coarse sea salt.

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Chop the garlic cloves and add to the bowl then cover with just enough vinegar to touch the top layer, then set aside in a refrigerator. After a couple of hours turn them over so the top layer is now in the bottom of the bowl, this means all the slices will absorb the same amount of vinegar.

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This is best made the day before you’re going to use it as it lets the flavours develop. It keeps for up to a week in the fridge, but I’ve found at parties and barbecues it tends to only last a matter of minutes before my guests have devoured it all.

The Three-Week Butter Window

One of the problems with living in Italy compared to the UK is that in summer and autumn you cannot leave your butter out of the fridge without it becoming a river of yellow fat or in winter when it becomes so solid you have to pop it under the grill before you can make a sandwich.

Last year we noticed that this window of opportunity for perfect butter spreading only lasted for three-weeks and at the moment we’re between the solid and slush periods. Yes, the daily temperatures are perfect for leaving the butter dish out and having a knife slide into it and depositing a portion onto soft bread where it spreads smoothly.

Now I know what you’re thinking, surely this topic can’t be that important to warrant a blog post, maybe not, but there are other things that happen during this three-week window of opportunity.

1. The white irises in lane blossom. They tend to be a couple of weeks later than the purple ones and they last for just three-weeks before they have faded away and become just a distant memory.

2. We are also in what I call the buzzing season, men are in the olive groves with their strimmers cutting the lush green grass beneath the trees down to ground level, and those who left pruning until now are thinning out the central branches to the recognised vase shape that allows air to circulate around the emerging olives.

3. Hairy caterpillars seem to be everywhere at the moment, they’re not the dreaded pine processionary moth that decimate pines and have hairs that carry nasty toxins. The ones we get here are fat, black ones that amble over the borage plants. Last year we saw plenty of them but again only for three weeks, so I’m assuming they’re filling up on greenery before turning into pupae.

Oddly enough, so far this morning three songs have shuffled on the iPod with the word, three, in the title. Three Colours Blind by the Alice Martineau, Three Little Birds by Bob Marley and the Wailers and the haunting, Three Babies by Sinead O’Connor.

I’m no off to spread some butter on my toast, have a good day everyone.