Sicilian Dried Zucchini

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Sicilian dried zucchini on a plate
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

It’s zucchini time in California. The annual Overrunning of the Squash has arrived. Yes, fresh zucchini are good — excellent, if you get them before they’re as big as truncheons — but anyone who grows zukes always has too many. And don’t get me started on zucchini bread. Not a fan.

I pickled some zucchini last year and they were good, but not as good as cucumber pickles. How else could I preserve them? Drying.

I’d read somewhere that the Southern Italians sun-dried their zucchini to keep them through the year. I’ve even seen a web page offering dried zukes from Sicily jarred in olive oil — at $10 plus shipping. Seriously?

But, try as I might, I could find no recipe or method for sun-drying zucchini anywhere on the web, or in my not insubstantial cookbook library. So I improvised.

I began by slicing the squash into disks. I then sprinkled salt on a large cookie sheet and set the disks down on them, and when the cookie sheet was filled I sprinkled the tops with salt.

I let this sit an hour. Now zucchini are basically squash-flavored water, so I was pretty sure an hour would draw out a lot of moisture and get the salt all the way into the slice — to preserve it from mold. It worked. Too well, in fact. Now I only “cure” them for 30 minutes if I am not going to put them up in jars. After an hour, the zucchini is borderline too salty to eat fresh, but works well as a preserved product.

How to dry them? Couple of ways. I have a really nice Excalibur dehydrator, which can dry the zucchini in anywhere from 2 to 8 hours. But there’s a low-tech method, too. After salting, arrange the zucchini disks on a metal or wooden skewer. But you still need to hang dry them. At first I hung these by attaching the skewer to the clips on the kind of coat hanger designed to hold skirts or pants. Nice, but then Holly couldn’t dry her clothes. I then switched to using our sausage/pasta drying rack.

A perfect place to do the drying is a hot, dry garage. Our garage in summer can reach about 120°F in a heatwave, “cooling” to 70°F or so at night. At that rate, the zucchini only took 36 hours to get to the soft, quasi-dried apple texture I wanted.

Could I have dried them all the way? Sure, but then I’d need to reconstitute them, and why bother? I might have dried them another 12 hours if I wanted to preserve them in oil. Kept like this in the fridge, they last for a month.

In this state, zucchini are still pliable and soft, but feel more like soft leather than watery squash disks. Chewy instead of crunchy. Savory instead of thirst-quenching, as a raw zuke can be on a hot day.

If you want to preserve them, do this: Salt the whole hour, press the zucchini gently with a cloth towel. Dredge them in vinegar (white wine would be ideal), dry until they are very leathery and store in a glass jar submerged in olive oil.

I prefer to just cook my dried zucchini as the Sicilians do: In olive oil, with mint and chiles.

The dish couldn’t be easier, although there is one tip I can offer: Dried zucchini lack the water that normally causes that pleasing sizzle in a hot pan, so you might think you’re not heating the squash enough at first. Trust yourself, they will brown nicely. Keep turning them over until you get the look you want. I like a combination of well-browned bits with those just kissed by flame.

Make more of these than you think you need — Holly and I ate four zucchinis’ worth at one sitting with no trouble.

Sicilian dried zucchini on a plate
5 from 4 votes

Sicilian Sun-Dried Zucchini

Southern Italians sun-dry their zucchini, and then either put them up in jars covered in olive oil, or saute them as a side dish. I never did find an Italian recipe, so this one is entirely mine. I think it works pretty well, and make it all summer long. Why? It’s a textural thing: The dried zucchini concentrate what flavor they have, and with less water, become meatier — if I had to serve a vegan dinner in summer, this would be on the menu. Use a dehydrator if you are in a moist climate, but here in Sacramento I just strung these on skewers and let them dry in our blazing hot garage for 36 hours.
Course: Appetizer, Side Dish
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 6 people
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 4 hours
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 4 hours 5 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 4 zucchini, about 3 pounds
  • Salt
  • Skewers if you are not using a dehydrator
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
  • 1 large garlic clove, sliced very thin (optional)
  • Juice of half a lemon

Instructions 

  • Slice zucchini into disks about 1/4 inch thick. Sprinkle salt on a large cookie sheet or two, then lay the zucchini on them. Sprinkle more salt on top. Leave at room temperature for 30 minutes if you are going to eat them in the next couple days, or for up to an hour if you plan on preserving these in jars.
  • Pat dry with a towel and either dehydrate at 120°F or skewer. Dehydrate until pliable but leathery, about 3 hours or so in my dehydrator. Or, hang the zucchini in a hot dry place for 24 to 48 hours, depending on the temperature. In either case, you want them to be dry, but not hard. Think soft dried apricots…
  • When ready to cook, heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over high heat until almost smoking. Add the zucchini rounds and garlic (if using) and toss to coat with oil. Turn the heat down to medium and cook until browned, about 3 minutes.
  • In the final minute, add the cayenne and toss to combine, then do the same with the mint. Turn off the heat. Squeeze the lemon juice on the zucchini when you are ready to serve.

Nutrition

Calories: 66kcal | Carbohydrates: 5g | Protein: 2g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 11mg | Potassium: 351mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 401IU | Vitamin C: 24mg | Calcium: 25mg | Iron: 1mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe? Tag me today!Mention @huntgathercook or tag #hankshaw!

 

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About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

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30 Comments

  1. This sounds so good, and we grow Tromboncino, one of which is the size of three medium zucchini, so we’re totally swamped.
    Question: to preserve them, do you have to keep them in vinegar, or can you just salt and dry them? Because if the latter was the case, I’d just keep them in a ziploc bag and make different recipes throughout the winter (one that comes to mind is a thick tomato sauce with lots of garlic and rosemary).

    1. Michiko: You can just salt and dry them. Try to find some of those silicon packets that absorb moisture and put one in the bag. It will help a lot.

  2. I have a gallon size glass suntea jar full of zucchini slices I dehydrated last year and forgot about. And guess what, there are mini zucchini outside, growing bigger every day! I think we’ll eat up the dried ones in no time with this idea.

  3. Oh man, I can’t wait for summer produce to be back in action. BTW, have you ever tried stringing these (with needle and thread) to dry them? That’s what I do with my mushrooms; takes no time at all and leaves the clothes hangers free 🙂

  4. I just bought the Excalibur 3900 and I’ve got tons of zucchini! My family is Sicilian, so that way of having zucchini is just like what I was used to as a kid! doing it!

  5. I’m Sicilian and never heard of this… But boy does it sound so yummy! I’m going to try it! I can smell it cooking now with a bit of fresh oregano and basil – don’t forget the garlic. I just copied your recipe and I will put it in my Fav’s Recipe Book. Thx a bunch!

  6. I tried this and they’re pretty salty. It’s my own fault though. I started a batch of jam and the zukes sat with the salt for about an hour and a half. I sauteed some last night and they were great. I’ll do this again and reduce the time with the salt to just 30 minutes. Great recipe.

  7. There’s a recipe for this in My Calabria by Rosetta Consantina (who lives in the East Bay) — to prevent botulism, her family recipe has three parts. First you salt the vegetable (zucchini, eggplant, porcini) overnight with a weight on it. Then you boil them in vinegar for five minutes. Then you lay them out on drying racks until they’re leathery (here in MT that was about 24-48 hours). Then you pack them in jars with olive oil, chiles and mint (I skipped the garlic since it’s notorious for anerobic botulism). While the method isn’t USDA approved, and she has a note to that effect in the book, but she says her family has been preserving vegetables this way for generations. Should be shelf stable. It’s a fabulous cookbook …

  8. I tried a variation of this recipe yesterday. I used a slender, yellow summer squash and “oven dried” the slices (because I live in an apartment and don’t have a good area for air drying). It turned out very well – I loved the crunchy, chewy texture! It would be a great preparation for those who may be turned off by the often-mushy texture sauteed zucchini has. Thank you for sharing this unique and simple recipe!

  9. I love this idea! I’ve never had dried zucchini before and can’t wait to try it once summer begins and zucchini is back in the markets and my garden. 🙂

  10. Re: The solution mentioned by Cook In. Wouldn’t a low temperature fan oven be just as good as a dehydrator?

    Ward Horack

  11. Hank

    1. Deep fry them like porcini (breaded, etc)

    2. Saute an onion, put is some stock (or a cube or 2), add the zuc’s.
    Really good. 🙂

  12. This sounds really good. Could you get a similar result in the oven at a low temperature? Also, is it coincidental that you posted this on National Zucchini Day? Looks like a great way to honor the food holiday.

  13. Okay, you just convinced me to drag out the dehydrator, because we’re swimming in zucchini, too, and this looks amazing.