02 February 2011

Zucchini Inspiration #7...a jar of Summer

Zucchini are just so bountiful this time of year.  Despite a lack of success in my own garden there is always a few in my veggie box.  And though I may tire of them now, come the winter months I will be craving a little remembrance of summer and an alternative to root veg and greens, don't get me wrong I love greens and root veg, but half way through winter it's is nice to have a jar of summer in the fridge, or a few mementos of sunnier days in the freezer and not to forget some bright fruity jars in the pantry. 

Tomato Jam
Come this time of year, heading in to the end of our southern hemisphere summer, I head in to preserving mode.  So far I have tomato jam and some rhubarb compote, which will be the perfect topping, warmed and on top of some vanilla ice cream. Pickling, preserving, jams, jellies, chutneys are all good ways to save a little summer for the cooler months.  Usually one will become a little bit of an obsession for me.  A couple of years ago it was jelly making.  It all started with an overwhelming need to make quince jelly.  

I first fell in love with quinces quite a few years ago when I worked in magazine distribution and was fortunate enough to have a number of clients across the ditch in Sydney, which meant an annual trip to visit them all.  As luck would have it one of those was a newly launched magazine: donna hay.  I loved those meetings as they would be held in the test kitchen,  and at our first meeting Donna served us a freshly baked quince tart.  (And yes I was thoroughly over excited to meet the lady herself and she is lovely.) That those inedible, hard and yellow on the outside, white on the inside could be transformed in to something so fragrant and beautifully blush coloured has always amazed me.  And not to forget the taste, slightly perfumey, almost like a cross between an apple and a pear.  The quince tart was of course delicious, pretty and fragrant in pink on its puff pastry bed.

Rhubarb Compote

Post that I read so many recipes for quince!  In every magazine, every newspaper article, recipes for quince seemed to be everywhere, teasing me as the fruit were nowhere to be found, not around these parts anyway.  Farmers markets, french markets, I just couldn't find any at all.  Then a few years ago I was pointed in the right direction, finally.  One of the many orchards in West Auckland had quince.  So off I trekked, I say trekked as a good hour drive to locate these elusive fruits.  

I love the whole process of jelly making, the slowness of it, and the patience required...actually one of the few times I have any patience!  Once the fruit has been cooked it is in to the jelly bag overnight, not to be touched, not prodded or shaken, just left to do its thing and release the jewel coloured liquid that will be magically transformed in to jelly.  That first quince jelly was quite delicious, sweet and fragrant, yet with just a hint of tartness so that it is not overly sweet.  Perfect on toast or a freshly baked scone and even better with cheese.  Spanish style with manchego is a match made in heaven.  After that followed crab apple jelly, apple jelly, rosemary jelly, berry jelly, mint jelly, no fruit was safe from the jelly bag.

Who knows what my particular obsession it will be this season, I guess we will all just have to wait and see.  Firstly though the zucchini.  Plus I had red and yellow peppers and a beautiful looking eggplant.  It was all sounding a little Italian so I turned to the man in the orange crocs and Molto Italiano which is just full of simple recipes that just make the most of the freshest ingredients.  Right enough a recipe for marinated vegetables.  Simple, bright and a jar full of summer flavours that I know are not going to last until winter, but a start to preserving the summer bounty to get me in the mood.

Feel free to play around with the vegetables and herbs you use.  Green peppers, fennel, red onion, thyme, mint and even chilli would all work well.

Marinated Vegetables - Verdure in Scapece
Adapted from Mario Batali, Molto Italiano


Fills one large jar

1 eggplant, cut in to 1cm/1/2" rounds
2 medium zucchini cut in to 1cm/1/2" rounds
3 tbsp sea salt
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus a little to brush the vegetables
1 red pepper, cored, seeded and cut in to thick slices
1 yellow pepper, cored, seeded and cut in to thick slices
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 cup mixed olives
1 anchovy, finely chopped
2 tbsp oregano, roughly chopped


Sprinkle the slice of eggplant and zucchini with the salt and place on a baking sheet in a single layer.  Cover with a second baking sheet and weight it down.  I used a chopping board on top weighed down with some cook books, plenty of them around.  Let then sit them for 2 hours.

You can grill all the vegetables or use a cast iron griddle pan which will add a little more of a smokey flavour. Brush the eggplant and zucchini with a little olive oil.  Grill or place in griddle pan until golden brown on both sides.  Place in a bowl to keep warm and then do the same with the red and yellow peppers until they are a little blackened and blistered. Place the peppers in the bowl with the zucchini and eggplant.

To store, place all the vegetables and the dressing in to a large jar.  Seal and refrigerate where they will keep for a few weeks, that is if they last that long.  To serve take them out of the fridge and let them come to room temperature.

My jar is already half empty, they just look so tempting.  Green, purple, red, yellow, they have been used almost every day as either a simple side of vegetables with grilled chicken or steak or to liven up a salad.  A sweet pepper, a smokey eggplant, a salty olive, fresh almost lemony aromatic oregano, a little garlic and all melded together with the vinegar and olive oil.



  1. Yay for preserving, those vege look delish :) And yes, we are well overdue for a vino and catchup xx

  2. Well done you, I love the colours of the veggies.

  3. In Auckland I generally find quince easily. Over the years depending on where I was living I have kept an eye out for quince trees (which bear a lot of fruit) in older suburbs and have left a note in the letterbox offering a jar of jelly in exchange for fruit. Now's the time to keep an eye out for a healthy tree laden with quince which will be ready in March. Many of the better greengrocers and some of the markets will also have quince in March.

  4. I love scapece, my favourite summer food :-)

  5. Thank you for the kind comments.

    And thanks for the tip Robyn, I will definitely keep an eye out.


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