Sweet and Sour Zucchini

Sweet and Sour Zucchini
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sweet and sour zucchini
Sweet and sour squash as a side.

Zucchini. Just the name strikes fear into the hearts of some people, sending an involuntary shudder up and down their spines, because they don’t know what to do with this prolific vegetable. Not us. We relish the challenge. We spend our time scouring cookbooks, looking for that great zucchini recipe that will make these hum-drum summer squash the star of the plate. If it’s a recipe involving zucchini, heck, we’ll try it. What’s there to lose?

We saw this recipe in Lidia’s Mastering the Art of Italian Cuisine, by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich, and thought, “perhaps this is THE recipe for zucchini”. Italian food, when done right, is one of our favorites; the Italians seem to have a way of starting with the humblest of ingredients and making a masterpiece. Think pasta — just flour and water. Think Margarita pizza — just dough, fresh tomatoes, fresh basil, and fresh mozzarella. Think David by Michelangelo — just marble. So perhaps, Sweet and Sour Zucchini?

Sweet and Sour Zucchini

Yield: 2-4 servings

Sweet and Sour Zucchini


  • 1/2 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbs sugar
  • 1 clove garlic, smashed and peeled
  • 2 small bay leaves
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for frying
  • 1 pound zucchini, slices into 1/4 inch thick rounds
  • Kosher salt

Abbreviated Instructions

Place paper towels on a baking sheet.

Combine vinegar, sugar, garlic, and bay leaves in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Stir to dissolve sugar, then barely simmer until reduced by about half, perhaps 20 minutes. Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, heat about 1 tablespoon of oil in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. When hot, add zucchini rounds in a single layer and cook, flipping a few times, until browned, about 10 minutes total.

Transfer to prepared baking sheet to drain and season with salt. Repeat with remaining zucchini, adding more oil as needed.

Transfer cooled zucchini to a shallow baking dish and pour vinegar mixture over. Let stand at least 1 hour.

Serve at room temperature after removing bay leaves and garlic clove.


Ingredient discussion:

Pretty much any sort of summer squash will work here, so be creative, and mix and match some colors. If you don’t have red wine vinegar, we think white will work.

Procedure in detail:

Line baking sheet. We’ll be frying and draining squash, so line a rimmed baking sheet with a few paper towels. It doesn’t have to be many; we’re only frying about a pound of squash, so perhaps 3 to 4 towels will be sufficient.

vinegar sweet and sour
A simple sweet and sour: vinegar, a few flavorings, and sugar.

Make sweet and sour. in a saucepan over medium heat, combine vinegar, sugar, bay leaves, and garlic. Bring to a bare simmer, basically just hot, and cook about half of the liquid. Our trick was this: the 1/2 cup of vinegar weighs about 120g (you can measure or trust us), so we needed to cook away about 60g of liquid. We weighed the pan full of ingredients — it was about 560g — and just simmered the mixture until we’d cooked off about 60g, or when our pan and ingredients weighed 500g. Cool trick. Once reduced, set aside.

frying squash
Don’t move the squash around much while frying or they’ll break into pieces.

Fry squash. Meanwhile, back at the range, heat about a tablespoon of oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet over medium heat. Add a single layer of squash, leaving plenty of room, and fry until browned, about 10 minutes. We flipped the squash about 4 times to ensure even browning.

draining squash
Sprinkle with a bit of salt while the squash cool and drain.

Drain and salt squash. After browning nicely, place the squash on the paper towels and sprinkle with salt. Let drain while you continue frying the remaining squash, adding more oil as needed.

pouring sweet and sour over squash
The marinade will be slightly syrupy when it’s been reduced by half.

Marinade. Place the drained squash in a baking dish and pour the vinegar mixture over it, including the bay leaves and garlic. Let marinade for at least an hour.

Serve. Remove the bay leaves and garlic and serve at room temperature.

Disappointing. We didn’t think this was anything like sweet and sour. Instead, it was more like vinegar and garlic. Not the same at all. We had a few rounds at room temperature, but think they’ll be better warmed, but, who knows? It seems that squash is squash, no matter what you do. Two stars.

Worth the trouble?

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