The following is a guest post from my cousin, Andy. Andy is not formerly trained in the kitchen in any way, he just balls at being a home cook. He's a wild forager and mad scientist in his kitchen. At some point, I hope to have Andy as a full time contributor, but he's parenting 2 kids at the moment. This recipe for conserva is one of the most delicious things I've eaten. It's genius. Love ya, Andy.
I am willing to bet that at some point you have had too much zucchini. Where I live, it's abundant. It runs rampant. People are constantly approaching me in rags and begging, "Please take my zucchini." To make matters even worse I already have about 8-12 yellow and green summer squash plants I grow in my ever expanding home garden. Before too long those young squash are coming at me like an angry mob, and like some theory of attraction more and more show up at my doorstep through friends and family. Of course I like bread, and muffins, and yes ill even turn some into baby food, but I don’t NEED zucchini to make any of those things. There are far better bases or additions to breads, muffins, soups, dips and so on, than zucchini.
This isn't meant to disparage zucchini, by the way. This is a plea to turn it into something where it's the star, instead of an approach that calls for tossing it aside or hiding it. I had the idea to preserve zucchini, so I created my own method, which turns out is called conserva. This particular recipe has since turned any bounty of squash into a delicacy for me. It is easily my favorite companion to any Mediterranean dish. Eaten straight from the jar, topped on crackers, crusty bread, with any charcuterie or cheese plate, pasta cold or hot, with yogurt aside or atop fish - this is a winner. It will keep many months in refrigeration or on the shelf and makes a delightful gift. Now I look forward to those end of summer days when everyone is giving the stuff away. I'm proudly the crazy guy in the neighborhood who takes on all the zucchini.
Slice the cherry tomatoes in half and place in the dehydrator for 6-8 hours on 115 degrees, or until completely dried. Set aside.
Slice the squash zucchini on a mandolin, and the eggplant into thin quarter inch rounds. Lay on a flat wire wrack and sprinkle generously with salt (you can also place them in a colander and toss with salt that way). Let them sit for about 2 hours. Take them out and dry them with a paper towel, then add to a bowl filled with your red wine vinegar. The vinegar does not need to cover squash completely. Just toss it once or twice to have all slices submerged at some point of this process. Let sit for 4 hours or more (I have let them sit overnight).
Lay the zucchini, squash, and eggplant flat - carefully, and so no pieces are stacked - in the food dehydrator on 125 degrees for 4-6 hours. If dehydrating overnight lower temperature to 105 for 8-12 hours. Once your vegetables are fully dehydrated it should look papery thin, withered, and almost crisp but with a rubbery texture. Add this to jars, layering with your artistic discretion, adding herb and dried tomato in between.
Now, add ¼ cup of vinegar to each jar. Fill 75% of the jar with PURE olive oil. Add a tablespoon of extra virgin olive to each jar, careful to leave a healthy inch of head room at the top of the jar to account for expansion.
Screw on the lid tight and voila! If the zucchini and tomatoes are dehydrated fully the risk of spoilage should be of no concern considering the environment is completely protected from oil and we have replaced all water with salt/vinegar solution to protect from any harmful bacteria.
Recipe makes approximately 2 pint jars
4-6 yellow and green zucchini squash (small)
3-4 small Japanese eggplant
10-12 cherry tomatoes
2 sprigs of fresh thyme per jar
2 cups red wine vinegar
½ cup white wine vinegar
24-30 ounces of PURE olive oil (pure is important, as it doesn't congeal in cold temperatures)
2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil.
½ cup sea salt of choice
For this recipe I used a standard Nesco food dehydrator and a very basic plastic grocery store mandolin.