It’s one of those vegetables that we all look forward to in the beginning of summer, but by mid-August, there is such an over-abundance, you just can’t give it away. People see you walking toward them with a zucchini as big as a toddler’s whiffle ball bat, and they either pretend that they don’t know you, or they make a sharp left, and head in another direction to avoid you!
You can only freeze so much of it for breads and muffins. You can only make so many zucchini boats stuffed with saucy meat, or sautéed with summer squash and onions, or sliced into thin strips as fake spaghetti. Yep. I jumped on that wagon too.
Don’t get me wrong. I love zucchini. But I have had so much of it, I’m running out of ideas! So the last time I went to pick up my CSA box, Sally, the “pick up point person” was telling me that she’s been making bread and butter pickles from them. I thought that was an awesome idea… and as I was searching for a bread and butter pickle recipe… a thought popped into my head. Instead of pickles, which I really wouldn’t use much…what if I preserved them in olive oil?
This idea actually came from a friend of mine who shared some hot peppers preserved in olive oil with me a year or so ago. They were so delicious! I went through that jar in no time…putting them on sandwiches, grilled cheese, cottage cheese, and even cooked them in eggs, or threw a spoonful or two in sauce! So going on the premise of those hot peppers, I decided to do a little research and see if zucchini would do well in olive oil too. I’m thrilled to say that it does!
I found a recipe from Mario Batalli, in which he boiled the zucchini for a few minutes in a mixture of salt water and vinegar, and then placed it into a jar with anchovies and garlic. Mario also mentioned that as long as you keep the zucchini covered in olive oil, it would keep for up to six weeks in the refrigerator.
As hard as I try, I’m just not a fan of anchovies.
So as of now they weren’t even a consideration for this recipe.
That may change sometime in the future when I do like them.
And with those hot peppers still in my head, I started slicing zucchini and summer squash really thin on my mandolin slicer. I chose some hot peppers, such as cherry peppers and jalapenos… as well as sweet peppers to add to the jar. A few cloves of garlic roughly chopped and some chopped fresh basil finished it off perfectly.
Ok, I’m not going to lie to you here… I’ll come home from work, grab a fork and eat this right out of the jar. It’s just that delicious. You can seriously serve these as thin pickles. Throw them on a hunk of crusty bread alone…or throw them on a sandwich, like I did here with a thick slice of fresh mozzarella, a thick slice of tomato right out of the garden, a few leaves of basil, all topped off with the preserved zucchini and summer squash…served on fresh Italian bread… delicious.
The thing that I loved about this recipe the most, was that I took a taste of them immediately after I put them in the jar, and the flavors had just melded together so perfectly. Just a few minutes…and they were ready to eat. The next day, they were even better!
My first jar is almost used up, and I plan to get another jar made up this week. I’m thinking that if I slice the zucchini and summer squash and freeze it, I can do this all winter long!
All of a sudden, I find myself asking for zucchini!
Crazy, but true.
Life is good. It’s a “Zucchini is coming out of our ears….but it’s all good…and preserving it? Well, that just makes it even better…” kind of good…
Preserved Zucchini and Summer Squash
Makes 1 Quart
Adapted from Mario Batalli’s Zucchine Sott’Olio
2 lbs zucchini and summer squash combined, sliced thin
4 cups water
1/3 cup sea salt
2 cups cider vinegar
3 cherry peppers, sliced thin
3 jalapenos, sliced thin
6 mini sweet peppers (red, orange, and yellow) sliced thin
5 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp red pepper flakes
10 basil leaves, roughly chopped
2 cups olive oil (or more, enough to cover the zucchini in the jar)
½ cup white wine vinegar
In a large saucepan, bring the water, sea salt and vinegar to a boil. Reduce heat. Add the slices of zucchini and summer squash, and simmer for five minutes. Drain, discarding the water/vinegar mixture.
Place the zucchini and summer squash mixture into a large bowl, and add the cherry peppers, jalapenos, sweet peppers, garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes, and basil leaves. Mix thoroughly.
Using a wide mouth funnel, add the zucchini mixture to a quart canning jar. Mix the olive oil and white wine vinegar together, and pour over the zucchini mixture until it is completely submerged in oil.
Cover and refrigerate. This will keep up to six weeks in the refrigerator as long as the zucchini remains submerged in oil.