Zucchine allla poverella, has to be one of my favourite dishes from Puglia; golden discs of zucchini, with the taste of good olive oil, garlic, the summery freshness of the mint and the slight tang of vinegar. When I first came to Puglia and was staying at a Masseria I was fascinated to say tray after tray of zucchini slices laying out to dry in the sun, and delighted to taste the results later that evening.
I have always made zucchini alla poverella the way I was shown that day, but was recently shown a slightly different way of doing it which produces more intense flavours, though, arguably this overwhelms the subtle flavour of the zucchini themselves. In a recent cooking class we tried both versions, and the verdict was a straight tie, half preferring one and half the other.
Both use the same ingredients:. Quantities are very much a question of personal taste but, as a rough guideline:
1 kg of zucchini
2 cloves of garlic
A generous handful of mint leaves, at least 6 or 7 springs
Good olive oil
1-2 tablespoons of vinegar
In both versions the zucchini are sliced, unpeeled, by hand or with a mandolin into thin discs, about a quarter of a centimetre thick. Here they are spread out on trays and left to try in the sun for a few hours – if there isn’t any sun you can slice them the day before and leave them covered with a tea towel, or even a half hour or so before you cook them, if you have to, and then place them in a tray and leave them on the open door of a lit oven.
In the first version you heat a good quantity of olive oil (you want to cover the zucchini so that they cook evenly without needing to turn them) with a sliced clove of garlic, removing the garlic before it changes colour and then adding the zucchini. When the zucchini are cooked and golden brown you remove them and place in a dish, without shaking or draining too much oil off them, add chopped mint , salt, some finely minced garlic, the vinegar and then leave them to absorb all the flavours. You can use less oil, turn the zucchini to cook both sides and dress the cooked zucchini directly in the pan if you prefer..
In the alternative version the garlic and mint are pounded together in a pestle, before adding a little oil and vinegar. The fried zucchini are then mixed with the resulting dressing and left to marinade in the same way.
Either way delicious….